writer’s retreat

What Happens When You Dream

Over six years ago, I walked into a room that would change my life forever. My parents had just taken a 30-hour personal development course, and could not stop raving about it. When I heard that my dad, my stoic, reserved dad, cried during this course I had to check it out.

I’ve assisted at The Living Course (TLC) every single time since my initial course, and I learn so much about myself and humanity during these intense hours (after you take the course once, you can come back to every course afterward for free!). One of the focuses of the course is realizing a dream that is bigger than yourself; a dream that can guide your decisions and instill your life with purpose. The second time I assisted at the course, I told a room full of people that I was going to create an artist’s colony where creative people can learn from each other and support each other.

As soon as I proclaimed this dream I realized I had no idea how I would achieve it, and I didn’t even know where it came from. Mind you, this was years before I started The Heso Project (but the course was one of the reason why I started The Heso Project). TLC gave me an environment that was so supportive, so loving, and so energetic that it allowed me to tap into an intuitive part of myself that I never heard before.

T4Years go by and I’m constantly recognizing lessons from TLC popping up in my life, but the dream I had announced didn’t seem to stick. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized I was taking huge steps toward that dream I put into words during the course. The Writers Work Conference is a supportive and nurturing space for creative people. I am now setting up a retreat for writers in the Catskills for this winter, and a reading in Manhattan for emerging authors this November. These are concrete steps toward the dream of creating an artist’s colony.

I’m so grateful to The Living Course for asking me to find my dream, giving me the support to go after it, and helping me to unburden my past. The world would be so much more passionate, nurturing, and fun if everyone took this course. I hope you will be the next person to enroll. The next course is Nov. 7-9 in Rye, New York. If you sign up by Oct. 15, you’ll get $100 off! If the price tag scares you, I ask you to take a moment and really question how much you are worth. You deserve to spend that much money on yourself. You deserve this course!

Where there is smoke there are bees? Part II

*warning, don’t scroll down if you have a weak stomach*

After the train evacuation, we were eager to relax in the pool and watch fireworks, but the next few days were real work. I had invited my writers’ group to my parents house for a mini writers’ retreat. It’s really easy to set up a retreat.  Here’s an example of our schedule:

9-10: Yoga. Fortunately one of our members is a yoga instructor, but if you don’t have this in your group you can do gentle stretches, or take a walk outside.

10-10:30: Breakfast

10:30-11: A prompt from The Writer’s Toolbox. After writing for fifteen minutes, we passed our computers to the person to our left to read it out loud. It was incredible to hear the diversity of stories we were able to come up with using the same prompt. It was also refreshing to hear someone else reading your work.

11-1: Working on our stories with a 5 minute break in the middle to stretch.

1-2: lunch and discussion about work.

2-3: Art time: We designed the covers of our future novels. I loved doing this because not only is it fun and motivating, I realized a major theme in my story that I never picked up on until I was drawing it. Sometimes all you need is to take a new approach!

3-6: A longer writing block.

6-7:30 : discussion of problem areas in our novels.

7:30-9: Dinner. (We didn’t have a chance to do this, but I thought it would be fun for each writer to prepare a meal that their main character would eat. Knowing what your character eats gives you surprising insight.)


9-11: A rousing game of Cards Against Humanity played with my parents. It was priceless to hear my dad ask, “now what the heck is queefing?”

I should have just stuck to writing, because everything was going great, but then I just had to have some relaxation. On the last day, we decided to spend some time out by the pool.

2013-07-07 17.20.07

The day after the sting.

The second I opened the door to go outside, a hornet flew into my face and stung me below my left eyebrow. Within an hour my eye swelled shut. The pain was intense, but I tried to ignore it. I have an Epipen because I’m allergic to ants (what?!?! who’s allergic to ants?), but since the swelling was localized, I didn’t use it. The swelling went down by nighttime…

And then I woke up at 6am because it felt like there was a burning potato shoved under my eyelid. My eye had swelled up even worse. I called my doctor and left a message on the emergency line. Mike went out to get me benadryl. By the time the on-call doctor called me back, my eye felt like it weighed 200 pounds. The doctor told me to go to the ER. I asked him if I could just take the benadryl, and he said absolutely not. After waiting at the ER for two hours, and giving them all my hard-earned money, the ER doctor told me to take benadryl! Aghh I hate our medical system.

2013-07-07 22.23.21

After two days: At this point I could open my eye slightly, but I sounded drunk when I talked because my lips and jaw were so swollen.

It took four full days for the swelling to go down. I have to admit it was really depressing. I was taking double doses of benadryl, so I was sleeping every other hour, and I couldn’t really talk because my jaw had swelled up, and I was really scared that there would be some permanent damage. I guess this is what happens when a city girl spends time outdoor. On Monday I tried to write my mini memoir, but after an hour of typing I don’t think I stumbled on a single real word.

Now that I’m all back to normal, I would have to say I’d do it all over again. That’s right, the train evacuation and bee sting were nothing compared to the fun, and engaging weekend I had with my writer friends.

I’m really grateful to my parents who hosted us. If you’re not so fortunate to have parents close enough to visit, but far enough to make it feel like a real getaway, I suggest splitting the cost of a cabin rental with your friends. There are cabins in the Catskills that rent for under $150 a night.

wpid-20130711_102417.jpg

After 5 days, I’m  still a little puffy but I only have a little scab under my eyebrow.

If you don’t have a writers’ group, or a group of friends that have a similar creative goal, I would suggest going on Meetup to find a group. Having friends to motivate and inspire me in my writing goals has made the difference between wanting to be writer, and actually sticking with it through the highs and lows. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be 🙂

Related articles

Where there is smoke there are bees? Part 1

I wasn’t able to write my mini memoir yesterday, but if you read the next two posts, you’ll understand why:

The weekend started off great. I had invited my writers group to my parent’s house for a mini writers retreat for the long 4th of July weekend. We met early so we could all sit together on the MetroNorth train. About ten minutes into the ride, the train lurched to a halt. This is quite common on the MetroNorth, so I thought nothing of it.

After about five minutes, people started opening the door between the cars and walking from the south end of the train to the north end. Still we thought nothing of this, because there were no announcements. Then we all smelled it. A burning acrid smell. Something was wrong. Just as quickly as we realized this, the crowd of people walking through the aisle doubled in size and urgency. A baby was crying, someone’s dog was barking, and everyone was shouting, ” run.”

We looked out the window and saw that the entire back of the train was covered in a gray haze. People were walking on the tracks, looking disoriented. Someone yelled at me to open the emergency window. Panicking, I fumbled with the emergency lock, but my husband, the ever-lasting boy scout, said that we should keep calm and wait for the announcement. After all, it didn’t make sense to open the window, and jump down ten feet onto the electrified third rail. Christina, who’s a trained yoga instructor, was telling everyone to breath. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget such a simple task when you’re panicking.

2013-07-04 12.16.04

I love that people are still taking pictures when they’re standing on active train tracks. Not a moment shall go untweeted!

After another ten minutes the conductor finally announced that there was a fire underneath the train, and that only one door had reached the platform so everyone had to move to the first door in the train. The fire was under control, so there was no need to panic. He told us not to use the emergency exits. I had had the brilliant idea of bringing our two cats along for the trip so they could have some fresh air for the weekend. Now I was stuck lugging them through the smokey train while they hissed and whined.

We were one of the last to get off the train. I was hoping that some sort of transportation solution would be figured out by the time we exited, but instead, there was just an angry mob of people who did not want to be stuck in the Bronx in 96 degree weather on the 4th of July. Through the grapevine, we found out that the fire was caused by someone throwing a mattress on the train tracks. The super flammable stuffing caught fire, and the coils tore up the machinery under the train. We watched as fire fighters pulled out what was left of a the mattress; a scrambled up piece of charred wire.

2013-07-04 12.41.23

This experience taught me never to bring cats, dogs, or babies on the train…and only pack what you can carry.

One emergency worker told me that the trains would not be running for at least two hours. My cats, nor us, could handle the heat for that long. I flagged down a cab, and since he had no idea where my parents’ town was he offered to do it for $70 (normally it would cost $150). As I was talking to the driver, a man next to me said that his friend was picking him up  and they could drop us off in my parent’s town. Hallelujah!  Four of my friends squeezed into the taxi with my cats and they drove of north. Mike, me and Christina waited for the guy’s friend who was apparently lost.

An older woman asked if she could join us on the ride. It would be cramped, but who were we to turn her down when we were given this unexpected gift? The friend showed up twenty minutes later, and the four of us scrunched into the back seat.

On the ride up north, we talked about our 4th of July plans. It turns out that the woman had been born in France, but lived in the states for the last 20 years. The driver and passenger were both from Pakistan but were now U.S. citizens. I couldn’t help but appreciate  that on this day of celebrating America, we were in a car filled with immigrants that represent one of the things that I love about America: diversity of cultural backgrounds.

My dad met us at the train station and whisked us off to the BBQ. I found out later that our train arrived in the station five minutes after us.

Stay tuned for part 2…it gets worse.