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Haven Blog Series Winner

Thanks to all of you who have taken a stand for your creative self-expression on the page and come to Haven, whether in Montana or other inspiring places like our upcoming Cabo Haven in April!  And there’s still room on our fall retreats, but they are filling fast…

Thank you also to those of you who wrote about your Haven experience in my Winter Haven Blog series while I worked on my novel.  Haven was so honored to host your heart language.   Hopefully your words inspired others to take the brave step that you did and come to Haven!

The votes are in and the winner is:

Maria Rodgers O’Rourke.  May we always use the “pretty pages” whatever “pretty” is to us.  One thing I know for sure:  whenever and wherever we put pen to page…it is sacred ground.  Here is a re-post of her lovely piece:

Haven by Maria Rodgers O’Rourke

Here’s the story of when I lugged a stack of notebooks across the country in the dead of winter, headed to Whitefish, Montana and the Haven Retreat.

I brought two of them (black and white composition books) to our first writing session. Like a kid at a new school, I hugged them tightly and tried to look confident. I left a Smash journal, filled with artsy-decorated blank pages, in my room. The cheap notebooks were for my first drafts, I thought: I’ll transfer my edited versions to the Smash later.

In our writing sessions, Laura welcomed us and our stories with open arms. My body relaxed into the daily writing routine, healthy meals, comfortable rooms, and the snow-covered grounds. My creative self snuggled into this haven space and took some risks. One afternoon, our yoga teacher asked, “So how’s it going?” and patiently waited for our response. The room held a small group of us, strangers just days before, and I felt safe. My heart in my throat, I blurted out that my golden retriever was dying, and sobbed. We cried and shared our stories of loss, lifting the grief that I dragged from home like so many notebooks.

With such healing going on, by the third day my writing sessions were producing real gems. Rough and honest, the drafts revealed my voice, stretching out like a bird opening its wings. That day I added the as-yet-unused Smash journal to my stack. After breakfast, we settled into our meeting room, which was awash in Montana winter sunshine, each window a postcard of evergreens on snowy hillsides. Sipping her tea, a fellow Haven-er noticed my notebooks. I explained about drafts and revisions and critiques, but my words trailed off as these once-hidden thoughts came into the light. I felt silly, but she smiled and said, “So, your first drafts aren’t worthy of the pretty pages?”

She nailed it. Turns out I only needed one notebook. The first draft is where the inner critic succeeds in dismissing a clever idea, or discouraging the hopeful writer, or quieting a fledging voice. To get out of our own way and get that first draft on paper is a victory. And they are worthy of pretty pages. All my Haven Retreat first drafts, clippings, and photos are secure in the Smash journal. When my creative self needs it, I flip through the pages and feel Laura’s embrace. At Haven, every first draft is beautiful.

–Maria Rodgers O’Rourke is an author, blogger, and speaker, who is the voice of the Everyday Inspired podcast and a blogger for the Huffington Post.

If you want to come to a Haven Retreat but are feeling not-so-brave…you are NOT alone.  Most people who come struggle with taking this stand for themselves.  This honest testimonial from a recent retreater says it all…

“When I first heard Laura Munson speak about Haven on Hay House Radio I was immediately intrigued although hesitant. Was I good enough to attend such a retreat? Was my writing far enough along? Would I embarrass myself? After speaking with Laura on the phone, I made a commitment to attend, initially for the fall of 2013. I waffled with that date with my own insecurities and re-booked for February 2014. I do not think it humanly possible for someone to go back and forth as much as I did, “Should I go?” “Yes, let’s challenge myself.” “No, don’t go.”  Over and over.

Laura was incredibly patient and supportive especially after learning some of my personal challenges at home pulling me away from Haven.  My husband was very ill with dementia and to attend Haven was a big step and one way outside my comfort zone as a total introvert. My husband’s disease was killing me too and I knew I needed to take a giant step for my health. I wrote my way through our hardships as a tool for healing.

After reading Laura’s book and embracing her amazing ongoing support, I decided to attend– although I have to admit I left the house thinking I can always return home if I feel uncomfortable. How could I possibly be with 10 other people I did not know for 4 days?

I LOVED the Haven experience and can honestly say it was life-altering in a positive and amazing way. For all of us to be tucked way out on the incredible ranch, in very comfortable rooms and delicious and nourishing food, was beyond expectations. Social hour in front of the roaring fire with snow falling outdoors made for an intimate setting. The writing exercises and support were way beyond my wildest expectations.

Laura is an amazing writer, teacher, and facilitator. My 1:1 with her gave me clarity on structure and content for my book. Our group immediately formed a trusted and risk taking approach with Laura’s guidance.  I encourage everyone to attend Haven. The experience will be with me for a long time and I dream of attending another session.”

–Katherine Stevenson, Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada



Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Blog Series-- Haven, My Posts

Haven Writing Series 2013

This is the season of writing for me.  Dormancy.

Being in the “mind of winter,” as Wallace Stevens says.

That means that this is the time for my Haven Blog Writing Series.  I love that I have this platform and I want to share it with you.

Last year the theme was Breaking Points.  It was an honor to watch as many people found haven with one another through story sharing– from their most scary and painful, raw and real places.  Heart in hand, good, bad, and ugly.  Thank you to those brave participants.

This year, the subject is:  LONG AGO:  Community.

I’ve shared my essay called “Filling Station” in the blog post below and on Huffington Post 50.  I would love for you to share a fond memory:  of community connection just where you least expected it.  A time when you felt profoundly part of the collective We.  A time when a random act of kindness stopped you in your tracks and reminded you what it is to feel true gratitude.

For the next weeks, I will choose a story to feature for a few days on These Here Hills, depending on how many submissions I receive and their content.  You will have a chance to respond to the comments that may come in, and I will be monitoring from the background, as I focus on book-writing in this most sacred time of my writing year.  In other words, These Here Hills are yours for the month of January.  And I will link your pieces to my cyber presence to help share your work, so please include your links to blog/website etc.

To that end, within this series, I will be running a contest.  The winner of the Long Ago:  Community series will receive a scholarship to a future Haven Writing Retreat in Montana of your choice.

Please keep submissions under 1500 words and send them to Laura@Lauramunsonauthor.com.  I will run this series through January and possibly through mid-February.

Look back, find photos, wax nostalgic, know that you are safe, and share share share.

As with my retreats…I’ll have your back at These Here Hills.

Happy 2013!




Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Writing Contest: Sunrise (submissions close May 1st)

Announcing the winner of this contest and the recipient of 50% off to my September Montana writing retreat:

Erika Putnam

Thanks to all who submitted.  You helped the judges see the sunrise with new eyes.

I woke early in Florida the other day and watched the sun rise.  And I decided…I have not watched enough sunrises.  I find that when I do…something always happens. Especially when they include a watery horizon.

There is a story in this photograph. That bird knows something, if only that it needs to fish. I want to live that deliberately.

To that end…write me this story in 1200 words or less. The winner gets half off to my writing retreat in Montana this September 26-29th.

I look forward to your entries…  And I hope you look forward to your sunrise.

yrs. Laura

Send entries to laura@lauramunsonauthor.com

Submissions close May 1st.  I will announce the winner on May 2nd here and will send you a personal email.

Thanks for all your beautiful stories.  It’s been a true pleasure reading them.  If yours does not win, I invite you to apply to the retreat anyway.  It’s fast filling up, so if you are interested in coming regardless of the 50% off rate, email me.  The retreat is $1,800 which includes three vegan meals a day, private room, intensive small group writing workshops, private writing time, and one-on-one sessions with Laura, deep in the woods of Montana on a lake.  Email me and I can send you more info.  I am officially opening registration next week, but am making pre-registration available to writing contest applicants so let me know if you want to be put on the list regardless.  yrs. Laura





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Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts