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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Writing in the Cèvennes

What do 18 people from the USA, Canada, Switzerland, and France have in common? It’s a writing retreat in the Cérvennes for the next week.

The Cévennes is a cultural region, heavy wine country, and a range of mountains in south-central France. It is a stunning location, quiet and inspirational - all conducive to productive writing from our amazing group!

My/our trip to Europe, with my family earlier in the mix, was built around this writing retreat when Akimbo/Writing in Community’s Diane Osgood and Cindy Villanueva hatched a plan to bring more writers to the beautiful land of France. Our week is chock-full of writing, eating, drinking some wine, little excursions in the region, and camaraderie with other writers in all stages of their processes - from outlines to first drafts to editing.

Most of us know each other from Writing in Community but have never met in real life (IRL) until today. Hugs and squeals of delight were all a part of the welcoming as each carload of precious cargo was delivered to the castle. Many logistics were implemented to get everyone here by late afternoon.

When Diane Osgood, and her husband, George, welcomed the idea of hosting the retreat, they knew how the light and feel of this place could charge creativity beyond our wildest imaginations. And when they are not residing in the Chicagoland area, they live here.

This entire dream took almost a year in the making; Diane was able to secure the 11th-century-built Chateau, which is situated almost next door to her home - about a 10-minute walk away from their place since everything is spread out.

On our car ride from Nîmes to Chateau de Saint-Félix de Pallières, vineyards were seen in abundance. The trees had leaves, and some flowers are starting to bud out (a few sneezes by our carload indicated all the budding out of the flora and fauna). We are all settled in our rooms after a delicious meal prepared by a local French Chef.

I can feel the heightened emotions from all the positive vibes that this next week is going to be spectacular!

I’ll leave my daily with this:

If you have ever read Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, he recounts the 12-day, 120-mile solo hiking journey he took through the very area we are in - sparsely populated and barren rocky heathered-filled hillsides. It reminded Stevenson of his roots in Scotland. He was also marching through the area with a stubborn donkey, who carried all his gear and thought a lot about the love of his life that didn’t go well at the onset. The hike helped clear his mind.

But there is one passage in his book that sums up travel, whether by donkey, plane, train, or automobile:

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future?

Stevenson wrote the book when he was 28 years old and it was published in 1879.

All 18 of us are ready for the adventures that await us this week - all, of course, beginning with our daily writing and there's not a donkey in sight.

Bonne Nuit!



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