I went on a retreat last weekend. An incredible, powerful, purpose-finding kind of retreat with a group of 10 writers and three staffers from Firefly Creative Writing. We descended on Loretto Maryholme Retreat Centre, a beautiful old home on Lake Simcoe, for three days of inspiration, hard work and delicious food. I’ve been searching for a writing retreat near Toronto and this one, my second with Firefly, didn’t disappoint.

I went on a perfect writing retreat.

Now listen, I know what you’re thinking. “Dana, WTF, I thought this was a depression blog. Why the heck are you talking about travel?” But hear me out. Getting away for a few days, focusing on the things I enjoy as a person and not just as a mother, does my mental health good.  It’s so easy to lose oneself to motherhood, isn’t it? Sometimes my life gets stressful, sometimes my mood gets low and when that happens, I try to escape this suburban life of mine as fast as I can. *

About Loretto Maryholme Retreat Centre

Located about an hour north of Toronto, in Roches Point, Ont., the Loretto Maryhome Retreat Centre used to be the summer home of the Loretto nuns. I think the order still owns the building but it can now be rented out by different groups, for retreats that have some sort of spiritual element. My getaway wasn’t religious in any way but in my opinion, writing is definitely a spiritual pursuit. After just a couple of days at Loretto Maryholme, I feel a remarkable sense of peace and I was quite sad to leave. I just love that old house; rooms appear off of rooms, resulting in a maze-like space that’s nestled together by an indoor wrap-around porch that overlooks the lake. There are plenty of cozy conversation areas, a roaring fire and little writing nooks around every corner. What’s not to love?

Firefly Creative Writing retreats near Toronto

I’ve been taking creative writing classes with Firefly for a couple of years. I found them when I was searching for a writing coach to help me tackle a terrible case of writers block — one that lasted for years. When my coaching ended I tried a few of their classes and I have loved everything I’ve done so far. When I found out they offer a writing retreat near Toronto, my mind was made up. I can honestly say that anything I’ve done with the talented group of women who make up Firefly, has been magical.

My little nook, I wrote a lot at this little table.

Last weekend was no different, we spent out days writing, gazing out the window at the ice fishermen on Lake Simcoe and working on writing exercises designed to get us thinking about our project from different angles. In the evenings, we ate the food we made, drank Writers’ Tears whiskey by the fire and read each other the stories we’d worked on that day.

The power of positivity

Firefly’s devotion to positive feedback sets it apart from other creative writing classes I’ve taken. We all read our work out loud and then our classmates tell us what they loved about it. Some people might think you can’t learn without criticism but that hasn’t been the case for me, if anything, my writing is better than ever before. Want to shut down the creative process, especially for a new writer? Tell them exactly what you don’t like their work. I’m happy to leave that to someone else, later — once there’s an actual book to critique. Plus, it’s not hard to find something to love. I’m consistently gobsmacked by the quality of the writing my friends produce. It fills my cup just to sit at a table with them.

Chris and Britt from Firefly Creative Writing, our fearless leaders

Silencing the monsters in my head

Professional writers need a thick skin to survive because most of the feedback we hear about our work is a list of things an editor wants us to fix. But writing is so personal. I’d be lying if I said negative remarks don’t affect me, especially when I’m down and my heart is tender. My mind loves to call on my monsters, people who’ve dissed my writing over the years. Their comments float around me like an open cloak of shame, always ready to wrap me in their familiar fabric of insecurity and self-doubt. Apparently, all I need to shut down my inner demons is a whole weekend of positive feedback at a writing retreat near Toronto.

I need to be a suburban escapist sometimes

Inner demons combined with my life as a stay-at-home mom/chauffer/maid/therapist, haven’t given me me a lot of time to think about what I need to find fulfillment. That’s why I’m so happy I finally found a writing retreat near Toronto. It was a wonderful way to re-connect with my inner creative ninja — she rarely has time to come out and play. Sometimes it’s a struggle to balance this blog with freelance writing and my family’s schedule. The book I’ve been dreaming up for the past 20 years, always seems to fall last on my list of commitments. But it brings me such joy. What a treat to lavish my project with curiosity and love: I planned, I plotted, I wrote a filthy sexy scene. Who knows? Maybe one day, Dana’s Dirty Book club will read my book.

Hooked on Retreats

Have you ever gone on a retreat? I’m hooked, even though this was only my second one. If I could, I’d do one every month. What a beautiful way to reset, figure out your goals and get inspired. Translation: I got a shit-ton of work done. For a list of Firefly Creative Writing’s retreats, click here. For a list of other retreats offered at Loretto Maryholme Spirituality Centre, click here. Have you ever been on a retreat? Any  recommendations?

* Note: I also escape via beauty products, dirty books, fashion and home decor because sometimes the need to vacation does not coincide with the cash to vacation.

2 Comments on Review: Writing Retreat Near Toronto

  1. Love this! So inspired, maybe a writing retreat is what I need . On a separate note, just back from a magical yoga retreat in Costa Rica! 7 days of bliss. Sounds like you have alotbon your plate, so if 7 days is not realistic for you, the leaders do a weekend retreat at a wonderful spot In Collingwood. I feel like it would be right up your alley !

    • Thanks! I would love to do a yoga retreat in Collingwood. Costa Rica would be nice too but you’re right, I might not be able to ditch the fam for that long. But am I fit enough to go on a yoga retreat? It sounds like a lot of yoga!

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