Tags: retreat

Get Ready, Get Set, Retreat!

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: January 4, 2016
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wilderness-cabinSee that red-roofed cabin nesting in the forest by the river? I took this photo in the Wallawa Mountains in Northwest Oregon, nowhere near the next site of the Scrivas retreat, which is a house in the high desert near the Warm Springs reservation. Still, the retreat factors will be the same. Relative isolation. Quiet. Nature. Room to let the mind expand. A comfortable setting so the body won’t interfere.

We Scrivas have been on retreats before, and we’ve blogged about them a bunch. Liz’s A Tale of Three Retreats is a good example. Why another post? Frankly, I can’t give myself enough reminders to carve out the time and space needed to let creativity blossom. True for you, too?

So, here’s the deal. Resolve this year to give the writer side of you a treat on a regular basis. You don’t have to go to some cabin in the woods or desert. Find a quiet space with another writer friend, carve out a couple hours of non-con (no conversation), and settle in. Write. Repeat the treat. Re-treat. Retreat.

Happy 2016, and as John Ciardi used to say, “Good words to you.”

The Wonder Cupboard of Amy Baskin, an occasional series

by Amber Keyser
Published on: February 12, 2015
Categories: Creativity
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The creative process is endlessly fascinating. Get a bunch of writers together and they end up talking about how it works for them. I was lucky enough to become partners in midnight, low-tide wanderings with the Mudflat Heathens, a group of writers in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to editor Andrew Karre’s inspiration, we got to talking about the flesh and bones from which we work.

We’ve launched this occasional series to give you a peek into our secret stash of inspiration–our Wonder Cupboards. May I present to you Amy Baskin:

The Wonder Cupboard of Amy Baskin

view from a caveAmy Baskin’s Wonder Cupboard includes a rickety fire escape balcony, the view from inside of a cave, moss, heart-shaped rocks, Tuck Everlasting, Gilead, The Snow Child, mustard seeds, sock monkeys, and a quote from Lyle Lovett: “Well God does, but I don’t. God will, but I won’t. And that’s the difference between God and me.”

Amy reads to escape or help interpret reality. She writes for the same reasons. Her limited concept of home decorating involves stacks of books- in corners, on tables, where the TV used to be. Her work has appeared in various publications including Stories for Children Magazine and Reading Local: Portland. In September, she won the Pacific Northwest Plein Air Writers People’s Choice award for her poem, Snowbound: Day 6, Imagined. She enjoys collaborating, particularly with Jason Baskin, her husband and in-house illustrator.

The Wonder Cupboard of Cora Goss-Grubbs, an occasional series

by Amber Keyser
Published on: January 12, 2015
Categories: Creativity
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Creativity–it’s the core of our process as writers and artists. The raw materials for the creative process are gathered in every corner of our lives. Memory, images, experiences, the work of other artists, dreams… The brilliant William Gibson said that he had a kind of dumpster attached to the back of his head. He through all that raw material in there and after it had been tossed around in the mess, what came out were ideas, ideas, ideas.

Gibson had a dumpster. The Mudflat Heathens have a Wonder Cupboard (thanks to Andrew Karre’s inspiration). In this occasional series, we share its contents, the raw materials from which we work. Let me present Cora Goss-Grubbs.


The Wonder Cupboard of Cora Goss-Grubbs

Cora’s wonder cupboard includes Eucalyptus trees, the Pacific Ocean, long seaside drives (feet out the window, ocean breeze wafting through), Santa Cruz (CA), the unintentional killer, adolescent trauma, the Sex Pistols, the Thompson Twins, car sex, nostalgic romance, drag queens, Swallowing Stones (Joyce McDonald), Magic Words (a short story by Jill McCorkle), and this quote—don’t know the author—“Hard work in the service of your dream is deliverance. It delivers you from meaningless, and into the hands of your highest abilities.”


Cora Goss-Grubbs writes young adult novels, short stories, poetry and essays. Her essays can be found in She’s Shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out and fighting back by Tightrope Books; Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women; and online at Literary Mama. Her poetry has been published in Here, There and Everywhere; Pontoon 10, an anthology of Washington state poets; and online at The Far Field, the Washington state Poet Laureate’s website.



The Wonder Cupboard of Brent Swartz, an occasional series

by Amber Keyser
Published on: December 17, 2014
Categories: Creativity
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Recently I attended the SCBWI-Western Washington Novel Retreat at Dumas Bay in Federal Way. There were crisp skies and sea smells and autumn leaves and all the good things a retreat entails. I blogged here about the kindness of book people at the retreat. In one presentation, Andrew Karre asked as to consider what was in our Wonder Cupboard. What have we as creative people secreted away for inspiration, for solace, for nourishment, for stories?

A small group of retreat participants and I (who call ourselves the mudflat heathens for reasons I can’t divulge) decided to start this occasional series, in which we open up our Wonder Cupboards. Today’s post is from Brent Swartz:


Why I Write, and the Wonder-Cupboard Run Down

They say the only pure moment of memory is the instant of an experience. Everything that follows is painted and altered by memory bias, expectation, and cognitive physiology.  As each memory drifts deeper into the past it is further muddled by how it fits into the broader experience, how the broader experience fits into the bigger picture of your life, and finally, it is completely jumbled as we attach meaning.  It is a process of distortion because, being human, we are not a catalogue of events.  We are rather a catalogue of poignant moments which we hang meaning upon like overburdened hooks and hangers.  We use our imagination to envision our own history, a process akin to writing, where we imagine memories that make up a story.

I did not arrange my wonder-cupboard with any particular theme in mind and I have no idea who put in the those tacky, chevron shelf-liners, but if they are tied together it’s that they represent the most intriguing stories I don’t know.

The Ship in my Living Room, sails tattered and drifting among the ice-flows and an otherworldly sky, makes me want to scream, ‘What the hell happened to you?’ Although I don’t have a precise understanding of ‘teeth gnashing’, I like to think of myself as gnashing teeth as I scream this.

The Calaveras of Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Mexican folk artist, are a satire of wealth, elegance, and life itself.  His art is both hopeful and sobering, and a reminder that life is fleeting.

The lyrics of Carmina Burana (you know the tune) capture a certain intensity to the waxing and waning of love, the seasons, and fortune… ‘O Fortune, empress of all’ (spoiler alert: Fortune’s a real bitch.)

If you’ve ever flown into the Denver International Airport, then you may be familiar with the Devil Horse From Denver, the blue mustang whose devilish, red eyes follow you as you drive by.  What you may not know is that this sculpture killed it’s own creator, a tragic if not parabolic story of intensity and art.

As with Cemeteries, an epilogue never feels like the continuation of a story.  At their best cemeteries and epilogues are sorts of echoes.  After spending Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico I have a new appreciation for cemeteries and the act of remembering the dead and their stories.  Dying is a drag and a lonely affair, and the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos is the kindest thing people can do for the living; a coat against the chill of loneliness.

Don Quijote is the original maniac, and his character honestly helps me to understand mental illness, the wild type that lands you in jail or the emergency department, where I come across these souls.

Now for Ducks: Wildflowers, birds of paradise, lake symphonies of croaking frogs, and dung beetles competing for mates by rolling up the biggest ball of shit.  If it has to do with sex, it’s probably awesome.  But when it comes to love, there’s nothing like a duck.  Remarkable little creatures who travel on the wind, the water, and the ground, crossing entire continents just to get laid.

Finally Tidal Zones, places I’ve always been infatuated with, made fucking magical by the mudflat heathens.

As the moments of our lives fall from the present they fall further into something like fiction.  For the life of me, I cannot remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but on August 25th, 2013, I had pie and milk.  The historian and data analyst in me simply notates the dates and the facts of my life and they sink into a sea of forgetfulness.

But the storyteller knows what to hold on to, what is indelible.  Where time dispenses with the facts of life the storyteller is collecting the pieces, looking them over, and either setting them back adrift or burning them into memory.  What sticks and what drifts?  I don’t think it even matters why, but this question is what compels me to write and something that gives life a sense of mystery, constantly asking yourself: am I going to remember this?  And if so, how… and why?

A Tale of Three Retreats

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2014
Comments: 3 Comments

Haven House, Hood River, OregonEvery fall, usually the first weekend in November, the Viva Scrivas gather somewhere fabulous for a weekend writing retreat. (If you’d like to learn more about these expeditions of extreme productivity and bonding, please check out earlier blogs such as DIY retreats, Insider View of a Scriva Retreat, and Gift of Gratitude: Thankful Beads, and posts about the retreats on their personal blogs such as Dreaming of a Scriva Retreat.

In a recent meeting, people began grumbling about how we had skipped our usual June retreat and that we all were starved for writing time and really needed to get a fall retreat on the books. The first weekend in November didn’t work for a few people so we started paging through our calendars.

“Well I could do Saturday the next weekend but not Sunday,” someone said.

“I could do Sunday that weekend, but not Saturday,” said another.

“How about midOctober?”

“Not ideal for me, but I might be able to make a day.”

And so it went, with no weekend being the perfect weekend. Amber suggested a one-day writing retreat at her house on a Friday. Miraculously everyone could make it. Then we thought about doing something close to home another weekend, so people could come and go as they needed to.   Two weekends seemed promising, so guess what we did? We booked both!

In midOctober, we will have four days at my friend Kate’s house in Hood River (Pictured above: a rental she is letting us use at cost).

Willamette Writers Scottland Yard writing roomAnd we will have three days and nights at the Willamette Writers house in West Linn (which by the way, offers six adorable writing rooms for rent all year round; we rented the whole house.)

So instead of one retreat with two or three days, we have three retreats with a total of eight full working days. What looked like an impasse turned into an abundance of writing time.

So if your groups is struggling to schedule a writing retreat, be creative. And think local.

Scriva Liz

Shh! Writers at Work

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: November 1, 2013
Comments: 1 Comment

boy shhAt our fall writing retreat, Scrivas are quietly, intently—and sometimes quirkily—working. You’ll likely hear more later about some of our work. For now, briefly, the intriguing projects—and techniques—include:


-finalizing a non-fiction picture book for which field research was done in Italy a year ago


-“drawing the book:” with crayons, on large sheets of paper, getting a visual sense of a sequel novel


-reading history germane to a novel and deciding how tidbits of the past will be streamed into the story’s flow


-cutting and pasting (the old-fashioned way!) information gleaned from various publications about possible publishers for a couple of completed manuscripts


-pressing on with the final stretch of a much revisioned novel that the Scrivas can hardly wait to read in its entirety


What are you working on these days? And what quirky way of delving into your story do you want to try? In the next few days, tear yourself from everything you could be doing, park yourself next to a window looking out on autumn, and give time to your writing project. Tell those around: “Shh! A writer is working. “


-Sabina I. Rascol


Skiing and Writing: Parallel Tracks

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: March 16, 2012
Comments: Comments Off on Skiing and Writing: Parallel Tracks

“Don’t laugh,” I told Steve. A couple of years before, he’d rented me my first pair of skis. The spring of 2008, I had big news to tell him. “I’m a ski instructor at Meadows!”

And that, dear readers, is my full disclosure. I teach skiing part time at Meadows Ski Resort to support my skiing habit.

Now, as it snows and snows up the mountain, Meadows’ spring pass just went on sale, and happy bluebird days are ahead, I present some thoughts about skiing. Skiing and writing. Parallel tracks.

I liked my first turns on the bunny hill, carrying poles across my arms like a tray. Because I talked big, the afternoon of my first day my instructor took us to harder green runs than the next-step Buttercup. I had spectacular spills on what felt like canyon walls, yet was game for more. I loved it already.

I now drop into bowls, have made friends with bumps, and prefer visibility while skiing but know it’s not essential. I love skiing almost any way.

Journaling? Great.

Writing poetry, maybe more to understand and express feelings than to create art? Wonderful.

Letters to friends with felicitously-turned phrases? Very good.

Picture book sketches? Scenes for multiple novels-in-progress? First draft of the one you decide to stick with? BEAUTIFUL.

I took lessons from the first, then practiced, focusing on one improvement or another.

I continue to practice. You know… Gradually initiating turns. Completing them properly. Being balanced over my skis. Not dropping my hands.

And I learn from other instructors, both skiing with them and participating in clinics with instructors so good they teach other instructors. I love knowing that when the best skiers on our mountain go catch some turns, even they still talk about what they can do better.

Write, write, and write some more.
Let your writing sit, look at it again, and revise.
Read about writing.
Go to conferences.
Repeat. : )

I now know about my anterior tibialis, the muscle that should be firing for proper shin contact with boots. (Thank you, Rick Lyons! When I grow up, I am going to ski like you.) As an instructor, you learn to analyze someone’s movements. You learn how to break down and explain the mechanics involved in improving one’s skiing. And you show it all. Talking and demonstrating, you yourself learn.

I write instinctively, drawing from the knowledge of writing and story imbuing me from my lifelong love affair with books. Yet, designing my “Shaping a Story” school visit presentation, I took time to think analytically and isolate the building blocks of story. I extracted for others and for myself, and have ready for constant review, the basics we use without thinking but overlook at our peril.

Invited for a three-day visit as Poet-in-Residence at an area school, I verbalized for myself and others why in fact we need seemingly unessential poetry. That is an important affirmation I wouldn’t have arrived at if I hadn’t needed to articulate it for others.

Look for opportunities to teach others. It will stretch you and you will learn more about what you know.

In early days, I went up to the mountain more or less alone. So, apart from lessons, I skied solo. I so loved to ski, I didn’t care. Not too much, anyway.

It’s more fun now, with friends. To talk with on the lift. To wait when you have a spill. To praise your turn shape, or point out adjustments that will improve your skiing. And then, to fly down the mountain with.

So too with writing. Writing is ultimately solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Even as we go about our individual lives, I am warmed by the presence of the Scrivas out there.

Have a writing date with a writer buddy. Form a critique group. Have writing days together, or even retreats (learn from ours). Join a writers’ list-serv, and meet others at conferences. Then stay in touch with like-minded friends.

Once comfortable on groomed runs, it’s fun to go off piste. To learn of runs without posted names, like the Tunnel of Love and Crybaby. (Hi, Sasha! : )

To ski through the trees (though, hugely important, avoid tree wells! and ski with a friend). To catch air in the parks.

The whole mountain is yours: Explore it. Learn it. Love it.

So too in writing. There are different genres, or age levels to write for. That’s one of the things I love about our critique group: though we all write for young readers, we write everything. Not just picture books, or novels. Not just fiction, or non-fiction. Graphic novels, books about how to write… Everything.

The other week, not needed at Meadows’ instructor line-up, I was released for the day. It was raining on the mountain, so I thought I’d go have a rare Saturday at home. But the friend I was catching a ride with, also released for the day, first wanted to take a couple of runs despite the rain. After all, he’d driven all the way up the mountain…

“Alright, I’ll join you,” I said. And we couldn’t stop skiing. We left some hours later, during which we worked on our turns at snail speed to figure out the bugs, then caught steeps for the sheer joy of it. In the meantime, the rain stopped and it turned into a bluebird day. I felt so privileged to be up there.

Often it’s hard to start writing. Then I get into the story, find flow, and don’t want to stop. It’s only hard till we get past that initial bump.

I learned to ski as an adult, after wanting to for years. It took two things for me to finally do so: moving to Portland, with great skiing close enough that it didn’t have to be a rare and expensive destination vacation. And being able to afford it.

With writing, there’s no good reasons to wait. It’s practically free: pen and paper worked for Shakespeare, Milton, and a bunch more people you ‘ve heard of, some of them still alive. A computer is nice, but that can mean your old clunker with minimal processing power or one at your local library. You can reserve it in advance for an hour.

Harder yet, like anything worthwhile in life, writing takes time. Yet if we want it badly enough (see the inspiring blog Amber recently referenced), writing time can be found. Look for it, and make a long-desired dream happen. Write.

If you want an insider look at what a Scriva retreat looks like…

by Amber Keyser
Published on: November 8, 2011
Categories: Events
Comments: No Comments

… You can check it out here.

We wrote.
We revised.
We laughed.
We ran on the beach.
We drank hot apple pies.
We ate baked oatmeal.
We answered that crazy old phone.
We missed our ScrivaMary.

… Can’t wait until next time!

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