At the Springfed Arts’ First Annual Lost Lake Writers’ Retreat, poet Jack Ridl helped me realize I’m wasting my time when I procrastinate when I could be writing. He shook his head and joked that, when it comes to poets, “Chemists think we’re blowing off our lives while they’re out creating a better toothpaste.” Jack obviously feels writing is the better pursuit.
That’s why I need to stop giving into distractions and blowing off my writing life. My next novel isn’t going to write itself.
Why attend a retreat or conference?
- It validates who you are. Invest in yourself as a writer by attending a writers’ retreat. Focus on yourself. Show that you are serious about the work you do. Nourish your identity.
- It’s validating to be among other writers. Retreats are vital to our wellbeing because writing is a solitary act. You’ll realize you aren’t alone in your struggles, and get inspiration from other like-minded people. You can exchange ideas, discuss projects, share places to send your work, gather resources, learn about other authors and poets you’ve not yet read.
- It validates your work. You can rededicate yourself to your writing, advance your craft, and find out what’s most important to you as a writer.
Lost Lake Lodge
The views from this private lodge in Lincoln, Michigan were breathtakingly idyllic. I wished I’d taken the time to go out walking on Friday because Saturday was windy and chilly, and I hadn’t brought warmer clothes (my bad!). I’ll plan better next year.
My room wasn’t the Hilton, but it was comfortable and clean. Considering the whole idea was to retreat, the lack of a TV was fine with me. Workshops, presentations, hanging out with fellow writers (the best!) and listening to them read their work (all of them impressive) kept me plenty busy. In fact, I’d brought my laptop along but never took it out of the padded bag. There’s so much talent in Michigan, from Grand Rapids to Detroit to Traverse City to the U.P., and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know fellow writers from the metro Detroit area. In all, about 45 participants attended the conference.
The lounge areas in the lodge were super cozy to just hang out in and discuss writing (or politics, since the upcoming election seemed to dominate the news), or to find in a quiet corner to write. The dining room was spacious, too, with plenty of big tables to gather around. The breakfast and lunch buffets on the weekend were mmmm… can’t beat cinnamon French toast.
Highlights from the presenters
Novelist Irina Reyn made me laugh when she said “The goal of suspense is to make the reader as uncomfortable and miserable as possible.” She suggested suspense writers think of distracting a reader as distracting a toddler. In essence, you’re writing “Aw, look at the cute puppy,” while setting up clues that give a different reality. She used the book/movie Gone Girl as an example: First we think the story is about a missing wife. Then it becomes an issue of who’s really the bad guy. Then it becomes a story about marriage, and the strange ways people can carry on after they’ve gone through the worst.
Detroit Free Press columnist Jim Schaefer has a feel-good Sunday column titled “A Few Minutes With a…” where he features people with stories that are considered, well, a little unusual. For example, he interviewed a man who dresses in a Pooh Bear costume and rides a tricycle around downtown Detroit. Who would do that? And why? Jim’s interview technique is to record the entire conversation, transcribe it, and then write the article. He admits it’s tedious and he hates it. His goal, however, is to capture the authentic voice of whomever he’s interviewing. (Jim wryly said, “I think it’s a cliche to say everyone has a story. Everyone does not have a story.”) One of my favorite stories is about a man who’s had a heart transplant, “A Few Minutes with a Father with a Full Heart;” his new heart came from his own daughter who died in an automobile accident. The father is certain that his Patti has to be “one of the happiest angels in Heaven.”
Jack Ridl is an absolute delight–smart, gracious, open, funny and generous. I was pleased to finally meet him after admiring his work for years.
Poet Dorianne Laux said “It wasn’t until I read E.E. Cummings that I realized you could throw things all over the page, and then I became myself.”
Lydia Lohrer, the Outdoors columnist for the Detroit Free Press, taught the more adventurous of us how to cast for fly-fishing (it was a cold afternoon, and most of us wimpy writers opted to stay inside the lodge.)
Author Kelly Fordon, a Michigan Notable Book Award recipient, had a terrific workshop on point of view in fiction, with a fun exercise that helped me generate a few ideas for short story pieces.
Second Annual Retreat…
According to Springfed director John D. Lamb, this is the first annual retreat at lovely Lost Lake. That makes me happy because I’ll be looking forward to next year’s. Hope to see you there! Until then, I’ll be writing.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters