I do. Wow. Can I tell you how lucky I feel to have been accepted to the most amazing writer’s retreat that could ever exist for someone like me? Yep, it was magic. And, yep, that “Yield” sign says “Yield to Whim.” And how apropos. I got to indulge headlong into my writing project, The Trouble with Virginia, at Djerassi in a week-long Workshop Retreat with the fabulous Heidi Durrow.
If you know me, you already know that I am The Number One Fan of Heidi Durrow, who is the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. Her heartwrenchingly beautiful book won the 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. I remember reading it in 2010 and being so wowed that I felt compelled to loan my copy out to anyone who would listen to me about her rendering of the mixed-race experience. Three copies later, this one I finally got signed by Heidi while at the retreat, and it’s not leaving my sight now! I may have to invest in a “loaner” copy.
My amazing experience at Djerassi began before I even got there–I took the train on a scenic California coast ride up (more on that in another post). For sure, I must give a shout out to the wonderful staff who take such great care of the grounds and us guests. Thank you, Judy, Lara, Celia, Margot, and everyone else who made my stay amazing. Thank you for the wonderful conversation, the guided hikes, and everything else you did to make my experience magic. Dan, Djerassi’s brilliant chef, spoiled me with his beyond-delicious meals. I miss you all! Djerassi is a stunningly beautiful place in the mountains of Santa Cruz, founded in 1979 by Dr. Carl Djerassi, in memory of his poet daughter Pamela Djerassi. It has acres and acres to hike and explore, and whimsical sculptures to discover at every turn. One of my favorites is the musicians you see here.
These fun-loving creatures were created by artist William King in 1999. Over time, you can see that they have grown beards and other appendages of lichen, which sway with the wind and render them very alive. Oh, but there is so much more I’d love to show you. (This post would go on forever if I did!) Worthy of note is that Djerassi offers Art///Sky Sculpture Tours.
Anyway. Back to the Writer’s Retreat. I was lucky enough to be one of seven writers chosen to work with Heidi for the week. All of us are debut novelists and all of us, in diverse ways, are writing about issues of difference, race, and social justice. It was one of the most instructive, nourishing, and nurturing environments I’ve ever experienced. Thank you, Heidi. Thank you, Nunboxers. (Inside joke–tell you later.) And I have to tell you there is some amazing new work coming down the pipeline. Heidi organized the retreat so that we spent our mornings workshopping our manuscripts; afternoons were reserved for writing or exploring the beautiful grounds of Djerassi, then evenings on the business of building a writing career as a debut novelist. I learned during the course of that week that Heidi is not just a brilliant writer but a warm, compassionate, and sage teacher, too. Wow! Lucky me.
Here we are all together. That’s me on the far left, Heidi third over. And, yes, the straw is important, standing in for the one member of us who couldn’t be there for that shot. E, you were there in spirit that night! What a wonderful Tribe of women I now belong to! And powerful. On the first day, Heidi looked at all of us brand-new people and said, “We’re going to really make things happen, guys. Let’s move the earth.” By Wednesday, no kidding, we felt the earth shaking. A couple people checked online, and sure enough, there had just been an earthquake. Maaaagic!! And that was just the beginning. More crazy things were manifested. I can’t give the rest away right now; you’ll just have to stay tuned as everyone’s books come to fruition and I can give you more teasers. Let’s just say that the remarkable things these women were writing about were, um, manifesting.
Something happened at that retreat; it was truly a life-changing experience, and I came away from it a completely different person. Yep, magic.