Have you ever plunked down a bunch of money on something, and immediately
felt buyer’s remorse afterwards?

Such was the case when I completed my three easy payments for the Wild Mountain Memoir  Retreat, which happened last weekend. In hindsight, it really wasn’t that expensive- given transportation, food, housing, and classes- were all  inclusive, I’m just super-cheap.

Photo by Holly Andres on behalf of Oregon Cultural Trust

But I simply couldn’t help myself. With names like Wild author Cheryl Strayed, Theo Pauline  Nestor, Suzanne Finnamore,  and Hip Mama’s Ariel Gore, I knew I had to be there.

I’ve gone to local writer’s conferences before. Alaska actually has a few good ones, like the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference, the Alaska Writer’s Guild Conference,  a Forensic Foray sponsored by the Arctic Cliffhanger’s Mystery Writers, and the Wrangel Mountain Writing Workshops to name a few. 49 Writer’s also has inexpensive and writing workshops and retreats in Alaska, and I’ve enjoyed them a lot.

But nothing compared to this.

Perhaps I should have realized the obvious differences between a retreat and a conference.
My own experiences with writer’s conferences are varied.

At the Kachemac Bay conference, the guest staff have been sharp professionals (agents, writers, editors) with vibrant careers. Both times I’ve attended, I’ve felt like a person who’s showed up at the country club uninvited. There’s a lot of competition when you get a group of hopeful writers together who are hoping secretly (or openly) to be discovered.  You can feel it in the air. You can hear it in the questions at Q and A time.

        Q. Hi! I’ve written a book about when I fell of my bike and nearly died.

Pause.

        A. Is there a question attached to this?

At the Guild’s conference, the business of writing is emphasized, and the guest staff ranges between pro’s on marketing, editors, and agents. More editors than writers, but in all, it’s a friendly, folksy bunch.

This was my first writing retreat, but the differences between a retreat and a conference were great.

At the retreat, all energy is spent on rejuvenating the writer. The art of writing is emphasized and taught in small classrooms. The staff is empathetic, behaving more like coaches than gurus. The atmosphere is relaxed, not competitive or judgmental.

At the Sleeping Lady Lodge, where the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat was held in the Washington Cascades, we were fed locally grown and farmed foods, housed in cozy, warm cabins, and schooled by a small group of women writers who were clearly invested in furthering their student’s writing goals.

And did I mention what neat friends I made there?

All things considered, the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat was a terrific bargain. I came home more rested, invigorated, and hopeful than I’ve been in awhile.  In fact, I feel like I returned as a better version of myself, and it’s been a week since I’ve returned.  Priceless, right?

If you get the chance to take a retreat in a field of your own interests, I hope that you do.

And on an unrelated note, here’s my favorite You Tube of the week. It’s a great reminder to treat other’s as you would like to be treated. Or else.

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