The Every Person’s Writing Retreat

credit: Justin Patchin

credit: Justin Patchin

Erin Stevens

It isn’t often that I get an uninterrupted moment to write, much less an entire weekend. As a single-cat Mom who works a traditional 8 to 5 desk job who also tries to keep up with a social life (JK, what social life? I have a cat), there seem to be a million other things that I should be doing instead of writing (i.e. laundry, cleaning, calling my Mom to tell her about her grandcat, etc.).

It’s this lack of focus and a nagging sense of guilt that I was neglecting the stories and essays I wanted to be writing, that made the CVWG’s Winter Writers’ Weekend last year seem so enticing. A whole weekend spent away (from my cat), staying in Eau Claire’s very own Oxbow Hotel with nothing on the agenda but to write (and eat, but mainly to write).

I hesitated, though. While I graduated with a degree in creative writing and fancy myself a writer, I knew I probably wasn’t writing half as much as I assumed some of the other writers were. After all, aren’t retreats only for really serious writers?

I decided that I really had nothing to lose (other than my dignity and self-respect) and signed up, and I’m so glad that I did. As it turns out, the Winter Writers’ Weekend is actually a really great retreat for writers and  “non-writers” alike.


What do I mean by non-writer? I’m talking about those who have had an idea for a story or poem, but have never actually tried writing it. I’m talking about those who used to write pretty regularly, but have since fallen away from their craft and are a little rusty. Basically, any person who wants to write, but is struggling to make this happen.

Why is this retreat perfect for non-writers?

Because everyone starts at the same place. No one starts the weekend by bringing in a completed manuscript or collection of poems. The only things participants need to bring are themselves and something to write with. From there, writers will be given a series of prompts to work with, and then they’ll pick the prompt that they’d like to use in the development of a short piece (a poem, a short story or short essay).


The precious weekend dedicated to writing alone would be enough for me to return for a second year. Combine that with food from The Lakely and the atmosphere of The Oxbow, and I've already got the phone in my hand, ready to reserve my spot for this year.

And yet what really has me eager to return again this year (and leave my cat once more) is the sense of community I felt last year. This isn’t a surprise, really, as everything that the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild sets out to do is based around community, and providing a supportive environment for writers of all experience levels. So again, for anyone out there who has never written before, or for anyone who is looking comeback to writing again, this retreat is absolutely for you.


It’s good for me to remember this, too. Unsurprisingly, I’ve fallen back into the trap of letting everyday life distract me from all of the stories and essays I should be writing. It starts with skipping a few days, which then turn into a few weeks, which can even turn into a month or two if I’m not careful. And once I’ve slid away from a routine of regularly tapping into some creativity, it’s hard to get going again, and I end up leaving my desk in frustration.

And then a few days ago, I got an email reminding me that registration for this year’s Winter Writers’ Weekend opens Friday. While initially my old hesitations came back, I knew that I needed to get back to my community and to all of the pieces in my head that want to exist on paper.

I can’t think of a better place to help me get started again than the Winter Writers’ Weekend.  Looking forward to seeing you there!