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.