If you’re tiring of amped-up writing workshops, try the down-to-earth retreat approach instead. We asked TNQ writer Kirsteen MacLeod to share something of her experience at the The French River Creative Writing Retreat. TNQ is the publishing partner in this exceptional program for aspiring writers or those with a project that needs attention or a little extra care. This year’s retreat runs May 9th-14th; registration closes April 30th.
— Susan Scott
Last May I was at Pine Cove Lodge on the French River for a week’s creative writing retreat, and I couldn’t have been happier.
I was there to write, inspired by the river and by workshop leaders Oakland Ross, Susan Scott and Russell Smith.
The Lodge, set on Wolseley Bay, was warm, with blazing fireplaces and friendly people. Nearby, at my shared cottage, built on a rock, I met my precocious teenage roommate. She had already written a novel, and spent the week “inventing five world religions” for a school project, among other literary activities.
On the wall of our cottage, which overlooked the cove, an old-fashioned poster declared, “Pine Cove, in a class by itself” and featured giant ‘French River muskies.’ A second poster sported photos of the lodge in its previous incarnation, when it was “tailor-made for the fisherman.”
These days, Pine Cove is also a word-fishers’ paradise. Each morning, a wicker basket with breakfast—croissants, homemade granola, yogurt and lots more—magically appeared on the front porch. We’d gleefully unpack it and consume everything while lazing in our PJs in front of the fire. (On day 6, I finally groaned that the luxury was too much, and I couldn’t eat one more chocolate croissant.)
Then, fortified, we’d wander over the bridge, pat the dogs that loitered hopefully outside the kitchen door, and enter the Lodge—the stage for our writing activities and luscious gourmet meals.
Mornings I spent with my memoir-writing group, learning to listen, and moved by riveting and difficult stories people were struggling to tell. Afternoons and evenings were a writer’s idyll: craft talks, readings and panel discussions, interspersed with splendid meals and conversations, walks on the hiking trail that loops around a beaver pond, paddling in kayaks, and loafing in the cosy library.
For me, watching the water and weather was foremost among Pine Cove’s pleasures. In a comfy chair gazing out the huge windows, I first glimpsed an idea for an experimental lyric essay, one I’m still trying to reel in nearly a year later.
So what are you waiting for? At Pine Cove this May, learn from unique literary lights about how words matter, lessons that will ripple out beyond your week by the water. And perhaps, as it has for me, Pine Cove will linger within, a gentle, inspiring, elegant place to write in peace, waters flowing and wind whispering in the pines…