Tag Archives: A Farewell to Arms

Once again, Writers Retreat at HPMEC

Those of you who’ve been around this blog for at least 7 months know of the Hemingway-Pfeifer Museum and Education Center and the awesome writers retreats. I’ve just come away from another week of retreating writers in the small town of Piggott, Arkansas, where Hemingway penned portions of his famous Farewell to Arms.

While I’ve known about the Pfeifer home and the museum for some time now, I wasn’t aware of the writers retreat until the summer of 2007 when the contacted me to do a story for the paper where I was editor. They fed me lunch, I listened for a bit, and did a story on it for the paper only to find out it was the first time the paper had ever even been there (I wasn’t editor there for the other retreats!). Needless to say, that shocked me, but one of the goals I had as editor was to make it more of a local paper, something it hadn’t really done before then.

The next summer, 2008, I’d already moved on from the paper but kept in contact with a lot of the people there, and the kind folks at HPMEC contacted me about being one of the Writing Mentors there. I jumped on the opportunity. It must have gone well, because they invited me back to be the sole Mentor in 2009 partly because Dr. Rob Lamm, the regular summer Mentor, couldn’t make it that year. Interest in the retreat had been growing and they were looking for ways to enhance the experience for writers, so the now annual Fall Retreat was created and I became the Mentor for that. This past April they put on the first (and abbreviated) Spring retreat. As I’ve said before, writers should consider doing something like this—if not the HPMEC retreat.

There were 14 writers in attendance this time, 10 of whom were first timers! Pictured are: front row, l-r: Brinda Gore, Dorothy Johnson, Cristy Phillips, Monica Moore, Teresa Lee, Kayla Dean; back row, l-r: Freeda Nichols, Elizabeth Foster, Richard Collum, Linda Wyss, Shannon Richards, Sue Whitmire, Barbara Collier, me, Evelyn Clark, Diana Sanders-HPMEC Assistant Director.

As usual, the writers came from all over and had a wide variety of interests. It is the first time, however, that I’ve ever had one bring part of a working dissertation for comments!

As usual, the writers left both full exhausted from the long week of writing and fully energized at the same time. Teresa Lee was so much so that she began her very own blog the very following Sunday. Check it out here: Close To Home

I am beginning to wonder, though… Two years ago Deana Dismukes, who was coordinating the retreats and putting together the anthologies, retired to many tearful writers and joyful grandchildren. At this retreat, Diana Sanders let us know she was about to retire and spend time with her grandchildren. A retirement party was thrown in her honor and her presence will be greatly missed.

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Retreating Writers

For the second year in a row, I had the incredible pleasure of mentoring/instructing a very talented group of retreating writers at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Ark. Part of the ASU system, HPMEC has had success with the writer retreats as this past summer was the 7th Annual, and the one just finished was the 2nd Annual Fall Retreat.

But the writers weren’t actually “retreating,” at least not in the military sense. In fact, they were very much advancing, taking full advantage of the beautiful Fall weather on the HPMEC grounds, which features a “barn studio” where Ernest Hemingway penned parts of A Farewell to Arms. Catered to by Deanna Dismukes and the staff, the writers are able to spend the entire week focused on writing, whether that be finishing a project, trying new ideas, or searching for an elusive muse. What a cool idea.

The neat thing is that the writers came from all over the state of Arkansas and Missouri just to spend the week writing. Some of them know each other from other writing groups, some were first timers, and some were even first-time writers. But they were all treated equally.

So what is it we actually do at the retreat? Each morning begins with a writing exercise, something with the intention of loosing up the writing muscles. Writers aren’t required to do the exercises—they can immediately tackle whatever project they want to tackle—but most end up participating in them each day. At lunch the morning exercise work is read, and often (though not every day), an afternoon writing exercise is given. Again, the main purpose is to hopefully inspire creativity for the writers. Those exercises are they read by the writers before the group leaves for the afternoon.

At the end of the week, the writers turn in those exercises along with other writings they’ve chosen, and a special Retreat Anthology is created. I’m the lucky owner of two thus far and I’ve enjoyed the works in both. I’m looking forward to receiving the one just created.

The picture was taken in the barn studio—that’s Hemingway’s typewriter (or rather, one of them) in the bottom right of the picture. From L-R; bottom to top: me, Ethan Baker, Bob Jones (looking a little like he’s channeling Hemingway), Wanda Jones (red), Linda Wyss, Monica Moore, Chris Henderson (who’s commented on some of my blog posts in the past), Carol Griffin, Rita Dortch, Joseph Hargrave, Pat Laster, Phyllis Rhodes and Elizabeth Foster.

On Friday, Faye Williams Jones signed copies of her new release: Erasing People. It can be ordered online here! Though tired and ready to get back home, I think many of the writers—like me—hated to see the week come to an end.

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