Gerri Bowen: My Writer’s Retreat

For four days each year, from Thursday through Sunday, my writer’s group, the Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, travel far from home and gather for a writer’s retreat. This year was my second time for the retreat. It was great. Better than last year. This year I knew what to expect; hours of no interruptions.

Last year kind of spooked me. I wasn’t used to being able to sit and write for hours at a time. At home there is always a dog to let in or out, a cat to feed, laundry, housework, unending requests from the grand-twins, checking on the Weather Channel to see if thunderstorms are near. This year my mind was prepared for uninterrupted work. It was great.

IMG_0692This is what it looks like from the back

We have a hall to ourselves. Many of us prop open our doors so people can wander in and talk, or just so we can hear the laughter coming from other rooms. When we don’t want to be disturbed, we close our door.  After I unpacked and set up my laptop, I got to work. NOT! I had driven fours hours and I did not want to sit anytime soon. So I walked around.

IMG_0691See the Gazebo?


IMG_0683See the swans?

Our rooms have large windows that we can open. All rooms have three beds, two doubles and one single. I always elect to be private. AC if we need it. No TV. A clock radio and lots of lighting and lots of space to spread out our stuff.

It’s very peaceful there. Out in the country, lots of birds doing a lot of talking. There is a friendly dog there, too. Two white swans and at least one huge goldfish. Lots of paths to wander. I usually saw a wandering monk each day.

IMG_0688Gazebo again




Breakfast is from 8-9:00. Lunch 12-1:00. Supper 5-6:00. No exceptions. Wonderful food and plenty to choose from. They were good about my gluten-free diet. They remembered.

IMG_0693 This painting is outside of the dining room

IMG_0695Part of the dining room.

IMG_0694Where we usually sat.

We did have our own conference room, and it was in there we put the snacks we brought to share with everyone else. If we got hungry we could wander down and get a little something. But really, by Saturday, we could barely find the room to eat our scheduled meals.

Friday night was our cocktail party night. Tiny bottles of liquor and wine, big bottles of liquor and wine, everything in-between or plain water. Lots of laughter. Always lots of laughter with this group.

Saturday after lunch we had our group photo taken with our new tie-dye shirts. Each year we are given a t-shirt with our group name, and AUTHOR on the back.

A funny story. After dinner on Saturday, I was walking outside and a car stopped and a man asked if I knew where the birthday party was. I did. I’d seen a sign that said BIRTHDAY PARTY and an arrow, and explained how to get there. I decided that if I hadn’t been clear about where to turn and which steps to take, he and his family might get lost. Plus, I could show them a short-cut. So I waited for them, and led them though the hallways and pointed where they needed to go. The man started to go down and then stopped and turned to me. “I’m sorry, that I thought you worked here.” I think I raised my brows. “We saw all these people wearing tie-dye shirts and just thought all of you were staff.” I laughed and allowed that yes, I could see that. So that was my funny story.

IMG_0696Three of my chapter mates in those famous t-shirts

IMG_0698More chapter mates

Saturday night is the game night. This year we were given two index cards and instructed to write down our name and then one sentence from two of our works in progress. We handed those in and when the one sentence was read out loud, we had to guess who among us had written it. It was fun, and again, much laughter. There were also prizes, the top prize being a free retreat for the next year. Other prizes included note pads, insulated cups with a straw (one of the neatest things to have for retreat), memory sticks, bags, pens, and things of that nature. From the moment we arrives, we are given good swag. To earn the prizes, we are given tickets. As we collect more and more tickets-they are given out at random times, daily, or we find them under our door or on our desks-we write our name on the back and put it in a paper bag.  There were five gifts we could have won. One ticket is drawn from the bag nearest the gift offered as prize.

I didn’t win a prize this year. It’s okay. I had a great time and accomplished more than I expected I would.

There is an ice machine on our hall, and the cafe was not too far away. Free coffee and tea all day.

IMG_0690The chapel is on the way to the cafe, we are not allowed inside the chapel, so I had to take the picture from above. This photo really doesn’t do it justice. There is also a museum and library at this facility.

I worked on two projects while there. My novella, THE FANGED ELEGANTS. It is the novella between MIND YOUR FANGS and A WILD-BLOODED CHRISTMAS-WITH FANGS, and tells the story of what happened in the spring of 1819 when some Sunshine Vampires decided they should be allowed to drink blood.

Also worked on is THE WAY OF THINGS, the book that comes after FOR LOVE OF GWYNNETH. This is Lord Eric and Lady Arian’s story of love. Also includes a couple of people from the future. A set up for the next book after this. And another.

Very pleased with what I accomplished. Made me wonder how much I could get done if I had two retreats a year. Or five days instead of the four. Oh, well.

Sunday came and I had to leave. Until next year.

IMG_0687Have you ever gone on a writers retreat? What was the best thing about it for you? The worst?

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16 Responses to Gerri Bowen: My Writer’s Retreat

  1. What a beautiful site for a workshop, Gerri. I’ve never been to one but would like to. RWA group I belong to is based in Kansas City, KS and they have workshops and retreats each year that I just can’t make. Maybe one day…….hours of writing without interruptions sounds heavenly!

  2. Glad that you had a nice time, and made progress on your books, Gerri. I’ve never been to a writers’ retreat, but I’d love to do it. :0)

  3. Delynn Royer says:

    Your pictures are wonderful, Gerri. They make me want to go back there right now. Is it next year yet? 🙂

  4. Some of my best books have come about as a result of our Ladies of the Suwannee writers’ retreat. We are a small group who get away for a weekend every couple of years and do intensive brainstorming and plotting. And eating. Did I mention eating? LOL

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      One of the nice things about retreat is you don’t have to plan or cook your meals. You show up and there’s food! No washing dishes either! So much time saved to be used for writing. 🙂

  5. Vicky Burkholder says:

    I’ve always loved the retreat and am glad you were able to be there this year! Wish I’d known you were GF too – I’d have shared my snacks with you! 🙂

  6. Gerri Bowen says:

    I didn’t realize you were also GR, Vicky. I remember about the pepper, though. I thought it was your husband that was GF. Although, more and more people are becoming sensitive to the Gluten in food. But yes, retreat is wonderful! :).

  7. Lovely write-up, Gerri! Made me retreat-sick. LOL

  8. Margaret Taylor says:

    Oh I need one of these! Desperately! 😀 Sounds like you had a fabulous time Ms. Gerri!

  9. Magnolia Goldfarb says:

    Great to see where you were and that you were inspired.!!!1

  10. Gerri Bowen says:

    Thank you, Magnolia. It was a wonderful retreat.

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