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Haven Winter Series #9

ForwardEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme, this post is the last in the series. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.
The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)

June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info
.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker… 

Haven on Earth
by Sasha Woods 

Have you ever known you were meant to be, or do, something, and put it off, because you didn’t know where to start, much less how to start? Where would it lead you anyway?

I’ve always loved writing and at an early age, aspired to become a writer, when, in the fourth grade, I wrote a story entitled Timothy the Mouse, and filled an entire composition book with his adventures. In the eighth grade, I was called out of class and into the hallway by my English teacher who thought I had plagiarized a story.  The same thing happened after I turned in a poem I had written.

In college, I would have majored in English, had it not been for the thoroughly dismal, absurdly boring, dry-toast sort-of-a-professor,  whose class I would have needed for the major. Barely making it to the break, I ran out of the room, across the quad, down the steps to the “Precambrian Basement”, and declared myself a Geology Major instead.  My hopes were to become the next John McPhee, but somehow life has a way of leading you along a different path and you temporarily misplace those dreams, substituting them for other dreams, sometimes even for other people.

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who didn’t fall for the trappings of love and security, and forged your own path, or maybe you were like me, who fell for all of it, only to find yourself many years later, looking at the big 5-O hovering on your doorstep, three beautiful children and one ugly divorce later, wanting to rediscover your dream. Having told your children they could do, or be, anything they wanted in life, and the only way of accomplishing it, was to be true to themselves, and listen to their inner voice, they were doing just as you taught them.

That’s where I was last April when I read Laura Munson’s email about having an opening in one of her Haven retreats in Cabo. At the time, I felt as if I were doing just the opposite of what I had told my children. They were the ones living life to the fullest. They were the ones being true to themselves.

So, with a valid passport, notebook and pen in hand, I headed south, away from frigid, grey Chicago days, and into the tropical bliss that is Mexico. Unsure if I could write anything more entertaining than a business letter, I began. Thoughts began to unwind their way across the page. With Laura’s guidance, my inner/sitting-on-my-shoulder critic, began to sit back and drink in the scenery, leaving me alone long enough to record my mind’s meanderings, sometimes soaring high above the canyon, other times deep within it. I waited, and I wrote, no judgment, only acceptance, only love.

I returned, transformed, more confident in my written voice, still somewhat timid in my actual voice. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and yet, my practice once again began to diminish. Packing, unpacking, laundry, graduations, work, business letters, dishes, life, started intruding into my Haven, my Utopia, and my practice ebbed a little further. There were never enough hours in a day, and yet I knew I had to write, but I didn’t, though I continued to tell myself I would, soon.

Fifty came upon me in September, and I had planned to hike part of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, at the end of October. In preparation, I walked as much as I could, knowing I had some pretty major obstacles (knees, feet, toe nails) to either overcome, or embrace.

While I didn’t exactly embrace the obstacles, instead, I created a blog, and though warned by my infinitely wise nephew, not to be so “plugged in” whilst on the Camino, I wrote, almost everyday, and the writing (along with some pretty intense prayer), is what pulled me through. I traveled all the way to Spain, walked 7-8 hours a day for roughly 9 days, only to discover that there are enough hours in a day, and that life can be set aside for 30-60 minutes to do something you truly enjoy, and that others truly enjoy as well, at least that’s what my blog readers told me.

SO NOW WHAT?
by Carolyn Hopper

I gave myself the gift of a Haven Writing Retreat. So. Now. What?

The aroma of spiced words, the glow of firelight, the kiss of mist rising off the lake at dawn are embedded in the sweater I wore for the entire retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch. I sink my nose in the cream nap of its wool. One sharp inhale. Another. Panic sinks in. No words rise. Only the laughter of 10 women dancing around the hearth.

I had counted on my senses staying sharp to help me coax words for the “next”? while I drove along the highway beside Flathead Lake on my journey home. But edges, like the riffles on a wind-whipped lake surface, have a way of softening.

I had counted the words and mists and warmth of the fire, I believed embedded in me at Retreat to stay sharp. Those edges too, softened. Oh, I dabbled into my almost finished story like a mallard probing the lake bottom for juicy morsels. I found a few, bland, like cream sauce. Studied Laura’s notes on the pages I had sent ahead for editing. My notes after our one-on-one. I did feel inspired and fired up for a few…weeks. But October turned golden. I basked in the glow and shimmer of aspen leaves as they flicked their leaves like castanets. Cottonwoods were ablaze in topaz and copper. I printed out my story so I could give it a good read. It gathered dust.

Until Thanksgiving. And turkey enchiladas molé. When this writer woke up. To bare trees sweeping the waxing moon like exotic brooms and winter blooms in a crazy seesaw of freeze and thaw. One day my teeth are on edge and the next I can’t stop imagining how my story, a braided complex of my mother and I during the last year and a half of her life, could end.

And I begin to imagine how the shape of the spy novel that I set aside three years ago might find new life.

Nuts  roast, spices toast, chilés soak. In all there are twenty-six ingredients from the onions that stung my eyes to the sweetness of raisins that mix and mingle and are then stirred with great care over a low flame My mouth waters at the memory of the preparation and day-after-Thanksgiving meal. I had no idea that a traditional Mexican dish served to this white woman from New England could be a catalyst more powerful than a kiss for awakening a sleeping writer!

The instructions for preparing a molé are, of course, not the same as preparing my story. But attention to detail, creating a evocative sense of “this is where I want to bring my reader”, and a willingness to let the ingredients blend and surprise, are for me!

So. Now. What?

Shedding my shoes before the burning bush. A willingness to probe my heart for the bold woman who began the story of her mother and herself with more grit than confidence! Resolving to take my own advice when asked by women who have stories worth telling but haven’t found the pen or pencil to write them down—“dive in!”  

And after the fire? Reaching for the gold coins that lie at the bottom of the well.

You Gave Yourself a Haven Retreat:  So Now What.
by Michele McShane

My first retreat, ever.  I responded to the call of going to Montana for a writer’s retreat last October out of pure serendipity.  Maybe a truer statement is that it was one-hundred-percent pure nagging… by the Universe.

Laura Munson was the guest on Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Hay House Radio show.  The topic was interesting to me, but I needed groceries and headed off to the store.  When I came back, barreling into the house with too many bags, Laura was in the middle of telling the story of how the Haven Retreat started.  I remember what I heard caught my attention, but “life” was demanding that I attend to more of it.  I slammed my MacBook shut.  Work needed to be done.  Something or another.  I wasn’t even to going to continue writing my novel.  Later that evening, I opened my laptop, and unbelievably, Laura’s interview was still running in my cache.  Christiane was saying something along the lines of “You thought there should be a retreat that wasn’t simply about critiquing, but one that allows writer’s space to open up their voices and you did it.”  Even though I liked what I was hearing, I was more than a little annoyed that technology was not letting me off the hook.  Laura’s comments were tough to dismiss.  I don’t remember her particular comments as much as the power in her voice when speaking about writers and the need for space in which their words could simply fill the airwaves and be heard without commentary.  Universe calling or not, I was exhausted, closed the lid, and fell sound asleep.  Son of a bitch, the next morning, I opened the little Pro and, yes, the interview started to play right where it left off.  Now, I may be slow in reading signs, but this was indisputable, full on Las Vegas neon style.  The retreat was not going to be denied, even if I hadn’t even asked the question.   So, now you have some idea about how I roll.  Needless to say, I signed up that day.

The time spent with the group was simply fantastic, extremely valuable and it stoked a million thoughts about what I was doing and what I had thought I should be doing to become a bona fide professional writer.  The questions since then have been more important than any answers I may think I have.  So now what? 

The best part of this “so now what” phase has been that as a result of the Haven Retreat, I have experienced a new sense of what writing actually means to me.  I write because I am alive when I write.  Time is no longer relevant to the equation. Writing puts me in the present, whether real or fictional.  Seeing my imagination morph from an intangible, formless notion into a character with definition, meaning, a life and a family, gives my life dimension and is enough.  It is not so much about “end product” anymore.  The things I write ultimately change the way I think and not vice versa.  The process is the changer.

Since the Haven Retreat, I am happy writing a few paragraphs, thinking of a character’s habit or spending five minutes scribbling down lines in answer to a prompt.  This may not sound earthshattering to you, but it is a lot more than you may think.  I am continually reminded of Nora Ephron’s quote, “The hardest thing about writing is writing.”  It is so true.   These tiny, seemingly insignificant actions are writing.  They contribute tremendously to deepening my writer’s voice.  For me, that is “what” for now.  And, I have Laura Munson to thank for that.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #8

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.50.07 PMHappy Valentine’s Day! This is the eighth post of my winter writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Haven
by Yve Sturman

I’ve always been a little bit strange. I’ll admit it. I was always that kid going the other direction on the school field trip. The kid that was a proverbial thorn in the designated chaperone’s side. If we were in the woods, I’d find my own path. If we were in a museum, I’d wander off alone into exhibits tucked away in dark corners. Back then, I was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Fear was the last thing from my mind. I had this same sense driving down the long winding driveway of Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana in June of 2013. Recapturing that feeling made me grin like an idiot. This was a feeling I lived for, a feeling I loved.

I was there to spend a week writing with eleven strangers and one author of a book that I had picked up in a moment of personal crisis several years prior. In a moment of adventure fueled bravery, I had sent Laura Munson some samples of my sporadic writing. I had kept quiet track of Laura over the years and had read about her Haven writing retreats. They had always been “on my radar”. “Maybe I can do that one day?” I dared to wonder. Now just a few short phone calls and several plane tickets later, I was slowly rolling toward the main ranch house in the steady deluge of a Montana downpour. I was equal parts nervous and excited. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I thought.

Those five days spent hold up next to a roaring fire as the Montana rain softly fell outside, were to prove life altering. I rediscovered a voice within myself. My voice.  I was writing with wild abandon and I was doing so amongst the company of eleven other adventurous souls. Every single one of us grew in those five days. We could see it in each other. We grew braver and bolder within each other’s company and we became bonded in a way few will understand. I left Montana much closer to the adventurous spirit I once was.

I may have physically left Walking Lightly Ranch, but I carry Haven with me. I still write freely with wild abandon. I sit with my coffee and my laptop and again wander off into dark corners relishing what I find there. I grow and stretch myself with each keystroke and I have found my voice to the point where I have started to tell my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s a story I needed to tell and it’s proving to be quite a journey. A road paved in healing and light. A road that requires me to be brave and work hard. The “writer’s experience” Laura calls it.

I recently returned to Montana. I spent a few days indulging my inner adventurer. I got lost in Glacier national park and emerged with several new stories to write. I reunited with Laura. We talked about many things but my favorite moment was sitting across from her at a kitchen table. As we chatted, I had a moment of realization. We were talking about what it means to write and the trials and tribulations faced by writers seeking publication. In that moment I realized that my fire for writing now burned hotter than ever. I wanted this challenge. I was once again forging my own path. I had rediscovered myself and I was ready for this journey, wherever it led me.

Right Time
by Betsy Gibson

My Haven Writing Retreat came at just the right time for me, and I was certain that I would take what I’d learned and start to examine my life in exacting detail. I’d figure it all out in writing. I’d become more relaxed, more disciplined and more focused than I’d been in years. And if I got lucky, maybe I’d find something interesting in my voice. Profound, even! Yes!! Maybe I could even become the next “OH, I LOVE HER!!!” writer (notice that I am not so presumptuous as to say “author”). Stranger things have happened.

Well, a year has now come and gone, and I have failed to examine my life. I have figured out nothing—or nothing profound, I should say—and I am not one bit more relaxed, more disciplined or more focused. What happened? After all, I had thought about my Haven Retreat every day for the past year. I was still excited about the prospect of “figuring it all out” through writing. So then, How had I not acted on those thoughts? The thoughts that urged me to write. BEGGED me to write. The thoughts that said, “Come on, just pick up the legal pad and start to write!!”

Something was seriously wrong. I started to wonder how and why I had seemingly just thrown away such a wonderful, life-altering experience. I spent a good deal of time furious with myself for not fulfilling my newest “life assignment” (I view the act of writing daily as an assignment- -as a Total Type A, I love having “assignments” and tend to look forward to working on them and completing them in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something positive). At some point, though, I realized that being furious with myself was not the most positive course. So, rather than focusing on how I had wasted an entire year on “not writing”, or on writing things that resembled what I imagined the periodic rants of a very moody teen girl might have looked like, I decided to write something real. Or to try to write, I should say. Yes, maybe that would be my ticket to understanding my dismal failures when it came to my writing life (and my failures when it came to my inability to change from a Type A, always busy, always stressed former NYC lawyer to the completely Zen-like and utterly calm and seeking soul that I had planned to become through my writing). An ironic thought, yes. But maybe it would work.

So I wrote. I started with a lengthy Facebook post. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Yet the post, too, had all of the markings of a teen girl caught in the midst of a rambling barrage of words. It was the worst thing I had ever written, and I (wisely, I think) deleted it soon after I had posted it. Why was I writing like this? What was going on?

When I looked at the Facebook post after its completion (and deletion), I had the answer as to why I had been failing myself in my writing life. And in my “life life”. It was amazing! In my post, I saw a totally overwhelmed woman who was juggling two tremendous life changes at the same time, with other severe stressors lurking in the recesses of her mind. I saw a woman who didn’t “fail” by virtue of not having fully examined her life during the past year, and who didn’t “fail” by not writing (or by not writing like a rational adult would write). No, amazingly enough, I did not see a self who had failed at all!!! I saw a self who simply had not had the time she’d needed to fulfill her goals. Thank God for small favors. It wasn’t “me”, it was the whirlwind of life all around me that had prevented me from proceeding according to schedule.

I realized, for the first time, two things through reading my stream of consciousness, “subject/ verb tense error” filled post. I realized (or was reminded) that I am, first and foremost, human. And therefore, not in the least bit perfect. Not even close. Even more telling, I realized that I am currently, and have been for the past year, fully invested in something much bigger and much more important than myself. The subject matter of my post made it clear to me that I was wrong to bemoan my inability to fulfill my particular goals. Instead, my focus over the past year had been exactly where it should have been: on the people I love and love taking care of. My focus should never have been on myself. Or on any sort of detailed analysis of my life. And I realized, in reading the post, that I hadn’t wanted it to be. That explained it. Instead of working on myself the year after my Haven Retreat, it had been my time to step up my work in the incredibly important job of fully immersing myself in my role as mother, wife, sister, daughter, daughter in law and friend. Other people needed me during that year after Haven. More than ever before. And my focus needed to be on those other people, each of whom I love unconditionally and without hesitation and without whom I would be lost. So right now, thanks to that horribly written, now deleted Facebook post, I understand why I have not been able to reach my (overly lofty) goals. I’m no longer plagued by the daily nagging questions: Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I get all of my various legal pads together and try to weave my story into something cohesive? It’s because it’s simply just not my time yet. But when my time comes,

I’ll get there. And in the meantime, I have decided that I will write what I can, when I can, where I can. If that writing is akin to a teenager’s (or even a preteen’s!) emotional diary entries, then so be it. If it is akin to a Trust Indenture, so be it. If it’s in the form of a Facebook post or an email to my mother or sisters, well, at least I’m writing SOMETHING. I may be working in the “Haven Lite” mode right now, but at least I now understand why. And my time will come. I know it. And Haven will be with me as I put pen to paper and finally begin my journey. Of that, I am sure.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #7

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.04 PMThis is the seventh post in a series I’m calling I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? Every winter I hand my blog over to other writers for a few weeks to explore a theme.

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

I gave myself the gift of a Haven writing retreat. So now what?
by Jessica Gilkison

I first gave myself the gift of a Haven writing retreat in early 2013, about 18 months after my mom died, six months after my husband’s most recent health crisis, and right smack in the middle of our 12 year-old daughter falling apart. If those things won’t drive you to seek a creative outlet, nothing will.

I’d read about Haven retreats before, but for the first time it spoke to me. To me! It no longer felt like a message just for people who were already writers. Wannabes and newbies welcome. It seemed a bit crazy to travel somewhere in February that was as cold as my home base of Madison, Wisconsin. That didn’t deter me. It also seemed a bit crazy to apply for a writing retreat when I hadn’t really written anything. I was a reader, not a writer. That didn’t deter me, either.

My main goal for that first retreat was to just start writing. I’d been doing the not-writing thing for a long time, and it wasn’t serving me. The thought of writing scared me more than a little, but I was learning that for me, fear is an invitation to pay attention—to see what’s there, what’s lurking underneath. When I’m honest with myself, I know the fear is based on a lie. It’s a way of playing it safe, of not writing. I was ready to stop hiding and start writing.

Haven 1.0 was life-changing. It cracked open the door and showed me the possibilities. It teased me with a taste of the writing life. It was amazing. Haven was also hard. I didn’t know how to write about the things that really mattered and I began to wonder what I was doing there and whether I truly belonged. After a few ugly moments one evening in the privacy of my room, I got over myself, tuned in to the talent and vulnerability unfolding in others around me, and started to get the hang of it. I inhaled as much wisdom and courage from my surroundings and new friends as possible, and brought home a nugget of a writing practice.

As life continued to serve up twists and turns over the next 18 months, I didn’t so much nurture my writing practice as use it to document unfolding events. It was my sacred coping strategy. Then, last summer I came across a book proposal my mom wrote but never sent. Discovering this artifact of my mom’s aborted writing life felt like a message from her, cautioning me not to wait for my own daughter to someday find the proposal for my unfinished book. It wasn’t my mom’s fault that she didn’t get to share her writing more widely. Cancer intercepted her solicitation letter, rejecting her manuscript on behalf of the universe. Yet I had no such current challenge, so what was I waiting for?

I woke up and started paying more attention, ready to take another step toward integrating writing into my daily life. I explored the ways into the stories brewing in me, preparing to spend some time with those entry points to see where they’d lead me. And lead me, they did.

I gave myself the gift of a second Haven retreat this past September. This time I arrived with a better understanding of my need to be real with myself and others, to crack open on the page. Haven 2.0 was different. I was different. I felt open, no longer intimidated by the talent and creativity around me. I was finding my voice and it felt transformational. My spirit buzzed in the way that confirms you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

The final night of this second magical Haven retreat included a talk from Laura in which she shared her wisdom about returning to our regular lives—some tips she’d gathered after shepherding scores of new writers through this transition. I was already aware of the typical post-retreat suggestions. What I wasn’t prepared for was Laura’s caution not to make any big decisions for at least two weeks. Don’t go home and quit your job or divorce your husband or anything like that. We all laughed because who would be silly enough to go on a four-day writing retreat and make such big decisions? Am I right? *gulp*

This is where “so now what?” comes in for me. See, I’d had a moment of total clarity earlier that day. During a group session one woman shared a powerful question she’d been asked: What is life giving, and what will deplete you? I felt my answer immediately. Writing is life giving, and continuing my current work will deplete me.

I decided not to worry about what exactly a writing life would look like for me. I came home and gave notice at work that I’d be leaving at the end of the semester. Instead of fitting writing in around everything else, I needed to make writing my priority, at least during business hours. I wasn’t so much quitting my job, as I was moving toward something else: a writing life.

And here I am, a little over two months later. The semester is over and I’m working on this, my first new piece. This is my “so now what?” I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Yes, My Haven Sisters
By Alicia Buisst 

Yes, my Haven sisters, I AM a writer.  As I sat having dinner with two of my friends last night, one of them said to me, “You have it made.  Your husband has a good job and you don’t work and so you have it made.”  This got my ire up.  “I don’t have a job in the traditional sense, in an office I drive to, but I do work.  I am a writer and – “ She cut me off.  “Yeah, but that’s not a REAL job.”

I sat up like a steel beam in my chair.  We had worked with together for ten years at a bank, and that was about ten years ago.  My other friend, who also worked with us, agreed with the first one, that writing was not a “job” or “profession” like they had.  Turning to me like a mom trying to tell a child that they are still loved in spite of themselves, she rubbed my shoulder in condolence.  It felt like they spilled their diet cokes all over me.  How dare they say that?  Friends?  Some vegetables are not meant to come back in the garden every year.  And these were two of them.

Yes, my Haven sisters I AM a writer.  I defended my craft and myself for almost an hour, speaking quite adeptly, if I do say so.  Steaming from this conversation on my drive home, I realized I had been due for a good metamorphosis for some time.  The cocoon I had woven myself into began to itch back in June of this year on a ranch in the mountains of Montana.  The Haven.  If the struggle to free itself from the cocoon is what creates the butterfly, gives it new life and wings to take flight, then I feel I’m becoming one of prehistoric size.

I’ve been struggling for several months with my writing – but that’s what writing is all about.   It’s the struggle within us and outside of us, between friends and among family, in our past and in our thoughts about our future – our wresting with ourselves in the present.  Those five days at the Haven – days of trepidation detox, listening, writing, expressing, risking, walking between thick trees, laughing among new friends, bonding to the core of ourselves, as writers – were the catalyst to revelation.   All my life, I’ve heard so many women say, “I can’t because”; yet, I’ve seen so many women succeed by telling themselves, “I can and will in spite of.”  I don’t need anyone’s permission to write.  I give myself permission to fulfill my own destiny.

Yes, my Haven sisters.  I AM a writer.  I am writing and I will and publish my book, despite nits and twits and smiling condolences.  I will see my name next to my words and my thoughts:  my authentic voice.  I envision the inside covers of my book, with photos of me and all of you, my Haven sisters, with Laura, and the view looking over the dock and lake that echoed our own voices.   As I wrote on the evening of that summer solstice in Montana:  I write to speak the authenticity of my own voice, to add my own stitch to the fabric of memory.   I AM a writer.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #6

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.51.44 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Pendulum
by Sarah Hunter

My little suitcase yawned on the floor waiting to accept my dirty laundry.  I filled it, purposefully folding and placing each soiled garment, hoping that someone would knock on my door and say, “You don’t have to go!  You can stay . . . possibly forever!”  Despite my dawdling, this did not happen and I was borne away from Haven, my haven, in the white rental car of a former stranger who is now one of my tribe.

At Sea-Tac my patient and loving husband pulled up in our silver sport utility.  I threw my little suitcase into the back and jumped into the passenger seat.  He looked at me like someone peeking into a musty box from the attic – is there a big hairy spider in there? Will it jump on my face?

I blurted, “We need to spend more time in Montana.  In fact, months at a time.  I heard God.  I found people who are like me.  It was simply transformative.  It was the best experience of my life, well, except for when we got married and had the kids” I added lamely.  He stared but the corners of his eyes crinkled and his mouth twitched up into a smile.

“Ok,” he played along, “I can work from Montana.  Can we still spend some time in Seattle so I can get into the office now and again?”  He was clearly prepared to humor me for a bit.  “How was it, really?  Transformative is, well, a lot.”

But it was.  It was transformative.  Despite Laura’s admonishments to the contrary, I was ready to sell our house, move to Montana and live in a yurt with nothing but a desk, lamp, pen and paper.  I was ready to become, let me state this as humbly as possible, a great writer.  Not just good – epically magnificent.  I had complete confidence in my competence.  I commenced to prepare to write.  I set up my writing room with my writing desk with my writing lamp, my writing pens, and writing notebooks.  I ordered books on writing and organized a bookshelf for them.  Once the books arrived, I began feverishly reading them, carrying them around like sacred texts.  Interestingly, I did not put pen to paper and write.  I thought a lot about it, read a lot about it, but did not do it.

The afterglow lasted for a long time.  Right up to the point where I became utterly dismayed and desolated at my narcissistic depravity.   Who would want to read anything that I wrote?  I’ll tell you.  Nobody.  Why?  I had nothing moving, inspirational, transcendent or even vaguely interesting to say.  Nothing.  Not only did I have nothing vaguely interesting to say, I couldn’t put it down on paper anyway.  No skills.  None at all.  So, there you had it.  I avoided my writing room with all of its’ writing accoutrements.  I regretted the money I had wasted on my silly escapade.  I was embarrassed that I had made an ass of myself in front of Laura and my Haven tribe by making them read and listen to my schlock.  I almost wore sack cloth and ate ashes but I realized that might have been too much.

In the middle of this self-flagellating nighttime, creeping tendrils of an idea came to me like a clematis climbing a trellis to get closer to the sun.  Hubris and desolation – opposite points on a spectrum, right?  I had occupied both ends rather painfully for myself and for those around me.  What was in the middle?  Eventually I settled into travelling a wide place between the two ends where I am practicing being compassionately myself.  Having dreams, daytime or otherwise, witnessing truths in the world and witnessing truths in me.  Sometimes just making-believe.  And writing all that down.  For my own enjoyment.  Or, just because I have to.  Or, want to.  Because it’s fun and it’s for me.  It’s a practice I get to do, I get to make it a way of life, a vocation, a calling.  It’s what I do and now, thanks to Laura and Haven, I can claim it without reservation.  It is me.  I am a Writer.

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, Now What?
by Sharley Bryce

I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat. Now what? In the fields of Montana, where the grasses blow softly and the dust settles on the tops of my riding boots, peace abounds. Whether I come there with a troubled heart or a full one, the experience brings me in touch with my true self. There simply is no denying it; and, the “now what?” is: “what a I going to do with me?” Somewhere there are footprints I left, in doubt, and many in faith and love. They are a part of me now. Like the “Now What?” poster of the baby chick hatched out of the egg. I am overwhelmed by all the possibilities for me now. Having touched the hearts and souls of others at the retreat, sharing and caring, it would be, quite simply, a waste to leave that experience behind and not put it to good use for my own future. Inspiration felt or learned must find its place in me and take flight onto the page.

Too late in life we regret things we didn’t do more than things we did do. We think life is what happens to us, but isn’t it also the other way around; we make our life happen out of all the opportunities we encounter and give to ourselves. The hard part is giving ourselves permission to use those opportunities for our own growth and development. It would be so nice to continue to stay at Haven and write as I am moved to do there, in the beauty of Montana, with all the time in the world, in a safe haven. To be true to myself, I must be willing to make time in my individual life. If I am the instrument through which my words are played and my gift of writing is shared, then I must give myself permission to take the time for writing no matter what. Thoughts and ideas can come in the shower, in the dark of night, or driving the car. I am scrambling to get them down on snippets of paper in my purse or running from the bathroom to the kitchen lest the magical words that sweep me away from the mundane to the real are gone. These same magical words on the page hold me in great anticipation of a finished work. I am moving forward from where I once was to where I am now and that is my truth. I dare not ask how far I have come since Haven because I am still pushing through my fear of being adequate enough to choose just the perfect words for the page. It doesn’t matter so much to me who reads these words as it matters that they are written. That is what I am doing with me now.

Often after I have been with a friend and seen their face light up, I have pictured them alone, serious and still. It reminds me that we all are alone and serious and still at times but we can put those times to good use. Haven is a gift I took with me. From time to time I unwrap it to see again what is inside and enjoy its mysteries. There is great freedom in that.

Sitting at a player piano pushing on the pedals and letting the music of those wonderful paper rolls sweep me away was the happiest of past times for me as a teenager. I thought I was a movie star somewhere in a life of fun and romance. It was one of the most comforting and cleansing of my soul things I could do during those years of searching for my true identity. Of course I didn’t compose those songs, yet they were favorites and still have the same effect on me today. Today, writing allows me to go to a place of peace and joy with my own words and “music” and be fully present. It beckons and I picture the sharing of it which I find exciting. The challenge is to move things around and give it a high priority in my life. Perhaps the real answer to “now what?” is figuring out how to doge and fake in the face of all the things that get in the way of writing. Many things are going to happen and, when they do, we say “now what?” as if we expect it and as if it is just one more thing on top of a lot of things. I am going to make it the important thing for me and let the rest happen as it will.

 

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #5

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.34 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Today’s writers are Renee Bauer Soffer and Sally Stevens

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, So Now What?
by Renee Bauer Soffer

I knew that one consistent message has been repeated to me time again, “You should be a writer.”  Friends, family and newly met acquaintances have all said, at one time or another, “You’re so clever, so funny, so smart – you should write a book.”  “You’ve lived an interesting life, a challenging life, a complicated life – you should write a book.”  I am wise, I am hardened, I am compassionate, I am a survivor – I should write a book.

Despite all these messages of encouragement, I have successfully managed to dodge the thrilling temptation to write that book, or to write anything else, for that matter. I have stored that urge in a box and labeled it with a big tag that said, “Maybe Someday.”  I never completely ruled out being a writer, I just had a healthy fear of being judged and seen as inadequate. I knew that I could string together sentences as well as the next literate gal, but I didn’t think writing deserved the time.  I was too busy doing more conventional tasks in order to make a buck, or spend my time.

Everyone has a story to tell and my ego is just unchecked enough to think my story was perhaps compelling enough to capture people’s interest. Despite this, I was pretty sure that my writing talents were along the lines of those poor, unfortunate bastards who think they can sing, but really they can’t carry a tune with a jumbo trash bag.  Their friends and family smile and encourage them to yowl because it is easier than telling them the hard, ugly truth and risk hurting feelings.  These gutless enablers will let ‘em sing their little hearts out in the living room, but then go into the kitchen and mock them.  They even allow the hapless wanna-be’s to go on national TV singing shows to embarrass themselves beyond repair.  This is what I assumed would be my fate if I ever put words on paper and let others read what I wrote.

I know that the truth of the matter is that writing is a personal exercise in allowing your deepest thoughts and emotions to live outside of your head in the harsh environment of judgment.  Let’s face it, most of the time when you are being judged, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be praised.  You hope for fairness, but often get harshness, from the jury.  I found avoidance a more appealing option than risk.

But, I also knew that I wasn’t doing what I love to do and the last time I checked, I wasn’t aging in reverse. My amusing turns of a phrase can’t write themselves.  So, with the help of a dear friend who knew the magic in Montana would save me, I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat.

So now what?

Now I have to embrace the power of my newfound confidence in myself as a person and as a writer.  I have been given the challenge to live differently; otherwise I am wasting my time and talent.  I need to write, it is a way to record my emotions and experiences.  I learned from Laura Munson and the other beautiful souls who shared the Haven experience with me to no longer be afraid of the consequences of writing.  I am now afraid to NOT write!  I cannot risk losing my voice.

Now I have to make changes in my day-to-day life.  The first order of business is to create space for writing.  This is both a physical and mental task.  I need to create a place where I can feel safe and comfortable in order to let my true words flow.  I also need to embrace the critical importance of committing to specific times for writing.  Putting a pen in my hand, or a keyboard under my fingers, is now a priority.  No longer is the practice of writing trivial, now it is vital to me.

Now I have spent time with Laura Munson, an amazing teacher, a brave word slinger who has the experience to offer profound guidance about the art and craft of writing.  I have witnessed the generosity of her talented spirit and that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

Now I have friends, some so close I call them “sisters”, who will encourage and support me as a writer.  They live all around the world, but the closeness will never be doubted.  We have recognized and acknowledged the talent and passion in each other and through this I have a sense of connectivity to my Haven group that I describe as magical.

Now I know the importance of eating healthy, fresh food.  I was stunned at how better my mind and body felt after just a few days of having meals lovingly prepared with many ingredients that were in the ground a few hours prior to eating.

Now I understand the healing power of meditative breathing.  I have a new tool to use anytime I need to refocus, relax or repair myself.

Now I draw from the wisdom of horses.  I have been touched by the silent voices of a beautiful herd and a particular bay mare that knew more about me than I knew myself.

Now I know more about who I am.  Recently, someone asked me what I do (as in how I spend my time) and I answered for the first time ever that I am a writer.  I hesitated a fraction of a second before I said it.  It felt like confessing a secret out loud.  But, after I heard myself say the words, I stood up straighter and smiled a smug little half smile of pride.

So I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat and now my life has been changed – for better, for good.  I have been changed into a writer.

“I GAVE MYSELF THE GIFT OF A HAVEN WRITING RETREAT. SO NOW, WHAT?”
By Sally Stevens

Okay, so I spent four days in the most magical setting imaginable, surrounded by creative writers of all levels, each one from whom I took home a valuable lesson.  Okay, so I totally changed my food consumption standards, when exposed to organically grown fresh vegetables, prepared by a gifted young woman chef for us each day and shared over a family–style dining table, with the added spices of great conversation.  Okay, so I had a brilliant teacher, Laura Munson, who had written a book I knew was amazing but hadn’t had a chance to read, prior to the retreat.  Okay, so there was this beautiful lake nearby, and woods to hike through under the gentle, wise guidance of David, and a yoga studio where I enjoyed the safety of sharing from a place deep inside me, and okay, yeah, there were horses I got to communicate with in a way I’d only read about in fairy-tales…so, what’s the bottom line?

Well, here’s a bit of it.  I came home, thanks to this brilliant writer who taught us with such generosity of spirit, with basically an outline for an autobiography that had been challenging me for years…how to frame a fifty-year journey through the music business, and have it be much more than just a “then I did this, and then I met so-and-so, and then I went…” .  It had to have a theme, a message.  I had to turn a corner and understand something about myself that was worth sharing.  After forty years or so of therapy, you’d think I would have done that by now, but no, it took four days in the woods of Montana with a wise, generous, creative young woman to bring it all into focus.  And it helped to be surrounded by other writers, people I didn’t know, had no history with, who enthusiastically and supportively said, “Yes, you have interesting stories to tell!  You should do this!”

SO, now what, you ask?  Yes, I had to ask myself that same question.  So now we leave the magical woods and the uninterrupted focus on writing and creativity, and we return to our daily lives, to the pressures and deadlines and annoying sounds and distracting television programs, and all the reasons we use to procrastinate, to delay putting the metaphorical pen to paper.

Well, not this time.  Despite family drama, despite the amazing and gratefully received work calls that continue to knock on the door of this septuagenerian, and despite the other distractions of daily life, I managed to sit down and start.  Ten pages in the first stretch at the keyboard, five pages at the next, and so on…and not necessarily in chronological order.  I learned I didn’t have to do that.  I could dive in any place, I could share the moment, the event, the insight, that floated to the surface in that hour, on that day, and know that I could weave them into some kind of a shape, eventually. I did not have to treat them as a final draft, I did not have to come up with the final order of things.  I just have to get them on the page.  The progress has been slower than I would like, because it’s impossible to change all those bad habits over night.  BUT it’s been faster, and more productive than I would have ever dreamed.  I came home knowing … KNOWING…that it was possible.  That I could do this, and that I actually might have something of interest to share with readers. So, thank you Laura Munson, for creating this beautiful, safe place where we can go to learn, to grow, to commit to our most creative selves…and thank you, ME…for allowing myself the gift of this experience!

 

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Haven Winter Series #4

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.51.06 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Here are the words of two of our Haven alums, Patricia Young and Laura Prochnow Philips:

Haven
by Patricia Young

Siri defines Haven in two ways.  “1. As a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary.  and 2. A sheltered port where ships can take on or discharge cargo.”

I have always had a love of lighthouses.  Dreaming of taking one of the cruises, not on a ‘cruise ship’, but on a beautiful schooner that sails from the Hillsboro Inlet Light on Pompano Beach in Florida all the way up to Lighthouse Point in Nova Scotia.  Stopping along the way to photograph, paint and write about the different lighthouses dotting the coast.  Still to this day a great comfort to every sailor gazing into the darkness looking for the shore.

Although Laura Munson’s Haven is unequivocally the first definition, it is also safe to say each person who experiences it takes away more than one meaning of the term.

What is a sanctuary for some, may mean a place I can not only feel safe in – but also a place to explore within myself, to share thoughts and feelings without being judged or ridiculed.  To have a say in what I am going to do –then feel the support of a very uniquely special group of women, who will encourage those choices.

Haven will not magically turn you into a writer.  It will not get you published or make you independently wealthy.  However – it will help you find the writer inside you.  It will answer your questions honestly about the publication world and what to expect or not expect.  It will be bold and clear when it tells you to do whatever you want – but know you must do the work it takes to get there.

It has been fifteen months since I walked on the dock by the lake in Whitefish.  Sat on the swings and felt the Montana breeze on my face.  Had a ‘Laura’ hug!  Yet I know in my heart a piece of me remained, and a piece of that beautiful place came home with me.

Haven is a lighthouse – it beacons you, bids you welcome and cautions you to take care – of yourself, your soul and your spirit.  It is a place you can come and unload the cargo you carry on your back, and take on a fresh perspective of what you hope to do, plan to do and will focus on.  Having given you sanctuary – it will nourish and fill you, so you can refreshed and rejuvenated come home.  Where you can choose to continue on your path, decide if you should take another route, face a storm or sail into the sunset of possibilities.

The destination is ultimately up to you.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

 

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat – So Now What?
by Laura Prochnow Philips

I went to Haven for several, very personal reasons: to reconnect with a long-lost cousin, to see if I was right about the powerful role of creativity (and writing in particular) in a healthy life, to enjoy a completely different physical environment, and to see if I wanted to write again either for my work as a coach or for me alone.  Once I was there, I discovered a greater, broader purpose: I want to change the internal and external conversations women are having about midlife health and wellness to include more joy, fulfillment, self-compassion, and love.  I came home renewed and inspired, but I knew that keeping Haven alive while back home would be one of the most challenging parts of the journey.

In the short time I’ve had since the retreat, I’ve found that the key to keeping Haven fresh and vital is to bring as much of the feel, the learning, and the experience of Haven into everyday life rather than let it fade away like new year’s resolutions in February.  I carved out a physical space for writing at home: I now have my Haven Manifesto pinned up next to my desk, and I cherish my photo with John the horse.  But these are small efforts compared to the powerful internal shifts I experienced and want to make permanent.  What can I do that will last?

Rediscovering my creativity was one of the most important parts of Haven for me.  I firmly believe that creativity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, whether it shows up as writing, dancing, painting, knitting, making music, or any number of similar pursuits, and my experience at Haven confirmed that belief.  As a health, wellness, and lifestyle coach, one would hope that I would practice what I preach.  But I had fallen off the creativity wagon; I hadn’t been writing for a very long time, and Haven invited me, cajoled me, and forced me to write again.  A curious thing happened once I restarted writing: I liked it.  I wanted to do more of it.  My voice got louder and stronger and wasn’t taking no for an answer.  The reboot of me as a writer—and as a creative soul—has been just as fulfilling, energizing, and healthy as I tell my clients it will be once they take the plunge into a creative endeavor.

For me, the true gifts of Haven are the rediscovery of a long dormant part of myself—the writer—and the continuation of the spirit and energy of the retreat every day since I came home. Taking best advantage of those enormous gifts depends entirely on me deciding to support my internal shifts in one of the best ways I know as a coach: taking an active part in a community of fellow souls seeking their individual paths. The Haven Facebook community provides contact with other participants and the support of as many writing coaches.  My group is planning to get together again in person in 2015, which is delightful to anticipate.  I’m so grateful for my new community and the support it provides, and I’m deeply energized by all the possibilities that exist in me and in us.  If this creative community and my reawakened writing self are my “now what?,” I’m thrilled.

 

 

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #3

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.56.17 PMThis is the third post in my winter series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?
By Fateme Banishoeib

Haven found me when I was lost as a little kitty cat on a corner in a rainy night. Haven took me home and rescued me from freezing unseen and voiceless. In the warm nest, I found my  whisper, protected by the feminine power of the circle and my heart heated by others’ passion for writing and give voice to their soul.

I was disturbed by the loud voices of brutes with no soul and to save myself I hide. Holding myself waiting for that moment, for that sparkle, that blink, for HAVEN, and finally come to light again. My truth came out in Poetry. I was born in Poetry and Haven gave me the chance to re-born in it again. Poetry was hidden in me, came out as from mother’s womb revealing beauty, life, memories, visions, dreams and medicines for my heart.

After HAVEN copious pages of poetry wrote themselves through my hands. I was given the key to open the magic door of intimate conversation with life. My mind does not know what is happening and led by the heart I conquer my presence in an act of freedom into the path from “good girl” to woman. A woman that does not care to be known or controlled. A woman that is rebelling for independence from what I was told to be and is changing the relationship with my own shadows. A woman emerging into the light of my true self.

In Poetry I am stepping up and coming alive again. Line after line I peel off the layers of hurts and free the real me that the “Dancing Queens” saw and I have been hiding.

The Poetry whispers to my ears that is never too late. It is time for fun, playing with words and their music. I know I always wanted to write and many years later it is what I am doing right now. Convinced by my own limits I kept telling instead that I did not want it. I said it out loud. So the Poetry took a detour and hide in the place I was most scared to go, the shadows. Blinded by my own veils of limitations I realize it now.

The music of Poetry is taking care of the secret garden I had abandoned exactly where I am and wait for the dream to be attracted by the smell of roses. I know it will come. I can smell the roses!

And after the gift of Haven I gave myself the gift of Poetry…this is for you and me.

The Ebb

I cannot see, hear, accept, control

I disappeared in the cold new season

In the darkness the only light is the imagination

I turn on the magical thinking and seek for the unicorns

The masquerade is over

The heart has taken over

I let go of the craving of wanting to know, wanting to be right

From the garden asleep

When the time is right

New life will spring

The sky above knows

Dark and light alternating as night follows day

The darkness is the time to dream big

Expect a miracle

We live in a world of miraculous Poetry

 

I Found My Voice and Lost My Cheese
by Mary Novaria

I left my shoes on the porch and stepped into the lodge feeling like a fraud.

When I arrived at Haven I’d lost confidence in my words and in myself. The past five years had been a morass of caregiving for an aging mother and teenage daughter, both incapacitated by maladies that my words, written or spoken, just couldn’t fix.

Although there’d been scant time and even less energy to write, when I got to Haven, I’d somehow managed to scratch out about 75 rough pages of angst, the meager beginnings of a memoir. A mother, a daughter, a grandmother—two slices of bread (them) and a slab of bologna (me)—assembled into a complicated mess of a sandwich.

Deep down, I didn’t really believe I could do it. Not in the way you have to believe in yourself and trust in your story in order to actually write a book. I was frozen, stuck, unsure of how to dig myself out.

But the ranch is warm. Even when your boots crunch down on the icy dew as you walk from the guesthouse to the lodge. Even with the lake shrouded in a gray mist that obscures the squawking geese. Even as your breath puffs out like exhaled smoke while you stand in awe of the night sky.

I began to thaw in the sanctuary that is Haven. Scribbling in a notebook spotlighted by the streams of afternoon sun the poured through the windows… sharing words and laughter and tears before the crackling fire… soaking up Laura’s kind, loving, emboldening words. There was warmth enough to incubate both a fledgling book and a lost woman as fragile as a chick just hatched.

And there was soup… specifically that simmering, creamy, fragrant carrot coconut concoction—the first of many love offerings to emanate from Emma’s kitchen.

I admit to a twinge of trepidation at the notion of going of vegan, if only for a few days. I could deal with no meat. But no dairy meant no cheese—one of my great comforts in life. Good riddance Gouda. Cheerio Cheddar.  Bye-bye Brie. I was astonished that I didn’t miss it, not even when we had raw tacos.

Two months later my new doctor (a naturopath) took me off dairy, wheat and a few other things to address some longstanding health issues. I began cooking and eating a different way and wrote to Emma for baking advice.

I reminded myself that at Haven I’d wanted for nothing. Not even cheese. And certainly not for companionship and inspiration. I realized that as much as I relish the isolation of the writing life, I do occasionally need the blanket of community to bundle me up and keep me from freezing to death. So I found my way to a monthly writers’ workshop. I’m not much of a joiner, so this was a stretch. But then, so was a life without cheese.

Using my workshop group for accountability, I committed to daily writing, once amassing a streak of 261 straight days. I took a break when the kids came home and felt like I’d fallen off the wagon. I shared chapters in monthly workshops, which kept me moving me forward since there was an expectation to show up with new material each time. I finished a first draft. A second. A third. A major revision.

For more than two years now, I’ve been a wheat-free, dairy-free writer. If I’m fortunate enough to find my way back to Haven, I won’t feel like a fraud when I cross the threshold in my stocking feet and I won’t be pining for Brie.

 

 

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Haven Winter Writing Series

WinterWell, it’s time for the annual Haven Winter Writing Series again, and this year we have a theme that I hope will inspire you to do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but haven’t quite had the guts or permission or stamina or time or money or support or inspiration or did I say guts, to give yourself. I know all about it. Every time I start a book, never mind an essay or a magazine article, or heck, even this blog post, my inner critic puts on boxing gloves and starts to swing: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not good enough to pull this off.” “No one asked you to do this.” “People will judge you.” “This is what OTHER people do, not you.” “Go on Facebook and see what the COOL people are up to. You belong at the other table- the one with the theater geeks and the people who missed the memo on hygiene maintenance.” “Have you looked at yourself lately? You need to join the gym!” (not sure what that last one has to do with writing, but somehow it always sneaks its way in…) But for some reason, I keep writing things. Always have. Call it an obsession. Call it an addiction. Call it just plain stupid. I’ve just learned not to listen. I’ve learned to put that chatter in a box that is not quite cast off to sea, but nowhere close to my writing desk. I hope that someday I will once and for all give it a proper water burial. One step at a time. 

You can bet that voice was loud when I started leading writing retreats– all of that mean inner chatter about supposed-to-be and not-enough. Well for some reason I did it anyway. And now over 300 people have come to Haven and have had major breakthroughs in finding their unique voice through the transformative power of writing. AND Haven was ranked in the top five writing retreats in the US!  You do not have to be a writer to come to Haven. Just a seeker.

ForwardThis year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is:
I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

We’ll be postings these essays written by Haven alums who will share their story twice a week through February, in hopes that you will take a brave stand for whatever it is that you dream about doing for yourself. If it’s a Haven retreat that you pine for, here is our 2015 schedule. I’d love to tell you more about the experience.

Here’s to a wondrous 2015! And may you grant yourself your wildest dreams!

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Please enjoy this poem by Josina Manu Maltzman, which was inspired by my one day Haven Workshop at The Loft in Minneapolis this December. The prompt was: Why is Writing Dangerous? I chose this prompt because anything worth diving into head-first is a little, if not a lot, dangerous. That’s what makes it powerful. Consider your dreams, how you deem them “dangerous,” and choose to tell yourself a new story. Making them come true just might change your life! I am living proof of that.

Yrs.
Laura

In honor of the writers killed in Paris this week

Writing is Dangerous

by Josina Manu Maltzman

Writing
is the space between cells that holds memories
atoms of information
the part of me that blends with you
the in-between that creates
the line
but also blurs it.

It is terrifying to write,
never knowing what may happen.
Words create worlds and we must follow them pulled to discover
what lies there.

Writing is both safe and safecracker
code breaker
myth weaver.

When you think you are alone but the words tell you:
You are not.

Writing is salve and salvation.
We need the words to heal,
mending collective trauma
where our humanity has been torn and ailed
for generations.

Trees need soil.
We need art.
There must be packed art around our roots
to push against
spread within
hold the water to us
and rest there,
waiting for us to sip and be nourished.

Writing is dangerous where there is power-over,
suffering-under.
It is dangerous to write truth into a scene that is otherwise void of it.

Writing is dangerous
the way jazz is dangerous.
The way meeting in town squares
under the watchful gaze
of the master
is dangerous.

Even if (because)
it looks like revelry.

Writing is forbidden sex and Love
re-imagined.

It is barriers destroyed and prison bars disappeared.

The undead coming alive
their voices rising together.

Words are
the testament of where we came from
proof of our pasts
claiming our futures.
On the page history
is told with our own words,
our lives
at once
have value.

Writing dangerously feeds hunger
when we are supposed to be starving.
Edwidge Danticat says,
“Create dangerously,
for people who read dangerously.”
Because some people
are killed for their words
and to read them
is also
sure death.

Some stories must be shared by candlelight,
behind drawn shades,
because the truth of what is said
is dangerous
to power.

Writing must be dangerous.
How else do we reflect
truly
on the world we live in?
We must get dirty
fearlessly uncovering.

What is it to desire un-dangerous writing?

To write safely is Wednesday Night Sitcom
Disneyworld bench
sandbox playground.

We write dangerous
because our world is dangerous.
And as we chronicle our surroundings
we shatter glass ceilings
shards falling like pointed daggers
exposing an endless sky.

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A Tall Drink of Summer…

bench

Only a few spots left for my 2014 Haven Retreats in Montana…

September 10-14 (ALMOST FULL)
September 24-28 (ALMOST FULL)
October 8-12
October 22-26

When is the last time you sat on a bench in your home town?  It’s summertime here in Whitefish, Montana, so that means there are tourists enjoying the view from our town benches everywhere I look—taking a break from the overwhelm of our nearby Glacier National Park, our stunning lakes and rivers, and miles of pristine wilderness.  I’ve lived in Whitefish for twenty years and with our long, dark Montana winters, summer is my biggest bully, beckoning me to get on my horse, put on my hiking shoes, pack up the camping gear, grab the huckleberry bucket, paddleboard, canoe…and get after it, as we say around here.  And “it” is a high calling with vast reward.  I have been good at “it.”  Not this summer. 

This summer everyone in my family is running in a different direction.  Perhaps you can relate.  My daughter is leaving for her first year in college in a matter of weeks, baby-sitting 24/7 to help pay for her expenses (we should all be $baby-sitters$ these days!)  My high-school bound son has been up to his ears in baseball— his 13 year old All Star team not only winning State, but last weekend, Regionals!  (They went up against teams from all over the Pacific Northwest who had hundreds try out for those coveted spots.  They had twelve.  Small town miracles do happen!)  Personally, when I’m not watching baseball games or filling out college forms, I have been under a deadline for a novel I’ve spent the last few years writing.  (Deadline was yesterday.  Made it—phew!)   In other words, I haven’t stopped to enjoy summer.  Haven’t seen my horse.  Haven’t taken one hike.  Went out on Whitefish Lake once thanks to a friend with a boat who took “pity” on me when she saw my pasty skin.  Got some fresh huckleberries from a friend and her secret huckleberry patch, which I guiltily used in our pancakes the next morning.  It felt like cheating.  Most of all, I haven’t felt part of my community.  And I miss it.  I need to sit in it and just be.WF

So yesterday, when our town threw a parade for our Whitefish All Star champs, I got there early to make sure I captured it all on camera and cheered alongside the fire truck holding those glowing young men.  I was all ready to go, expecting the fire truck to round the bend at exactly 5:00 as scheduled in our town newspaper, but there was no parade to be seen.  I waited, checking my camera to make sure I had remembered the memory card and a charged battery—(I have an uncommon knack for forgetting both in the most photogenic moments), texting my son to find out what was going on.  Whitefish loves its parades.  I got a text back.  Schedule change.  Not til 6:00.  I had an hour.

Normally, I would think, “Ok— what can I check off my list?  What mail needs to be sent?  What errand can I run?  Do I have anything at the dry-cleaners?  But the stores were closed and my car was parked far away…and there was the nicest empty bench on the street corner in the shade.  And I thought—what the heck.  Why don’t you just sit down.  Take a load off.  People watch.  And BE.  See what other people see when they sit on our town benches.  The Burlington Northern railroad running through, the azure skies and popcorn clouds.  The emerald green ski runs on the forest green mountain.  The children skipping alongside their carefree vacation-minded parents.  The older people licking ice cream cones and gazing into shop windows I race past every day, really taking it all in– commenting on the western art.  “Oh, that’s lovely.”  And moving on, slowly, on the shady side of the street. 

Summer can be slow.  The “it” can be something quiet.  Meditative.  Simple, with no proof– not even a photograph.  I decided yesterday, sitting on that bench, that I’m going to become a bench dweller.  I’m going to make a practice of sitting on benches, especially in my home town.  I want to see the wonder of what Whitefish looks like to people who are seeing it for the first time.  I want to say, “Hello” to strangers, and locals too, and give benign smiles that have nothing to do with team sports or college entrance or work or who are the best teachers, or who are you going to vote for, or even what’s in the local paper.  I just want to Be in my town.  Take a load off.  Sit a spell. 

When those fire trucks came around the bend, I grabbed my camera, ready to shoot in rapid fire, to share on Facebook and with the paper and everybody else for that matter.  But instead, I stood up, and waved, smiling to my son and his team, took one picture, jogging alongside them for a few steps to show my support.  But then I stopped and watched, smiling and proud, as the truck made its way down Central Ave.  And I sat back down on the bench.  Being a parade chaser is too exhausting.  Sometimes it’s better to let the parade pass by.  There will be more parades.  Most of life is about all the stuff that lives between our heightened moments.  That’s the “it” I’m going to start getting after.  On little benches everywhere.  I invite you to do the same in our last weeks of summer.

champs

We reached our goal and our baseball family is leaving for the Babe Ruth U-13 World Series in Virginia today!  Thanks to all of you who helped make it possible!

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Filed under My Posts

Blog Hop– Writers Writing

Over and over, I say that writing is my practice, my prayer, my meditation, my way of life, and sometimes my way to life. I’ve always written. For the most part it’s because it helps me to process this beautiful and heartbreaking thing called life. I also write for a lot less elegant of a reason: I’m obsessed. I can’t not do it. I like to play around with words and push them to their limit of meaning, mix them up with words they don’t “go” with and feel their energy and flicker. I like to step directly into uncomfortable places on the page and make stuff up, climb into shoes I couldn’t in my “real life” and experience the empathic journey through an old woman with dementia, or a homeless teenager, or a man who lives in a small village in Africa. So in short, I’m an obsessed empathy junkie, with an addiction to words.

It’s always been this way. I’ve written all my life, and in my adult life I’ve completed fourteen novels—not all good, but a few of them publishable. I wrote when I had three jobs, when I had small children, when I finally had a book published and was in the thick of promotion, reeling with sudden fantasy accolades like the New York Times best-seller list and long-dreamed experiences like going on Good Morning America, NPR, and much much more. (This Is Not The Story You Think It Is– Amy Einhorn/Putnam 2010) But what I’ve learned in the trenches of “failure” and the altitude of “success” is that what really matters is doing the work. The writing. Writing is just what I do—it’s how I’m wired. I’m no good at getting to the gym or balancing my checkbook, but I know what it is to sit at the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is the writing life, and I’ve done it with all my might for a long time.

Turns out…this is an uncommon way to live. Not a lot of people know how to climb into that uncomfortable but enchanted playground and play, skin their knee, fall off the merry-go-round, pump so hard on the swing they swear their sneakers touch the sky. That’s why I started my Haven Writing Retreats a few years ago. I want to help people play the way I know how to play, for their own creative process, but also to help them process life. I’ve worked with hundreds of people, mostly in Montana where I live, but also across the US, and abroad. It is such an honor to help facilitate creative self-expression and to help people develop their unique writing voice, whether or not my attendees are “writers.” Everyone who comes to Haven shares one thing in common: they are seekers. I love being in the midst of ten minds and seeing where they go. It’s the best wine I have ever tasted. (And it’s absolutely ruined my ability to make small-talk in the grocery store, so if you see me in the green grocer section, I apologize in advance!)

I’m telling you all this because in the crazy world of curiosity and sharing that hatched and feeds the internet, there is something called a Blog Hop. It is a wonderful way for writers to support one another, share their own musings on writing, and shine a light on other writers. I have found writers to be incredibly generous and that’s a good thing, because the writing life can feel very very lonely.  To that end, one of my very first Haven attendees, Mary Novaria, asked me to participate, and I was thrilled to come along for the ride, as well as pass the torch to other Haven alums. (I’m fiercely devoted to anyone who comes to Haven to take a powerful stand for their creative self-expression and very honored that the Haven Retreat was just named (on April 22nd, only two years since its inception) one of the top five retreats in the US by Open Road Media!) These Haven writers are listed below, along with their photos, bios, and links and you can look forward to their answers to the following questions next Monday on their blogs. Please tune in and enjoy!

With my trusty pen!

With my trusty pen!

pens

Blog Hop Questions:
1) What am I working on/writing?
I am writing three books: a novel, of which I have a very solid first draft. A memoir about the mythic trenches of “failure” and the mythic altitude of “success.” Or, in plainer terms, about the oddities and hopeful grace found in kissing youth good-bye and (for the most part) embracing the new chapters of middle-age. And a book about the writing life which is full of stories of my personal journey, and practical information that I have gleaned from both living it, and teaching it at Haven Retreats.

2) How does my work/writing differ from others in its genre?
People tell me all the time that they don’t have a unique writing Voice. That they’re searching for it. But what I get to see at Haven, is that we already have our “voice.” It’s about tuning in to where it flows most naturally, rather than grabbing it by the horns and wrestling it to the ground. It’s about getting in touch with your inner critic and telling her/him that it’s just a scared child and it’s time to go back to sleep. Mama’s in charge. It’s about trusting that it is actually impossible to experience a single moment with a group of people and all write about it the same way. Even if we tried. So the answer to this question is that no two writing “voices” are the same. It’s impossible. My voice is my voice. Yours is yours. And that is a beautiful thing.  I write novels, memoir, personal essay, short stories, sometimes a rare poem, articles, screenplay…so I’m not in one particular genre. (Think Sybil.)  But you can bet that every single thing I write comes from two things:  years and years of hard work and this central author’s statement of mine:  I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch black corner, to provide relief for myself and others.  I’m not sure if that shows up in my work and thereby makes it “different” than other work in my genres, but I would like to think so.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I think I covered that in my intro. My Author’s Statement nails it.  When I’m wondering why I spend so much time doing this crazy, financially unreliable, socially embarrassing, and sometimes gut-wrenching thing called writing, dealing with so much rejection and an industry in transition…I refer to my Author’s Statement, and it helps set me back on course.  I wrote it one day when I felt pure despair.  Taped it to my computer.  And refer to it every day while I’m sitting here navel-gazing.

4) How does my writing process work?
First of all, I don’t believe in writer’s block. As a parent, it has been a core value to raise flexible people. I would say the same for the writer I’ve “raised” in myself. I do not need a certain kind of environment, device, screen, paper, pen (although I do covet the navy blue Pentel uniball, and everyone on my retreats gets one for free!  Bonus prize!!!).  I can write wherever, whenever. Hemingway said he couldn’t write in the cabin of an airplane. I do a lot of writing when I’m on airplanes and most of it is in my journal and reads like this: “Please don’t let us crash, please don’t let us crash, please don’t let us crash” so if my journals are ever published posthumously, everybody will think I am a total nut case, but writers are used to that public opinion of them, or should be if they’re not already. Because no one asked us to do this work. It’s considered masturbatory at best, and narcissistic drivel at the least, and for the most part, your family and friends are embarrassed that you do it in the first place, especially if you write a memoir. You do it for yourself, and maybe you do it for other people. And you get rejected. A lot. Mostly, you get rejected. So you better know WHY you are doing it. At Haven, we write an Author’s Statement which we share the last night. It’s a one liner about why we write, that I encourage people to bring home and put someplace very safe for them—their nightstand, their kitchen sink, their computer (if it is in fact safe and not a fire-breathing dragon). In other words, the writing life ain’t for sissies, so you better be able to open that vein and bleed no matter where you are. Everyone’s different. I usually write daily in the mid-morning to early afternoon and for a large part of the weekend. I average about five double-spaced pages a day.  (I’m not a word count person– I go by pages.)  On a really great day when I’m really cranking, I can get around eight double-spaced pages but that’s a lot.  I once wrote twenty-four double-spaced pages in one day and that was just way too many pages to be any good.  Always Times New Roman. 12 pt. Regular margins. Some of it’s compost. Some of it: keepers.

MEET NEXT WEEKS’ HAVEN BLOG HOPPERS:

Sukey Forbes: 1395938_10152011952349540_130556359_n
At the age of 12 a family friend gave me a black leather-bound artists sketchbook to use as a journal that I have to this day. It was the first of many that I have kept and in those books I explored the world of emotion and the landscape of my world through writing. Although inefficient in this day and age, there is a palpable connection for me between the formation of words with my own pen on the page and the ability to access the full spectrum of emotion. The pen and paper remain my best tool. When I need clarity I have found time and again that the best way for me to understand is to write.
My way of coming to terms with the vicissitudes of life has always been through writing.

In July my memoir of loss, “The Angel in My Pocket” will be released by Viking. It is a story of grief and resilience woven through a backdrop of 
family history. I have chosen to let the light back into life and learn from all that is placed in my path. My blogs for sukeyforbes.com and Huffington Post are filled with more than a dash of gallows humor in addition to reflections on grief and observation about life after loss.

I have found that on the blank page, with pen in hand, I can rage and rail, write circles around myself and yet one thing has always been true for me: If I keep writing, eventually the truth of the matter for me will emerge. The surprise I received through writing has been peace. With each small gain of insight and release of sorrow it travelled back up my pen, spiraled around my fingers, hands and arms and settled deep into my core.  I hope some of my writing resonates with you.

Lauren Lizardo: lauren
Lauren Lizardo doles out real talk about money + technology + heart + everything-in-between. She loves the practicalities as they relate to executing a dream. She’s also on a mission to divert the world’s obsession with efficiency and productivity to – in her opinion – sweeter, heart-centered things like simplicity and balance. A few years ago, she abandoned a promising career as something fancy and corporate to start her own consulting practice. She hasn’t looked back. She is especially grateful to say she is inspired by and in awe of all her clients. A lovely byproduct of her transition was the renewed excitement for and space to write and to create.

As such, Lauren recently attended Laura Munson’s Haven Writing Retreats in Whitefish, Montana. (Read her recent blog post about that awesome retreat here.) While there, new perspective and creativity were unleashed for not only her own writing practice but her other endeavors as well. She is now experimenting with new dimensions of her work and taking bigger risks. In short, she is becoming very good friends with her fear. Her story is unfolding over at laurenlizardo.com where she wrote a powerful piece about Haven.

Kim Jorgensen Gane:KimPortraitCrop8 (2)

Kim Jorgensen Gane is an author and award-winning essayist. She works as a freelance writer in communications and media near Michigan’s sunset coast where she lives with her husband, youngest son, a standard poodle and a gecko. She’s been every-mom, raising two generations of kids over twenty-seven years.

Kim’s website is GANEPossible.com, where she covers a variety of topics including parenting, infertility, wellness, empowerment, politics, and anything else that interests her. She is a Northwest Indiana cast member of Listen to Your Mother 2014. Her projects include an essay in the upcoming book, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics, and she is co-editor with Dana Talusani (fellow cast-member in LTYM Boulder, CO) for the #JudyBlumeProject, which is currently seeking submissions. By 2015 she expects to have a publisher and to release her memoir, My Grandfather’s Table, for her 50th birthday. Her novel in progress is, Bluebirds. Her first GANE Possible Publication will be released late spring of 2014. It is, Beating the Statistics: A Mother’s Quest to Heal Infertility and Halt AutismShe wrote a lovely piece about Haven here.

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Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts, Retreats