Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Mini Writing Retreat

As a writer in Columbus, Ohio, I'm fortunate to live near a little piece of heaven called, "The Mustard Seed Retreat."  It's owned by my good friend Pam Hitchcock who decided to turn her old family farmhouse into a haven for writers.  (Go check it out:  Don't worry, my words can wait--they won't scamper off the screen while you're gone.)  Did you like what you saw?  I promise you, it's as scenic and peaceful as it looks--nestled on a quiet road and surrounded by farmland.  Kittens snuggle up next to you on the porch rocking chairs and the kitchen is brimming with goodies to fill your belly.  And best of all, it's close and very affordable.  :)

The lovely Mustard Seed Retreat.  So peaceful...
I paid the retreat a visit yesterday to kick-start my revisions.  Since I've returned from the Highlights Workshop, my writing time has been thwarted by work, responsibilities and, well, more work.  I left Highlights feeling inspired, centered, and raring to get going on my revision game plan.  Then Life rapidly sapped that creative energy away.  I knew I had to do something to get that spark back, so I emailed Pam and she said, "Come on over!"  Her farmhouse is truly a mini-Highlights retreat giving writers the companionship, tranquil atmosphere and nourishment necessary to ensure a productive writing day.

"But can't you just lock yourself in a room in your house and write for 8 hours straight?  Why bother going somewhere else?" naysayers might ask (particularly non-writers.)  Sure, but it can be very difficult with the siren call of neglected responsibilities constantly in your ears.  When I'm trying to write, my pile of laundry says, "Wash me!  Wash me!"  My empty refrigerator says, "Fill me!  Fill me!"  That stack of bills says, "Open me!  Open me!"  And the ferrets say, "Our litter box is stinky!  Clean it!  Clean it!  NOW!"  Who wants to listen to THAT all day?  But when I'm at the Mustard Seed Retreat, the laundry and bills and stinky litter boxes can't yell at me and I am free to do nothing but write.

I feel infinitely better after yesterday's writing day.  The sounds of birds chirping and porch swings creaking provided the perfect soundtrack for tackling some revisions.  I drank tea out of flower pot-shaped mugs, ate pizza and Cosmic Brownies, and didn't have to wash one single dish.  (Though I would have happily if Pam let me!)  And you can't beat surrounding yourself with other writers.  When I'm at home and grumble, "I don't know what to do with this scene!  I want to chuck my computer out the window," my dog just looks at me like I'm nuts.  When I'm at the Mustard Seed, a fellow writer sympathizes back with, "I know!  I want to wring my character's neck right now!"  Or if we're not griping, we're sharing writing tips, bouncing ideas off each other, and just being grateful someone else is with us in our writer's boat, paddling away on that turbulent sea of hope and uncertainty.

I can honestly say The Mustard Seed Retreat is one of my favorite places in the world.  Sure, I'd love to head up to Honesdale, PA for a Highlights Workshop every month, but unfortunately my wallet is not as fat as J. K. Rowling's.  That's not to say you shouldn't apply for a Highlights Workshop and scholarship, but in the meantime, I highly recommend setting your sights a bit closer to home.  I feel extremely lucky to live so close to The Mustard Seed where I can satisfy my writer's craving for friends, food, and the freedom to focus on my book.  So go check out that website again, contact Pam, and sign up for a writing day.  I'd be happy to join you.


  1. I second this post. The Mustard Seed Retreat is amazing!

  2. We might have to commandeer it from Pam and move in permanently. :)