Tag Archives: travel

A Summer of Writing Gets Results

I’ve had a very successful summer of writing beginning with an eight day escape with my friend Lisa to Vancouver Island, where we wrote solidly from dawn until dusk and followed by another glorious week at St. Peter’s Abbey in Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild), where I wrote for an average of eight hours a day. The result of all of this hard work? Two decent drafts of two different books and how is that for progress?

Our only visitor on our writing trip to Vancouver Island!

There are many writer’s retreats across Canada and worldwide for that matter and I’ve been lucky enough to have visited my share of them. There is something about being removed from the interruptions and stresses of everyday life that allows my imagination to roam freely. Each time I attend such a retreat, I enter with a good idea and leave with the skeleton of a book! I know that St. Peter’s also offers a two-week winter retreat, but I don’t think I’m ready for -30 weather…although they say it’s pretty!

I almost forgot – another summer highlight was a trip I took with my son to Toronto – I thought he might like to spend some time in Canada’s largest city and we did a three-day whirlwind tour beginning in the Royal Ontario Museum, followed by the Picasso exhibit at the AGO and finally a night at The Princes Diana Theatre, where we saw Warhorse (and loved it). Of course, I cried the whole way through – it’s really sad and you do forget that the ‘horses’ are actually life-size puppets.

While we were in Toronto, the TTC flooded, so it was difficult to get around, but in end we did a lot of walking and that’s always the best way to see a city.

Pretty good summer so far!

Julie at the Royal Ontario Museum

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Day One Writer’s Retreat Outside of Naniamo, BC

My writing pal, Virginia (Ginger) and I set off this morning for The Bethlehem Retreat Centre on Vancouver Island, minutes outside of Nanaimo on the shores of Westwood Lake. Typically, we missed out first ferry, but we didn’t have any time deadlines, so although we arrived a few hours later than planned, it was a perfect, sunny day to ride to be on a BC ferry.

While on the ferry, a guy approached us and proceeded to brag to us all about his latest drinking exploits, including where to find the best bars, best vodka, best alcohol, best party…yawn… you get the idea, on the island. Finally, he stopped talking about himself for a second and asked, without any real interest, “So, where are you girls headed?”
I looked him dead in the eye, through my florescent orange sunglasses and replied, “A nunnery.”
Ginger, to her credit, did not crack up completely as his face literally fell and his jaw hit the deck. “Let’s walk around the boat,” she suggested.
“Sounds good to me,” I could barley keep a straight face and he was still at a loss for words when we shot him a parting, “See Ya. Have fun!”
A good laugh. Now a bit about this retreat, which is technically not a nunnery, but a Benedictine Retreat, where “Benedictine values and beliefs about humanity, healing, spirituality and peace are given expression through hospitality and presence at the centre.”
It’s all true – a writer’s dream. We were warmly welcomed and shown to our beautiful suite that overlooks Lake Westwood, and after unpacking and getting our computers set up, the bell rang and we joined the other guests in the dining room, where we were given our own, private table and a salmon feast.
After dinner, we went for a long walk along the edge of the lake and watched the sun disappear from the public swimming beach nearby. I love it at dusk on a windless night when water goes flat, dead calm.

Pretty soon, I will finish this post and crawl into bed with my book. At 8am, the breakfast bell will chime and our first full day will begin. I look forward to how much I will get done over the next few days. At the same time, I look forward to doing nothing at all, should the mood strike me. Either way, as any writer will tell you, both of these options – throwing yourself into your work or throwing yourself into your reflections are sure ways to end up with something really valuable on the page.

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