Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writing Retreat 2010

This past weekend, eight romance writers met at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK for the annual Saskatchewan Romance Writers (SRW) retreat. Since there were so many requests on what we do/did at a retreat, I thought I’d give you the low down on this one.

History of St. Peter’s Abbey

At the turn of the century, the Canadian government put out a call for immigrants to settle the west, then known as the North West Territories. Many Minnesotans answered the call and settled in the Muenster area. One settler sent a letter to his pastor, a Benedictine monk, in Albany, MN requesting spiritual help. An exploratory mission proved the spiritual need and preparations began to establish a church in the Muenster area.

On May 12th, 1903, the first mass was celebrated in a tent. A 12 x 16 ft log monastery (pictured) soon followed. St. Peter’s Abbey had become a reality. 

Today, St. Peter’s College has an accredited 2 yr university program which includes a 40,000 volume library for both the monastic community and University of Saskatchewan members. A noteworthy addition is the Centre for Rural Studies and Enrichment.

The on-site St. Peter’s Press, established in 1904 as the first area newspaper, is still going strong as a weekly paper, as well as a book publisher.

The Abbey is home to 20 Benedictine monks who pastor in a number of local communities. The philosophy of the abbey is to follow the monastic rule of St. Benedict which balances a life between prayer, work, and study.

Severin Hall can house 50 guests at a time and is used by many writing groups from across Canada for retreats such as ours.

Sask Romance Writers Retreat

St. Scholastica is a guest house and home to the SRW retreat while at the abbey. It was built as a residence for the Sisters of St. Elizabeth who provided domestic and hospital duties for the abbey from 1913 to 1990. It has 11 single rooms, half a dozen bathrooms, a kitchen and a lounge.

So, with all this going for me, how did I spend my time? I wrote. My laptop was the first thing I saw when I woke without an alarm approx 0630 each morning. I fired up both my old laptop (for writing) and my new netbook (for email and research) as I passed enroute to the bathroom.

At 8 o’clock, we all met near the door and walked across the parking lot to the Abbey for breakfast. We were back within the hour and everyone headed to their rooms to write. I’d usually make a couple trips to the kitchen next door to my room to replenish my coffee, but other than that, the mornings flew past. I could imagine the racket 8 typewriters would make, but with our laptops, silence reigned. The next thing I new, it was 12 noon and the girls were gathering for lunch so back to the dining room we’d go.

The afternoon was similar to the morning, except for more movement. With supper not until 6 pm, writers broke up the afternoon by taking a walk. Residents and retreat members are encouraged to tour the buildings, explore the grounds, and hike on the walking trails.

Striving for self-sufficiency, the grounds contain a greenhouse, garden plots, berry bushes and an orchard. An apiary produces 100 lbs of honey per year. If you tour the mixed farm, which is about a quarter mile from the main buildings, you’ll find horses, chickens and a pasture-fed beef herd. The farm grows and stores its own wheat, barley, oats and canola.

After supper, we retreated to our rooms once more until 8 o’clock when we gathered in the lounge for fellowship. On Friday evening, we sat around and talked. Sat evening, we watched a movie. A romance, of course.

(L to R) *Joanne Brothwell, Muriel, *Anne Germaine, Hazel Kellner, Georgina, Carrie Ann Schemenauer, *Anita Mae Draper, and Jessica Eissfeldt (*Prairie Chicks)

After lunch on Sun, the members began to head home and by supper, only Georgina and I were left. With our retreat time diminishing, we spent the evening working on our individual projects. It was almost midnight when I finally powered down my equipment and went to bed. I must say, however, I did get a bit creeped out.

When I went to lock Scholastica’s door that night, I wondered if anyone had entered while we were at supper. And my writer’s imagination went wild. Was someone hiding upstairs? Was I going to go check? Nope. Neither did I mention my fears to Georgina. However, at midnight while lying in bed—me at one end of the building with Georgina at the other end—I wondered what I’d do if I heard someone walking above me. I mean, for 2 days, I’d listened to Anne moving around in the room above me. There was no one left up there. What would I do if I heard footsteps? It took me a long time to fall asleep Sunday night. And no, I never did hear anything. Phew.

Monday morning, Georgina left and after a nice lunch with Hazel, who lives in the area, I began the 4 hr drive home.

Was the weekend a success? A resounding, YES! Without domestic duties, interruptions or responsibilities, I made tremendous progress on Emma’s Outlaw. Even though we had internet access in our rooms, I made a point of not checking blogs or surfing the net unless I needed it for research. Plus, I was able to spend some quality time with 7 fantastic writers whom I never get to see on a social basis.

Writers: If you’ve been on a retreat, where did you go? Or where would you go?

Readers: If you could go on a retreat with a dozen books, where would you go? And what genre would you bring?



Debra E Marvin said...

I'm one of the envious people who wished they could have been there.

Congratulations to the Prairie Chicks who got a lot of work done! Thanks for sharing the photos, Anita.

I've never been on a writing retreat but I sure enjoy those winter weekends where I can just sit and write undisturbed for as long as I'd like (if you don't count dog and cat pestering you for attention).

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Deb, you would've loved it. Maybe some day the Inkies can have their own writing retreat? Too bad we all live so far from each other.

Actually, I'll be having my own little writing retreat in July when both boys go to camp for a week. Mercy, school isn't even out yet and I ready to ship them off already. LOL


Joanne Brothwell said...

Gosh, what a great weekend! I love the photos - takes me back - I can almost smell the grass!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Joanne - you can 'almost' smell the grass? Mercy, I didn't write that good enough. You should've smelled it so much, you'da thought you were back! LOL


connie said...

Hi Anita

I'm sorry I missed this one. Glad to hear writers more disciplined than I (MUCH more disciplined than I) got lots of writing done and feel very happy to have taken part.

Maybe I will get to go next year - but only with you and your tweezers at my side! We can get in some tick talk? Sorry, that was a terrible joke!

Have a happy. Sending your kids to camp should not be a guilt trip. It is why God made church camps I think...because mothers need them.
Mothers should send kids to camp - even if they don't have children


Karyn Good said...

Glad to hear your weekend was super productive. Thanks also for the background on the Abbey, very interesting. I'm absolutely determined to be there next year!

And, omgosh, when did Hazel break her arm!?!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Actually, Connie, your name and ticks came up in the same conversation several times over the weekend. LOL

Do you recognize the room in the post? It was the one you used last year. If you do go next year, I'll have to get there before you because I really felt comfortable in that room and I'm sure it was one of the reasons I accomplished so much.

Mothers should send kids to camp - even if they don't have children
That's very astute reasoning. Some mothers want to send their kids and can't afford it, while others who don't have kids have the money and could make both kids and mothers happy. Definitely food for thought.

Thanks, Connie.


Anita Mae Draper said...

We missed you, Karyn!

It's funny about Hazel's wrist, because it looked so... familiar. I didn't realize it was new until someone else mentioned it. How awful is that!

I have a lot of respect for a gal who comes to a writing retreat and spends all that time writing with a broken wrist. That's professionalism.

Hoping you'll be at the next one, Karyn.


Anne Germaine said...

Great photos Anita! I'm very glad I was able to attend. Writing can be a very solitary activity so sharing meals with other writers was such a treat.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I'm sorry I'm missed the retreat this year. I always look forward to it so much. Not just to get away to write, but to see friends too. Like Karyn, I hope to get there next year!


Janet said...

Your post and pictures have made me homesick, Anita. I love spring retreat - the rooms, the meals, the solitude and the fellowship - not to mention the laughter and hilarity that always ensues when writers have been cooped up all day with only their characters for company! It's hard to believe it's been a year since I said goodbye to you all.

Sounds like everyone had a good time and much was accomplished. Another successful retreat, eh?

John said...

My wife and I are not writers, but we enjoy our retreats at St. Leo Abbey in Florida -- also a Benedictine monastery for monks. The abbey was founded in 1889 and the monks also built the Queen of Carmel convent for a group of Carmelite sisters who lived there 25 years. Carmelite spirituality and 120 years of Benedictine prayers became their own guest master to today's visitors. We often hear people say, "there is a spirit I can feel here." I hope you and all the writers had a similar experience with the divine.

We wish you success in all your books!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Anne, I'm glad you could join us this year. Meals are a good way to get to know each other.

Retreats are also great for brainstorming sessions but I don't think anyone needed one this time around.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Jana, we missed you, too.

A surprise this year was the typing chairs. I'm glad I brought my own, but they had wheeled ones for everyone else, too instead of the standard wooden ones.

Hopefully you can join us next year.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Yes, Janet, although it wasn't as hilarious as when you were here. Really missed that.

And we only received a batch of cookies the first day. That was good for me because I wasn't tempted as much, but still...

It was definitely quieter without you. LOL


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey John, I live on a farm with the closest neighbour half a mile away so I'm used to the peaceful solitude. But yes, the abbey has a different type of peace.

It may be the aura projected by the black-robed monks. And it may be the bell calling everyone to prayer 4 times a day. Yet, the whole time I was there, I knew I was in a spiritual place.

Thanks for visiting us, today. We appreciate your well wishes for our stories. And say hi to the wife. :)


patti said...

Great pix.
Would head to a northern cabin in Maine or Minnesota or Canada where I could hear the loons...

Would take new hot fiction titles, my Bible, and the Complete Works of Oswald Chambers!