Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Refreshing the Writer's Mind

By Morgan Tarpley

This writer just returned on Sunday from a mini writer’s retreat that my critique partner and I set up months ago. We usually attend a writer’s conference around this time every year but sadly it has been cancelled this year, so we decided to create our own writer’s retreat weekend instead. And it was great!

The first step was finding the perfect place: not too far from home and within driving distance, secluded to not tempt us with all the shopping options and other nearby attractions, well-furnished kitchen for our meals at the location, and lastly an inspiring location. 

About eight years ago I worked part-time as a travel agent and that job is how I met my critique partner, Carole. She was a veteran travel agent there, and we both hit it off immediately with our love for travel, books and writing – among many other interests as well. But, anyway back to the story at hand, it was when I worked at the travel agency that I found the spot that would house us over the weekend for our first writer’s retreat. And this is it! Willowbrook Cottage! 

One of the shared interests Carole and I possess is a love for all things British, so when we thought of where to hold the retreat I knew exactly where to suggest – the perfect little English-style cottage within a four hour drive from her house. We live in north Louisiana, and the cottage is tucked away in a small town surrounded by mountains called Mena. It’s in the state of Arkansas.

My Writing Spot
Healthy Writers Breakfast!
While at the cottage, we set a schedule to get the most out of the few days we were there. We had packed many healthy snacks and tea and scones, of course, along with items for quick lunches and dinners. We did go out one night for dinner to the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge Restaurant on top of a mountain with a gorgeous view.

Our day began around 8 a.m. after breakfast, prayer and a devotional and we started our first writing session at 9 a.m. Then, we worked for two hours, then took a 15-minute break, then continued on throughout the day with the sessions and breaks with an hour break for lunch and dinner. 

We knew to be most productive we needed to keep to the schedules, but we did take little breaks whenever we needed them and we had mini brainstorming sessions in between to help each other when we were stuck on a scene, etc.

View from the restaurant
Overall, the whole weekend was quite productive and enjoyable. And, truly, the location couldn’t have been better. It was secluded, well-furnished, quiet and inspiring with a lovely garden around the house and a waterfall. To top it off, the owners are a really sweet couple, whom are fellow believers in Christ, and he is from England. Isn’t that something?! And, furthermore, he aspires (like us) to be a published inspirational fiction author. It was just a God-ordained experience. We hope to go back for another writer’s retreat next year! For more information about our location, visit their website here.

So, have you attended a writer’s retreat whether an officially organized one or just with a friend or two like we did? What did you enjoy most about it? Do you have any tips to share? If you could have a writing retreat anywhere, where do you think your ideal location would be?

Morgan Tarpley is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also an inspirational novelist seeking representation. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband.
For more information about Morgan, visit her website (www.morgantarpley.com). You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. Great idea, Morgan. I've never done one but would like to. Do you spend a lot of time comparing notes, brainstorming ideas for each other or is it mostly head down and get through some words?

    1. Thanks, Ian! It really depends on each person's needs. We knew most of the time we needed the head down getting to work, but during meal times and our breaks we had prepared to chat about brainstorming, issues we were having, etc. Also if it was done judiciously we could interrupt the other and ask a question. :)

      You should definitely plan one! They can be done by yourself, with one writer or several! For one day or over a weekend, etc. It's just good to be somewhere not too near your home so you don't have all those chores and projects giving you the siren call that you should be at home and not at the retreat. lol

  2. Great article! I enjoyed our weekend and loved that it was so productive. You are such a fantastic writing/critique partner.

    1. Thanks Carole!! I enjoyed it so much too! :)

    2. And I couldn't have done this without you! You're a great writing partner too!!