Friday Speak Out!: Retreats! What Are They Good For? (Absolutely Somethin'!)

Friday, February 28, 2014
by Sioux Roslawski

In March I'm going on a writing retreat. A self-made one. Two other writing friends and I are going to cram our laptops and our bodies into my car and head to Conception, Missouri. Specifically, to Conception Abbey...the place where monks create a blissful aura over all who stay there.

No teachers. No frills. No schedule. So if that's what it doesn't have, what does this writing retreat have?

Loads of uninterrupted writing time. A lack of distractions because I don't have to sweep or mop or do dishes. I don't have to cook. I don't have to run after my dog as he hunts for poopsicles to eat in the backyard. And no internet unless I go to the abbey's library (and their hours are limited).

This is what I need now. I'm in the finishing stages of my manuscript (first draft) and am hoping to have it finished by this retreat and get some feedback prior to I can then slash and burn the unnecessary parts and build up what I need to bolster while I'm in Conception.

What I want from a retreat—at least this one—probably differs from what you would desire. However, I do think writers should dig deep to discover what they need from a retreat before signing up for one.

Can you create your own?
If your constructive writer friends can dole out great critique, perhaps you can plan a DIY retreat. Rent a cheap cabin. Beg one of the attendees to give up their basement for a night. Check out the retreat centers—they'll feed you and give you a bed, and the rest is up to the group.

Before packing your bags, agree to what is going to happen. Are there going to be scheduled critique sessions? Where is everybody—are some polishing while others need some inspiration to begin something new? And what distractions/nonwriting activities are going to happen—if any?

Big or Small?
You might benefit from a large regional or national retreat, where you'll be able to network with writers and make new connections. Or, you might be better off working with your writing guild/circle of friends and paying a locally-known writer to lead a small group. Survey what everyone is looking for and where they are. Is everyone working on memoirs and they need a gifted memoir writer to help them fine-tune their voice and create an unforgettable place? Or is everyone a novelist and they would each love to have a pitch-critique session with an editor/publisher?

Be Creative
If time and money are at a premium, think outside the box. Your local library might have a room that they'd let you use. Many art museums have education wings. You could reserve one, and when anyone needs a break from their writing, they could wander through the galleries for more inspiration.

So—don't retreat too deep into yourself and miss out on some productive experiences. Go on a retreat...and watch what happens.

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a St. Louis third grade teacher and a freelance writer. She's been published in Sasee magazine, eight Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several Not Your Mother's Book collections. In her spare time she's working on a novel and rescues dogs.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Angela Mackintosh said...

That sounds lovely, Sioux! I was just thinking about this when I rented a cabin for my birthday. It was a 10-person cabin and I got a Living Social deal for $99 a night. I went with my hubby just to get away, but it would make for the perfect writing retreat! And cheap, too, if you split it. Have fun, and definitely let us know how it goes! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--Your cabin sounds like a great opportunity. For just a few bucks a day, you and your writer friends could afford to stay for a week or two...

I will if you will. Let us know how it was after YOU have that retreat. ;)

Margo Dill said...

Hi Sioux:
This sounds like a great idea, and like you will get a lot done. My critique group goes on a writing retreat each year. Both times we've rented space and split it 5 ways, which is great for savings. Anyway, we always write out goals and talk about what we are going to work on BEFORE we get there--that way we are held more accountable. We also make vision boards for the upcoming year.

Thanks for sharing your retreat with us!

Sioux Roslawski said...


Talking about the goals (more formally than I do, it sounds like) is a marvelous idea.

The vision board also sounds wonderful...I'll have to think about that one.

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