Tag Archives: writing workshops

Learning How to Ask (and receive)

If you’ve wondered what is behind the scenes at a Haven Writing Retreat…watch this video:

What Haven is all about.  Click Here to watch video!

Click here to watch the video!

A word on learning how to ask for what you need… (as featured on Thrive Global)

You hear this message in different word arrangements from different wisdom spinners, including your grandmother:  what goes around comes around, succor life and it will succor you, practice right actionbe of service.  I come from Midwestern farm stock and I’ve been grandmothered into this message from the beginning, as stalwart and straight forward as a row of corn.  I watched my mother and father live by it, and I paid attention.  But it wasn’t until my fourth decade that I realized that it was actually driving the essence of who I am.

It happened one day, a very bad day, when my world was being met with rejection on every front—marriage, career, teens…  And I sat in my office staring at a blank screen, thinking, Why do I do this writing thing with such devotion and fervor, and for so many years?  Nobody asked me to do it.  It’s financially counter-intuitive.  And it’s damn hard!  And out of my fingers poured these words:  “I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch black corner to provide relief for myself and others.”  There it was:  Service.  Service to others.  And service to myself.  Huh.  My career started approximately 24 hours later.

You see, that one line was the defining moment when I held the mirror up to my heart, my intention, my intuition, my passion—everything that drove me…and staked my claim on it all.  This is what I’m made of, and why I can continue my writing life, regardless of promises.  That was my service to self:  getting perfectly clear about what makes me tick.  And so it makes sense that in only five years, I was not just writing out of service from my little office in Montana, but actually sharing what had held my muse with hundreds of people in my neck of the woods.  People from all over the world, coming here, to work with me, and be of service to their muses.  And yes, consequently, to others, in community, and with all laud and honor to the written word.  The ripples of have been the most life-affirming endeavor I’ve known outside of motherhood.  And this branch of my career has stabilized my life and brought with it great richness, and opportunities.  But there were a few missing pieces in my business that required help.  Big help.  Help I had no idea how to ask for.  So I didn’t.

One thing that my grandmother would never have said to me, or modeled, or urged me to sew into my modus operandi, was ask and you shall receive That one was skipped over.  You didn’t ask.  You served.  And you didn’t serve to get anything back.  You served because that was the right thing to do.  Period.  Sure, giving the shirt off your back had its perks.  Someone might do something nice for you, and you’d receive that gracefully and with the appropriate card stock and your best cursive.  But ask?  Uh-uh.

So here’s what happened:  Anyone who has a business these days knows they should have a website, and what’s the most powerful tool on that website?  A really great professional video that nails what your business is all about.  Fawning, swooning, oozing testimonials don’t hurt.  But it’s the moving, speaking, feeling humans that tell the story of what it is that you do…that really seals the deal.  Everyone told me:  “You need a video.  A really good one.  Professional.  With drones and stuff.”  The problem was:  I lead very intimate, private, gatherings of seekers who do my retreats and workshops to leave the world of moving and shaking and being on the hot seat or in the fish bowl, very deliberately behind.  And bringing a videographer into the equation felt incongruent with the safe haven I promise.  In fact, it’s called Haven Writing Retreats.  I try to be only of service to my clients.  To ask nothing of them other than to put their hearts in their hands, check whatever currency they possess outside of their ability to be honest, kind, supportive, and wildly creative…at the door.  I don’t ask them to fill out evaluations at the end.  There’s no gift shop.  No T-shirt.  No mug.  No incentivized marketing scheme.  If anything, I’m chasing them out the door with writing prompts!  But man…it was true…a video would really help me get the word out, both as a service to those whose lives  could be changed by this experience, and to me too, as a business woman.  It’s a lot of work to find the right 100 people a year to come to Montana for this deep, reflective experience, and I knew that a powerful video would be a great tool to build those bridges.  But ethically…I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

And then something happened that has changed my faith in the world.  I was sitting at the dinner table with my February 2017 Haven group.  It was my advanced Haven II program for alums of the retreat, (for which you don’t have to be a writer to attend), who are now dedicated to finishing books, soon, and with the support of my Haven method and the group.  It was the last night.  We’d dug deep, we were all as tired as we were alive with new breath and new beating hearts.  They were talking so eloquently about their experience, and about the future, a reunion, how they were going to fight for it all, especially each other’s books.  And they were saying things like “How can we help you, Laura?”  

Haven Writing Retreats

Click here for more info and to set up a call to talk about your creative journey…

Even though I fought it, tears broke from my eyes and slid down my cheeks, and I hoped they wouldn’t see it in the candlelight.  But they did.  I confessed.  But I did not ask.  I spoke to my needs.  “I need Haven.  For my own writing.  And I can’t find anything like it anywhere.”  And then these words slipped out:  “And I need a way for people to know just what this program is all about.”

The next day, there came a surprise.  The women had talked.  “We’ve all agreed that you need a professional video.  We’re filming it tomorrow morning instead of you taking us out for breakfast.  We’ll eat before.  We’re giving testimonials.  You’re getting interviewed.  It’s our gift.” 

Everything in me wanted to say noI can’t.  Thank you…but…

“And we also want you to come to our reunion.  Not as the teacher.  But as one of us.  We’ll teach each other using the Haven method.  And you’ll get to receive what you’ve created!” 

I looked into each of their eyes to see if there was any reserve from any of them.  They were all beaming and nodding.  And suddenly I was too. 

Haven Writing RetreatsIn a symphony I could never have orchestrated, one of the attendees made a phone call, and the next morning she showed up with two videographers who’d driven two and a half hours in a snowstorm.  They set up professional lights and cameras on tripods.  All I had to do was straighten a few pillows and put a little make up on.  And the rest of them arrived, smiling and beaming.  I could go on and on about the blessing of that day.  The gratitude circle that one of them suggested—the way each of them honored each other, one by one, sharing words of thanks.  How they each offered testimonials and discussed what makes Haven so special.  I have never been more speechless, more touched, more grateful.

Thanks to these loving women!

Thanks to these loving women!

And here’s the thing:  I didn’t have to ask.  Instead, I watched service whip around the woods of Montana and land in the palms of my grateful hands.  Thank you to everyone who has shared their Haven experience over the years with others, and especially to these incredible angels at my table.  Ripple on! 

Please watch the video at the top of this post, and if you like what you see, please share with anyone you know who is looking for their voice, loves the written word, who has a book project in them, or simply needs to reclaim the heart of who they are…in the woods of Montana.  Sometimes…you do need to ask.  I’m trying to learn how.

Now Booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats

June 7-11 (a few spots left)
June 21-25 (one spot left)
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

Film credits to Thomas Kurdy and his Ndigena video production

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5 Tips for Powerful Writing

Teaching Haven Writing Worshop

Teaching Haven Writing Worshop

Haven Writing Retreat 2016 Schedule:

June 8-12 (STILL ROOM!)
June 22-26 (FULL WITH WAIT LIST)
September 7-11
September 21-25
October 5-9
October 19-23

If you want to write more powerfully no matter whether it’s the next great novel or memoir, or simply emails to friends, family and colleagues, journal entries,  speeches or presentations for work, or even your holiday card letter…here are some words that might help, inspired by Girl Friday Productions– one stop shopping for writers of all levels. I have personally used their services and all Haven Writing Retreat alums get a special Haven rate!  I wish I’d had them at my table a long time ago…  Here are their great questions, and my responses.  Hope they help!

  1. You wrote a widely read memoir (as well as an essay that went viral) about a very difficult period in your life. What is it like for you to have the public know so much about your personal life? And what advice do you offer to writers who are confronting something deeply personal or even traumatic in their own work?

With memoir, the inherent difficulty is that we’re exposing ourselves, and likely others, and it’s usually driven by a difficult time in our lives; otherwise we wouldn’t have a story to tell. Here’s what we as memoir writers must hold fast to our hearts: why we’re doing it in the first place. We must be intentional about why we write. My statement of intention is: I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others. And I believe that if we shine a light on ourselves in memoir, claiming responsibility for our experience and trying to parse it rather than pointing the finger, then we can pretty much write about anything. We have to write past fear of exposure, and it helps to understand that by sharing our story, we are writing out of service to ourselves and others. If, at the very least, telling our story helps people to know they’re not alone.

  1. You’ve written both memoir and fiction. What are the biggest challenges of each? What is most satisfying about each?

I think the biggest challenge of memoir is crafting it into a story. The harsh reality is that just because we go through something profound for us that we want to chronicle in a memoir . . . it doesn’t mean that other people care about it like we do. Memoirists can lose sight of this. The story needs to unfold like a novel, even though it’s nonfiction. Whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, however, the structure is critical, and not necessarily linear in its delivery.

I find that it helps to create an outline, even if the book takes on a different form in the end. You have to know where you’re going and why, what’s at stake, and what the central conflict is and make sure there’s some sort of resolve at the end. Ultimately, though, in all forms of writing, it’s about what’s behind the words, what’s in between them, and what’s in their wake.

  1. What makes a good writing environment for you? What are your writing habits, and what makes you keep coming back to the page again and again?

I have been writing for three decades every day, not because I’m highly disciplined, but because I’m obsessed. It’s not much more elegant than that. My writing is a movable feast. I’ve written on the backs of cocktail napkins when I bartended, in the margins of newspapers on commutes, in my journal, on various screens and devices. I make time to write every day no matter what, and the time frame varies. Even if it’s for a short amount of time and even if it’s for my eyes only. It’s a matter of asking myself what shall I write, what do I care about, what confuses me, what do I need to understand? And then I write my way into the answer.

  1. You lead writing retreats that focus on giving writers at all stages of their practice an accepting place to do their work and connect with other writers. What do you think makes a good writing community? What can imperil one?

There are all sorts of writing communities. The main thing is that every writer finds one. I did it alone for too many years, either because I was too stubborn or too scared. Then I started Haven, and I realized what was missing in my writing life. Support! Kindreds! Willing and helpful feedback! Writing is hard work in every way. The truth is: no one asked us to be writers. It’s actually rather inconvenient for our loved ones and colleagues. And that makes it even more critical that we find our kindreds. In my work with Haven, I’ve chiseled too many people out of negative writing experiences in workshops, classes, writing groups, and even MFA programs. I believe in academia, but I don’t believe that you need academia to be a strong writer. You need awareness, stamina, and support. So be choosy when you sign up for any sort of group writing adventure. If anyone is promising you five easy steps to getting published or setting themselves up to be a guru . . . run for the hills!

  1. For writers who aren’t able to come to something like a Haven retreat, what is your advice for creating a productive and supportive environment in which to pursue their writing dreams?

Let’s face it: we’re not going to do anything consistently, especially something hard, unless there’s a payoff. I treat my writing practice like I’m a little girl getting away with something, like I’ve faked sick from school and am at home in bed. In fact, I often write in bed. In other words, I make it comfortable for myself to go into subjects that are often very uncomfortable. I delight in my writing practice. I value the role it plays in my life. My best advice for writers is to find your most natural voice on the page. Don’t try to force it. Find the flow that already comes out of you, even if it’s like a tiny stream rather than a roaring river. That means you might not write every day. So what? Find a writing practice that works for you based on your true self—your habits, your personality, your responsibilities, your real life. And commit to it. Start small, like with working out. Three times a week from 10:00 a.m. to noon, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Saturday morning? Twenty minutes before you get out of bed? Make it work based on who you truly are, not who you think you should be or how other people do it. And no matter what, find delight in it. Writing has the power to transform your life. It’s something that you can control. And all it takes is a pen, a piece of paper, and an open heart.

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Inspiration from Haven Writing Retreats

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Particulate Matter– a Lesson in Surrender

Now booking our Fall Haven Writing Retreats:

September 21-25 (one spot left)
October 5-9 (a few spots left)
October 19-23 (a few spots left)

You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker, hungry for your unique voice and stories! 

images…This essay is dedicated to anyone who lost their home or business to forest fire this summer.  Or whose property is still in peril.  It was originally published in the Mars Hill Review.

I forgot about this essay until the smoke from the fires burning around the West put me on a kind of house arrest this week.  All the windows were closed, every fan was on, and I longed for the fresh Montana air that I so love.  It reminded me of a perilous fire season in the early 2000′s and I searched through my files until I found this essay.  The baby in it is now a junior in high school, the five year old, a junior in college.  It was in the early days of my motherhood and I felt raw and scared and protective.  There were forest fires raging close to our beloved Montana home, and I was beside myself with the feeling of helplessness.  I was still mostly a city transplant.  I wasn’t completely resigned to what I now accept as the natural order of things in the wilderness.  Thankfully, the man-made structures in our valley escaped destruction that summer.  And thankfully, back here in 2016, the smoke cleared out with last night’s rain, the windows are open, and the air is fresh.  We can all breathe deeply again.  Reading this essay brings me back to a time when anything was possible, good or bad, and I was new in the field of surrender.  Fifteen years later, I am glad I know that to be in the “flow” is simply to know that there is a “flow” in the first place.  Enjoy!  

Particulate Matter    by Laura Munson  (written in 2000, published in the Mars Hill Review, Issue 22)

Montana is burning, again.  Outside is a slur of orange and floating ash that looks like we are living on the set of a Sci-fi B-movie from the Sixties.  The green grocer says it looks like a Jehovah’s Witness church marquee come true:  the world is ending.  The world is ending and all the Hippies are walking around wearing gas masks as if they will be the chosen race.  The farmers are harvesting their alfalfa crops, lungs and all.  I guess they figure they will meet their maker first.  To me it looks like life inside an old sepia-toned photograph with no one smiling except the baby.

My baby doesn’t know not to smile either.  He is ten weeks old—as old as the fires that burn in Lolo, Werner Peak, Moose Mountain, Big Creek near Glacier National Park and on and on.  One fire burns one thousand acres and counting, just eleven miles away from our house.  Another burns 14,166 acres, northwest of a town called Wisdom.  I close the newspaper and hold my baby tight.  Please God, don’t let our valley burn.download

AM radio has political pundits spouting off against environmentalists—mad that forests have not been thinned in the name of owls and small rodents, their threatened extinction a small price to have paid in exchange for the dozens of houses that burned in last summer’s fires, and the 900 houses state-wide that wait, evacuated, their denizens on cots in high school gymnasiums.  Others think it’s Conspiracy Theory—that the feds are not fighting the fire with the man-power they could in the interest of turning a profit on salvage logging in land otherwise protected as endangered habitat.  Some say the firefighters are heroes.  Some say they are “money-grubbing opportunists” in an impossible war.  Some say that they should let the fires burn—that the only thing that will stop blazes of this magnitude is snow or days and days of heavy rain, and that the millions of dollars being spent on fire lines and air attack is not only a waste of money, but a serious threat to watersheds, and renders the forest less resilient to fire in the end.  Old timers I know who have seen fires rip through this valley before just lift their eyes unto the hills and nod the way you might if Ghandi was your commencement speaker—Ghandi, the same man who said, “Suffering is the badge of the human race.”  My baby sucks and rests and searches for his thumb and actually says “Goo.”

I find myself walking around the kitchen with a fly swatter, taking care of tiny black fates– things I can control.  And I find refuge there.  I can’t see the flames, but I see on the news that in one day the local fire– the Moose fire– has expanded from 4,700 acres to 14,000 acres, with one flame front running four miles in four hours, another cruising three-quarters of a mile in less than twelve minutes.  Even if I could see the flames, my garden hose is short.  I go out to my smoky garden and spend an hour watering a thirty-foot long by six-foot wide perennial bed, and two pots of tomatoes.  I put my faith in my still-green tomatoes.  I have to.  I cannot afford to sap my faith in tomatoes with my fear of fire.  They say they could rage until the October cool-down and it is only August.  They say that fires this big have minds of their own.images (5)

There is skittish solace in the mundane things that need to happen whether our twenty acres of Big Sky are consumed in flames or not.  The baby needs to be fed.  The toilet paper roll replaced.  The dishes washed.  The peanut butter and jelly sandwich assembled for the five year old who will play hopscotch at summer camp today, unimpressed with the ratio of particulate matter to breathable air.  I try to ignore the hot wind that bends the cat tails in the marsh behind our house that in two months has gone from canoe-able pond with mating frogs and foraging Sandhill cranes and resting loons, to a dry, cracked vestige of grasshoppers and confused snails.  I try to ignore the fire bombers that drone overhead back and forth all day, driven by what I must deem as “heroes” in a war that we can only imagine.

I hold my baby and smell his head and think of all of us, living in the mundane despite the magnitude of mortality and belief and fear and faith.  I think of the tiny things that weave us together that we don’t think to talk about, but that engage the moral majority of our minutes here on earth.  Buttons, cups of coffee, socks and shoes.  And I want to cling to these things.  I want to dwell in the community of controllable things.  And instead of feeling their burden, I want to find the blessing there.  Not just because I am scared of fire.  Not just because I look into my baby’s eyes and wonder if our future will be long together, come fire or disease or what may.  But because the flames I cannot see remind me to love what I can love.  Or at the very least, to take the funnel clouds they leave in their skyward wake—sometimes climbing 40,000 feet– as part of the mystery that implores me to be content with my little place on earth.  My humanity.  My chores.  My grocery list.  But the smoke…the unseen flames…must I love them too?  Jim Harrison writes in his Cabin Poem:  I’ve decided to make up my mind/ about nothing, to assume the water mask,/ to finish my life disguised as a creek,/ an eddy, joining at night the full,/ sweet flow, to absorb the sky,/ to swallow the heat and cold, the moon/ and the stars, to swallow myself/ in ceaseless flow.

I struggle with this flow.  I struggle with my community of seens and unseens.
images (4)

Outside the wind picks up; it feels gratuitous.  Sinister.  I drop my garden hose, short as it is, and return to the cool, stale-aired house, windows shut tight for weeks now.  I pace like a caged cat, peering out the windows at the pitching and heaving lodge pole pines.  Lodge poles need the high heat of forest fire in order for their cones to drop their seeds.  If the lodge poles could pray, they would be praying for this exact wind.  Am I to accept our destruction for the sake of lodge poles?  Am I any kind of environmentalist—any kind of faithful servant of the Creator, or steward of Creation, if this is my prayer:  Please God, make the wind stop?  Am I to be bound only to the mundane by my faith?  And accept the rest as Higher Order?  The Natural Order of Things?  My own fate therein?  I am a twentieth century woman:  isn’t there something They can do about this?  Some button to push…some button to un-push?

You see, somewhere in this “flow,” I am a mother; it is my instinct to protect.  I know that for me to attempt to fight the fire is fruitless.  What is my fight, then?  My meditation?  My prayer?  Can I be like Arjuna the warrior and fight, as the Hindu God Vishnu instructs, without thoughts of “fruits,” “with spirit unattached?”  Can I find Vishnu’s “meditation centered inwardly and seeking no profit…fight?”  Is my fight to be simply in the preservation of the tiny things that have been proven win-able in the ten digits of my human hands?  Sure Job had to give it all up, but must we all?  Must we at least be willing?  I scrub, I brush, I boil and bake—little strokes of faith—little battles won.  But I am not serene.  I am not surrendered.

I struggle with surrender.

The writer Annie Dillard in her Teaching a Stone to Talk finds God in a rock.  Is my Creator one who puts a rock, a lodge pole, before me?  Before my children?  Before this bounteous 20 acres of Montana in which we play and work and garden and grieve and pray and find home?  What kind of dirty trick is this that we are to love our place on earth—nurture it with all our might, but be willing to give it all up at the same time?  Wendell Berry in his Mad Farmer’s Manifesto says, “take all that you have and be poor.”  I don’t want to be poor spiritually or otherwise, if it means my land—the place where my children fly kites and catch frogs, where my husband and I have conceived our children, seen our first Northern Lights, built a Mountain Bluebird nesting house that the same bluebird returns to every year and whom my daughter has named, Hello Friend—if all this is to be reduced to char.images (2)

The apostle Paul says, “…we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  I am groaning.  But I have words.  I want rain.  I want windlessness.  I want.  I want.  I want.  Perhaps it is this wanting that the Spirit translates to the Divine.  The Buddhist tradition says that we will not experience release from our suffering as long as we have desires.  So am I a complete spiritual flunky if I admit that I feel deep desire to preserve my place here on earth– that I feel an entitlement to my place?  Just how much should we grin and bear?  Or groan and bear?  What can we pray for and remain faithful?

I realize that there are no finite answers to these questions.  But it helps to know that I am not alone in them.  Tell me then, Humanity, that I can pray for the wind to stop, and then after that…in my utter befuddlement, pray to the sweet and ruthless flow of Creation not only for tomatoes to grow in my pots, but for excellent tomatoes to grow in my pots!  Tell me that the Creator is both Lord of wind and tiny things.  And that we are not to be limited in the extent of our wants—our fears, our passion plays.  Please, I beseech you, Humanity, do not tell me that I am entitled only to my sense of faith and my sense of love but not to a loved thing on earth—destined to accept the burning of my house, or say, disease in my child, as if the wind is more necessary than a child.  The wind is created.  The trees are created.  A child is created.  My house is created.  Tomatoes are created.  My daily schedule of car pools and play dates and meals and laundry are created.  Is there a hierarchy to the importance of created things?  Am I at least as dear to the Creator as a lodge pole pine?  Tell me that there is a prayer for all of us.  Because all of us, on some level, matter.

My five-year old daughter comes in to show me that her first tooth has come out.  If I am to surrender to forest fire, tell me, oh Creator, oh Humanity, that this tooth matters.  I hold the tooth in my palm and smile at her and she obliterates me with three fell swoops:  “I wonder if God likes the fire.  I wonder if the fire likes itself.  I’m going to go outside to play now.”  Maybe surrender is not a letting go, but an acceptance.

A going in, even.

images (3)Tell me then, oh time-travelers in this wondrous and heartbreaking “flow,” that not only does the mundane matter, but that it is holy.  Tell me that we are in this holy pickle together—that in your ultimate helplessness on this planet, you cling to what you can help.  That you too contemplate the advantages of brushing your teeth before or after coffee, almost daily.  Before or after orange juice.  Before or after sex.  Tell me that you too keep the buttons that come in a tiny envelope, safety-pinned to your fine garments but with absolutely no intention of ever using them.  Tell me that sometimes you notice that you incorporate the use of your forehead when you are folding towels.  And that in that instant, you laugh out loud.  Tell me that you laugh out loud.  I want to know that we are both laughing.  From Peoria, Illinois, to burning Montana, to Massachusetts two hundred years ago.  It is the echo of that laughter which will save me at three in the morning, breast-feeding my boy, watching lighting striking, slicing through the smoky night.  And prayer, I suppose.  But after prayer, it is the echo of humanity, not God, I am waiting for.  I want to know that I am not the only one pacing alone in my “smoky house.”

Tell me all this, and then tell me that the Creator, to whom time must certainly not be a linear stretch as it is to we mere mortal peons, must on some level restrict himself/herself/itself enough to the created hill-of-beans of my mind, and find mercy.  Tell me that the execution of these tiny things are our greatest acts of faith.  Because they are our fight.  Our meditations.  Our prayers.  Prayers to the moment.  Prayers to our futures.  Prayers without ceasing.

Most of all, tell me that our Creator loves us for the fears we have that lead us to the clingy worship of tiny things in the first place.  Tell me that you believe the Creator gives us the minutia to help us deal with the Everything Else—to find our connection to the rest of Creation.  That the Creator designed us to need the community of tiny things.  Tell me that the Creator invites all of it, like a parent does a child’s wants for bubble gum in one breath, and the cure for cancer in the next.  And that we can both pray for the wind to stop and for the rains to come.  And the fires to end.  And our children’s lives to be long.  And then in the next breath…the next groan…pray for plump, juicy, hose-fed, sun-kissed tomatoes every summer, smoky or not.images (1)

—2000, Laura Munson, Montana

Note:  If you are travelling to Montana this summer or fall, please enjoy our beautiful wilderness which is full of smoke-free and wide open roads and trails, valleys, rivers, and lakes!   

Now booking Montana Haven Retreats for 2016:

September 21-25 (one spot left)
October 5-9
October 19-23

You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker, hungry for your unique voice and stories! 

 

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Writing Retreats: manna

For more writing retreat information click here:

When I first dreamed about leading writing retreats, I wasn’t sure exactly why I wanted that role. I’ve been a writer all my adult life and probably into my childhood and adolescence. Teaching wasn’t something that attracted me. Though, when I look at the trajectory of my life, I see now that I have consistently put myself in the position of wanting to share what I am working to understand. It’s not necessarily that I think I know something that others don’t. It’s that I think I know the way to some things, especially when it comes to the writing life. That’s what my writing retreats are all about.

Walking Lightly Ranch, Montana

Sitka Center for the Arts-- Oregon Coast

I’ve lead five now. People come from all over to take this stand for their writing, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Paris, Australia, Hawaii, Florida, New York, Boston, North Carolina, Washington, California, Chicago etc.  Some of them have books in progress.  Some of them have books in them that they are hungry to write.  Afraid to write.  Some have never written anything beyond their Christmas letter.  But all of them are in a place of wanting growth in their lives.

Walking Lightly Ranch-- Montana

I am not a life coach nor a therapist. My strength comes from years of trying to find the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  I have found how to get to that place, and re-visit it as my central practice.  My way of life.  And sometimes my way tolife.  I know how to keep it sacred.  I know how to get there even when my mind tells me it’s dangerous ground.

Tulum, Mexico-- Radiant Retreat

Workshop: "How to Get Out of Your Way on the Page"

Writing class-- Tulum, Mexico

I know how to stand there anyway. Kneel there if I have to.  Lie supine…prostrate if need be.  I also know how to jump up and down there in delight.

All that said…I care about being a guide for people.  To help them find their own intersection of heart and craft and mind that is writing. So, I have developed a three day retreat that brings you into the place of simultaneous inspiration…and discomfort…that we all feel when we are in the act of creating.  I have designed exercises that stretch the mind and challenge you to bare yourself to your greatest depths, both privately on the page, and witnessed by the group in support and safety.

Over the course of the retreat, there is plenty of laughter. And crying, too.  Breakthroughs happen just when people least expect them. At my last retreat, on the first day, one of the women announced, “I hate writing.”  By the end of the retreat, she had an idea for a book, the structure to expedite it, a title, a first sentence, and a glow in her eyes that I know means she will write it.

That’s what I’m there for. To help you put your finger on the pulse of what it is that you want to create on the page.  One of my retreaters arrived as a memoirist.  She left realizing she’s a poet.  Another had a well-developed manuscript that she’d been working on for years.  After reading aloud from the prompt I’d given her that day, experiencing the group’s glowing response to a new, vibrant, wildly alive voice…she took her manuscript, and threw it in the camp fire.  “That’s the voice we want in your book,” we told her.  And in that moment, she knew she had full possession of that voice. She was out of her way.

As the retreat progresses, each time I’ve seen an arc occur.  People start off high.  Then they free fall into their fears.  And then they land safely…and soar again to new heights.  One group is co-writing an anthology to publish.  Another has created an online writing group in which they give each other weekly prompts, based on the work we’ve done together.

Another has planned a reunion next fall and challenged themselves to spend the year working on their writing project, whether it’s a book, a collection of poems, essays, short stories. The writing life is solitary.  It can be lonely and it can be daunting.

The power of sharing your work with other people, in a safe setting, with a nurturing leader is vast.

On my last retreat, after everybody left, I lay on the dock at the Walking Lightly Ranch here in Montana. I put my finger in the lake and thought of each person I’ve worked with over the course of the last year—in Tulum, Mexico, the Oregon Coast, Montana…and I sent out a ripple for each one, watching as it moved in larger rings across the lake.  That is what I know happens when a person takes a stand for themselves: it ripples.  It can even change the world.

It is my deep and profound honor to be able to help facilitate this sort of experience for people. I will be leading these retreats throughout the year in Montana.  In addition to morning and evening writing class I offer one-on-one sessions with me, and a full edit of your pre-submitted work.  Then, to balance the creative process with your physical being, depending on the season, I offer guided hiking,cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and year-round equine therapy, as well as yoga.  All this is set deep in the woods of northwest Montana, on 400 acres, surrounded by state land, at the Walking Lightly Ranch which delivers food and spirit in a way that just plain stuns me.

I welcome and encourage you to take this stand for your writing, wherever you are on the page.  I will post my upcoming retreats on my website, and look forward to hearing from you at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.

Yrs.

Laura

Laura’s work changing the Suffering Artist paradigm into Empowered Artist is going to reshape the world. If she has to do it one writer at a time, she will.
–Cindy Webb Montana

Laura Munson was a master at bringing out my voice, and the voices of all my fellow writers. Her retreat was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I learned about writing, but I also learned about myself in ways that were unexpected. In addition, we all formed an amazing bond with each other! The totality of the place, the people, the work and the food was priceless.
–Wendy Hill Westwood, MA

The retreat was a perfect balance of comfort and fear. Laura Munson creates a safe place for writers of every level to uncover their true voice, sometimes for the first time. Witnessing it was as close to a miracle as I’ve ever come.
–Lynn Trudell Ithaca, New York

Laura’s retreat re-ignited my creative spirit. Her intuitive guidance, along with imaginative writing exercises, group readings and individual feedback, helped me re-focus and re-energize. I am more committed than ever to my craft.
–Mary Novaria Los Angeles, CA

Laura Munson can help you breakthrough writing blocks, make your writing sing and pull those stories out of you and she does. I left Montana inspired and on fire to write.
–Erika Putnam Boise, Idaho

The universe is always sending out messages-songs and stories that need to be told and heard. A retreat with Laura Munson and the wonderful crew at the Walking Lightly Ranch tunes that channel in loud and clear. Run there with your heart wide open. Receive. Be forever blessed.
–Dixie B. Sarasota, FL

Laura Munson transformed my attitude toward writing – from thinking that no one would be interested in my story to feeling rejuvenated with confidence and desire to complete it. The peaceful setting of Walking Lightly Ranch and three days of sharing with the other incredibly different yet like-minded and funny women filled me with inspiration and motivation, and gifted me with 9 new friends of the heart and written word.
– Christie Boston, MA

Metamorphosis

they gathered needing
that thrill of discovery
eleven women strong
rule keepers, rule breakers
beautiful, courageous
adventurous women
then it begins to fall away

fears, anxieties surface
fooling with words
becomes painfully intense
the act of writing cathartic
and then it begins to make sense

eleven powerful women
broken open, sharing from their depths,
caring for each other
from their souls,
then they begin to return to wholeness

vulnerable, brave, wondrously made
women forming a community
of seekers
of writers
of poets
of companions on the journey
accepting their gifts
their communal connection,
with open hands and hearts
then and only then
does it all begin
to come together

Jan Myhre September 2012

Here’s a blog post about my Montana retreat

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Montana Writing Retreat Registration is Open!

 

Glacier National Park

Montana Writing Retreat

 

With New York Times and international
best-selling author…
Laura Munson

September 26-30, 2012 (sold out)

September 19-23 2012 (still some spots left…)

I will be leading regular retreats in Montana in 2013, however at a higher cost, so this is a special offer.  I have a lot of interested people and so if you want to come, act fast!

I have called Whitefish, Montana home for twenty years.  I have written books here, mothered here, and wandered around in this deep wilderness on foot, horse, skis, kayak, canoe, river-raft, dogsled etc.  Montana has been my best teacher, especially for my writing, and I want to share it with you.  Like no other place I’ve been, Montana gets under your skin and stays there even when you are far away.  Its terrain, sometimes rugged and daunting, sometimes soft and beckoning, sometimes just plain heartbreaking…is that of the written word. 

What We Will Do:

Days:

We will spend three days in intensive small group sessions exploring craft and voice through various writing exercises, one-on-one workshop sessions with Laura, and private writing time.  There will also be opportunities to do yoga, go on guided silent meditation walks on the gorgeous 400 + acres of the Walking Lightly Ranch, and take equine therapy classes nearby.

Evenings:

Evenings will include student and instructor readings, visits from guest writers to share about the writing life, and fantastic meals overlooking the beauty of the woods of Montana.

Food:  All food is vegan, largely grown on property or locally grown, and lovingly prepared on-site by skilled chefs.  *We can accommodate special dietary needs.  And yes, coffee and wine are permitted (favorite question so far) !

Accommodations:  Each person will have a private room in the main lodge or in the guest lodge.  Each has a private full bathroom.

Cost:  The cost is $1,800 which will cover the conference, three daily meals including dinner on the night of arrival and breakfast on the day of departure, rooms, and sponsored evening wine hour.  This price does not include transportation.  

Application:  My retreats are limited to ten participants to ensure proper attention to your work, and are open to all ranges of writers, whether you are in the process of writing a book, have a book idea, or just love to write and want to explore self-expression on the page.  I do have an informal application process which helps to set your intention about why you want to join me on the retreat, and helps me to know what you hope to gain from it.  Simply send a statement of purpose, as well as a writing sample (no longer than 1200 words) to laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.  In your statement of purpose, please tell me about your goals for this workshop and for your writing life, and provide me with any other information about yourself that you feel is important.

Where We Are Located: 

Set in the northwest corner of Montana, The Flathead Valley, is my favorite part of the state– with Glacier National Park just 20 miles away, the 30 mile long mountain-flanked Flathead Lake at its base, and our Whitefish ski
resort at its top.  This is the still-pristine land of lakes, rivers, foothills and Rocky Mountains, charming little towns, and most important:  open space.  I know of no place like it left in the lower 48.  You might want to consider coming early and/or staying after the retreat to experience the magnificent Flathead Valley and explore.

The Walking Lightly Ranch is a ten minute drive from Whitefish, set deep in the woods on a lovely lake, with an organic garden, gorgeous yoga pavilion, and walking paths throughout.  It is a place of serenity and inspiration truly unique in our busy world.

Getting Here:  Flights: Delta, United, Alaska, American, and Allegiant go in and out of Glacier International Airport in Kalispell, with non-stops from San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas, and
Minneapolis.  You might find cheaper flights in and out of Missoula (2 1/2 hour drive), Spokane (4 hr. drive), or Calgary (5 hr. drive).  Rental cars are available at the airport.  Taxis run $40.00 each way to the ranch.  Train:
Amtrak goes in and out of Whitefish.

For more information about my writing and my retreats, go to my website.    

Montana and I await your spirit and words…          

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