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Meeting the muse: my summer retreat

Wooded trails, meadows of wildflowers, big skies. I’ve been surrounded by nature for the past week. And far away from telephones, editors and all the other demands of work-a-day life.

I’ve just returned from five days of recharging my writer’s batteries at Rosemary Aubert’s annual summer workshop at Loyalist College. It was a wonderful experience. Not only is Aubert, the award-winning author probably best known for her five-book Ellis Portal mystery series, a fabulous writer, but she’s also a terrific teacher who is passionate about writing. Her workshop gives writers at every stage of their careers structure and guidance to spark creativity.

In the summer, Loyalist’s Belleville campus is a lovely, peaceful setting in which to nurture creativity. The dorms are basic but, hey, it’s summer and there’s no need be confined to our rooms. The 200-acre campus has gardens, woods and meadows. Best all, there are few students around, at least during the week I was there, which means plenty of space and plenty of quiet in the lounges and library.

Our days started with an hour-long lecture on some of the cornerstones of novel writing: character, plot and the like. An animated speaker, Aubert often digressed from the topic at hand, and her digressions were usually brilliant, moving from books she’s read, to people she’s met and places she’s visited. Our days also included afternoons critiquing the writing of the workshop’s ten participants, one-on-one discussions about our works-in-progress with Aubert and plenty of time to get down to our own work.

The reason for a writers’ retreat is to carve out time and space for writing. Sacred time and sacred space is how I think of it. Time and a place to calm down, down, down ― down into your characters and where they’re going in your story, your settings and new ideas to work with. Time to be alone, and time to be in the company of like-minded people.

I’ll have to do it again.

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