Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Slice of Life - Choice Literacy Retreat

It was so fun to participate in the Slice of Life writing meme started by Two Writing Teachers for the first time last week.  I was welcomed warmly by other slicers, and I realized this week that I have SO many ideas for slices, I couldn't decide which one to write about this week.  I just got back from a wonderful long weekend trip I make annually with my high school and college best friends, and it will definitely become a slice, but I want to ruminate on it for a while.  This week, I'm going to write about the Choice Literacy Writing Retreat I attended with my friend, Megan, last week.
     Those who know me or read my blog regularly know that my dream is to write a professional teaching book with my friend and colleague, Megan Ginther.  This dream started when we job- shared a 5th grade language arts and social studies position in the same district.  Even though we're now at different districts, we've continued to meet a couple times a month to share teaching ideas, talk about our lives, and write.  Our favorite place to meet is at the Bronte Bistro at Joseph-Beth Booksellers.  We book shop, sometimes attend author events, and enjoy dinner before flipping open the laptop and iPad.  A couple glasses of wine might be involved, too! 
     We've collaborated on this project for months now, and it's exciting to see how this goal is opening the doors to meeting new people and providing ways to integrate writing into our personal and teaching lives.  This summer, Megan enjoyed attending the Ohio Writing Project, and I loved attending nErDcamp Battle Creek, both of them energizing and inspiring us.  Then I got a surprise e-mail from Brenda Power after I inquired about writing for Choice Literacy, and she invited us to one of the writing retreats she holds across the country for her contributors.  We were so excited!  We are both big fans of Choice Literacy.  If you don't know about the website, it is an amazing collection of multimedia resources for literacy teachers and leaders.  I HIGHLY recommend that you join it!  If you need an extra incentive, Franki Sibberson is the lead contributor! 
     We didn't know quite what to expect, but we got up in the wee hours of the morning with our bags packed full of writing pieces and writing materials and hit the road a little before 6 a.m. We were very proud that we didn't get lost once on our way to the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in Logan, Ohio.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day, and we loved the rustic, peaceful setting of the location.  We met with Brenda before the contributors came because we wanted to share our writing and ideas with her.  Truthfully, we were nervous and slightly star-struck that we were going to be meeting with Brenda.  We so admire the website and all the writing contributors that we felt completely humbled and privileged to be invited.  She put us at ease immediately because she is so genuine and warm.  She gave us some great feedback, and then we started meeting some of the other guests.  I was so excited to see some friends I met at nErDcamp so soon!  Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.  We felt we were instantly a part of a very special community.  We had a lovely spread of fruit, danishes, and coffee, and Brenda got started with the first mini workshop. 
     This year's theme is habits.  She gave us each a book called The Power of Habit.  We talked about how we can create new pathways in our brain for habits we want to establish.  We want to create pathways that lead to daily writing!  Or at least, more writing.  Then she encouraged us all to go write!  The grounds of the writing retreat were gorgeous.  Oh, where to write when you have so many amazing choices?!

We finally settled on the side porch.  This is Megan looking over our writing:

     When we came back in for lunch, Brenda had spread all these inspiring quotes about writing around the room.  We were encouraged to choose two or three that we could make our affirmations.


     Lunch was delicious and we had a great time talking with the women at our table, again feeling completely comfortable and at home with our new friends!
     We wrote for a couple more hours after lunch, walked to see the cabins with Brenda, and then conferred in small groups in the late afternoon.  I loved my group with Gretchen Taylor and Stella Villalba, both incredibly talented teachers and writers.  They're also a LOT of fun!  We enjoyed another delicious meal, laughing and talking, and were SO sad we had to leave after dinner and couldn't stay for the next day.  I was getting up the next morning to go on a girls' trip (which I mentioned early in this post).  We wistfully watched as our new friends took their stuff up to their rooms, preparing for spending the evening hours on the porch.  What a wonderful slice of life we lived that day.  THANK YOU, Brenda, for your generosity and kindness, and thank you to everyone else who made us feel so welcome!!  I would love to make a habit out of meeting, getting to know, and writing with people like you!



  1. What an incredible experience! I'm sure you had a very productive weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience at the retreat. Even though I'm sure we had similar thoughts, I love reading the individual perspectives. What an incredible indulgence it is to be given a time and a space to write!!
    Best of luck with the writing you and Megan are doing!

    1. It really was an indulgence! :-) What a great day!

  3. Holly,
    These pictures just made me smile. What a wonderful gift of time and community we received. I learned so much from everyone at the retreat. The days were so relaxing and really helped me to get focused before the busy school year begins. I'm pleased our paths have crossed a few times during the month of July. I look forward to continuing to learn from you.


  4. What an exciting adventure -- the writing and the retreat! Can't wait to read some of your contributions to Choice Literacy and perhaps a book! Best of luck and keep on writing, Holly!


  5. Holly,
    The retreat sounds absolutely wonderful. Looking forward to seeing you and Megan write for Choice Literacy as well as for your book! Keep the writing spirit!

  6. I love Choice Literacy too! I gave a subscription to my niece when she graduated from college. I was so surprised last week when you said it was your first slice. I've loved reading your blog entries and learning about your Mock Newbery book club. It's a fantastic experience to meet our blogging friends in person.

    1. What a great gift idea!! Thanks for reading my blog, and yes - it is lots of fun to meet blogging friends in person!

  7. I'm glad to read your slice from Cedar Falls. I was there last year and your photos made me remember the things I learned about writing when I was there. I love the way we are constantly changing and growing on this writing journey. I'm looking forward to reading your articles and wish you the best as you pursue your writing dreams.