I begin this post with a big fat contented sigh. This past weekend I spent immersed in all things writing. creating, learning and sharing. It’s the last bit that is the most nourishing and for which I the most grateful.
The Sir William Mackenzie Inn is a stately manor set on magnificent grounds in Kirkfield, about ninety minutes from Toronto. I have used this inn to facilitate meditation retreats of yoga, movement and awareness exercises, and have always loved its perfect graciousness – from the hosts to the grounds to the rooms to the general sense of being so lusciously cared for. This was the first time I stayed there as a participant in a retreat. I have to wonder why I ever wanted to facilitate, when laying back in the arms of skilled facilitators and reveling in the magic of “beginner’s mind”, is so freeing. And sharing with other writers gets my vote for the most gratifying way to spend a weekend. There were nineteen of us – pens and keyboards at the ready, drawing our up to linen-covered round tables in the grand ballroom to listen to the inspiring words, prompts, and exercises offered by Susanna Kearsley, Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema. Many voices, styles, approaches and attitudes toward writing created fascinating conversation between presentations, as well as lively exchanges during the workshops.
In a perfect world, there would be a regular meeting place to write and share. That’s the ticket for me. The lessons, reminders, and prompts are effective launch pads for the writing, but what makes me do my little happy dance in my writing chair is the feel of writers writing, so palpable I can rub it between my fingers. Alone together. The pervasive hum of imagination over the click of keys, the scrape of pen on page, the sound of shuffling feet across the floor on their way to pour a cup of coffee, the sight of someone gazing out a window, hand hovering on the page. And then the sharing, hearing the words that just freshly landed on the page, like the brilliant purple peaks of hyacinths in the spring – tender, fragrant and full of promise. There is no end to the wonder I feel when listening to a brand new, unedited piece read by the author. It feels as intimate as being present at the birth of a child… okay, maybe that’s overdoing it, but you get the idea.
And to have my new words listened to and heard… well, it just rocks my world. The feedback is so incredibly helpful. I’ve taken a small step from needing only to be told what is strong or enduring in a piece, and am learning to ask for precise feedback. This weekend I was working on an extremely important scene where my protagonist lets his ex-wife take his daughter. It is so important that I strike the right balance here, so my request was specifically about how he came across in the scene. Susanna Kearsely gave me very constructive feedback with some suggestions, and a few of the others helped shed the light I needed as well. I had stopped reading just before the line that read, “I didn’t like what my cock was doing.” because I was in mixed company… although, I guess that hasn’t really stopped me in the past. Still, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to talk about “my cock” with this group. Dale Long was kind enough to approach me during break and comment that he felt that Simon (my protagonist) came across as not trusting himself in the presence of his ex wife. BINGO! Thanks, Dale. I had been encouraged by the comments in the circle, but this was exactly what I had hoped to bring through with dialogue and physical response. And then, just as Susanna was leaving, she put a hand on my shoulder and advised me not to worry about the scene; that I was moving in the right direction… or something like that. I am so grateful for that. Even when I think I’m all right, it sure helps to get a little encouragement.
Having everything all together in one building lent itself to delightful evening social time – a glass of wine, writing talk, putting the feet up in the games room. Could we do this once a month? That would be a perfect world. Just sign me up. I’ll be there.