The WFWA Writers Retreat 2016 (Or, The Enchanted Hotel)

A lot of conferences are held in fairly personalityless hotels that drain your energy by their very sameness to every other hotel out there.

Not so a retreat.

A retreat is meant to help you relax, rejuvenate, reconnect.

It’s not overscheduled.

It’s not attended by people you feel pressured to impress.

It’s a time to grow.

It’s about great food…

…great conversation…

…great views.

A time to nurture the friendships you already have…

…and a time to make new ones.

If you’re lucky, it is held in a place with admirable weather…

…attention to detail…

…and a sense of history.

For two years now, the WFWA Writing Retreat has been held at the marvelous Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town.

For four days I’ve lived outside — most of my meals and all of my writing time has been spent under sunny blue skies, with the occasional 2-minute sprinkling of rain, followed by soaring rainbows. But the inside’s gorgeous too.

The party may be over for 2016, but I’m not too sad.

Because I know that in one short year I will be back.

This is not an ocean

Lake Michigan, Whitehall, MI

But it may as well be.

After camp, I spent five gorgeous days at a resort in Whitehall, Michigan, with my family and my incredibly generous in-laws. It sits on Lake Michigan between White Lake and Duck Lake and my husband and I have decided that if we can’t retire on Thumb Lake (where our beloved Camp Lake Louise is) we’re retiring here. Now we just have to get super wealthy to afford it.

Just imagine for a moment having coffee every morning right here…

Relax...

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing lots of photos from both of these lovely places so you can enjoy them from afar.

Merry-Go-Round…and Round…and Round…and Round…

I know some of you are already gridlocked in holiday traffic (I-75 North, I’m looking at you) so you’ll enjoy distracting yourself from the utter contempt and frustration you are currently feeling for your fellow man by scrolling through colorful pictures of carousels. At least those painted animals are going somewhere, eh?

The Detroit Zoo has a great carousel full of awesome animals to ride…

But I prefer the wetland creatures and cool tones of the Detroit Riverwalk carousel…

 

Now, strictly speaking, I have never seen a sea serpent or mermaid in the Great Lakes…

But then, I haven’t seen everything there is to see…

I thought for sure this was an old carousel because it just had a been-here-since-1915 feel to it, but the Cullen Family Carousel was actually handcrafted in this century. Read all about it here.

And enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, taking some time out to remember and be thankful for the fallen soldiers throughout the history of this nation who sacrificed their own lives that liberty might live.

Amazing Apes (and Drills and Macaques)

 

One of the downsides of a big zoo with large exhibits is that you can often walk by and see absolutely nothing but grass, rocks, and trees. It’s great for the animals, who have lots of room to roam and easy ways of getting away from people, but it can be frustrating for zoo visitors. Beyond a glimpse of a far-off polar bear and a sleeping black bear, we saw no bears, despite there being four exhibits featuring bears. We also saw very little of the napping tiger and napping lions, though we have lions and tigers at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, so that’s no big deal.

What we don’t have is gorillas.

The last time I was at the Detroit Zoo, the gorillas were nowhere to be seen. This time around, we got a great view of two gorillas, a drill, and two species of macaques.

We also saw some very active chimpanzees, though from further away and while we were en route to the polar bear exhibit, which we were rather exited about, so we didn’t linger long and I took no pictures.

While Zach and I were dog tired by the end of the day, the boy loved the zoo (despite the fact that there were no snow leopards, his favorite animal). And one of his favorite parts is coming up next…

Detroit Zoo Land Lubbers

We spent nearly six hours at the Detroit Zoo and saw most of the animals. Here are a few quadrupeds we especially enjoyed watching (and a couple bipedal marsupials thrown in for good measure).

To really do the zoo justice, get there right when it opens and plan for a long day and tired feet at the end. More pictures to come tomorrow!

Under the Blue at the Detroit Zoo

Two of the biggest draws of the Detroit Zoo are the polar bear/seal exhibit and the new Polk Penguin Center, both of which feature underwater views of exhibit residents.

We were a bit bummed that the polar bears weren’t swimming while we were there, but we got some great views of the silly seals and swift penguins.

A One-Man Border Patrol

Better watch out, Canada.

Actually, those killer moves aren’t directed at you.

I believe the boy was controlling the fountain, using both mind and fist.

And anyway, he’s a very nice boy.

More pictures of our awesome three-day trip to Detroit in the coming days.

Detroit Riverwalk

These were taken on the Detroit Riverwalk just outside of the Renaissance Center, where we stayed on the 53rd floor.

Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI

 

My Personal Retreat Up North

One of my birthday gifts back in January was a three day mini personal writing retreat up at the Grand Traverse Resort — alone time for me to revise my WIP, eat room service BBQ pizza, and ramble in the great outdoors a while.

My room was lovely…

My work space was comfortable…

And I did get a phenomenal amount of research and revision done. I even got to have breakfast with my sister while I was there.

After checking out on Friday, I swung by Hartwick Pines near Grayling to take a walk through old growth white pines.

Hartwick Pines, MI

I was the only one there, following someone else’s cross country ski tracks from earlier in the day, listening to the birds and the squirrels and the swooshing of my snow pants.

At Hartwick Pines

It was beautiful.

And it was exactly what I needed after two straight days of sitting, sitting, sitting.

Little Ghost Tree

Being out in the woods alone, with no sound even of distant traffic, is something I really wish I could do more often. It’s as necessary to my mental and emotional well-being as good food and exercise are to my physical well-being.

When it comes to gifts, nothing beats a little alone time in God’s country. Do my guys know me or what?

My New Mexico Writing Retreat in (a Few) Pictures

From late Wednesday night to late Sunday morning, I had the very good fortune to be at the first (hopefully annual) Women’s Fiction Writers Association Retreat, held at Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town in New Mexico. I wrote the first five chapters of a new novel, took notes for a short story that was inspired by a very kind and attentive member of the hotel staff, and prepared my workshop for the Breathe Writers Conference coming up in October. I met dozens of lovely, talented, and dedicated women (and one charming man) who write women’s fiction, some of whom I have been online friends with for a couple years. I felt the spell of the Southwest come over me like invigorating sunshine. And on this cloudy, rainy Monday morning back in Lansing, I’m fondly remembering a truly marvelous weekend. I didn’t bring my good camera, so these are just from my phone. Next time, I’ll know to bring the camera.🙂

Getting Ready to Write

I wrote on this patio from this corner every day.

Friday night's BBQ dinner was set up here.

This is where I ate most of my meals.

The hotel itself was the only obstruction to the pure blue sky, but a lovely obstruction it was.

group

Happily heading home to my boys, but vowing to return as soon as possible to Albuquerque.