Often when you ask someone about the retreat, conference, vacation or any event they may have attended, the response is: Wonderful, hard to describe, you should have been there. You missed a fabulous (fill in the blank). Then they turn to someone and say, “Wasn’t it wonderful? Did you see abc? Wasn’t xyz funny?” When that happens to me I find that I either wish I had been there, wish they had not been there or wish I had never opened the subject.
All that being said, I spent the past three days at Hemingway Pfeiffer Creative Writers Retreat in Piggott, Arkansas. On the grounds of the H-P Museum and Educational Center is the barn studio where Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms. (More info at http://hemingway.astate.edu) It was wonderful. I shall attempt to describe it and you can decide for yourself if you should have been there.
First of all, this was not so much a retreat as a workshop. We (16 of us) met at 9:00 am with the professional mentor, Roland Mann. (rolandmann.wordpress.com) We began with instruction, then we tackled a writing exercise followed by reading and discussing our work. Several of us had an opportunity for one-on-one mentoring. We had a working lunch and continued on until 4:00, when we broke for supper and returned for two more hours of evening classes. This was a 25 hour workshop jammed into 3 days.
There are two diners in Piggott where they serve generous portions at a reasonable price. Several of us took our evening meal there. The food is delicious and I could feel my left ventricle closing a little more with every bite. After the evening session we crashed in our room at The Downtown Inn, a delightful bed and breakfast. My head was spinning, trying to sort through how to use what I had learned and incorporate it into my current work.
We had limited connection to internet and while there was TV in our room, we never turned it on. Therefore I came home Saturday afternoon a little out of touch with world affairs. I thought I should catch up. It was past the hour for network news, so I turned to CNN. An anchor man I didn’t recognize was nervously adjusting his lapel mic. “We don’t know what happened,” he said. “But the President is all right.”
I sat up in my chair. What?
The picture then flashed to familiar footage of Secret Service agents wrestling John Hinkley to the ground. The voice-over saying, “. . . as President Reagan was rushed away to the nearest hospital . . .” Good grief! I had joined the programming of a retrospective about the Reagan years. Be still my heart.
So, that’s it. I think you’ll have to agree that the “retreat” was wonderful. And hard to describe so that you might appreciate it as I did. Should you have been there?