Once upon a time, there were five memoirists who met online through their writing websites. One of them, Janet Givens, who had a rustic log house on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, invited four blogging friends to join her for a writers’ retreat: Kathy Pooler, Joan Rough, Shirley Showalter and me.
According to Janet, “It was grand.” At the end of the week, we all agreed. Now, you ask, what made the week so special?
First of all, the spacious log house was charming:
And there is an enclosed porch where we ate breakfast overlooking a canal and the shimmering Oyster Bay facing east.
All around the house were clever or catty sayings on wooden plaques:
That’s right: Everyone behaved!
As we began, we did have a plan to include the clichéd 3 F’s and a W: food, fun, fellowship – and writing, of course. In a joint effort, Shirley recorded on paper how our days might unfold.
Every day, we enjoyed breakfast together, one day with French toast oven-baked by our host Janet with Joan beaming her blessing:
Then we had writing time and do-it-yourself lunches with afternoons for more writing or walks.
One fairly warm day, we all took a hike into the Assateague Preserve to see the world-renowned ponies, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s Misty Books. According to one friend’s pedometer, we logged about 3 miles walking the beach and side trails.
And we enjoyed the exhibit at the Visitors’ Center:
Other Days, we wandered along the main road in Chincoteague. As we explored, we found some interesting sights.
And a mailbox replicating the house of the owner in the distance:
Every evening, we had healthy meals: Chicken chili, frittata, stuffed sweet potatoes, pasta fagioli. This night, Joan is helping Shirley serve broccoli soup with Waldorf salad.
After dinner from Tuesday – Saturday, we gathered on the comfy sofa and chairs close to the wood stove. From 7 – 9:30 one of us had the spotlight with an opportunity to get feedback on our writing or blogging. As a beginning memoirist, on Tuesday night, I got clarity about the focus for my story. Distributing a preliminary outline, I asked, “Where in all this muddle is my true story?” Happily, I got wise words from three women who’ve already published memoirs (Kathy, Janet, and Shirley) and one (Joan) with a book poised for publication.
After struggling through revisions, my room-mate Kathy, gestures her approval of my story blurb and synopsis:
On Sunday, our last full day together, we joined Janet at the Sundial Book store for her author talk/book signing.
Afterwards we bought books and other gifts for our loved ones. Leaving the store, we spotted the theatre marquee across the street . . .
. . . and behind the store, outsized LOVE chairs by the bridge. (Think Lily Tomlin dwarfed in a big chair here.)
Finally, we gathered again to celebrate the productive week and our deepened friendships as we watched back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey. As the week ended, we all wrote off into the sunset.
* * *
Our story, like Downton Abbey, proceeded in chronological time but with some flashbacks, like many good stories.
My version of The Week at Chincoteague is based on a variation of the story model by PIXAR, the moviemaker who tells perfect stories like Toy Story I and II. Since 1995, their storytelling wisdom has spawned many a tall/true tale. Yes, Shirley shared this link with me last week, which I pass on as a template for your own story. Here is the PIXAR prompt page.
My husband Cliff designed the cover for our photo albums of the week:
In today’s post title, I promised you a Wonder, and here it is:
Five writers, none of whom had met all the others, retreat to a magical island for a WONDERful time, honing their writing skills and deepening friendships.
Click HERE for more information on how to reserve Janet’s log house for a writers’ retreat or your own family vacation!
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Coming next: Purple Passages and a Weather Forecast