A Writing Gang Retreat

At a previous Writing Gang meeting, I said, “You know what I really want to do is create our own writing retreat. Just go away somewhere peaceful for the weekend and write with you guys.” I said in in the way you say things you hope will happen without actually expecting them to happen.

But my Gang, being the awesome individuals they are, said, “Yes! Yes, let’s do it!” And they started planning for the perfect weekend and finding the perfect location, and next thing I knew I was spending a weekend away with my Writing Gang, relaxing and creating words.

We carpooled down to Cambria on Friday afternoon and checked in to the Bluebird Inn, a cozy little place with some beautiful gardens that we explored (in the pic below, you can see my Gang in the lower right photo).

Bluebird Inn Gardens

That night we hunkered down in the hotel room, sipped wine out of plastic cups, and performed our regular critique session on work that we submitted to the group over the previous week. As usual there was a lot of positive feedback all around and good questions asked and great concerns raised.

The next morning we each created our own magnet poetry on the side of the hotel room heater. Then we sat at some tables outside to do our first “workshop” session. My prompt was to look through an art book (several of which I hauled down to Cambria with me) and find an art piece they found inspiring, then write for at least 30 minutes on whatever the art inspired you to write. I wrote a poem and other thoughts in response to “The Immaculate Conception” by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Magnet Poem
Journal Page

After writing and sharing our words, we took a walk along Cambria’s main street to Sandy’s Deli & Bakery, where we noshed down on some fantastic sandwiches (in fact, it was so good, we decided to return the next day for more tasty eats).

Victoria then presented her workshop prompt, which focused on creating unique metaphors. (Apparently, she keeps an ongoing journal of metaphors and similes that she loves — something I find rather awesome.) She presented a series of topic/object notecards, such as hands, eyes, lips/mouth, feelings, etc., all the sorts of things you would need to find a metaphor for. Then she presented another set of notecards with a series of random nouns and words that she had asked us for the night before. These ended up being very random as we had a lot of fun throwing down words from conversations or jokes that cropped up on our trip, which included bluebird, Liquid Love, cheesy, tick, shmurmur (a word our friendly neighborhood poet, Lorenz, invented that means a loud, indiscreet whisper), and prostate, among others. We were then given a random set of each and were asked to use one of the random words

In one of my metaphors was “His anger was as inflamed and raw as his prostate.” The others came up with some fantastic metaphors and in general it was a lot of fun to see the unusual directions that people were able to take them based on our random words.

Our third workshop prompt, from Amelia, was given to us as we walked back toward our hotel. She told us to watch the people around us and to find a person we thought interesting. Then later that evening we were to write a scene or story that imagines their back story.

On our way back, I spotted an old school house that had been converted into an open studio and gallery. I adore repurposed buildings and had to go inside, where I met the wonderful Patricia Griffin. She’s an artist that works with clay and I had a lovely conversation with her about art and writing and the history of the school house. It brightened my day just a little more and her work is gorgeous. She starts by partially firing the clay and then painting it, at which point she scrapes back the paint into designs that resemble old wood cut art.

Also on main street we found the Piedras Blancas Light House Lens, which had been constructed in 1850 in France. When it was retired it was preserved and put on display in Cambria. Really cool piece of history.

Piedras Blancas Light House Lens

We took a break in the afternoon and drove up to Moonstone Beach, where we walked along the boardwalk and poked anemonemones (spelled how we were pronouncing it) in the tide pools and saw lots of squirrels feeding on the seaside plant life, all while the sun was going down.

Moonstone Beach

We wrapped up the night by completing Amelia’s prompt, finishing the critique session from the night before, and drinking lots of wine.

Sunday morning was slow moving, but we managed to fit in a final workshop session. Yvette decided to focus on settings for her prompt, instructing us to select a season and writing scene, describing the setting in as much detail as possible while using all five senses. As an extra challenge, she wanted us to try and incorporate one of the metaphors we created from the day before.

One the whole it was a relaxing and productive weekend. I got about 1,000 fiction words written and several drafts of poems down. More importantly, I feel refreshed from being away from my regular routine and creatively energized. I’m looking forward to getting back into my regular writing and hope we can make our Writing Gang Retreat a yearly event.

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.