Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Writing Staycation: A Unique Retreat for Writers

by Andrea Solarz

Many of us long to be able to participate in a retreat for writers (perhaps in some exotic sun-kissed locale), where we can immerse ourselves in our writing without interruption. But finding the time to do so can be even more of a challenge than finding the funds. The Writing Staycation gives the best of both worlds--the chance to immerse yourself in writing for a week, but without having to pack your bags or think about who will feed the cat (or the kids!) while you’re away.
As a participant in an earlier Writing Staycation (spring, 2011), I thought it might be useful to others considering registering for an upcoming retreat for me to share my experience. In addition to being very enjoyable, perhaps most importantly, the Staycation really helped me to jump start my writing (which had hit a significant roadblock), and gave me a lot of motivation that continued long after that week.

Zahara is especially skilled at creating a nurturing and supportive environment, coupled with bringing in engaging and thoughtful guest speakers to provide nuts and bolts information (and inspiration) about writing and publishing. Reflecting the interactive nature of the Staycation, we each had the opportunity to meet individually with those speakers (as well as with Zahara) to discuss our personal writing projects or challenges and to get feedback or input from them. Being able to discuss my writing project with multiple experts over the course of a week, and to benefit from their perspectives, gave me a number of important new insights into how to approach my own work.

Although my fellow “Staycationers” were quite a diverse group (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoirs, and other projects at all stages), the format of the retreat worked very well for all of us. Each day of the Staycation typically began with a short reading or writing exercise and a brief discussion, followed by us each going off to our writing corners (either in the room or any other available space in the Writing Center). We would then reconvene for lunch and to hear our guest speaker of the day (optional, but everyone attended). After that, back to writing, perhaps broken up by a refreshing walk outside, and then coming back together at the end of the day for a short update or closing exercise.

Zahara was flexible about the format, so if the group wanted more time writing, for example, she was responsive to those requests; the goal was for the retreat to meet our needs. Finally, on the last day, we discussed a range of strategies that we could implement for continuing the great progress we had made during the week, ensuring that the benefits of participating in the Staycation did not end when we said our goodbyes. As a bonus, I came out of that discussion with a writing partner to meet with regularly.

I encourage anyone who is stuck in her or his writing, or who just wants to have some structured time to focus on a project, to consider enrolling in the Staycation.