Fire and Water _ Lori L. Lake's 2015 Autumn Women's Writing Retreat

Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

Fiery sunsets, moon glow and diamond studded water.
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Colonyhouse is a magical and inspirational place located in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. I’ve had the great good fortune to have attended three—yes, count ‘em three—writing retreats put on by Lori L. Lake at Colonyhouse. Each year I’ve met amazing women writers and artists. This third year was no exception.

My good buddy, Mary Beth Panichi, and I made the trek via Delta Airlines from Minneapolis to Portland where Lori retrieved our tired, but excited butts from the airport. We hustled back to Lori’s home in Portland where we commenced loading food into bags and coolers and then into various and sundry vehicles. Then Lori led a caravan of four from Portland to Rockaway Beach with a short stop in Tillamook to load up on groceries at a ginormous Fred Meyer store.

We made the 15 mile drive from Tillamook to Rockaway and then commenced unloading of all the vehicles. We hauled luggage and lugged groceries up and up and up the stairs behind Colonyhouse. Eight of the nine attendees were present, so we made short work of unpacking all the food and drinks and stocking the fridge and the makeshift pantry (i.e. shelf under the kitchen windows). That task complete, we all dispersed to our respective rooms to ready our new digs.

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MB, Chris and I were assigned rooms in the house next to Colonyhouse—Brecht House. We trudged over and unlocked our quarters and proceeded to move in! I shared the porch room with a Weber charcoal grill and a coconut that rivaled “Wilson” the volleyball that served as Tom Hanks’s character’s sidekick in the movie “Castaway.” Check it out! You be the judge.
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After our final attendee arrived and everyone was mostly settled in, we all gathered at Colonyhouse and several of use pitched in to help prepare dinner. Yummy burritos a la Lori Lake! We definitely ate well during this retreat. After dinner and dishes we all gathered in the common area at Colonyhouse and did introductions and talked about our goals for the week. Mostly the goals were something along the lines of, “I want to get a buttload of writing done.” Well, okay, that was my goal!

Let the writing commence! MB, Chris and I crowned ourselves the “Butches of Brecht House.”

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And we were damn well focused. MB and Chris found comfy chairs in the living room and shared electrical via an extension cord. I set up at the kitchen table or in my porch room at a table provided by Lori. We all got up fairly early each morning (6:30 a.m.) and enjoyed breakfast and coffee together and then we hunkered down over our laptops and pounded on the keys. Some days we’d break before lunch and go for a walk, either on the beach or into the town of Rockaway (souvenirs had to be purchased for our lonely spouses back home!). Then we’d march over to Colonyhouse and enjoy lunch with the other attendees and inevitably the talk would segue into singing and much storytelling!


After lunch we three traipsed back to Brecht House and assumed our positions. We typed and typed and brainstormed and typed some more until dinnertime. Then we’d, reluctantly, close the computers and meander next door for sustenance. Rinse. Repeat. Each and every day for a week. I recall Marlene, (Vice President of Oregon Writer’s Colony and a attendee) telling us that writers believed that words came out of the walls in Colonyhouse. Writers got work D O N E while at Colonyhouse. I have to say that I firmly believe that some of that wordage seeped into and then out of the walls in Brecht House because the word count total amongst the three of us in Brecht equaled approximately 60,000-70,000 words for the week! That’s INSANE in the membrane writing!

Lori was, as always, full of sage advice and encouragement. We each had a one-on-one session with Lori during the week to discuss our work in progress and any other questions we may have come up with. And once chef extraordinaire, Luca, arrived late Wednesday, Lori was freed from having to oversee the meals. The weight of the world had been lifted! LOL (Okay, I lean toward hyperbole!) Oh, and whilst I’m on the topic of meals, I’ll take this opportunity to say that on Wednesday evening we all loaded into several vehicles and drove the few miles to Bay City and enjoyed some fabulous seafood at Pacific Oyster! Clam chowder to die for and super tasty fish and chips!
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Okay, back to the writing thing. The Butches of Brecht House remained focused all week. Plowing through many pots of coffee, cans of soda and water and fueling our imaginations with some tasty treats, too, we powered onward. We wrote from the wee hours of the morning to the late (okay 11:00 was the latest, but usually 10:00) evening hours. My word count for the week hovered just under 30,000. I’d never written that much in one week’s time—EVER! Wow! Blew my mind! The week was extremely productive, not just the actual output of words, but the interaction with fellow writers. And Lori led a great discussion on conflict one evening and another on editing on a different evening.

Engaging. Productive. Enriching. Powerful.

Alas, the week quickly came to an end. Too soon. Way too soon. Marlene had to leave on Thursday. I just want to go on record as saying that Marlene is hilarious! And due to her extrovert personality she kicked up the mealtime conversations when the rest of us fell short. Chris and Jane departed early Saturday morning; MB and I left early Sunday morning and the remainder of the bunch packed in by noon on Sunday.


I really enjoyed meeting and writing with another bunch of amazing women! The unbridled support that just ‘happens’ at these retreats is second to none. Marlene, Nann, CD, Patty, Karen, Jane, Chris, MB, Luca and the Guru of all things writing, Lori—thank you for an awesome week! Can’t wait to do it again!!

A special thank you to Oregon Writer's Colony (OWC) for sharing this wonderful space so that we can gather and write our guts out! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And for those that don't already belong, I encourage you to join and support OWC. The membership is worth every penny!

The only thing that would have made the week any better was if Jessie Chandler had been able to attend. Other commitments kept Jessie away this year, but hopefully in the future the Minnesota Minions will all make the pilgrimage to Rockaway, again—many, many times! Love my MN Minions!

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Lastly, and definitely NOT least, thank you to my wonderful partner, JJ Kahle for her undying love and support in this continuing journey of mine! Art keeps us sane, right?

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