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The Writer's Retreat: A Guide for Creative Exploration & Personal Expression

by Judy Reeves

New World Library, 2005

148 Pages

Reviewed by Beth Morrow


Have you ever picked up a nonfiction book but put off reading it because you felt you already knew everything about the topic and couldn't possibly learn anything more?

Come on, be honest. It's the curse of the writer. Writers the world over have the innate urge to buy at least three times the number of books we're able to read in one lifetime and rarely finish reading them.

But Judy Reeves' The Writer's Retreat: A Guide for Creative Exploration & Personal Expression somehow managed to make it out of my "to be read (and eventually donated)" pile to my desk where I delighted in ideas and information on writing retreats I would never have considered.

If, like me, your notion of a writing retreat involves at least a week away cloistered in seclusion, you've only got part of the picture. In today's world, not only is that definition of a retreat limiting to the budget, it's limiting to your creativity and writing process.

In terms of time, Reeves contends that there are four types of retreats available to us at any given time: Time Away, for when we have a weekend or more to spare; a Day Retreat when your schedule allows only for a day or few hours' away; a Mini Retreat when your time is even more limited; and Retreat at Home if you desire the benefits of a retreat but are unable or unwilling to leave the familiarity of your home. Through personal anecdotes, she elaborates on the process and practices of creating a writing retreat for a multitude of purposes. From establishing the retreat space to determining the retreat's intentions to creating themed retreats to wrapping up the retreat, Reeves leaves nothing to chance.

The second section of the text, "Twenty Writing Retreats", provides a wealth of ideas to the creative soul. Each of the retreat themes (presented with simple titles such as "Snapshots", "Writing with the Moon," and "Planting Gardens, Tending Seeds") are accompanied by ideas of how to arrange your themed retreat by time available. For example, the retreat themed "Music of the Spheres" suggests that if your can only manage a mini-retreat of half an hour, spend it next to a street musician or in a café where live music is playing. If that's too difficult, escape with your notepad and a few CDs in your car. Each retreat theme comes complete with menu ideas, suggestions for entering and leaving the retreat and a wealth of story starters, topic ideas and first lines for inspiring writing of all genres.

The text is accompanied by a deck of cards. Twenty of the cards are simply quick, visual references to the twenty retreat themes in the book, but the cards contain additional prompts and questions to facilitate writing on the theme. The other cards correlate to the information in the text regarding entering the retreat, returning from the retreat, guidelines for writing retreats, guidelines for writing practice and reasons to give yourself permission to go on a retreat.

Even if you're not planning a retreat, the cards and prompts are good for those times when you or your writing group feel the urge for spontaneous writing on a new topic. If you're looking for guidance on retreats or just a few creative excuses to hole yourself up in your writing space without the phone, Judy Reeves' The Writer's Retreat is a thoughtful addition to any writer's "to be read" book pile--just be sure to read it before it gets buried.


About the author: Beth Morrow is a nationally-published nonfiction writer who has yet to discover the scientific reason that TBR piles of books continue to spawn from the carpet in her home. To put those books to good use, she is a reviewer for www.novelspot.net and authors a daily blog of writing-related resources at: www.writers-loft.typepad.com, where she hosts a monthly contest for writers.



         Last updated: February 19, 2007