Having finished the first draft of a novel this summer, I promised myself my reward would be a weekend getaway. On a whim I searched for writer’s retreats in Michigan and found the Lost Lake Writers Retreat. It was the perfect way to nurture my writing soul.
The Lost Lake Writers Retreat is presented annually by Inspiration Alcona and Springfed Arts with grants from the Michigan Arts & Culture Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Art Works. The retreat is held at the Lost Lake Woods Club on the sunrise side of the state of Michigan just north of the small town of Lincoln.
Grab a coffee – this is a longer post with pretty pictures and interesting stories. 🙂
The Past Circles Back Again
In August I attended an event to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the pop-rock band Bay City Rollers appearing in their namesake city of Bay City, Michigan. That weekend was an absolute blast and had me remembering things left and right for weeks. This weekend was no different – but for different reasons.
Like any introvert, I was hesitant to attend an event where I wasn’t going to know anyone and had to do any socializing. I kept browsing both the Inspiration Alcona and Springfed Arts websites until lightening struck. The director of the event, John D. Lamb, was a musician that I’d seen back in the 80’s in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Back then, I was in college and John (going by the moniker Johnny D) was playing solo acoustic at the Foolery (now known as Rubbles) downtown. I’d go with a couple friends and we’d dance to this guy singing Springsteen-y kinds of songs with lots of lyrics and plenty of chutzpah. Here’s a poster from those many years ago.
These days John is the director of Springfed Arts and hosts songwriting and writing retreats and events throughout the year; he has a whole lot of music available, too. He’s also an amazing, gracious host and made this introvert felt loved and appreciated. His music is available at all the normal places, so go buy some today.
I promised myself when I moved back to Michigan a decade or more ago that I would get to know the state more. I’ve failed miserably at that, but have really enjoyed watching a load of TikToks by Michigan creators that celebrate the state. For the drive to the Lost Lake Writers Retreat I decided to wander the byways a bit… Err, I drove some roads I’d never been on before.
One of those roads led to the Lumberman’s Monument just west of Oscoda. The fall colors were already popping and the overlook of the Au Sable river was stunning – especially just after rain – look at these clouds!
It had rained on and off as I drove, and the rain let up long enough for me to walk around the monument site. It was quiet, too, with only a few other visitors in the area. I didn’t take the steep walk down to the waterside.
The monument commemorates workers in the logging industry early in the history of Michigan.
Lumberman’s Monument is open daily throughout the year and there are walking trails and a camping area, too. The site is maintained and staffed by the USDA Forestry department. There is a small gift shop and bathroom facilities.
Trip To The Beach
No trip to the northeast side of the lower peninsula could be complete without a walk on the beach and so I stopped into a roadside park and wandered out onto the beach. Once again Mother Nature held off on the rain just long enough for me to enjoy the view and the sounds. But once I was back in the car the rain poured down.
Lost Lake Woods Club
Just north of Lincoln, Michigan, the Lost Lake Wood Club boasts more than 10,000 acres of private, members-only grounds for hunting, fishing, shooting, horseback riding, golfing, and more. There are five lakes, ample walking trails, a large lodge, and dining/banquet facilities. Plenty of people have summer homes here and some have year-round homes at the ninety-six year old club.
All retreat activities were held in the Lost Lake Lodge which is a sprawling hive of activity for the entire club.
I walked in and almost immediately got a fabulous bear hug from John. Then I checked into my room and settled in.
Most meals were in the dining room overlooking the lake. Portions were huge and I often felt like I would drown in the dishes.
I mean, look at this is sweet potato fries topped with barbecue pork and coleslaw. It’s not a bad way to drown, mind you, but there was no way I could finish the whole thing. On the other hand, it was so tasty I might have to try to recreate it.
One night, there was a spectacular sunset.
And I went for a long walk part of the way around the lake.
It was hard to get a bad photo, though I did manage to get quite a few with my thumb or finger.
We left the property one night for dinner at Rosa’s Lookout Inn just up the road in Spruce. Voted the best Italian restaurant on the sunrise side of the state for ten years running, the food lived up to that honor.
Ultimately, the weekend was about words and writing, and really knowing in my bones how important writing is in my life. I think I’ve run away from words as much as I’ve run towards them.
For the longest time I’ve struggled with feeling like I belong somewhere, with trying to identify who I am as a person living mostly alone in the world.
Even when setting up this website, I tried to follow the marketing law of focus on one thing… Any online business course I’ve ever taken has admonished students to focus on “one thing” that you do well. But I’m not just interested in one thing: I am multitudes.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)Walt Whitman – Song of Myself
(And yeah, Song of Myself is as much about Whitman as it is about America, but that’s a digression I won’t go further into now.)
At the BCR weekend I knew that those Roller fans were my people, my tribe.
I have no doubt that my meditation friends are another part of my tribe, too. That spiritual tribe has ties that quite literally transcend time and space.
My tribal triumvirate is complete with writing friends. These are my people, too.
And metaphysically, I could go into the three in the one and the one in the three, but that’s not what this blog post is about.
Poetry is Life!
Just as the world shut down in the spring of 2020, I self published a collection of poems. (FYI, any link to Amazon is an affiliate link.)
This is a collection of poems written from 1976-2006. Some were published elsewhere, many were read at open mikes over the years. But none had found a permanent home and – to be honest – I hadn’t worked at publishing. I’m happy to have them all gathered in one place.
The Kindle eBook is free October 17 to October 21!
This retreat brought home to me how important poetry is… I’d forgotten again. Sigh.
This weekend was about learning new techniques and sharpening up those old skills and this weekend fit like a delicious pair of jeans. This weekend was about talking shop and life and influences. This was a weekend that nourished my writing soul.
In a conversation over dinner at Rosa’s I asked John about future retreats and suggested bringing someone to talk about self-publishing. Through that conversation it became very clear that his focus for the retreat to nurture writers; he does the same thing with songwriting retreats.
The Lost Lake Writers Retreat weekend wasn’t about learning the latest and greatest, but rather about celebrating the heart of the writing life.
This retreat is fertilizer, this retreat is food, this retreat is everything about supporting you right where you are on your writing journey. It was a perfect match for me.
The poem below appeared through “The Poetry Game” an exercise taught to us by poet Leila Chatti. If I heard the pedigree correctly, it was first taught (created?) by Ruth Stone who taught it to Sharon Olds who taught it to Dorianne Laux, who taught it to Leila Chatti, who taught it to us.
Poets love playing with words and this game began by people offering up random words and then adding additional rules:
- Include something blue but don’t use the word blue
- Include a lie or a lie revealed
- Include your name or the meaning of your name, or a word that sounds like your name
- Include the phrase “you can feel it now.”
From there we were instructed to set a timer for twenty minutes and use as many of these words and follow the rules as much as you can. It took more than twenty minutes to polish this, but I got it done – and used all the words and rules!
Lost Lake Writers Retreat, Refrain
Saturday night after dinner each attendee read some of their work. I read two older poems from my book; it’s the first time I’ve read in public in – what – maybe ten years?
It felt like it, too, because I was nervous, shaky, and -let’s be honest- it was kind of hard to read from my book. Thank goodness I knew those two poems (almost) by heart. Even when I was co-hosting the poetry slam back in the day, I never could manage to memorize poems.
And it felt good, too, because by the time I was into the third or fourth stanza, my performance legs were back and functioning. My voice rose and fell. I slowed down to draw out the feelings behind the words and to give the listeners a chance to process the images that “Write A Poem And Call Me In The Morning” and “Starvation” offer.
Sunday morning we did a reading all over again, sharing work written during the weekend. And then, just like that, it was over and I was back in my car, a solitary traveler, on the lonesome highway heading south towards home.
On that long drive, though, I kept thinking about how much I’d enjoyed the weekend – the escape, the camaraderie, the memories. And especially how much I’d enjoyed jumping back into writing.
I’ve already started dreaming about what my “mission” will include for next year. I’m confident there will be writing involved. And I’d like to think I’ll be back to the Lost Lake Writers Retreat, too.
Is it too tacky to say I found myself at Lost Lake? Maybe. But it feels like I definitely reclaimed something I’d lost or set aside. I “re-membered” that writerly part of myself.
What parts of you have been lost along the way? How did you reclaim them?