Edith here, writing from steamy north of Boston.
I just got back from six days way, way off the grid, with no internet or cell service. I didn’t catch up on Facebook or email. I missed hearing that Strangled Eggs and Ham was a Fresh Pick over at Fresh Fiction. I couldn’t read and comment on this blog or on Jungle Red Writers, as I do every morning. I didn’t hear a single piece of news. And I survived.
What made it easy was being at Pyramid Lake and the Women’s Writing Retreat. Picture eighty women from ages seventeen to ninety on a pristine Adirondacks lake. Imagine morning workshops, afternoon free time, and evening readings. Think about the prospect of grownup writers’ camp and you wouldn’t even want the Internet.
Pyramid Life Center used to be a Catholic camp and is still run by Sister Monica, who takes care of everybody, including her delightful young staff, with a kind but firm hand.
Activist and poet Sister Fran has been a regular teacher all along, often teaching journaling. I loved the time I spent chatting with her.
Only three of us were given rooms in Cabin Three, and I was lucky to get to know the youngest writer at the retreat, Hanalei Clark.
Hanalei and I took the Flash Fiction class together at nine-thirty every morning, and man, can that girl write. She’s also already a skilled critiquer of others’ work, too.
This young woman read two poems on the last evening, one a kickass treatment of women’s rights that blew our collective socks off. Keep your eye out for her name going forward. She’s going places.
I had fun with flash fiction and our lovely teacher, author Lalita Noronha.
Here’s a little draft I wrote the last morning, from the prompt, “first car.”
It was in my first car that I died.
I gave him one more chance. “Come on, Jose, come ride with me,” I yelled out the window of the baby blue Beetle at the cutest boy in the school.
His sneer sliced my heart in two. He turned his back and stepped onto the narrow bridge far above Devil’s River.
I gunned the engine for all it was worth and aimed the car at him. His cry echoed as he flew out, over, down.
The guardrail screamed, too, as we – my bug and I – crashed through and sailed down to join him.
I also spent hours in my room working on Quaker Midwife #6, and managed to pound out 13,000 words of first draft.
But it wasn’t all work! Swimming in the never-seen-a-motor lake was an afternoon treat. Hearing talented writers read their poetry, memoirs, and flash fiction was another gift, and several people performed songs they had composed.
After the readings we twice had bonfires, drumming (to bring up the full moon), and storytelling. On the last night we even had a Prosecco party (told you it was grownup camp…)! And the sound of loons around the clock? Haunting, beautiful, inspiring.
At every meal, the talking never stopped. I even got to hang out with another crime fiction writer, fellow Sister in Crime Rhonda Rosenbeck.
I last went to the Women’s Writing Retreat in 2001, years before I’d completed a book. After I left that year, I wrote “The Taste of Winter,” my first published full-length story, as a result of a challenge (“Write a story about middle-aged romance”) from one of the writers.
I plan to make the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Pyramid Lake again next year. The price is SO reasonable – $300 for the week, including all meals. Will you join me? Readers, ask me a question about the week – this post barely dented the surface of the experience!