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One-Week Bonus Life at Doe Branch Ink

This is the kind of extra life that is like a surprise package. I agreed to run a writing group at a house deep in the North Carolina mountains. Miles from a paved road. I showed up.

And now I’m three days into an eight-day experience far from my regular world. It will be a chunk of time with distinct edges that allows me to operate a little differently than I might otherwise.

Doe Branch Ink is a brand-new writers’ retreat center not too far from Hot Springs in the Blue Ridge. The main house holds all of us this time. Meals are catered. There’s a stream ten minutes down the steep mountainside that joins with another stream and runs into the French Broad River. After lunch today, one of the other writers and I took an hour-plus hike downstream to a series of waterfalls with a 30 foot drop. It was a sturdy climb coming back to the house.

We all have been writing on and off all day, and then had a reading and critiquing session in the living room at four. Food report: Dinner was pork loin with apples, cheese grits, salad, and a dessert of walnut brownies with vanilla ice cream. And wine.

The company is excellent. The writers are extremely varied in style and interest, and all experienced at giving useful feedback, an interestingly convivial group: a woman who grew up French who’s writing a memoir (and who was very curious about the naming of the nearby French Broad River), an academic/former reporter with a rather startling nonfiction interest, a business owner writing women’s fiction, a well-known retired liberal minister who is writing articles. And the on-site manager is also a novelist.

The house has writing stations on the porch, the deck, the sunroom, the loft, the bunkhouse near the main house. Lots of good views. And people have been productive. Most of them more so than I have been.

But I have started a new chapter on a novel I’m working on. Haven’t proceeded far into it, but I needed to get it underway.

Bold Bonus Life Tip #6: A radical shift of place and routine, even brief, can get stuck projects get moving. Especially when one is surrounded by like-minded supportive folks.

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Categories: bonus life, Doe Branch Ink, extra life, writers retreat

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