Saturday, November 11, 2017


By Vicki Delany

In the past I’ve jokingly written that my friends and I have been to a writers retreat at someone’s vacation home or cottage. I say jokingly because although we might have good intentions to write, and we might even manage to get an hour or two of work in, the real purpose is to read and walk and swim and eat and drink and most of all talk.  Fun, but not really an occasion for serious writing.

I had never been to a real writers retreat until last weekend. I was invited to be the guest author at Turning Leaves, a weekend retreat put on by the incredible author/editor/teacher/broadcaster duo of Gwynn Scheltema and Ruth Walker of Writescape. (

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As the guest author, my job was to give a Saturday morning workshop on writing effective and realistic dialogue, and leading a discussion on Friday night. Otherwise, my time was my own.

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The view from my room in the morning
The weekend was organized as a mixture of free writing time and planned classes or exercises. Participants were encouraged to do as much or as little private writing as they wanted. Some buried their heads in their projects, others participated in all the group efforts.

I loved meeting the 12 enthusiastic, keen, and very talented writers at different stages in their writing process. I sat in on some of Gwen and Ruth’s creativity sessions and think I learned a thing or two. I got a lot of writing done as well, and also spent some time thinking up ideas for a forthcoming book. 

It was great fun to start that process out loud, in front of a group at the dinner table.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the meals. Yes, the food was good, but that's not what I mean. Simply sitting around the dinner table together gave everyone a chance to exchange news, discuss tricky plot points, get ideas for submissions, and learn some tricks of the trade. 

The retreat was held at Fern Resort, on Lake Couchiching, north of Toronto. It was cold and rainy (it is November in Ontario, after all), but I got in one nice walk in the woods.  My room overlooked the lake and had a fireplace, which was lovely.  The food was fabulous!

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My room
All in all, I enjoyed the weekend very much, but what’s more it gave me an insight into the concept of a retreat. I don’t have a busy life outside of my writing, but many people do. These women were able to take three days away from their families and their jobs to simply write and (perhaps most important of all) talk about writing.  They all left inspired and eager to dive back into their writing.

I was too.

Sharing what "wisdom" I have at the fireside chat

Giving a workshop

Gwen (L) and Ruth (R) with Lori Twining

With some of the enthusiastic writers


Sybil Johnson said...

I've never been to a writer's retreat. Not sure it fits my personality. But this one sounds quite nice.

Gwynn Scheltema said...

It was indeed a wonderful weekend, Vicki, thanks in no small part to you. Thanks for being so generous with your time and knowledge.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Oh, your retreat sounded lovely! I've been on a couple and think they can be very stimulating, especially if you are in the right frame of mind. It sounds you were especially lucky though to have such good food ( always important!), in a good venue (I have to be comfortable!) at a lovely location. I am envious!

Donis Casey said...

I wish I could have been there. I could use a nice writing retreat, and being around other writers does get the juices flowing.

Rick Blechta said...

I find retreats very useful, especially when I have a gun to my head (figuratively speaking), but I've never done one with other writers involved. Being in a hotel or a vacant house out in the woods can be very helpful in getting the creative juices flowing. Your event sounds like it was very well thought out and organized. Lucky you!