November 14-18 we returned to the Silver Falls Conference Center for the 2012 RWW Alumni Retreat. I was eager to trade the busyness of family life for a few tranquil days to write and walk the forest paths in Oregon’s largest state park, stoke the wood stove and eat marionberry pie; but most of all I was excited for the chance to talk with other RWW writers. This is the closest I get to residency in my post-RWW life, and I’ll be honest: I need it.
What I need most are the long, unhurried conversations that we fall into while eating lunch, hiking the falls, or catching up in the evening, the ones that range over every possible topic including writing. I store them up in memory. They become touchstones for me when I’m home again, alone in my work. Sure, we have email and a listserv, Facebook—so many ways to connect. But being together makes space for conversations to unfold in unexpected ways.
I noticed during this retreat how many of us took a new direction in our writing or started a new piece, inspired by ideas that others had offered. I was struck by how many times I heard someone say: “I thought of you while I was writing this…” or “I think a lot about that piece you read here last year…” Some of us had graduated together and knew each other well; some had never even overlapped. It didn’t matter. The RWW vibe was strong—an atmosphere of generosity and mutual respect which made it easy to share our thoughts and our work.
True to form, this year’s retreat was a DIY affair. Katie Eberhart gave a workshop, “Landscape/Mindscape,” which included a hike and plein-air writing session under a waterfall. Lita Kurth’s workshop, “Child of Nature,” allowed us to be students again, as she led us in a writing exercise she’s used successfully with both children and adults. I offered some simple stretching sessions to counteract the hours we spent hunched over our laptops. Most evenings, we gathered after dinner to read new work. I was impressed with the serious attention and thoughtful comments accorded each piece, and grateful to be part of a community of writers who are so committed to supporting each other.
I’ll be organizing the next RWW Retreat at Silver Falls a year and a half from now, in November 2014. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, and hope to see you then!
Email me here for more information.