Martha and goats

Martha, a co-owner of my AirBnB retreat

I know everyone says this, but I can’t believe how quickly these two weeks have gone!

I arrived 13 days ago, and I leave tomorrow afternoon. I’m completely satisfied with the experience and am also eager to go back home.

I wrote 12 pages today, and if I complete 8 more tomorrow, as committed, I’ll have hit my target of 100 new pages of my draft.

To break up the day today I started out early this morning to try that cafe again in Norwich, the one that was closed on Monday, using only main roads this time. Their coffee and granola were delicious, and I bought the housemade Tuscan tuna salad from their deli cabinet to take home for lunch.

Needing a few more veggies, I checked out a general store kind of place, Dan & Whit’s, a short walk away. They displayed beautiful fresh veggies with the name of the nearby farm they came from on the bags they were packaged in. When I mentioned this shop to Alex, one of the owners here, she said, “Their motto is, if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

What I’ll miss when I leave here is the stillness, the well-behaved and gentle animals (there are goats, ducks, chickens, a cat and several dogs) on this property, and the ease and simplicity of being just a writer.

What I look forward to getting back to, other than the people I love most, is a flush toilet, exercising regularly, and a greater variety of foods than what I can prepare on one burner.

I’ve always known I’m in introvert, but having this prolonged time away has substantiated it beyond any doubt. Wayne Dyer always said, “you won’t feel lonely if you like who you’re alone with.” I can say, unequivocally, I loved being alone.

This doesn’t mean I ‘vant to be alone’ from now on. I absolutely don’t. I do want to repeat it annually (or in some capacity) as a way to complement the intensity of my life and as a place to restore my soul.

 

Vermont Page OutputWith only one full day left to go after today on my writing retreat, I wanted to keep my output up. I hit the keyboard at 8am and finished printing out the first 10 pages of Chapter 8 by 2pm. I knew that I’d be driving to Stowe later in the afternoon to meet good friends who just bought a place there.

My hosts here at the AirBnB recommended a restaurant called Hen of the Wood which is where we made an early dinner reservation. After seeing Sharon’s new place, she gave me a driving tour of ‘her mountain’ and the town of Stowe, then headed to Waterbury.

The maitre’d asked if we wanted to be seated inside or out. It was a spectacular day with temps in the mid-70’s, but we still wanted to be inside, though opted for a quick tour of the patio. We didn’t change our minds in spite of the beauty and rushing waterfalls. But got Stan to take our picture in this beautiful location.

I was treated to the best meal I’ve had since I arrived, much to my surprise and delight, as a belated birthday gift. Humbled, I accepted the generosity of good friends. Jane and Sharon in VT

A Road Less Traveled

A Road Less Traveled

With no plans at all on my calendar today, I wanted to break up my writing hours with an outing at lunchtime. I’d read positive reviews of the Norwich Square Cafe on TripAdvisor, so put it into googlemaps and had to pick from three alternate routes. Since they were each within a minute of the others, I opted for what I figured to be the most scenic route, the one furthest off the main drag, VT Route 14.

Off the main drag in Vermont is not the same as off the main drag in Manhattan. When I turned right on Tigertown Road, it became dirt all the way. Narrow dirt. Trees-leaning-every-which-way, narrow, dirt. I felt frightened. If anything happened on that road, I would have no way of signaling someone. I started sending out foxhole prayers. And, you guessed it, they worked!

Fortunately, I had copied the turn-by-turn instructions onto a slip of paper because my WAZE app was nowhere to be found until the end of the journey.

Unfortunately, the cafe was closed today. I refilled my gas tank at a nearby pump and went back to White River Junction where I’d had a delicious meal at Tuckerbox a few days before. They were open, and it was good.

Got my ten pages done and may top it off tonight with a few more as I’m into a juicy part that is flowing well.

Yvonne Cassidy - Writer

Yvonne Cassidy – Writer

Wow, double digits for my time here in VT, which means I have only a few more days left in my two week rental. I’ve gotten great traction on my page count and am feeling satisfied regarding my output. I love the writing life as well as being completely independent up here.

I wake up when I wake up, go to sleep on my body’s clock. Meals, picking up groceries, exploring–all based on my desire of the moment. It’s a spectacular change of pace from my work and world. I’ll be very happy to resume my ‘real’ life in NYC. I believe it’s the contrast that makes this country lifestyle so enjoyable. I would not like a steady diet of this, but as a balance to the other 50 weeks of the year, bring it on!

Before I came away on this journey I paid a visit to my friend Yvonne Cassidy, a writer I’ve met since moving to New York. She recently had surgery and has been laid up at her apartment. I’ve been over to keep her company a number of times, but only this last time did we get into a discussion about writing. Her next book’s timeline caught my eye in her bedroom. When I asked her about it, she showed me her wall map of her as well as the printed version of her novel in progress, a thick spiral bound volume with multiple highlights in varying colors to indicate which character it’s following. I was inspired and loved seeing how another author organizes her work. It’s an amorphous project, hard to see all at once, and I’m a visual person. Yvonne’s model will be very helpful to me.

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne's next book

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne’s next book

I had considered imitating her chapter by chapter timeline while on retreat, but the walls of my cabin are uneven, and attaching a wide enough roll of paper would be more challenging than I’m willing to attempt. But when I get back to my apartment, I fully intend to imitate Yvonne’s creative lead. I have a large blank wall in my living room awaiting an eventual art purchase. But until that day, I can see my own arrangement of colorful sticky notes to map out my book’s arc and characters.

I’ll post the photos of Yvonne and her wall pieces tomorrow. My iPhone isn’t getting a strong enough signal to send the images to my computer tonight. I’ll post them in the morning, but wanted to stay on track with my blogging.

 

 

Do you know who this is a monument to?

Do you know who this is a monument to?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

In the spirit of that quote, I took a good part of today off. There was an Al-Anon convention in Brattleboro that I thought I’d check out. It was well attended, and I stayed for two of the breakout sessions.

Then, as I was driving back towards my cabin, I had a brainstorm. I’d seen signs for a monument of a well-known American a few miles from where I’m staying. I was curious and went to check it out. The weather was gorgeous, but hot. I hoped the grounds around the memorial would be tree-lined and provide good shade for a walk, which they did. Walking is the one thing I’ve missed since arriving in this mountainous state.

I’ll send the first person who can identify this landmark $1. Email me your entry at jane@janepollak.com. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you have a good idea of where I’m staying. I was surprised that this birthplace was on the map.

After being out till nearly 4pm, I still logged several pages today. I’m mostly revising and adding to Chapter 7, but its page count is now nearly 20pps, and I think I only had 10 – 12 yesterday.

Early this evening there was a brief rainstorm and a warning by my host of a possible power outage. I realized that even though my laptop is charged up, without the internet, I wouldn’t be able to continue writing in google docs. Fortunately, there was only a flickering of the electricity and the writing has continued.

Just in case, I knew I had a paperback copy of Answered Prayers, a novel (aka fictionalized memoir) by Truman Capote that got him into lots of trouble when it was published. I knew I could use my phone’s flashlight and read if the place went completely dark.

 

Melissa Petro - Writer/Coach

Melissa Petro – Writer/Coach

If you’re currently working on a writing project or are considering this art form in the future, I highly recommend that you find a great coach to work with. After several days of working on my revisions for Chapters 4 and 5, I met with my coach, Melissa Petro, today via zoom.us, a platform similar to, but preferable (for me, anyway) to Skype.

I’m able to record our calls and go through them a second at a time to scoop up each suggestion and comment Melissa has made. That way I can edit page by page specifically what Melissa has explained would improve my work. I used to take notes during our coaching sessions, but knowing that they’re being recorded now keeps me fully present while Melissa speaks.

To get ready for our time together today, I had reserved the tutorial room at the Kilton Library in Lebanon, VT. I wanted to be sure we had a perfect internet connection, which we did. I got there early to set up. Once ready, I simply continued working on the next chapter until it was time for us to speak.

I’ve now been in my cabin at the end of a dirt road here in VT for a week. I’ve written at least 50 pages so far including the revisions and additions to the pieces we reviewed today. With nothing to distract me, like a convention or something, I’m pedal to the metal all day. I have one more week to go. I set a goal with my accountability team to come home with 100 pages. I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I’m going to take most of tomorrow off, but I’ve got plenty of momentum, and a complete change of scenery will make me all the more excited to get back to work.

During meals, although I know it’s better to just sit, chew and enjoy my food, I’ve been reading, either the news or one of two biographies I’ve got on my devices. I’m almost finished with the Charles Schulz biography (the creator of Peanuts) which accompanied me on the trip here via audible. Before I fall asleep I set the timer for 30 minutes and listen some more. Intrigued by his life, I checked YouTube to see if there was a video clip of an Emmy presentation they described. Instead, I discovered a full-length documentary of his life which put faces on all the players and illustrated many points with strips of Peanuts characters emotionally acting out what Schulz was unable to express personally.

I’ve also got Brooke Shields memoir on my iPhone to keep me occupied at meals out. Totally enjoyable!

Even though it was over 90 degrees today, it’s not unpleasant. I used the owner’s outdoor shower before heading to the library late this morning which felt fantastic. No one was on the property then, and I felt like Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

deer carcassMaybe I’m going a little stir crazy, but my eyes definitely deceived me when I took a walk tonight after dinner. Writing is so sedentary, and not having errands to do or subways to catch, I’m on my derriere for great lengths of time here in Vermont.

I wanted to add some steps to my daily count, so headed out to the dirt road my B&B is at the end of, and set my timer for 10 minutes. I’d walk in one direction for that amount of time, then head back. It’s very hilly here, and I didn’t want to find myself at the bottom of a mile-long climb back up.

As I walked away from the cabin I’m staying it, I spotted what looked like a perfectly petrified carcass of a deer. Can you see it? I continued walking and glanced back to see what it looked like from another angle. Oh, well…deer carcass from other side

The road to the property where I’m staying crosses the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t expecting to see any humanity on this 20-minute walk, so was completely startled and delighted to catch a genuine hiker coming out of the woods looking for his next blaze. I asked if I could take his photo to document my stay. “Sure. I just hope I don’t break the camera,” he humbly replied. appalachian trail guy

I’m well into Chapter 7 which focuses on my path to being able to say ‘no’ in my life. I took an Assertiveness Training course in my late 20’s that launched my lifelong personal development curriculum.

Tomorrow I have a Skype meeting (I actually use zoom.us) with my writing coach to review what I’ve sent her over the last week. The internet in my cabin is unreliable which is fine for writing, but not fine for a streaming conversation. My host here told me about the brand new Kilton Library about 5 miles down Route 14. I stopped by there today to see the facility and found a small conference room where I could talk privately. The librarian sitting at the information desk with a sign saying “Please interrupt me,” signed me up for a time slot tomorrow. When I went online later, I saw that I could have that space FREE for up to 4 hours. All I could think of was what a similar space costs me in New York, if I could even find one that had availability.

Meals have been extremely simple during my stay. I love the space I’m in, but running water is not part of the deal. The stove consists of a single burner induction cooktop, and the sink is as simple as it gets. A three-gallon container of water with a gray water receptacle under the drain pipe. I bring my dirty dishes to the main house each night, and they’re ready for me to pick up in the morning.

In keeping with my mantra as I’ve pared down my life’s possessions, the less I have, the happier I am, life this week has been bliss.

My Vermont Stove

…and sink

Note the 'no service' message. Lovely to be disconnected.

Note the ‘no service’ message. Lovely to be disconnected.

Woke up this morning to temps in the 40’s! By the time I had the wherewithal to take note, it was slightly warmer, but fall-like. Lovely to have that big down comforter on top of me.

Great headway today on Chapter 6. It’s all about when I got into 12-step recovery back in 1989. I spend a lot of the pages defining terms so I don’t sound too jargon-y moving forward. It’s 18 pages long, and I think it’s complete. I’m not even sure what the next chapter will be about, but I have pages of notes to look through to determine where to go next.

That big orange truck was back this morning chipping wood and making a racket. I actually had to put on my noise-canceling headphones for an hour while I wrote. By 11am the workers had packed up and departed.

Then I could hear pleasanter noises from my new neighbors below.

Make way!

Make way!

And the wind chimes on my front porch.

Really?!

Really?!

What the what?! I could not be further removed from traffic, honking and crowds in my little cabin off this dirt road in Vermont. So why did I need to put on my noise-cancelling headphones at 10am this morning? Walking up the driveway to my car, I saw the offending culprit. Tree-trimming on Podunk Road!

I’d already put in a few hours on the computer, sent off revisions for chapters 4 and 5 (over 50 pps), so decided to go exploring and pick up lunch. White River Junction was on my list today, and off I went. I wandered around the commercial area and drifted into the coolest shop on the street: Post. I’m a sucker for stationery stores, particularly when I’m on vacation. I love to look through the racks of cards and stock up for the coming year.

The owner had just opened this month, but clearly has a great eye. She said she’d been a buyer for another concern for 17 years before starting her own business. I did a little bit of damage, got some cute gifts to be distributed when needed (lucky you if your birthday’s in the next month or two!) and left inspired to get back to work on my book.

Couldn’t resist these fabulous paper clips! Worth $.28 apiece, right?

Paper clip from POST

entry to Solheim

Entry to property of my retreat cabin

One of the ways I edit my writing is to print it out, read it aloud into my phone’s recording device, then listen back to my words to hear how they sound. I can catch repeats, oversights and inconsistencies that way. I also notice if the words flow and if what I’m saying makes sense.

By noon today I’d written for nearly 3 1/2 hours and reached a point of completion on Chapter 5. I needed to take a break before the reading aloud process, so I rewarded myself by a drive to Hanover, NH, a nearby town. I had lunch at Market Table, walked the stunning campus of Dartmouth College, and rounded out the visit with a trip to the food co-op there to pick up supplies for my next few meals.

When I returned, I read out loud for 40 minutes and will listen as soon as I finish this post.

I’m loving the simplicity of this place. There’s no TV on the premises, which given the Times headlines, I’m happy to be spared. The grounds are wild and spectacular. This morning, walking to the main house to pick up a clean set of dishes, I heard a chorus of chickens cackling their little hen hearts out.

I’ve been sleeping through the night without having to take a bio break at 1:30am as I often do at home. This is very good, because my bed here is in a loft accessed by a steep ladder. I can’t go blithely down a set of stairs, but have to descend slowly, step by step, holding onto the rungs for balance.

All of this is forcing me to slow down, pay attention, and take in my environment very closely. Good practices for a writer.

Ladder to other sleeping loft that I'm using as my dresser

Ladder to other sleeping loft that I’m using as my dresser

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