Join us July 6th–9th for a 3-night 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.
Riding the River: Letting Go with Words is led by Riba Taylor, faculty member for 15 years at Mendocino College. We’ll gather to practice spontaneous writing, read aloud excerpts of our work, feel the alchemy happen. We’ll add a little sitting practice, 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.
$540 includes the retreat program, shared lodging and three vegetarian meals per day. ($140 discount on early registration through June 7th!)
Maximum participants 21.
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 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 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 right now 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. 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 keep writing words until there is a new thought there for us to write. Trust me on this one—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.
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 until we are done. Some reading will be with the whole group and some may be with small groups. You will, of course, never be forced to read your work aloud. But if you are reluctant to read, at some point I may try to nudge you a little, to urge you to consider reading just one or two sentences if you might. 😉
Touching on “craft” and the writing process
We have four hours tentatively set aside to focus on the “craft” of writing and on the writing process itself, so there may end up being some flexibility in this. I will plan to present a few key elements of craft and the writing process itself.
I’m thinking things like image detail, slow motion, weaving together the elements of scene (we could do the short story exercise I talk about below if people wanted to!), maybe how I feel about the importance of learning how to edit our own work. If people want to pool resources we can devote time to that, maybe sharing tips about how we each might keep ourselves writing or favorite contests or literary journals or stories about being published or ?? Books we especially love. Narration is a favorite of mine. Oh, and how to strengthen or reinvigorate our commitment to our writing.
Here is a sample schedule for the retreat. Know it is only here to give you an idea of our pacing and not to be taken in any way as stone.
Faculty, Mendocino College
I am a big believer in the school of keeping the pen moving across the page, a la Peter Elbow’s “freewriting” or Natalie Goldber’s “writing practice.” Like them, I believe this practice helps us to trust our minds, to free our voices. 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, there is a kind of alchemy that happens. I am looking forward to us making that happen together.
I’ve taught community college English for fifteen years and have been writing for myself for twenty years now. I chart the beginning of my life as a writer to the 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—not me. But it was true. 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 the right place. I have never forgotten the 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 never write for themselves at all.
I’ve only just begun seeking publication, and I am not officially published, though I do have my blog, No Holds Barred. But I did begin entering writing contests about six years ago, 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 still makes me grin to remember this. My memoir, You and Me, was one of nine finalists in the New Rivers Press Many Voices Project. My prose poem was one of six finalists for the Anderbo Creative Nonfiction Contest (the year the final judge defaulted).
I earned my M.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing in December of 2001. I’ve been teaching community college English for Mendocino College since August of 2002, so this May I will have been teaching writing for 15 academic years. I’ve also taught for Santa Rosa Junior College, Foothill College and College of the Siskiyous. I’ve spent over a decade in publishing, as well, primarily in book design, production and editing.
My teaching resume is here:
Here, too, is a site I’ve set up for my college students and others:
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.)