Back in 2016 I went to a writing retreat in Hermosa SD. The retreat was located on a ranch and run by Linda Hasselstrom, a rancher and writer. The house, called Windbreak House, was the place Linda had grown up and lived in virtually all her life. The property was comfortably and thoughtfully but sparsely furnished, except for books. There were a lot of books. And there were chairs, ordinary chairs painted a cheery yellow, which I thought of for this week’s Mundane Monday challenge. Continue reading Mundane Monday: Chairs
- “You’re going to have to learn to ignore a lot of advice, including some of mine.”
- You both have to, and can’t, keep your readers in mind as you’re writing.
- Try writing some non-fiction, in addition to fiction.
- Set up a place to write where you can close the door and won’t be interrupted
- Put your writing materials there and books/resources that you use for writing
I’ve been back from the Windbreak House retreat for over a month now, and I thought I would write two, maybe three, posts about it. Instead here I am, wrapping up with Post Number 7.
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.
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).
My first assignment at the retreat was to write down chronologically what happens, from beginning to end, in my novel. Not surprisingly, I struggled with this. I did have quite a few things worked out: a timeline for when each of the characters were born, for example, and some significant events like Hurricane Noel in 2057, and the Great Flood of Manhattan that breached the protective sea wall in 2042, the return of Halley’s Comet in 2061-2. These events were necessary to get my characters away from the rising seas to Western NY, where they live during the novel. Continue reading Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part IV: Advice
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
My German husband has been to all 50 United States, and he’s found a geocache in every one. Although I’ve travelled quite a bit too, mostly with him but also with the family I grew up in, this trip was my first time in South Dakota. I got on one big plane at SFO airport, and then transferred to a small one in Denver, heading to Rapid City. There I rented a car and drove about a half hour south to the ranch where the retreat took place, just south of the small town of Hermosa. The normal schedule for these retreats is a half day, followed by two full days, followed by another half day. My flight schedule worked out that I got in late the night before the first half day, and rather than stay in a hotel in Rapid City, I added another night at Windbreak House. With the extra time in SD before the retreat started, I planned to do some sight-seeing and find a few geocaches.
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!
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
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.
You’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.
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