Category Archives: writing retreats

follow the wandering muse

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During my longer-than-planned break from this blog, I’ve been insanely busy with my writing as well as the starting of a business I hope to have for the rest of my life.  

My new project is called “Follow the Wandering Muse” and you can see the website HERE.  It’s a blog filled with writing prompts, adventure prompts, writing tips and travel tips, and the promise of much more to come.  It’s for writers who travel, which is different than travel writers (people who write about traveling while doing it).  

I realized recently that I needed to somehow combine my passion for travel with my passion for writing.  And I checked online, I looked everywhere, and I couldn’t find any website designated to writers that happen to travel, or use travel as a way to inspire their writing.  Everything was for travel writing itself, or just writing, or just traveling.  If anyone does find something similar to my new blog, please feel free to let me know, as I always want to be aware of sister sites to be sure I can keep my own content fresh and unique (like my post about writing from the point of view of a monkey🙂  

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So, right now, before you do anything else, go and check out my new site!   And get ready for workshops, writing retreats, a book of writing prompts for writers who travel, an Etsy store where I plan to sell things I sew (like great shoulder bags and belt bags for writers who travel and want to stay minimalist), and someday I’d like to have retreats on a Wharram catamaran as well as a “follow the wandering muse” tiny house on wheels that I can rent out to solo writers looking for a tiny house retreat in various locations.  

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Big dreams here, but I’m used to having big dreams (and usually making them come true)!  Wish me luck.  And before you go, try this simple prompt to get yourself writing:  

Open your door.  

Step outside.  

Walk until you find something you love.  

Sit down.  

Write.

words of wisdom

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Sometimes I’ve found it to be important to write down inspiring words from friends or fellow writers.  Even just short little things like, “you only live once,” or “every dark cloud has a silver lining.”  It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve already been said, or how cheesy they sound when you’re feeling positive already and you don’t need more positive affirmations.

When I’m depressed, these little bits of sunshine give me hope.  And when I have writer’s block, they can sometime act as wondrous prompts.

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At AROHO’s retreat this past August, I was able to meet Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black.  

She sat down across from me during lunch one day before I realized who she actually was, and then I proceeded to tell her how much I loved White Oleander and I was nervous to talk to her.  We did speak, though, many times during the week, and my silly nerves went away quickly once I realized how down to earth she was, how friendly and sweet, and all the little things we had in common.

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{Janet and I at the dance on the final evening of the retreat.}

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Janet said so many wise words during her presentations that I found myself, for the first time, desperately attempting to write down or paraphrase everything that was particularly awesome WHILE watching my interpreter interpret her words into ASL.  Janet did give me a typed sheet of the main part of her talk, but a lot of the things she said before and around it were the kinds of things you say spontaneously, while staring into the eyes of almost a hundred women looking back at you.  I added them, in red ink, all over the margins and the back of the paper.  Messy little scratches of inspiration.  And then when I got home, I copied them into my journal, so that I’d always have them in a place where I can find them easily.  

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Now, I realize, I should give them even larger lives than that.  Right now, I wish to give them to you—to the world—because I know they will help some of you just as much as they’ve helped me.

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  If you look for the miraculous—you will find it.

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Live slower, more child-like, like a poet.

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You are where you should be.  

You’re always in the right place.

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You can catch the beauty in life without being the beauty—you can see it, and it’s yours.

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Write from the neck down.

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Let things happen, don’t force anything.

Allow it to happen.

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We can use our “imaginary friends” and discover things we didn’t know we knew!

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I also wrote other more personal notes like:

Janet was a child liar (told stories), like me!!!

As a teen (and sometimes later on, too), I often wrote into the margins of my favorite books, and my comments were usually things like:

“Me, too!!!”   “YESYESYESYES!”   “F**king LOVE THIS!!!!!”   “I’m like him/her!!!”

Now, thankfully, I can just highlight the phrases I love in my Kindle (though I can still add extra exclamations —or exclamation points—when absolutely necessary).

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I’d like to offer up this writing assignment to everyone:  

When you hear a phrase you love, write it down in your journal or a notebook, quote it on Facebook, scribble it onto a napkin.  

Save it’s wisdom for later.  You never know when you might need it.  And I honestly believe words can be saviors, to non-writers as much as writers.  

Words can heal.  And when you hear something that sings to you, words that empower you to do something you’ve never done, or say something you’ve never said, then it might do the same to someone else.  That’s when you know you should probably share those words of wisdom. 

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Sometimes I wish words could fall from the sky like autumn leaves.  

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{I love the shape and vibrant yellow of the fallen cottonwood leaves at Ghost Ranch.}

Here’s another writing (or life) “assignment”:

The next time a leaf falls on you when you’re out walking or hiking, or just standing under a tree, catch it!  

Close your eyes with the leaf in your hands.

And listen for the word it could be telling you.  

Listen for the word you need.

(In times of desperation, or for variation, please feel free to just go and find a leaf already fallen, a leaf waiting for someone to rescue it

and give it new meaning.  

This, I believe, is yet another way of going out and finding the miraculous.)

If leaves don’t “speak” for you, find a stone, a shell, a button, a penny.  

The objects we usually overlook might hold the most meaning,

because honestly, the miraculous really is everywhere.

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the importance of writing retreats

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I’ve recently returned from AROHO‘s women’s writing retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.  I came back to the woods of New Hampshire, my toddler, my puppy, and my partner weeks ago, but I am still half in the desert, and half with the 100 other women as we communicate via social media and emails, trying to maintain the interconnectedness we felt at the ranch.  

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I want to use this post to stress the importance of writing retreats for every writer.  Right now.  If you are a writer, please go online and look for a writing retreat.  Apply to dozens that offer scholarships or free residencies.  AROHO’s retreat was packed with so many presentations, readings, and workshops that it was hard for me to get much actual writing done there, but the AROHO women are working hard to provide all of us with so much stimulation, that I wasn’t disappointed by any means.  They always have a literary agent attend their retreats, which is an invaluable thing to writers who do not yet have agents.  She answered all of our questions and offered genuine, caring advice to anyone who approached her.  

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Other retreats and residencies do not have so much interaction.  But they also may not have agents attend or presentations that change your entire life or work as a writer.  AROHO changes me, every time.  I’ve only attended two retreats of theirs, but each one gave me gifts I could never have found in books or online.  Gifts that have enriched my writing and my life immensely.  

And because I am writing fervently right now, I am finding my blogging-self lost for words.  So, writers, I urge you to GO.  

Research what YOU as a writer NEED RIGHT NOW to get your words on the page more freely.  Expand your concept of what you deserve as a writer—because writers, I think, can often sacrifice their writing for their family or their pets, even.  Your writing is calling.  And I firmly believe all writers need at least 1-2 weeks, or longer, per year to be in a place where they can write without thinking of anything else, not food, or anyone else in their lives.  You can make your own retreat if you know of someone with a log cabin, or a small apartment, or anything you can rent or care for while you stay there ALONE and WRITE.  

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Wishing everyone the best of luck in finding solitude…and writing to their heart’s content.

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