As I write this, it is the final night of the five-day Mindful Writers Retreat held in the Lamont Lodge at Ligonier Camp and Conference Center in Ligonier, PA. The camp is nestled in the magnificent Laurel Highlands region of the Allegheny Mountains.
The retreat, impeccably organized by the gracious and talented Kathie Shoop and Larry Schardt, occurs three times per year (winter, spring, and fall) and combines meditation with long quiet hours of writing. The cost of this week’s retreat was $400 and includes private room and bath and all meals prepared by the camp’s staff. Each attendee also receives a welcome pack overflowing with goodies including a coffee mug, handmade bowl, yoga mat, pen and pencil set, notebook, and much more.
While each attendee can use their day as they see fit, there are suggested activities such as a sunrise walking meditation where each writer sets off on their own perambulation of the trails and surrounding woods (flashlight recommended). This is followed by breakfast and a four-hour quiet writing session. After lunch, a 15-minute seated meditation helps writers refresh and focus before delving back into their work for another four hours until dinner. Evenings are reserved for dessert and yet more writing in the great room for the remainder of the evening. There’s nothing like writing by a crackling fire! And yes, marshmallows were toasted and S’mores were distributed.
While most of us congregated in the great room, other options include a second-floor balcony and, of course, sequestering yourself in your room. Speaking of which, each room has two to three sets of bunk beds. After all, this is a camp designed to accommodate scores of kids and chaperones during the summer. For the first time in probably 40 years, I climbed up a ladder to go to sleep each night because naturally, I chose a top bunk.
On this, our last evening, two of my fellow scribes performed a wonderful after dinner concert of flute and bagpipe. Later, several of us gathered in the lobby of the lodge to perform an audio drama written by one of the attendees.
Before the retreat, each member was encouraged to bring a book to swap, which I did, and ended up with a spectacular 600-page collection of mystery and crime stories culled from the Black Mask pulp magazine that began in the 1920s.
Will I return next year? Absolutely. After two months of upheaval in my life—which allowed for scant writing time— the retreat allowed me to catch up on the first draft of my WIP and write an outline for a new short story.
Also, on the second day of the conference, I received a call from publisher and editor Nancy Sakaduski of Cat & Mouse Press informing me that not merely one but both of my short story submissions were accepted for their upcoming anthology, Beach Pulp. Click here for more details on that.
Hmmm… Perhaps there’s even a little magic to the Mindful Writers Retreat!