Canoeing, wine and writing!

Last weekend, my friends Kathleen and Therese from Writer Unboxed and I went on our fifth annual writers’ retreat. This time, we invited a couple other friends. Picture five mommy writers descending on a vacation house in the Finger Lakes armed with food, laptops, writing notebooks, wine and chocolate, for a weekend away from family responsibilities. A weekend of self indulgent, blissful companionship and writing.

On these retreats, we aim for the perfect balance of productivity and fun. We ate meals together but the rest of the day we focused on writing activities: brainstorming, plotting, drafting, whatever was appropriate for each individual. My personal goal was to get a good start on the 4th draft of my balloonist story. We also took the occasional break for a thinking walk or (my favorite) paddle. The first evening we ate in (Kathleen made a wickedly good pulled pork, black beans and mango salsa-yum!) and the second night we went to a restaurant at a local winery.

In the evenings we got on our jammies, refilled our wine glasses and watched North & South. After all the raves I’ve heard from people about N&S, I knew I’d enjoy it but was also prepared for a slight letdown. In this case, all the hype could not prepare me for how good it was. We did discuss how, as writers, we could learn from the way the external historical events were intertwined with the romance and the character arcs. But mostly we just swooned over Richard Armitage. (Note to self: must use him someday.)

As to productivity, I came away with about 27 pages, having completed Chapter 1 and getting well into Chapter 2. And I’m very pleased with how the story is coming along.

As to the fun, see for yourselves. This picture was taken Saturday night after our winery trip by Therese (on the right) holding her camera at arm’s length and doing her best to get us all in the picture.

It’s fun to imagine us Riskies having a retreat at some gorgeous English country house. But until we are all pulling in the requisite six digit advances, a retreat like this is very doable. Split enough ways, a house or cottage rental will not break a modest budget. Just add good writing buddies, chocolate and wine and your muse will thank you. I highly recommend it!


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Megan Frampton
14 years ago


That sounds AMAZING! I wish I coulda been there–what a great early Mother’s Day present, too, not to have to be a mother for a weekend.

Glad you enjoyed N&S, and that our swooning didn’t ruin it for you.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

I’ve been dying to do this with writer pals. I have free access to a wonderful (HUGE) cabin up near Yosemite National Park and I think it would be wonderful to have a long weekend there with just writers . . .

Gillian Layne
14 years ago

That’s it. I’m starting a Me Only fund today (separate from the college fund, retirement fund, the what-appliance-will-break-next-fund) in order to make this happen with my CP’s.

You guys look like you had a blast!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I’ve been dying to do this with members of our chapter here in New York. I even have the perfect place to do it. Just a weekend away from distractions to write until our fingers bleed or our vision blurs from staring at the computer screen. Then lots of chocolate, wine, popcorn and copious amounts of Richard Armitage. Welcome to the club Elena. Your T-shirt is in the mail.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

It does sound absolutely wonderful! The perfect way to kick off/finish off a stubborn book, and spend some time with kindred spirits. 🙂 I KNEW once you saw N&S you would be one of us!!!

14 years ago

Is north and south the miniseries based on the John Jakes’ novel and starring Patrick Swayze, or is there another one that takes place in England?

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Michelle, this is a different series. It’s based on the 1855 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. The title refers to the industrialized north of England versus the more rural south. You can read more about it at the BBC website. As far as I can tell, there was no official trailer but here’s a fairly good fan trailer at Youtube.


14 years ago


Thanks so much! The picture on the blog just did not look like the north and south I remembered.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Elena, this sounds like a dream weekend!
I’m going to propose it to my friends too.

14 years ago

Sounds like a great weekend.
I’m glad you enjoyed N&S and especially Richard Armitage. He is dreamy!

Cara King
14 years ago

I’m really going to have to watch this North & South one of these days! (I think it’s on my Netflix queue…along with a hundred other movies.) 🙂

Elena, it does sound like a wonderful weekend…


14 years ago

What a fabulous weekend! You actually got to write, talk about writing, watch a great movie and enjoy the company of your fellow writers.

Count me into a writer’s retreat for NYC!

14 years ago

Some of my favorite vacations were a bunch of family and/or friends sharing a house together in some scenic spot…Cape Cod and Cape May when I was a teenager, and another in Big Bear in my 20s. Your writers’ retreat sounds wonderful that same way.


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Elena, you know I have nothing but envy for your wonderful writing retreats. Where did you guys go this time?

Is anyone interested in attaching a retreat to the conference? That is, we’ll do a retreat from the previous Sunday till Friday before the conference.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Should we have a showing of N&S at National?

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Keira, this year we rented a house on Cayuga Lake. Last year we were in Cazenovia but that place was too small for five. The Finger Lakes area is great for this sort of thing.

As far as a retreat before National, that sounds heavenly but I wouldn’t be able to partake. My travel arrangements are already set. But yes, we will plan some sort of get together at SF. 🙂

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