I’m just back from what’s becoming one of my favorite writing events: The Helderberg Writers retreat.
I’ve been to bigger writing events. I’ve gone to conferences and my MFA’s 10-day residencies. I covet a slot at Breadloaf or a similar prestigious retreat. But right now, the tiny group that meets at Helderberg is exactly the kind of retreat I need.
Never heard of it? Not surprising. Helderberg is a four-day, private writing retreat, hosted by my editor at her home. We send work in advance and give critiques. There are readings at mealtimes, a themed costume dinner and of course, a lot of writing. This year, one of the writers showed a film she made. Last year, I gave a seminar.
I should probably mention that this retreat is not open to the public. Because this event is held at my edtitor’s house, it’s invitation-only and the number of writers who attend is restricted – probably – by the number of people her septic system can support.
I’m not writing this post to brag on the fact that I got an invitation to something.* What I’m saying is that sometimes, the smaller writing retreats are the best ones. We didn’t have a celebrity keynote speaker and there was no frenzied networking. The only name tags we had were on our wineglasses. It was all very informal and we all got a lot of writing done.
That’s the big difference between highly scheduled writing conferences and writing retreats, I guess. There is no time to write at a conference; it’s all meeting people and making connections. That’s all well and good, but most of the time what I need is the space and time to write and the critiques and encouragement of other writers.
I’m so excited about this past retreat that I’d like to schedule a similar event later this year, because I know I’m going to need another retreat. Maybe something this fall or winter, somewhere far from the distracting clutter of my own home. Because I will need to get away, and often – for me – it’s easier to write when I’m surrounded by other creative people.
*Although I am quite proud whenever someone invites me to anything. This probably all goes back to those horrible birthday party invitations that were passed out to half the class in grade school. But that’s another post.