Maybe you know what this is like: It’s so HARD to say goodbye after you’ve felt seen, heard, and loved up—”gotten” as a person and a writer, maybe for the first time. (Not that it ever gets old.) How, after you’ve bonded through laughter, tears, and lattes; over early morning brunches, impromptu beach walks, and late-night brainstormings that open your mind to a thousand new possibilities and critical bits of information—how are you supposed to go back to “real” life?
I hate it, these goodbyes. At the close of each of my writing retreats in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I think some version of What magic brought these gals to me and how am I supposed to exist without them, right here, all together, just as they are this very minute?
Sometimes, often, the bonding is so fierce, the peace and generosity and abundance so deep, that it physically hurts to think of not suspending the universe for another hour or five. When the women don’t have early flights out, we find all sorts of reasons to elongate the goodbye. Presents from a purse. Tarot cards on the table. Pictures from every angle. Insights and intuitions flooding in, STILL, at lightning speed. A new book idea (whaaaat???) or crucial piece of information that materializes out of nowhere from one gal to another at the eleventh hour. “Oh, my God!” they say. “That ONE thing you just gave me was worth the full price of admission!”
Yesterday, a goddess of a gal from England, with the requisite delicious accent we all couldn’t help but mimic (how does the word “bloody” sound so good?), whipped out a small speaker from her bag. One that played mystical African drumming music—that she used as a backdrop for a 10-minute meditation that was intended to dissolve any remaining writing blocks we might yet be carrying. Here we were, huddled in the corner of our dimly lit hotel bar, transported to another time and space, looking like God knows what (“bloody weird!” I imagine) while staving off our impending exits.
We all had tears. For different reasons. Including me. Because I’m always awed by how blessed I am to do this work. To be the gatherer. The one with the publishing experience, resources, and sincere desire to spread the intellectual wealth who’s blessed enough to have groups of writers with whom to share it. What could be better than knowing that my sisters in words’ paths will be shorter or more relaxed or more fun because of where I’ve been and what I’ve learned?!
Anyone who has the privilege to gather like this is blessed. In my case, to have been born near this town. To big-hearted, brilliant, book-loving parents. At THIS time in history—where our voices can fly. I don’t know your path. But I do know if you’re feeling called to come to this heavenly locale, you will feel what we feel.
At the close of our goodbye brunch yesterday, my retreaters and I talked about how I’m continuing to scale back my teaching to finish my books—and how I’d soon (after the February retreat) be raising my rates to keep pace with hotel rate increases. They knew that although my retreats usually sell out months in advance, I still had spots for my January 6-10th and February 10-14th retreats and, they wanted me to share their thoughts with you here. They told me to take notes, which I did, dutifully. (Women are pushy like that.) Here’s some of what they wanted you to know:
“Tell them that every day felt endless. I was amazed by how time slowed and by how much work we all got done. It was brilliant! No wonder people come back every year!” ~ Jo Courtney, England
“I am so moved. I am out of words. I’ve never gotten so much out of a retreat. This experience was/is beyond anything else.” ~ Shira Fox, Los Angeles
“There’s nothing like delivering babies. Nothing. I cry every time a baby comes out, tears falling. Linda, you’re more than a book mama. You’re a true book midwife. You help us birth our treasures into this world.” ~ Tanmeet Sethi, MD., Seattle
“I am so happy and I couldn’t possibly be more satisfied with this entire amazing experience. I have never done anything like this before and you left no stone unturned when it came to creating an incredible experience to foster creativity for us all. It wasn’t just the one-on-ones with you or the brainstorming sessions with the group … it was the beach, the food, and this deliciously-quaint little town! It all creates magic. You don’t have to say another word or offer another suggestion. I am leaving here with complete peace and clear direction for my next steps.” ~ Kim Lowe, Seattle
“What I really appreciate is the amazing way it feels to be in a five-star world, where you’re totally taken care of for a week so you can focus your full attention on your creativity. And, to know that the world will come back. But in this moment, we get to have the experience of seeing what is possible as a writer. This has been the biggest gift—to walk down the stairs every day to a bounty of beauty—gourmet food, drink, and support—knowing that I don’t have to concern myself with anything except for what I do. ~ Marie Ruzicka, Seattle
(And, no, the THREE women from Seattle had never met, but already have plans to hang out on the reg. I’m thinking of moving.)
Wouldn’t ya know it, we were able to elongate our goodbyes into the night, several of us, finding our way back to that bar after all (with a past local retreater spontaneously joining the fun!). More pics, hugs, chocolate chip lobby cookies, and sexy-talk ensued. (Oh, did I fail to mention the giddy girl-talk—duh, we’re breathing!)
If you’re feeling us, fill out this short form, and we’ll chat about you joining us in a few weeks or the following month. (I might even call you this afternoon on my drive back to LA.) After that, God willing, Mama plans to be on book deadline. So, no more plans before May. Yay! xo
For video testimonials, retreater book deal news, and anything else you could ever want to know about our weeks together in Carmel, head over to bookmama.com/retreats. It’s a big, bold investment, for sure. But one that often changes everything.
PS. In a TOTALLY RELATED vein: Did you catch my #BeautifulWritersPodast with humorist columnist Joel Stein this week? When talking about publishing his new book, In Defense of Elitism, this happened:
Joel: “I wish I did what David Sedaris does … which is, that he writes the chapters, he reads them long before they’re going to run, and just sees what people laugh at and what people are bored at, like it’s a play. You test it out in front of an audience. I didn’t do that.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s one of the main benefits of a writing retreat—is to see how your work lands, where people laugh, and where they’re bored. I have completely rewritten chapters and entire speeches based on the deafening silence of the room.”
Joel: “I wish I had been able to get it together to do that, or amass an audience to do that.” (Needless to say, Joel’s been a professional writer for decades and his book is brilliant.)
Let us be YOUR audience. I’ll bring the cookies. xo