Tag Archives: writers retreat

About Time Flying, Insects, Progress and Welcoming a New Week

I’ve been here at St. Peter’s Abbey in Saskatchewan for one week now, and I still can’t spell Saskatchewan without the help of spell check.

Last night the huge storm I’d been waiting for with great anticipation for the last seven days swept through this region – thunder, great bucketfuls of welcome rain, sheet lightening, fork lightening – a true prairie storm and I slept through the whole show! Disappointing, but also indicative of how tired I was as week one drew to its thunderous close.

Most of the other writers feel the same way as I do: very satisfied with week’s accomplishments but mentally drained. And physically too. St. Peter’s has a wonderful, new weight/exercise room and it is here where I go to challenge my body (they’ve got every machine imaginable) and rest my mind (I literally stop thinking thanks to the two big screen TVs, alternately tuned to a 24 hour news station or MTV. I’ve learned that you can’t survive an hour of Sixteen and Pregnant without a complete zone out), otherwise you would might want to march yourself to the loony bin.

This morning dawned cool and sunny. The grass is damp and the humidity blew out of town on the wings of the storm. Even the mosquitoes — easily the size of small planes — seem to be on hiatus. Speaking of skidders (they call them that in Ontario, because, I think, they skim across the water), yesterday one of the writers I’ve become friends with, Virginia Eckert, and I trekked into Meunster, bravely facing down the approaching storm for a little shopping excursion.

Through Wind and Rain They Marched

There is a Co-Op store there, as there is in every town, no matter how small and it was here we discovered the most magical of all tools — a mosquito executor. It’s sort of an electric chair for mosquitos disguised as a badminton racket.

Ms. Eckert Demonstrates How to Kill a Monster Bug

This magic wand made the evening cocktail hour much more enjoyable. The bugs are a problem here. I don’t step outdoors unless I’m covered in clothes and bug spray. These critters can bite through a hoody or a jeans like a knife through butter, but there’s not much they can do about a couple of volts of current running through their blood-hungry bodies.

I love to sit in my small room in the daytime and work. From my desk, I can see the blue sky, broken only by the tree branches that lean over my window, and the best part of all? I can hear the wind. It sounds like a someone whispering “shhhh” in a musical, soft voice. If I need a change of scenery, the abbey has a large, well-stocked library and always the weight room.

It’s not uncommon to write for six or seven hours a day — uninterrupted and in my own rhythm. I am very pleased with the progress of the book I am working on. Two nights ago, we all read from our work — never an easy thing to do with a first draft, but because we all know each other a bit, I didn’t feel too nervous and it helped me to hear my words out loud.

What a talented group though! Part of the advantage of going away to a retreat is the interaction one has with the other writers, and we have one artist here is well. There is lots of idea-exchange and discussion around writing all the time, but especially at meals.

I am not totally enamoured of the food — it’s good, but really heavy on the meat, so I often skip lunch and try to stick with salads and soups at night. I have a stash of trail mix and some yoghurt to get me through the long gap between breakfast, which is good and dinner.

I actually saw this in the Co-OP:

Burger in a Bag

It’s burger in a bag…and yes, it does have a prairie green tinge to it!

I do miss the markets and the fresh, organic food Vancouver is so blessed with and I MISS FISH…
It’s good and probably especially good for writers to get out of their comfort zones — keeps the mind alert.

And the biggest surprise of all? The Abbot, who we call “Abbot Peter,” because that is his monk name, is a really friendly, enjoyable man. He took us on a journey, but that’s a whole other story. I’ve been to a Vespers and I was at an early morning service today and I am going to a mass at the lovely cathedral across the tracks and down the road on Sunday. We are going to get a ride with one of the brothers, who is conducting, if that’s the word, the service.

I am fascinated by their ability to believe…but no closer to believing, but I love the music 🙂

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A Writer’s Dream – 6 Days to Just Write

This afternoon I am off to Whistler Mountain for six days with a friend. She is the perfect travelling companion for a writer because she is thrilled to spend the day reading, while I am on my computer creating my next novel. We’ve been on the road together before – in Mexico, and various West Coast locations, but this will be the first time we are going to stay in a chi chi resort with a spa, a pool, an exercise room and kilometres of hiking trails under the shadow of Whistler/Blackcomb.

I plan to take a break and ride the peak-to-peak, and if I weren’t still wounded, I’d do the zip line as well.

I can probably get in six solid, undisturbed hours of writing a day. I’m leaving here with 37,000 words (mostly good ones). It will be interesting to see what I return with. My goal: another 10,000 mostly good words…

On Monday the 19th of October, when I get back to Vancouver, I will face the critique group at Christianne’s Lycuem. I’m terrified and grateful all at the same time.

And what was I thankful for this year on Thanksgiving?
WiFi…
WIFI = Freedom!!!!

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Egilsstaoir — East Iceland: Write, write, write

This is possibly the windiest place in the world, but it is also one of the most visually stunning places I have ever visited. As I sit at my computer, on the top floor of the Gunnar Gunnarsson residence at Skriduklaustur in the Fljotsdalur Valley, I am looking out at an enormous yellow field flanked on one side by steep snow-covered mountains and on the other by a massive lake — I don’t know the name of this body of water, and if I did, I couldn’t pronounce it anyway, but I do know that it is home to a giant worm, much like the Loch Ness Monster or the Ogoppogo in British Columbia.

The isolation here is challenging to get used to, and when the wind howls and batters my windows, I find sleep to be almost impossible. On the upside, I am writing for hours every single day and my novel is beginning to really take shape. My friend and editor extrodinaire, Joy Gugeler, is going to ‘pop in’ on her way to Toronto in a couple of weeks and I think she will be quite pleased with the progress made. I can’t wait to see her — it will be so excellent to have someone to talk to and I think I will be able to sleep knowing that there is someone else in the house.

James is in London — just a stone’s throw across the Atlantic Ocean and it makes me feel good to know that we are in the same time-zone.

I walk every day, but am reluctant to venture outside at the moment in case the wind picks up again and I get blown away like a leaf…

There are no big predators here — only reindeer and fox — so walking is stress free and enjoyable, and although the roads are very narrow, the few drivers I have encountered are polite and respectful.

Every night at 22, there is an English language program (most often from the UK, but sometimes from the States) on our one channel, and this, for me, signals the end of the writing day and the time to kick back and prepare for the long, dark night ahead…what a baby, but it’s the truth 🙂

I really enjoy the lady who runs the Klausturkaffi in the basement of the house — and when she isn’t here, I miss her presence and the aroma of fresh baking that floats up the stairs to my little apartment. In fact, I think I might pop down now and see what’s cooking.

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Filed under Iceland 2008