We’re back from Karma!
And, as you might expect, this is when we give you the sell about what a great weekend it was.
Well, you know what?
This was our third Karma Writing Retreat, and before each of them there’s been the tiniest trepidation about how groups will gel. You just never know when strangers are relocating to live and interact with one another over the course of a weekend. But every time, the retreat has been a joy.
And here’s a breakdown as to why that happens.
Arguably, the most difficult thing about being a writer is, well, being a writer. Most people think that all it takes to write a story or a poem or a work of nonfiction is to just sit down and spill the words onto the page. They don’t understand how difficult it is reaching into oneself to find something of value, and to then articulate that in a way that’s going to be structured, cohesive, and engaging. But writers understand. And they understand the issues that pop up – the difficulty in getting their words right, the nagging self-doubt, the intimidation of writer’s block … and this list goes on. It gives writers a frame of reference for discussion even before they’ve met. It gives them empathy with one another.
We had eight participants (and, for one, it was her second successive Karma retreat) this week, a full house for us – the Retreat can fit more, but we think eight is a good number for workshops. Ten people (eight participants, two facilitators) in a room is a conversation; any more, and it becomes a din.
None of the participants knew one another prior to the weekend. But they – along with us, as the facilitators – immediately engaged (and now the participants are going to stay in touch and form their own writing group).
When Blaise first came up with the idea for a retreat, she scoured possible locations, many of them coastal, but didn’t feel any fit. Karma was a revelation, and also fit Blaise’s own emotional connection to the bush, given she’d grown up on a commune.
Hearing ‘Kinglake’, people might automatically think the retreat is rustic, some backwater with outdoor toilets, cold-water plumbing, and meals cooked over a fire. Karma comprises a main house (with kitchen, lounge by the fireplace, a couple of bedrooms), and ‘nests’, the equivalent of bungalows that spider-web out from the main house. The nests have their own kitchenettes, bathrooms, and heating (fires, and split heating systems; the rooms have bathrooms and split heating systems). It’s luxury nestled in the bush.
Karen, Karma’s host, deserves to be singled out. Charming and funny, she’s led an amazingly storied life, and painstakingly attends to every need – it’s assuring when you have dietary issues to know that they’re taken care of. Every meal she prepares is a feast (often, the feedback we get raves about the meals), and also comes with desert. You can consider yourself spoiled.
It actually gets to the point that she anticipates your needs before you ever need to articulate them.
The workshop lessons and exercises are pre-planned, but the regimen remains fluid to accommodate any specific interests the participants have – on this occasion, many of them had an interest in structure. Also, throughout each workshop, particular interests (or needs) might pop up that we then follow and explore.
The workshops provide lots of stimulating discussion, introduce writers to lots of dos and don’ts, and help them understand how they’re going to tackle whatever it is they want to write, and the publishing options that they can pursue. There’s also an actual workshop of each participant’s writing, which gives them a good idea what to look for in the rest of their work.
Every participant who’s come to Karma has come nurturing a single question related to their writing, or to their journey as a writer. Examples of these questions are:
- I’ve written in another field; are those skills translatable to what I want to do now?
- What’s the story I want to share?
- How do I get started?
- Can I really write?
- What are the tools I need?
And then they’ve come away from the retreat confident and enthused about where to go next.
That transformation is at the heart of what Karma’s about – finding a way to unravel the doubt and to proceed with whatever your undertaking might be. Blaise’s motif for the weekend was ‘No more excuses’, and it’s ultimately about realising – about learning – that’s a truth you have to live by if you want to write.
There are no excuses.
And, finally, some praise …
Here’s what this weekend’s participants had to say …
- ‘Just a huge THANK YOU. I LOVED it.’
‘Great for novices through to experienced writers. Highly recommended.’
‘I learned a lot about writing and publishing.’
‘If you want to be a writer, do this course!!’
‘It’s valuable in terms of people in need.’
‘I find workshops help me develop and maintain momentum, and this one was outstanding.
‘I found it extremely informative/useful.’
‘Great writing program. Very supportive. It was fantastic!’
Look for our next Karma Retreat in about May of 2017!
Postscript: Want to read the experiences of one of the participants? Check out Christina’s blog here: The art and soul of writing.