Monday, July 21, 2008

Reflections on This Year’s ANWA Retreat

by Joyce DiPastena

It’s just over a year ago, now, that I started blogging on ANWA Founder & Friends. And it was not long after that, that someone posted the most beautiful description of last year’s ANWA Retreat. (Forgive me for not remembering the author, but I was very new and Marsha was the only person on the roster that I knew at the time.) I had read about the retreat for several previous years in the ANWA newsletter. Being a “regional” member (i.e., not belonging to a chapter) and also being very shy, I had always struck the retreat off my list of “things to do” the moment the subject came up in the newsletter. But somehow, when I read a recounting of retreat events on this blog last year, I felt an odd pull in my heart. It sounded so fun, so uplifting, so peaceful, so friendly—actually, all those words feel completely inadequate to express my reaction, though each of them is certainly true. All I know is that for the first time since joining ANWA, I found myself thinking, “That sounds like such a beautiful experience! I wonder if I could really screw up my courage to attend next year’s retreat?”

This year rolled around, and I had discovered many new friends on the ANWA Critique and Social lines. I’d even met a few of them at the writers conference in March. People actually started inviting me to attend this year’s retreat. Part of me longed to go, while another part of me—that shy, “what will I say to these people when I meet them face to face, or will I have the courage to say anything at all?” part of me—continued to hang back. I hemmed and hawed every time someone (via email) asked me, “Are you coming?” I made lame excuses. (“I don’t know if I can find someone to feed my cats while I’m gone!”) I plead wariness at driving up to unfamiliar Pinetop and trying to find the unfamiliar cabin by myself. Then dear Tina Scott from Thatcher emailed me and offered to meet me in Globe and let me ride with her.

I had been praying about making a decision about the retreat, and when I received Tina’s email, I finally took that as a signal that the Lord actually wanted me to attend. And so, with Tina’s help, I did!

I’m going to leave it to someone more eloquent than I to blog in detail about the retreat events. (Hint hint to some upcoming blogger on this list!) But I will say that I could not have had a better experience! The sisters welcomed me immediately, invited me to sit with them at meals, asked me about my writing and shared with me their projects. There was much laughter and beautiful music, wonderful meals and shared prayers, peace to write when desired and supportive sociality when needed. And never once a harsh, sarcastic, jealous, unkind word from or to anyone. Names on an email list became “real people” and dear, dear friends. (Oh, yes, and the workshops were incredible, too!)

For someone who feels very alone with her writing most of the year, the blessing this year’s ANWA Retreat was to me is beyond my capability to express. (A pretty sorry thing to say for a writer, but sometimes the feelings of the heart are just too tender and grateful for words.)

My only regret was the absence of so many of you that I have met online who were not able to join us, for whatever reasons. I know from the ANWA lists what wonderful women you all are, and there are so many of you that I long to meet in a deeper setting than the quick “Hi’s!” that is all there is often time for at the ANWA Writers Conferences.

Thank you to all who welcomed me so warmly! And for those who weren’t there this time, I pray I will be able to be one of those who welcomes you warmly at an ANWA Retreat in the future!

Note: I found the blog that so inspired me last year. It was written by Liz Adair, End of the Tour. Thank you, Liz! If not for you, I might not have had any snapshots of my own to carry in my heart today.

5 comments:

  1. Joyce, I am thrilled you had such a wonderful experience at the retreat. I have missed two years in a row now and I feel sad about that! It has been such a highlight of my summer in years past. It sounds like you grew in other ways besides just your writing! What fun!

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  2. I know how you feel. One day I hope to make it to a retreat. Out where I am there is only Valerie and I and we can only meet via email, ha. But I would love to get the chance to meet the people I've come to admire and respect through this blog and organization.

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  3. Thanks for your post, Joyce. I knew you only through email until last March at the conference, and just that little 'hi' and knowing what you looked like made a difference. It takes a bit of both to really click. You surely enriched my time at the retreat, and I hope to see much more of you.
    Another who amazed me was Gertrude Smith. I hadn't heard much at all from her on email, but what a delight. She finally admitted her age, and she has me beat by four years one month and somewhere around two weeks. And she's a live wire. Sharp as a tack (especially when you don't sit on it.) Which reminds me, I must call her.
    I also loved seeing every one of you--especially you wonderful young writers, and other sisters there for the first time. It really was fun. I was also amazed that the scales didn't echo all that chocolate -- yet.

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  4. I thought about you all as I was riding down to my husband's family's reunion. Wish I could have been there. Isn't it funny, we never know who our writing will touch?

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  5. You said it beautifully, Joyce. It was such fun. I wish all of the ANWA sisters could have been there. Guess we would need a bigger cabin, ya' think?

    Great post. Love to all,
    Stephanie

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