The truth about the 2013 retreat



Everyone is wondering, how did it go? 


Let me release you from the suspense: it was wonderful. It was magical. It was divine. It was everything I wanted for our writers and more. It was perfect.

Except...there was one painful part.


Let me first say that at our point of departure each woman in this group decided to choose a patron goddess for the trip, one who she felt represented her the best, or who represented an aspect she wanted to tap into.


Thus I was confronted on one of our final days by Aphrodite and Athena, who claimed they were angry with me for not being upfront with them back in Canada. I was stunned into speechlessness. Then they let me off the hook:

“Why, why didn’t you tell us it was going to be THIS good? We would have planned to stay longer.”

“I did say it was good.”

“Yes but not THIS good.”

“I said it was Amazing. Magical.”

“Yes, but not THIS amazing or THIS magical!”

“Okay, tell me. What could I have said all those months ago that would have convinced you to book an extra week?”


And there they had to admit they wouldn’t have believed me. You have to be here to understand.


The truth about the retreat is that leaving is a kind of heartbreak.


For 14 days we dove deep into history, learned new things, tried new foods, tumbled strange words on our tongues. We made new friends, laughed, shopped, swam, hiked, and wrote. Boy, did we write. The muses gifted us a chapbook’s worth of poems, 80 pages of memoir outline, several short stories, a novel revision, a new semi-fleshed out and completely unexpected book, more than one journal’s worth of thoughts and sensations, several new story ideas (each!), and all sorts of exciting sparks and synergies within the group.


With the exception of a couple of organized outings, the days were free for each writer to shape as she pleased. We met each evening for dinner, discussion and sisterhood.


By the middle of week two, we began to feel the nearness of the end. It creates an uncomfortable tightness in the chest after so many days of a writer’s bliss: days that are your own, with beautiful light, space, freedom, and wide open spaces for inspiration to enter.


The retreat changed us. Maybe not in huge ways visible to the outside world, but we all opened in some way. Here we remembered how simple it was to be happy.


At the outset retreaters had concerns both spoken and unspoken: Would the retreat work? Would inspiration happen? Would they get enough written to justify it?


I told them, "It doesn't matter if you write every day here or not. What matters to me is that you let go of all your daily responsibilities and get out and experience life here, be present. Take it all in. After it’s all done, you will wear this village, these experiences, like a tattoo. They will become an indelible part of you and your story. What you have found here will stay with you, and will resurface again and again, whether in life or on the page. It will be in you, and it is yours to keep.”


In that way the trip is never really over.


And of course if you like, you can always do it again. 


  “If I had to go home tomorrow, I would think it had been worth it.” Sara Coumantarakis., day 3, Athens


“I don’t know what I expected, but this is so much more. 15 stars out of 10. I am just
so happy here.”

Nancy Mackenzie., day 6, Kardamyli