Wednesday, July 3, 2013

RETREAT into Creativity

Hi kids! Audra here : )

The week before last, we had our first ever virtual retreat at the Green Mountain Dude Ranch. With Jake MacKillian as our host and Miz Sally shellin’ out the grits, it was an affair to remember.  So many fun activities cropped up around the ranch and of course all our retreat attendees took full advantage of the fun AND still managed to write. Lots of words hit the pages and ideas sparked from every corner. I was able to peek in a time or two, but alas, June through August is beyond busy for me. I was sooooooo envious of all the fun. A dude ranch. Of all the virtual retreat scenarios to miss, why did it have to be the Green Mountain Ranch with Jake??

If you missed the fun too, hop on over to the June 26th Seekerville post. Ruthy and virtual retreat guests recapped the week at Green Mountain and breathed life into the adventure we dream of. Isn’t that what a retreat is supposed to do? YAY and cheers to everyone who made it happen!!!

The above mentioned retreat was a hoot and look forward to the next virtual retreat hosted by Seekerville in January. Mark your calendars NOW!!

But a group retreat like this isn’t the only kind of retreat to experience…

Back in May, some of us fun-lovin’ Seeker gals met in the beautiful town of Lyons, Nebraska to hug, laugh and of course, write words!! I was able to make it to this one. Mary Connealy found the perfect house for us complete with overstuffed furniture, tastefully appointed bedrooms, a charming kitchen (Ruthy’s domain) and if it hadn’t rained, we’d have enjoyed a lovely backyard with sweet patio furniture. We walked a couple of blocks to the town library and logged on their computer terminals for our Internet fixes when Mary’s WIFI hotspot at the house gave us (mostly Mary) fits. We even bought a Keurig to aid us through our mind-numbing adventure.

We wrote lots of words; ate lots of food (Mary’s husband brought us soup for lunch one day and her mom baked fresh cinnamon rolls!!!); and Mary showed us the sights. Oh wait, there’s shopping too. Take a look at the great handbag and wallet I came home with : )

Since I have a hard time scheduling retreat time with a group, I also make the most of time close to home. Sometimes I have to run away from home to carve out time for myself. To think; to be creative; to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but sometimes indulging my imagination to work out plot point just can’t be done at home. So I pack a cooler, throw in a camp chair and my fully charged laptop, and head to any number of hiking trails located in my county. There’s usually a place with picnic tables and chairs off to the side of the county maintained trailheads, so I carve out my spot -- as far from people as possible -- spread out across the whole expanded metal table, and write my heart out. It’s here that I write the “senses” part of my books:
  • I see the blue sky dotted with clouds, the chipmunks and camp robbers hopping around the picnic area and the carved out dirt trails;
  • I smell the fresh pine scent;
  • I hear the buzzing of the lazy insects;
  • I can touch the sappy bark and mossy rocks;
  • And of course, taste the snacks and drinks I’ve brought with me : )
Only a half hour from home and I’m sitting there writing in the setting of my book. I come home feeling accomplished, relaxed and fully recharged.

When winter hits and going out isn’t an option, I try to concentrate at home in my office by making it as storyworld friendly as possible. In the 2013 June issue of Romance Writers Report (RWR pg 14), I contributed to an article written by Jane McBride Choate (Seekerville guest March 5, 2013) where she asked various writers how we handle writing retreats at home. Read the article. There are some very good ideas : )

Since it’s pretty easy for me to establish my storyworld when writing cowboy romances, my challenge arose when trying to immerse into my Victorian historicals. I surround myself with pictures of English gardens and manor houses. I have bowls of potpourri filling my nose with lavender scent. And of course, I have my DVD library close at hand so I can escape to merry ol’ England by way of Pride and Prejudice,  and Sherlock Holmes.

BTW, this is a writing retreat, so when I pop in that DVD, I reduce the movie screen and just listen to the dialogue, absorbing the speech patterns and accents rather than cuddling down in a blankie and a bowl of popcorn. Focus folks! This is writing time, not indulging in our inner romantic!!

Now it’s your turn to share. How do you handle retreats either at home or away? Let’s pool our ideas and help one another keep the creative juices flowing!!

My special retreat gift for one commenter today is a $15 gift certificate to Yankee Candle to help you create your own mood : )


  1. Grrr!

    Blogger is being HATEFUL tonight. Keeps locking up. Ads popping up.

    Coffee's on.


  2. LOVED this post, Audra!

    A retreat (of any kind) sounds wonderful (and a WRITING retreat would be even better!).

    Since I have no retreats in my immediate future (LOL) I always, always have at least one scented candle burning when I write, a fresh-brewed pot of coffee, and I always write near the windows in my home (which all thankfully offer me lovely views of trees). And of course I'm usually surrounded by one or more cats--snoozing away. I have laughed and said that my best writing is done with my "3 Cs" : Candles, Coffee, and Cats ;)

    The Seekers' retreat in May sounded like such fun!
    Thanks again for sharing this post, and please toss my name in the Yankee Candle drawing.

    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  3. Love, love, love this post, Audra. I do much the same as you do. I surround myself with scents from the Middle East, listen to music in Hebrew, and post pictures of Judah all over my computer. I haven't quite gathered up the courage to make some of the foods from the Biblical era. Maybe one day. Oh, I even watched videos of the Mediterranean so I could get a feel for its cadence.

  4. Such a great post, Audra.

    We built a screened porch and patio this year so I could just go outside and be on retreat. It has paid off for sure.

    I used Seekerville's retreat as my retreat at home. It helped others were using their imaginations as well. Just thinking up new things gave my brain and creativity a jump start.

    Put me in for the drawing!

    Peace, Julie

  5. I've never really had a writing retreat except for the virtual one last week.

    When we go on vacation I try to reserve a couple of hours each day at the kitchen table to write with only the waves hitting the beach for company. Unfortunately the closest beach is 12 hours away.

    My husband has discovered golf and that usually gives me four hours of quiet time. So that's pretty good.

    I never thought of heading some place close to home.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. My daily retreat is when everyone leaves the house!

    After years of living with children underfoot and including them in everything (the life of a homeschooler!), these days everyone leaves for their day job, and by mid-morning I have the house to myself. The dogs and cat snooze, I boot up my computer, and real work gets done.

    I'm thinking of planning a weekend away, though (after VBS) where I can get work done away from home. As much as I love it here, there's always something to do (laundry), and always something sitting at the back of my mind, trying to pull me out of my story world.

    Thanks for the incentive, Audra!

  7. I've poured a cup of coffee and am laughing at Blogger out of spite : ) Great photo, Helen. Every time I see it, I smile : )

  8. Patti Jo, gotta grab those retreat times when you can get them! I love your three C's, they're kinda mine too, but since I'm allergic to Cats, I replace that C with Corgi : )

  9. Audra, Your retreat purse reminds me of your gorgeous eyes! Fun to hear how and where you retreat into creativity! You live in a beautiful area, a perfect place to engage all the senses when you write.

    I love watching movies for inspiration. Though staying focused isn't easy. When I wrote a story with an Irish immigrant heroine, I listened to Angela's Ashes to get the flavor of Irish speech patterns.

    I rarely write anywhere but home. Home can be our house or a place we're staying. I have never written in a coffee shop though I've met my critique partner in several over the years. After reading your post, I may have to venture out. I used to have a problem with a skipping cursor on our laptop, but now we know how to remedy that issue.


  10. Ah, Julie, I loved the retreat at the ranch! Isn't that just a creative way to find support in our writing as we're having a bit of fun?

    In a small way, I kind of miss the Island we all sailed away from. That was a work of loving imaginations that truly opened up the spark in us all.

    AND, candles are always great mood setters : )

  11. Hi Jackie,

    Creative moments are where you make them. Whether it's going to Green Mountain Ranch or just snuggling down in your favorite comfy chair, enjoy your moments and let your imagination take you away!!!

    I love golf! I haven't played in years...and really what I attempted one wouldn't really label "golf" but I had fun : )

    These days, I settle for bowling on the Wii, LOL!

  12. Enjoyed the post this morning.:-)

    When I plan a retreat at home, I work like a nunu bird the day before. I make sure everything is done so I don't spend my retreat day(s) feeling guilty about something I should be doing.

    I find that when I plan a week or several days just for writing or reading, nothing else, it's kinda like planing a trip—so exciting!
    I also have a few guilt snacks that I don't allow myself often.

    I think, like most delicious treats, anticipating a retreat is mostly in the head!

  13. Oh, I remember those days well, Jan! I loved the school year for the very reason that once the kids were out of the house, everything was quiet...

    Jan, sweetheart, God has a very special treat set aside for homeschooling parents!

    I have a hard time dedicating my writing when I'm at home, too. Laundry, dishes, vacuum...why do they pick that time to nibble at my conscience??

  14. You make me laugh, Janet! Right now my eyes are red from rubbing them because of allergies!!

    Your retreats to Florida sound heavenly. I'd love to slip away to somewhere gorgeous like that. Of course, I'd probably be so caught up in things to do, I'd never get words written!

    Better I just stay home and just my imagination...

    Movies give me inspiration, too. But I have to minimize the screen or I'll never get any work done!!!

  15. Hi Mary!

    Sounds like you know how to work it, girlfriend! Get all those chores and responsibilities out of the way so you can enjoy your time.

    Snacks? Hmmm, I didn't hit on snacks, except maybe Mary's husband and mom feeding us : ) Dark chocolate chips and peanut butter float my boat these days.

  16. Oh my goodness, where are my manners!! No Food!!

    I did some quick calling and trays of bagels in every flavor have arrived along with spreads for whatever mood you might be in.

    And a fruit bowl. It's summertime after all. Nothing better than berries and grapes mixed into vanilla Greek yogurt.


  17. AUDRA, loved this post. I honestly have never thought about retreating to a nearby place with the outdoors all around me! I LOVE that idea.

    With two kids still at home, summertimes are trickier for retreating. However, I hire a sitter once a week for about 6 hours and I escape. I usually end up at Panera. I make sure I have some good music on my computer so that, when their busy time strikes I can tune out the noise and conversation around me.

    My dream is to go to a B and B for a weekend and just write in the beauty of our mountains. Hmmm, maybe I should ask hubby about that as an early Christmas gift..... :)

    Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

    Oh, and when the kids are at school, I almost always burn a scented candle while I'm writing. Please put me in for the drawing. :)

  18. PS—AUDRA, If you're ever down my way, I'd love to meet up with you. :)

  19. Morning Audra, What a great post. Made me feel like I was on a retreat while reading it. Love your outdoor writing time. I do that a lot also. :)

    I think my best writing time comes from modeling Ruthy and getting up before dawn. The house or RV whatever I'm in, is quiet. Hubby, dog and world around me is quiet. I'm a morning person so this is easy for me.

    But when I'm home and when I was working, I would get a room at the Franciscan Renewal Center. This is a retreat center run by Fransciscans. They bought a bordelo in the desert in the 1930's and made it into the most peaceful and wonderful retreat. They rent rooms out for like $30.00 and that includes meals at the buffet with the monks. There is a swimming pool and hiking trails and lots of desert animals running around. It is lovely and quiet.

    Local writing groups use this facility a lot for workshops and writing retreats. It is a great place for me.

    Thanks for the bagels and fruit. I'm going to have a blueberry bagel with some fresh blueberries.

  20. Bummer, Audra! Allergies make us miserable. I'm grateful I no longer need injections. You may have to forgo those forays into nature and stay inside with the AC on. :-(


  21. I wasn't able to make the ranch. The month of June held 2 separate weeks of church youth camp, and a major crisis at the day job requiring overtime.

    Audra, thanks for this timely post. I so need a writing retreat.

    I'm a horrible parent who wishes school was in session year round. lol! Just kidding.

  22. A great post Audra. I hadn't thought of doing my own retreat at home. I don't know if I'd be able to pull that one off. :)

    Talk of all this food is making me hungry!

    Does Yankee candle have a "book" scent? I think the greatest smell in the world is sticking your nose into a book, old or new.

  23. Well I am fortunate as of December to have my own writing retreat full time at my house. Thank you Lord.

  24. Hey AUDRA!!!!

    The AlleyCats had their first retreat in May and it was fabulous. Just being together to share ideas and brainstorm rocketed my creativity.

    But I also do your type of research too. Go to the places, if I can, or MOVIES!!! Definitely. You can also find tours on Youtube of the places in your novel. Those are fun :-)

  25. I would love to offer my home as a retreat...I promise to have coffee on and cinnamon rolls, and other baked goodies. It's so far north you could write almost the clock around. This year you wouldn't want to write outside because of the mosquitoes, but we live in a green area and just minutes from historic places like Fort Dunvegan on the Peace River! Got the cats, too

  26. Audra,
    Your solitary writing retreat in the woods sounds divine! I confess, I've never been to a retreat. Now I'm thinking I definitely need to plan one. The Smoky Mountains are only about an hour away. Writing with the stream water trickling past and the forest towering over me would spark my creativity for sure. Thank you so much! If the Seekers ever decide to come to Gatlinburg for a retreat, count me in!

  27. Jeanne, I remember those days. I was lucky enough to stay home with the kids while they were growing up. I used to covet the times my husband would take them hunting or fishing, or let me run away to the library for some quiet time, LOL!

    When my daughter got her drivers license and could drive herself and her brother to school, I went to work outside the home. Took a great burden off my husband (who is self-employed) but this 8-5 stuff really bites into my writing time!!

    Fashioning retreat time becomes a method of survival...Hang in there!!

  28. Jeanne, we should look into meeting halfway...say Castle Rock?? Not now though. It's Fair time and my life goes CRAZY through September!!!

    No retreats scheduled for this girl right now!!!

  29. Sandra!! I'm coming to stay with you!! Your getaway sounds like heaven!! Oh my goodness, to write in the peace and quiet of the Fransciscan Retreat Center...

    That's it, I'm packing my bags and coming to see you. Well maybe in the winter. I hear AZ is a bit toasty right now.

    Praying for your entire state!!

  30. Hey, Audra!!! I get my Audra fix this morning, yay! :-) I think writer retreats sound wonderful, but how would you ever get any writing done when you never get to see your friends except once or twice a year, or less? I could see me unable to quit talking and completley unable to focus on my story. LOL!

    Sometimes I go to a coffee shop, restaurant, or the library to get some writing done when I just can't seem to force myself to write at home. But I'm just so dang lazy that most of the time I can't force myself to put on real shoes and real clothes and make myself leave the house!

    I don't know why it helps me go someplace else, even a busy place with lots of noise and strangers milling around. I think it has to do with the fact that my brain knows I'm there to write at least 1000 words and I can't/won't leave until I write them, so I concentrate and write.

    Crazy, I know. But I'm determined to get at least 1000 words a day for the rest of this week, so we'll see what happens. For me, the hardest thing is to stop thinking about other stuff and think about my story! But I'm getting better.

  31. Janet, I'm still on allergy shots, but the pollen has been so bad this spring, nothing seems to help. Even staying indoors.

    But then, I view dust as a country accent so I rarely disturb it where it lies : )

  32. Bridgett, you are not a horrible parent, just a practical one : ) Hey, my kids used to mope around the house with nothing to do since their friends lived in town and we are in the county. They'll never admit it, but I know they loved school for the social life.

    I mean really -- how boring can a summer be when mom insists on some writing time and the kids are itchin' to get out and GO!!!

  33. Hey VW, book scented candle is a great idea. I've never seen one, or should I say smelled one?

    Or library scented?

    Or even leather for leatherbound books??

    Ahhh, the possibilities are endless!

  34. Tina, you may not have to leave home for work, but I KNOW you're busier now than you ever were before you moved.

    And we all thank you for that : )

  35. OMG, Pep! What a hoot! Did all of you get together physically or virtually? Either way, you're a wonderful bunch of gals and I'll bet the ideas and laughs just flowed!

    Psst--Sherrinda and Casey can really get wild when no one is watching : )

  36. Marianne, you better be careful! We may take you up on that and show up at your door! :)

    Audra, great post! I sometimes take a writing retreat by going to Starbucks or Panera. I do really well someplace like that with white noise.

  37. Thought provoking post, Audra.

    My at home retreat is my recliner in my bedroom. I can relate to watching movies to get a sense of the characters and time. But I look at full screen to get the gestures and facial expressions. The young Clint Eastwood was a favorite when I was writing my western. I took note of all his mannerisms. Since my hero had a lot of nervous energy, I took notes of the 3rd or 4th Dr Who who was always jumping around, pacing while talking. An old Disney movie had a Scottish heroine and she was perfect for my Scotland story.

    Think I'll watch Pride and Prejudice today since I'm writing a Regency.

    Please put me in the drawing.

  38. Okay, Audra. I'm asking the other question some others may be thinking. What are camp robbers??!

  39. Marianne, thanks for your gracious invite. You better rethink that though. You have no idea what your getting yourself into by inviting the world of Seekerville beyond your doorstep!


  40. Karen, I'm so glad I got you thinking about a simple retreat! It's great for the heart, mind and soul.

    Not to mention a change of scenery is always appreciated when one does not have to think about laundry and vacuuming!!

  41. Fun to get a glimpse of your personal writing retreat spaces, Audra!

    But in truth, I identify with Jan when she says, "My daily retreat is when everyone leaves the house!"

    Unfortunately, ever since hubby retired and became a permanent fixture around the house, I have to be satisfied with his regular forays to Lowe's and Home Depot.

    Sure would have been fun to join y'all in Nebraska last May! Sounds like you had a blast--and lots of yummy food, too!

  42. I live in an RV with 6 siblings full-time, so carving out writing space and time can get tricky. Usually I end up going where ever the others aren't. LOL So my writing place/time varies every day. One day, I will have my own writing room... But until then, I will keep typing away with what I have. :)

    Sandra, your retreat place sounds heavenly! I'd like to schedule a year's sabbatical! :)

  43. I hate to agree with you, Mel, but I can see you talking up a storm and not getting any writing done, too. LOL! I can say this because I've roomed with her...

    The mind is a complex thing. I simply never know what is going to trigger creativity. I really hate it when I'm driving and a song comes on that absolutely, totally captures a mood I've been trying to create, but I can't write it down because I'm DRIVING!!

    Why does God do that??

    I envy you being able to write at a coffee shop. I'd be so distracted, I'd end up spending my time on the internet because I noticed someone's adorable shoes or purse or phone case or...

    You get the picture.

    If I can't get out anywhere, I shut my office door, huddle down and tune in classical kids hate classical so I know they won't disturb me unless there's blood...

    Write lots, Mel!!

  44. I don't know if I consider Panera's activity "white noise," Missy! LOL!! The white noise at my house never smelled so good : )

    Camp robbers are birds who scavenge. Out here in Colorado they take the form of pretty black birds that swoop in on an unattended camp or picnic area, hop around and help themselves. They've been known to leave quite a mess at times...

  45. Elaine, great point about the mannerisms and expressions. BUT, if I don't minimize the screen, I'll spend my time getting lost in the movie and have nothing to show for my writing time.

    At times, even the movie dialogue becomes a distraction and I get caught up in the story playing in the background rather than on my blank screen. LOL!

    Speaking of nervous energy, when I'm working on my Victorians, I love watching Robert Downey, Jr as Sherlock Holmes. It's spooky how well he portrays the super sleuth of old!

  46. Anna, living in a crowded space like that, I'd be craving any sort of getaway. I applaud your ability to write at all. I think I'd be stepping out and setting up writing camp away from the family!!

    You go, girl!!!

  47. I'm on a solitary confinement retreat right now! Busted out for an internet fix. Shhhh don't tell the warden! It was getting lonely and I needed some company. :-)

    I'd love to go on a real retreat. Wonder if I'd be distracted by the new location or inspired by it?

    I really do enjoy writing at home and since I live alone (arf!) sorry -- since I live with a sheltie who likes to nap away his days -- I don't have any distractions. I can easily let the housework go and the dust bunnies fly. However -- my weakness comes from books waiting to be read. But since I never travel anywhere without a book or two or three I'd have that distraction at a real live retreat too.

  48. Loved this post, Audra. I am now thinking of places outdoors I could go. Hmmm....

    I've never been on a writers' retreat. Was thinking of going to the My Book Therapy ones put on by Susie May Warren, but then my son got sick and I was glad I hadn't committed to going. Maybe next year.

    Can you tell us a bit more about how the virtual retreat worked? I am so leery of chat rooms and things of that nature, b/c I don't understand how they work and I find them really confusing. But I'll try to get more tech-savvy by January's retreat!

    Even some of those Facebook launch parties are way too confusing for me! LOL.

    Just the word retreat is lovely, isn't it?

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  49. My RWA chapter does a weekend retreat but it's a real retreat -- retreat from home, family, job and writing.

    My BFF's and I do a mountain retreat every winter and we usually write in the morning and then play in the afternoon. At night we soak in the hot tub and brainstorm. And we play a mean game of Cranium too!

    Sometimes when dust and laundry and ironing and dirty dishes are calling too loudly, I head to a bookstore or coffee shop to write. It's sort of a mini-mini-mini-retreat. ;-)


  50. Sue, ours was done through Yahoo... no chat rooms. And if we do anything with more techie stuff, it will be no bigger than if you were chatting here, on Blogger.

    It's the camaraderie of pretending to be together, talking frankly without fear of industry people seeing what is said, chatting about the ups and downs, eating great food and just reenforcing the work ethic... and time... it takes to self-command a writing strategy. But the BEST THING OF ALL????

    Getting to know so many folks in a much more personal way...

    That rocked. And they felt like they could be themselves, so that made it fun all around!

    Come in January.Jenny will LOVE IT!!! And we'll have a blast with our Aussie friends.

    If you want to see what we talked about, you can go to the Seekers Virtual Retreat at Yahoo and subscribe... It's open, and you can get an idea of how we worked... and played!

    AUDRA! Love this! That was me making homemade bread pudding in our kitchen with Dorothy Moore's cinnamon rolls, the half we didn't EAT WHILE WARM, LOL!

    What a great time we had. And I just finished the book I'd started before that retreat and I've gotten 36 pages done in my next one since Sunday, so I'm rolling my retreat time into writing time now that I'm home from Nebraska, Boston and family reunions!

    Audra, such great memories!!! Thank you for sharing them!

  51. Hi Audra,
    Yes, retreats are wonderful energy chargers. When I can't go on a retreat, and they are hard to schedule, I try a few things.

    One in my newly landscaped (and sadly, still in the works) backyard, complete with a pond, two waterfalls and huge umbrellas.

    I also like going to the mountains, laptop, comfy chair and coffee, sitting by a stream.

    Water is really important to me :)

    Winter is writing in my office or in the living room on a laptop. Not so much a retreat, but I love my office. Coffee shops are too noisy for me.


  52. Good Morning, Audra! I'm planning my own mini-retreat for the next three days so I can get my next book firmly anchored in my head. Like you, I have too few long stretches of time to THINK about anything but the day job, so any consecutive days off like this are an absolute treasure.

    BUT...being at home there are always interruptions and tons of things on my never-ending To Do List calling my name. It can get hard to tune them out.

    One of my writer friends is trying to finish up her book and she took 2 days vacation to check into a hotel so she wouldn't be tempted to do housework, gardening, etc. She just puts a "do not disturb" on her door and writes her little heart out. I think I'd have to find a place with a balcony or patio or at least a window that would open next to the desk as I love writing with light & fresh air around me.

    I've never tried a group writing retreat. I don't know that I'd be able to focus well. But I imagine if there's a Southwestern Seeker gathering I'd be willing to give it a shot! :)

  53. Solitary confinement retreat sounds just lovely to me right now, Kav. Enjoy it enough for me too, K? BTW, I'm happy you busted out just enough to flick on the internet and play with us, even if it's just for a quick minute : )

    I choose to think you'd be inspired by a new setting :) Let's try and see!! And hey, bring those books along. We're writers and readers, right??

  54. Susan, Ruthy set up the retreat so that it was very easy to follow. Click on the link I provided in the post and check out the fun everyone had.

    How can you not have fun with a George Strait look-alike around? I mean, really!!

    Yahoo groups makes it easy to live the dream and connect with all the retreaters. And adventure! Writing words was not the only great thing accomplished during the week.

    Tons of fun! Join the one being planned in January.

  55. Marilyn, I love nothing better than getting together with my writing buds and spending a few days creating!! One of my crit buds had a condo off of a ski area and it was a perfect place to run away and write.

    You play Cranium...we watched sappy movies. Ha! Whatever floats the boat, right?

    Your retreat sounds heavenly. Keep taking them!!

  56. Mary Hicks! That's a great idea!!!! I love that you plan it out... right down to the snacks.

    And I'm one of those people who doesn't need coaching on a retreat... I want FUN time when I put my stuff aside... But then to be able to go back as needed.

    And getting together with people who love to write works well for me. And a love for FOOD and occasional shopping is good, too. BONUS!!!!

  57. OMG, how could I miss identifying what Ruthy was doing in the kitchen?

    Bread pudding. Lovely, rich, delicious.

    And it was made with double love because we used Mary's mom's homemade cinnamon rolls as the bread.

    I'm drooling. You can't go anywhere with Ruthy without food being a focal point : )

    And I love her for that!

    And of course, who do you think thought up the idea of having a Keurig along??? Hmmmm?????

  58. Myra, start stocking up on Home Depot and Lowes gift cards, LOL!

    We missed you in NE. The house was so quaint and sweet. We've GOT to do that again sometime!

  59. Leslie, you have the PERFECT place to write, girlfriend. The waterfall beside the upper patio creates the most relaxing setting for words to flow! And of course you're the perfect hostess, so when I come by to share writing time, I know you'll always have goodies and fresh tea awaiting : )

    I'm blessed : )

    You've been working on your backyard for so long. I'm glad you're taking this summer off to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    Really makes sigh with envy : )

  60. Glynna, I'd come to AZ for a retreat. We'd have to plan it during my slow times at the office--and then my slow times probably wouldn't coincide with YOUR slow time. What a mess.

    The conference your RWA chapter sponsors sounds like a wonderful opportunity to get away and write. But then, it's a conference and we're adding a whole lot of other distractions.

    And cost.

    Someday, we'll be able to jostle things together just right.

    BTW, we did get a lot of work done in NE, in addition to have fun : )

    Ruthy made us.

  61. Audra,
    My backyard is your backyard.

    Come over any time and make it a day retreat. We can write.


  62. Lovely post, Audra. Your retreat into the woods sounds wonderful. I often retreat to the back patio to write. I can see the lake, watch the hummingbirds and rabbits, and listen to the golfers yell when they hit a bad shot. :)

    Thanks for sharing the picture of Ruthy's and her beautiful smile in the kitchen!

    My dream retreat would be a week or two at an oceanfront house with a HUGE porch!

  63. Oh, man, a writing retreat -- between my MIL being sick and babysitting darling grand baby for ten days and nights while her parents were out of town, I could use some quality writing time right about now!!

    AUDS!!! I am SO sad I missed the virtual retreat and especially the Lyons retreat because you guys had such a blast, I know. I'm hoping to make the next one, God willing. :|

    What do I do for a writing retreat in the meantime?? I simply hole myself up down on my lower deck with Hazelnut coffee in the morning and Crystal Lite Strawberry Kiwi in the afternoon, feet up and lip gloss in place. For me, being alone on my deck with the deer, squirrels, birds and turkeys is all the writing retreat I usually need. :) And with the busy month I just had, it's been so long since I've been able to do that, so that's all it would take to do the trick.


  64. Jill, your dream is my dream. Willing to share that porch???

  65. Of course! Everyone is's going to be a HUGE porch! :)

  66. Thanks, Audra, for the bird info. You can tell I'm not a camper!

  67. Audra—Castle Rock (or even Denver if that is better) would be great. :) My email is

    Email me when things slow down for you. ;)

  68. Hi ANNA, I agree with Audra. How do you do it? I'm in an RV also and the only time it is quiet is when everyone is asleep.

    You can come join me anytime. AUDRA- you too.

    We could plan a retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center. Extremely reasonable. And you're right. Not in the summer. Although I've been there in the summer and because its out of the city it isn't too bad.

    Thanks for the prayers AUDRA. Our poor state has had its share of tragedies. Yours too with fires there also.

  69. I love water...especially if it comes with a beach. My muse gets energized and story ideas abound.

    Loved your pic of Ruthy in the kitchen. Wish I could have joined you in Lyons.

    Cute purse, Audra. Shopping always helps to clear the mind. Right?

  70. I think AZ sounds great... Even if we skip the conference and just gather there in the winter.

    We'll have to chat about that.

    And I'm laughing because Audra, Erica, Mary and I didn't need someone to send us back to work. We wanted to write, to create... and that's the kind of writers' retreat I like. I don't need classes and structure, I need friendly banter and a quiet corner. And those girls were the BEST about respecting writing time.

    And Lyons is so stinkin' cute and quaint. It was my first PRAIRIE village, so I could visualize the first settlers, coming along the bluffs.

    So pretty!!! And it SNOWED the first day, then snowed and rained the second day, then rain/cold/wind and it's funny because there's a bank temperature/time clock up the road, visible from a window and it read exactly what it had read 6 months before, in October:

    34 degrees.... 35 degrees... 33 degrees.

    Nothing to tempt you outside, LOL!

  71. My retreats are not for writing -- I am fortunate to have several hours alone each day -- but for recharging. So my retreats are things like having lunch with a writing friend or visiting a museum. And I'm always amazed at how timely those retreats can be. Just recently I toured an art exhibit and unexpectedly came across paintings of women in the time period I write. So many ideas! Including a game of badminton, which I never would have thought of but was a wonderful addition to a scene.

    That said, your retreat into nature sounds wonderful, Audra!

    Nancy C

  72. I can't imagine listening to the dialogue of a movie and turning off the moving picture in my head.

    Audra, I am in awe!

  73. Patti Jo, there is not one thing wrong with your 3 Cs unles you make it FOUR Cs...

    Candles, Coffee, Cats, and CHOCOLATE!

  74. Jill we toured Cape Cod two weeks ago... and found so many wonderful beaches! And so many gorgeous and sweet homes overlooking the water WITH PORCHES!!!!

    It was lovely, very "Cape Cod" feeling, and it was my first time there, but I could see myself sitting on a porch, with the ocean doing whatever she's wont to do, while I work...

    And of course you need a coffee shop.

    And sunrises!!!!

    We could all move there together (which would make it affordable) buy a house with a huge porch and write to our heart's content.

    I like this plan!!!!

  75. This morning I saw a wonderful sunrise. As its cloudy the colours were so cool, pinks, oranges, purples. I just wish I could have walked towards it more.

    I went on a couple of scrapbooking retreats to work on my albums. They were so much fun besides the fact I got little sleep due to snoring room mates!

    I may need a reading retreat!!!!!!!! we had sun yesterday and although a little chilly it was heavenly out in it but then I had to go to the bookshop but I did finish a book thats my second in 5 weeks! (the first was a 85 page novella!)

  76. This is so strange. I left a comment before I went to bed and I even made sure it was there. Now it's gone. It's the third time since last Thursday. I'm beginning to think Blogger doesn't like me much. ;)

    I love, love, love this post, Audra. I surround myself with scents from the Middle East when I'm working on my Biblical romances. I also listen to Hebrew music and post pictures of Judah all over.

  77. Missy, I'm not much of camper anymore either. I miss the comforts of home too much!

  78. Jeanne! I'll catch you after State Fair in September!!

  79. Sandra, Ruthy, AZ in the winter sounds wonderful. I actually love the winter weather, but if I'm going to visit AZ, it really needs to be during a reasonable temperature zone.

    BTW, the questionable weather in Lyons only contributed to the atmosphere. Cold temps and snow/rain/drizzle made the visit memorable : )

  80. Debby our numbers will only grow : ) And yes, shopping helps everything.

    BTW, Moonlight and Magnolias is another adventure I wouldn't mind attending. Ahhh, someday...

  81. Chocolate! Oh my, Pam. How could we have overlooked that?

    Oh my, my, my :)

  82. Oh Jenny, it sounds like you had a gorgeous sunrise. I hope the rest of the day was just as great.

    I haven't scrapbooked in years. I have all the gadgets, but won't take the time to do it. Scrapping weekends used to be fun. We'd go to the scrapbook store where they had all the machines we could use and just scrap our little hearts out.

    That was fun.

    The thought of a reading retreat sounds mighty fine, too. It's not like I don't have enough books in my TBR pile to get me through a few months : )

  83. Christina, sorry to hear about your missing message. Helen claims Blogger was HATEFUL to her, too.

    Oh how finicky can you get?

    The mood you set sounds awesome. Candles can change your mood so quickly, can't they? I have my favorite scents with Apple Martini at the top of the list.

    Too bad my favorite AM has been discontinued. Bummer. It smelled yummy :)

  84. Audra I have enough books to keep me going for at least 5 years if not longer.

  85. Oh, Audra, I am SO sad because I left a LONG, LONG comment yesterday, but I see it is not here. :(

    I was lamenting missing the virtual retreat AND the Lyons retreat, but am hoping to make the next one. :)

    My "retreat" place is my lower deck where I write with my feet up and hazelnut coffee by my side in the morning and Crystal Lite Strawberry Kiwi in the afternoon, with plenty of lip gloss all day long!!