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Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part VI: Stories

During the second (and last) full day of the retreat, the weather was hotter and drier, and unbroken by thunderstorms at Homestead House. The window, floor, and ceiling fans were a constant source of white noise, as I sat, partially horizontal, on the couch in the living room. I struggled to eat all the food I had bought—a whole bag of salad, a whole tub of blueberries, a whole bag of carrots. My pedometer stayed under 5000 steps.

Continue reading Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part VI: Stories

Postcards From the Drought, Part 2: Evergreen

Last year when we moved to CA we heard a lot about the drought. We also heard that El Niño was coming and that this past winter was going to be better. Yes, it was better, there was rain, but not nearly enough to make up for 4 years of drought conditions.

Continue reading Postcards From the Drought, Part 2: Evergreen

Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part V: Going Geocaching

As you may or may not know, I went to this writing retreat in the middle of a geocaching streak: at least one cache find per day for every day of the calendar year. You can read more about my streak here. (Not to be a spoiler or anything, but as of this writing, I’m on day 227).

Continue reading Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part V: Going Geocaching

Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part III: Storm

Thunderstorms in South Dakota are impressive. You can see entire storms in the distance, hanging down from clouds. And after dark the thunder and lightning put on a 360-degree show. Linda had a weather radio in Homestead House, the house where retreaters stayed and wrote. This radio would go off periodically with warnings about thunder and hail storms. Linda told me how to turn it off if I was trying to sleep, but I ended up leaving it on because the announcements only came while I was awake, and I thought they were interesting. Continue reading Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part III: Storm

Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part I: Goals and Expectations

I had barely gotten back from Europe when I had to pack again to get ready for my writing retreat at Windbreak House. A gift from my parents for my birthday last December, the retreat had not been possible for me during the school year. But I had a short window while my kids were still away at German camp.

The Windbreak House writing retreat is close to Hermosa, SD, on a ranch owned by Linda Hasselstrom, whose relatives established and ran it before she did. She now leases her land to other ranchers and works as a writer and writing teacher full time. There have been writing retreats at Windbreak House for 20 years!

Continue reading Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part I: Goals and Expectations

Read, Revise, Relax: Six Steps to a Successful Retreat at Windbreak House

Last December, for my birthday, my wonderful parents gifted me a Windbreak House writing retreat. They had met the author and teacher, Linda Hasselstrom, at a Road Scholar event when they were traveling to South Dakota. They enjoyed her presentation and her books, and sent me her collection of essays, no place like home, Notes from a Western Life.

I was unable to get away on my birthday itself, which is December 4, right at the end of youth soccer season, between Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo, and Christmas. But now, the middle of summer while orchestras are on hiatus and the kids are still at German Camp, I am going on a writing retreat! My husband and the cat will get to know each other better for a few days.

Linda has a blog about preparing for the retreat.

“While you are on retreat, write. Write until your fingers cramp and your eyes cross. This may be the best uninterrupted writing time you have ever had, so let your thoughts flow freely. Don’t hesitate. If you are unsure that what you are writing is worthwhile, follow the sage advice of poet William Stafford: “Lower your standards and keep writing.””

I’m getting ready 🙂


“Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie” – The Set
–A series of blogs describing my experiences at Windbreak House, a women’s writing retreat in South Dakota run by Linda Hasselstrom

Notes from a Western Life

You’ve revised and ripped up drafts and read writing books and joined a writing group and sent out poems and received rejections and started a novel and thought about quitting this writing business and remembered how your high school English teacher said you were talented and read books on how to publish and watched interviews with successful writers who nod and look solemn while they give advice.

Good Retreat adYou’ve gone online to look at the websites of writing retreats from Maine to Malibu, from Switzerland to Saskatchewan, fantasizing about having a massage after a hard writing session, then relishing a catered lunch, followed by a nap, a glass of wine, and a stimulating discussion with other writers.

Now you’ve decided: what you really need is a writing retreat at Windbreak House. You looked over the website and Facebook page, you’ve sent in your application and yes! You’ve been accepted.


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Last Saturday, my 12-year-old cellist son and I played for a garden tour in Palo Alto. He’s going to be on tour with his school orchestra during his teacher’s regular recital in a couple of weeks, so this performance, also organized by his cello teacher, was like a mini-recital for him. He played 2 movements from the Vivaldi cello sonata in A minor that he’s been working on, and it went well. Continue reading Connections