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Monday, November 2, 2015

The Company We Keep

Photo of view of Newfound Lake from Coppertoppe Inn,  Hebron, NH by Laura J. Bear
I just returned from a wonderful wrtier's retreat at a magical place called Coppertoppe Inn in the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, with views from every room, but the company was stellar. Ten writers converged upon the Inn (including me) to share their work, refresh their spirits, and, well...write! It was my great fortune to be invited by a champion of writers: the extraordinary Gregory Norris, author of The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse, the screenplay for Brutal Colors, and Tales from the Robot Graveyard, among many hundreds of other titles. Greg is the quintessential writer: prolific with a seemingly infinite arsenal of ideas; organized with beautifully decorated files, notecards, and notebooks; and incredibly supportive and encouraging to other writers. Check out his blog: Through him, I was able to meet members of the delightful Berlin Writers group--all talented writers and lovely people in their own right.

I had been greatly needing a retreat with like-minded people. An all-consuming day job coupled with the urgent prodding of my latest project, my second novel and all the necessary daily routine stuff, not to mention the daunting task of continuing to promote my first recently hatched novel without being a bother, had depleted my soul. The desire was still there, but I had run out of fuel. I needed to recharge--a creative jump start. I found that in New Hampshire over Halloween weekend.

I arrived a day early, as my drive was the longest: six and a half hours through eastern New York, Vermont, and part of New Hampshire. One of my hosts, Sheila, of Coppertoppe Inn, greeted me on her way out to prepare for the arrival of the group the next day. Her husband Bill took over with charming and interesting conversation and recommendations for dinner in town. I had a luxioroius room with private bath and the breathtaking view above. I began to unwind and settle in for a night of writing after dinner, anticipating the arrival of the infamous Berlin Writers group the next day.

I decided to begin my morning with a  hike down the road from the Inn on the trails of a bird santuary and nature center with views of the lake. As I emerged with some confusion from one of the more overgrown trails,  a car crept down the steep dirt road to the park entrance. Peter Estabrooks and his wife, the poet Esther Lieber-Estabrooks surpised me with a warm greeting and to let me know that I should be receiving a package from them at the Inn today. This confirmed what would be an extraordinary weekend.

The rest of the group trickled in over the morning in small carloads until we were all assembled into our accomodations and had been introduced. The vibe was electric and inviting. Some of us set right to work, while others took some time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Murder mystery writer Irene G. and I instantly connected on another walk to get the kinks out before sitting to write. The talented writer and artist Judi C. quickly became a soul sister. Heaven is in the kindred spirits you meet along the journey.

On Friday evening, we agreed to read from one of our new works. I had been playing around with a short story about one of the central characters in my new novel. The reading forced me to dig deeper into it. The group consisted of writings from all different genres. Each person read with passion, and the group gave constructive criticism: honest, but never mean. Each fellow writer contributed something with genuine care. On Saturday, it was determined that we must write a short story  of 1,000 words or less with Halloween as our writing prompt. As someone who struggles with finishng anything in one month, much less in one day, this was a daunting task for certain, but I was up for the challenge.

As the newbie to the group, I somehow missed that I was supposed to have a Halloween costume for Saturday night. Sheila came to the rescue with a chic vintage hat, black fitted blouse with gold details, and a wild black skirt for my transfromation into Dorothy Parker. Each reading was a new joy and my heart grew full. The aptly named Newfound Lake was the backdrop for this retreat, and indeed, I cherish my newfound group of writer friends: Irene, Esther, Judi, Bernie, June, Natalie, Jonathan, Tina, and, of course, dear Gregory; and my inspirational hosts: Sheila and Bill, who extended the warmest hospitality one can imagine. Words are inadequate to express my gratitude for the gift of that long weekend, but words are all I know, so I hope they will suffice. Thank you all.