As the leaves drifted to coat the earth with a crackling carpet of golden brown, twenty writers gathered for The Writers Circle’s second annual weekend retreat in Mendham, NJ.
“It feels like Vermont here,” said Writers Circle Director Judith Lindbergh about the sublime setting of St. Marguerite’s Retreat House. “But it’s only thirty minutes from home. What better place to escape into your writing?”
Each morning began with a generous breakfast together before writers spread out for their work. This year, all the retreat participants were women, so everyone felt completely comfortable walking around in their ‘jammies or sweatpants. Some curled on couches or in cozy nooks with their laptops. Others spread out on the giant oak tables in the dining room to organize their thoughts and words. At times the only sounds were the tapping of fingertips on keyboards or the soft clank of refilling coffee cups.
Some writers took walks on the grounds to think, visiting the convent’s serene cemetery or taking a long, meditative walk through St. Marguerite’s labyrinth while trying to answer questions about their manuscripts, or simply to clear their heads for more.
Delicious communal meals were accompanied by lively conversation about the struggle to balance life and work with their writing.
“Most of us have time in our schedules, but it’s ‘time confetti,'” TWC instructor Christina Kapp said, quoting author Brigid Schulte. “It comes is bits and bursts, not all together.” Chris was one of several writers who joined The Writers Circle’s retreat for the second year in a row.
On Friday evening, the writers gathered in the Retreat House’s solarium to share their work and writing plans. Aspiring novelist Mally Becker said she was struggling with “fear of finishing,” while Director Judith Lindbergh confided that she was confronting “fear of beginning” her newest novel. By Saturday night, the writers were ready to expose their work from the day. Everyone listened with supportive comments and compassion.
“Every writer struggles to get the words out or to get them right,” said Lindbergh. “Whether we’re experienced, published authors or rank beginners, the process of writing is elusive. Some days we’re brilliant, but some days we are truly bewildered as we stare at the blank page. This retreat gives everyone time and space to think clearly, without obligations, and with a community of friends who understand implicitly not to interrupt you when you’re writing.”
Along with good food, companionship, a gorgeous setting and time to work, there was chocolate. No writer’s retreat is complete without a generous portion. By the time everyone had packed up, hugged and said their goodbyes on Sunday afternoon, there were only four small pieces left in the welcome basket.