I had the ultra-super-amazing-duper privilege to be a part of a small writer's workshop out at Castle Hill in Keswick, VA.
I had emailed Stewart (the hostess and owner of the "house"...uh, yeah, we'll get to that later) a few months back with fingers crossed that I would be able to snag a spot in the group. She emailed me back saying "yes" and I'd been crossing the days off of the calendar since.
I tried not to get my hopes us too much. I really thought I might feel left out or inadequate. I knew these folks were lightyears ahead of me in terms of billable life (and probably writing) experience, and I also knew that they weren't going to be rolling up to the house in a ten-year-old yellow Xterra:
|I couldn't help but giggle at this picture. My grungy 'ol Xterra next to a $24M estate...was this real life?!?!?!|
I had butterflies in my stomach as I made my way up the mile-long (STINKIN' GORGEOUS) driveway to my first day of the workshop.
What if they think I'm too young to be here? What if I have absolutely nothing to offer? Why didn't I touch-up my highlights before I came here? What if I forget some of my proper table etiquette at lunch? (I did...)
But you know what? I went on to spend a weekend with some of the most welcoming, brave, kind, brilliant and down-to-earth folks I've met in some time. It was a face full of fresh air to live life with these peeps for a weekend. Instead of making fun of me for being young, they actually valued my opinion on what I thought of one man's (incredibly poignant) essay on being in the lottery-style draft for Vietnam. I was scared for nothing. These people actually thought I was a good writer, too.
We did some inspiring workshops, then we were given time each day to work on whatever we wanted. I chose to do a personal essay on some childhood experiences. I didn't think I'd ever be brave enough to write the piece that I did, but doggone, I did it, and everyone CLAPPED for me afterward. CLAPPED! I don't know how I didn't cry.
|This is where I chose to write on the first day. Tough life, you guys.|
I did cry, however, at so many of the other brave, personal and beautiful essays that my "classmates" wrote. And I cried again when I was describing then to N.
|I wrote underneath this old cedar on the second day. Good lawd.|
We ate some incredible food, you guys. At the first meal, I actually mistook the starter course for being a main course. That's how yummy and beautiful it was: a small pie filled with roasted vegetables and topped with warm cheese areyoukidding me, and used my main course utensils for it. Rookie. It's OK. I wasn't the only one.
While we ate, our ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE (inspiring, hard-working, funny...I could go on...) workshop facilitators filled us in on the history of the home, the grounds, the gardens, etc. Because, you know, they'd written books about it, DUH. I kept needing to pinch myself. I was sitting in a home so rich with history and artists and legends and romances and ghosts (yes, ghosts!), and I was actually allowed to be there. I told my mom it felt like going into the White House, except someone pulled back those velvet herding guides and let me hang out wherever I wanted.
We read our essays to one another in the gardens, because my life couldn't get any better at that point, right? And I was surrounded by such beauty: I mean the people, obviously, then these lovelies:
I could go on and on and on (y'all are like, you already have...), so I'll end with this: you don't need to be a "writer" to come to these retreats. You just need to want to write, have a story to tell, and have a will to write it. I can't tell you how thankful I am that I got over my fears and kept chugging up the driveway when my heart was pounding on the first morning.
Stewart is hosting another retreat in October, and you, yes YOU should absolutely attend!
Go to http://www.castlehillretreats.com/ for more info, and to be in contact with the beautiful and ridiculously talented writer, Stewart Humiston.