Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Live and Let Relive

by Erin Umpstead
with Kevin English, Kris Gedeon,
Angela Knight, Marquin Parks, and Amy Perry

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project's fall retreat was one about which you would want to write home. Six writers gathered from around Michigan in order to celebrate the place writing holds in each of our lives. A precious place. We journeyed from afar. We brought breakfast food, bottled water, and our muse. We brought the stress of the new school year clinging to our minds and to the backs of our heels. We brought chocolate. While the chocolate disappeared that first night, the stress seemed to melt with it. Here at EMU's Parsons Center, we writers are among our kind. We are home.

In its fifth year, the writers' retreat has a pretty good routine. Write, write, write, travel, eat, shop, write, eat some more, write over the best ice cream there is, and then share in a circle of trust that holds each piece sacred and worthy of comment. This retreat has talked me down from the ledge and out of the keyed-up ball of stress that arrived a mere two days ago. I'm already thinking of next year. I'm thinking of the deciduous forest and the small creek down the steep hill. I'm thinking, already, of the writing marathon stops and the writing goals I'll be sure to reach next year with the support and encouragement of this special writing circle of retreat revelers.

Each of the six of us had a purpose for our northward trek. Angela had five writing goals and happily completed four. Erin wanted to ease the press of what was in her mind - writing to clean house, as it were. Marquin came to crawl back into his mind to negotiate the release of a new character in a novel. Kevin set his sights on relaxing, rediscovering his inner writer, and recovering from the creative quash that occurs when he is away from like-minded National Writing Project Teacher Consultants. Kris was revved up to refocus her energy; remember why she writes; find inspiration for her next novel; wake up her muse (she had been napping); make new friends; write. Amy sought to achieve a state of flow in her writing and to reconnect with the eager, enthusiastic collaboration that happens when people from NWP are together.

Whatever our personal purpose, each of us added to our word counts, filled in holes, finished notebooks, prepared to inspire others, and wrote to challenge ourselves. Today we go home and again take up our heavy loads. Our time here at the writers' retreat mattered.

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