November 22nd–24th, 2019 (Friday through Sunday)
Join us for this 3-day, 2-night spontaneous creative nonfiction writing retreat
Joshua Tree Retreat Center
Joshua Tree, CA
Please register here.
Or call 760-327-9759 for more information and to register by mail.
Telling Our Truths is led by Riba Taylor, English faculty member for 17 years at Mendocino College. We’ll gather to practice spontaneous creative nonfiction, read aloud excerpts of our work, feel the alchemy happen. We’ll add a little silent time, some movement and delicious meals in a gorgeous desert setting. Afternoons will be silent; the rest may be quiet or gregarious as we follow our words and make community together.
$400 includes the retreat program, shared lodging and most meals. (Bring your breakfasts as well as a sack lunch for Friday.)
($100 discount on early registration through August 31st—only $300)
Dana or gratuities
We’ll have jars for dana (the practice of generosity) for the housekeeping staff and our wonderful chef. Please plan on bringing cash as you are able to contribute.
Enrollment is limited.
I’m afraid I cannot guarantee a refund of your fees should you need to cancel (due to the high overhead for this retreat). Depending on the timing and the enrollment, however, a refund, partial refund or credit for a future offering may be possible.
We will do a series of short, timed writing where we each address the global writing prompt. We’ll write for ten minutes or twenty minutes or 4 minutes. Sometimes we’ll read right after, and sometimes I’ll read another prompt, and we’ll be off writing again. This writing will be pens or pencils in notebooks, too, no laptop or telephone writing. (If you have a disability, then that’s a different matter. Please phone me to talk about how we might best make this work for you: 760-327-9759. Thanks.)
We will hope to let our words flow, but mostly we’ll try to allow our writing to be exactly as it is and not judge ourselves (even for our judging!). We will remind ourselves we’re allowed to write terrible stuff—dull or boring, or taking too many odd wild leaps, whatever it is we like to tell ourselves is “wrong” or “not good enough” about our writing (though I do think wild leaps are lovely!). Instead, we will see if we can’t allow our inner critics to be silent and pour our words across the page without stopping. We are letting go with words.
The only real “rule”
We want to keep the pen moving through the entire time allotted to each timed writing. That means even if we can’t think of what else to say the pen still needs to keep moving across the page making words. We can repeat thoughts or phrases or words but need to keep writing words until there is a new thought there for us to write. (A new thought will always eventually appear if we hang in there.) So, no pausing to reflect or stare out the window! We’ll keep the pen moving from timer start to timer end. (If everyone commits themselves to this practice, it creates a kind of group momentum and freedom, too.)
Reading our work
In between these timed writings, we’ll choose sections of our work to read back to the group. The length of this part will vary—we may read for only a minute or two or until we are done. Some reading will be with the whole group and some may be with small groups. You are, of course, always allowed to pass on reading if you have tumbled into something in your writing process that you don’t feel comfortable reading to the whole group. I believe it’s important that we each take good care of ourselves, keep ourselves safe even as we stretch out of our comfort zone.
Here is our tentative schedule for the retreat. Know it is here to give you an idea of our pacing and not to be taken in any way as stone. Though once it is finalized we will indeed follow it as designed.
About the retreat leader
Part-time associate professor
I am a big believer in the school of keeping the pen moving across the page, a la Peter Elbow’s “freewriting” or Natalie Goldberg’s “writing practice.” Like them, I believe this practice helps us to trust our minds, to free our voices, to bypass our inner critics. I also believe the more we write, the more ideas will come to us, and I believe in keeping this channel open as much as we can. When we write together, when we are all addressing the same writing prompt, each writing against the timer, there’s something that happens that’s different from writing alone. And when we read out loud what we’ve written, and when we write and read together again and again, I believe there is a kind of alchemy that happens. I am looking forward to us making this happen together.
My beginnings as a writer
I’ve taught community college English for 17 years and have been writing for myself for 22 years now. I chart the beginning of my life as a writer to a one-day writing workshop led by Robin Beeman in the fall of 1997 (about the time I lost my cat Trair, companion of seventeen and a half years). The Sonoma State extension catalog said if we went to Robin’s Saturday workshop, we would leave with our own short story in hand. I thought, maybe everyone else will—but not me! But it was true. When I left that day I had a very small snippet of a story I have yet to find a home for, but I loved the experience, and there is an image and a gesture in this small piece I love very much, too, so I know it came from that “true” place. I have never forgotten my glee and awe when I left that class knowing I had done it. I had written my first story. It is one of the reasons I want to offer a retreat where it really won’t matter if people are experienced writers or do not yet write for themselves at all. It is the writing itself that matters.
Contests, publication, blog
I have not yet pursued publication much, though I have entered writing contests for the past eight years or so, and my work has made it to the final round in a dozen contests now. My short story “Between My Ribs” won our local writers guild’s annual short story contest and the 2015 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition (out of 857 entries). It is due to be published this fall in the anthology American Fiction Volume 17: The Best Unpublished Stories by New and Emerging Authors (New Rivers Press). An earlier version of my memoir manuscript, You and Me, was one of nine finalists in the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project, and several pieces of my short fiction and creative nonfiction have been finalists, including the Arts and Letters Creative Nonfiction Prize, the Anderbo Creative Nonfiction Prize, the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction and the E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award. Two of my short stories were shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. I am also in my tenth year of writing my blog, No Holds Barred.
Education and work experience
I earned my M.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing in December of 2001 from Sonoma State. I’ve been teaching community college English for Mendocino College since August of 2002, so this fall I will begin my 18th year. (I’ll be teaching an online creative writing class for the college beginning in this fall, too.) I’ve also taught for Santa Rosa Junior College, Foothill College and College of the Siskiyous. I’ve worked extensively with both faculty and students in both training and using our online learning managements systems. And I’ve spent over a decade in publishing, as well, primarily as a book designer, including production and editing.
My abbreviated teaching resume is here:
I know I say this elsewhere, but I really do welcome all inquiries!
(Note, too, you can add yourself to the email list for future offerings and ask me a question there about the retreat at the same time.)
I look forward to working together.