Taking writing on the road

By Carol / March 21, 2016 /

Writing can be a solitary business. When I’m working on a writing project, as I am now with my novel in progress, I get to my keyboard each day by 9 a.m. and do my best to stay on task until noon. I dive headlong and alone into my story – forgoing phone calls, emails, social media and texts. For the past couple of months, I even set aside blogging. (Did you notice?)

I was urged out of my writing isolation by an invitation from Janet Givens who offered her home on Chincoteague Island, VA, as a retreat space for writers she’s come to know via social media. Since my writing friend Mary Gottschalk and I love a good road trip; we love talking writing; and we love the inspiration that inevitably results from our time together, we loaded the car and headed out.

Friends & writers - Mary, Shirley & Carol

Friends & writers – Mary, Shirley & Carol

We looked forward to joining the authors on Chincoteague Island, but the journey to get there was an equally important part of our experience. In Harrisonburg VA, we spent a night with Shirley Showalter, author, friend, dairy farmer’s daughter, and co-founder with me of I Grew Up Country. The beauty of the Shenandoah Valley grew more vibrant in color and meaning as Shirley and her husband Stuart shared their Mennonite and family history. Thoughtful conversations about next stages in writing and life made it difficult to move on.

Natural beauty deep in the earth.

Natural beauty deep in the earth.

After a morning at Luray Caverns and an afternoon in the Shenandoah National Park, we were welcomed to Charlottesville, VA, by Joan Rough and her husband Bill and their dogs – Max and Sam. In between tours of Monticello and the University of Virginia, we tucked conversations on Joan’s upcoming memoir, Bill’s playwriting, and art in general since Joan’s creative talent manifests in many directions.

Making avatars into real people. Mary, Carol & Joan.

Making avatars into real people. Mary, Carol & Joan.

Monticello in spring

Monticello in spring




Finally on Chincoteague, we joined Janet, poet Merril Smith, memoirist Marian Beaman and author/nurturer of women’s voices Susan Weidener. Loosely structured, the retreat became whatever each of the authors wanted. Blogs. Poetry. Editing. Essays. Marketing. Technology. Who knows what will result when a group of creative minds come together? Friendship. Sharing. Support. Inspiration. Synergy, for sure.

Synergy: the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Every day of the trip brought new thoughts, new inspiration, new friendships and richer understanding of renewed friendships. I hope you’ll take a moment to look into each of the women from this writing journey. You won’t be disappointed.

Cooking together deepens the writing experience.

Cooking together deepens the writing experience.

Even though writing can be solitary, I’ve never felt alone. The synergy of weeks like this are one reason why. As I return to working on my novel, I’ll do it with renewed enthusiasm and insights ignited by this trip.


One bit of Synergy: Our discussions of social media techniques led me to make a couple of changes. I added a box you can click to notify you of responses to comments you make. And, I moved the share buttons to the handy position below. If you find these posts interesting or helpful, please share with your friends.

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  1. Shirley Hershey Showalter on March 21, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    I’m honored to be one of the writers on this incredible road trip, Carol. I too was not ready for the conversation to end when you and Mary left. So glad we can be both virtual and real. 🙂

    Now back to work!

    I did notice that you gave your blog a pause. I am considering doing the same thing as I shift focus from memoir to Jublilation in the Third Act of Life.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 22, 2016 at 6:35 am

      Shirley, you gave us much to talk about as Mary and I continued our journey and many reasons to return. You are on the verge of a great adventure. I can’t wait to see what comes of your writing residency. A pause from your blog would give you time to truly focus – as mine did for me on my upcoming novel.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on March 22, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Carol — it was fun reading about, and seeing photographs of, this writing adventure you enjoyed with authors whose blogs I follow. I’ve met Shirley in person and hope to meet the others in person some day as well.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 22, 2016 at 6:39 am

      Bringing the avatars to life was a treat – as were the discussions, the writing, the eating, and the sightseeing. Meeting on-line writing friends in person has been one of the special joys of my writing journey. I hope you and I get to meet in real time sometime, too.

  3. Merril Smith on March 22, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Well, look how handy those “Share” buttons are! 🙂

    Your trip seems truly memorable, and I’m glad I was able to meet you and Mary in the second part of it. I’m going to use your “synergy” comment in something, although I’m not sure what yet.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 22, 2016 at 6:43 am

      I get great joy out of the simplest of things, Merril. Moving those “Share” buttons felt like such a technological accomplishment.

      Synergy happens all the time in your poetry. One of the great rewards of this retreat for me was discovering you and your poetry. Write on!

      • Merril Smith on March 22, 2016 at 6:47 am


        • Carol Bodensteiner on March 22, 2016 at 6:52 am

          Thanks for showing me through your comments that the addition was successful!

  4. Joan Z. Rough on March 22, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Carol, I’m also am honored that you stopped here for a visit on your wonderful road trip, especially since I was unable to go to Chincoteague. I feel that I was a part of the gathering even though I wasn’t there. I hope you and Mary will return some day so we can continue the many meaningful conversations started.

    • Carol on March 22, 2016 at 7:40 am

      You were with us in spirit, Joan. We know you have your plate full with the final editing of your memoir “Scattering Ashes” coming out this fall. We’re all cheering you toward the finish line.

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on March 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Carol, I missed your blog, now I know why! What a great experience you are having. I have gotten to know both you and Shirley through your blogs. How lovely it would be to have a real chat!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on March 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      I would love to get to see you in real time, too, Elfrieda. Having now met several of my on-line friends, I know it is possible. Should I ever get to your area, I will be certain to look you up.

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