Wednesday, April 26, 2006

visions of writing spaces dance in my head

off and on for the past ten years i've fantasized about having some kind of bed & breakfast type place for writers. But I know it wouldn't be financially or logistically feasible. but I still find myself thinking about it. Wondering where it would be. How many rooms. What guest might want. I imagine several weekend workshops throughout the year with special guests to help guide and offer advice. at other times rooms would be available for writers who simply need to to get away from home and focus on writing without distractions. Maybe 50 bucks a night rather than the 150 or more other B&Bs charge. Or a weekly writer rate.

Just recently I was thinking about a big Victorian home in Stillwater, MN. Stillwater is located about 30 miles from the Twin Cities, close to an international airport, middle of the country...

What do you think?
What would your dream retreat have to offer?
Who would you like to have as a speaker/guest? And don't say Stephen King. Well, we could invite him....


e-mom said...

i don't write
well not anymore
but, i say you buy an old home on an cumberland/sapeolo places like that, off the beaten path, but close to civilization.
each room should have high speed internet/ wi fi whatever. and there should be a HUGE library on site.
course i'm just rambling

Tribe said...

One of those majestic old homes near downtown Detroit. You'd have to clear the crack dealers out, and then hire reputable security...but imagine the possibilities.

Kelly Parra said...

I get really wrapped up in great speakers. I can't really name anyone specific, but I know I've sat and listened to someone speak and find myself laughing, thinking this person knows what he's talking about. Most of the time the speaker leaves me inspired and then I would love to go and just write without feeling pressured.

Great idea... =)

Rob Gregory Browne said...

It's funny you should post this. I've often had the same dream. For many years I thought it could be somewhere here in California, but now I'm convinced a great place to have a writers retreat would be Mazatlan. Low cost, beautiful, unpretentious, quiet and stimulating.

Guest speakers? I imagine just about anyone would like to spend time there...r

Anne McAllister said...

Well, we could knock a few bucks off the Hancock House in Dubuque and do it there. Or you could buy that place in Stillwater we saw three years ago. (Good grief, was it that long? Yes, I think it was). Anyway, the HH is a great old place. But we'd want all writers and just some space to think and talk if we wanted -- and think some more -- without a lot of structure. Of course having other writers to bounce ideas off would be great.

Daphne Clair, a New Zealand writer, has a writers' retreat B&B sort of thing at her house. She rents space to authors who are working and she and Robyn Donald also have writers' weekends or retreats which they teach. I haven't been to one of the retreats, but I've been to Daphne's. It's gorgeous -- and sits on the side of an extinct volcano (which is just about where most of New Zealand houses perch in her area).

John R. said...

Dream retreat? It'd have a comfortable bar with no jukebox. Apart from that, I'm very easy to please.

stay_c said...

I love this idea! I'd be there for a weekend.

Second to the library & internet access.

A coffee bar would be great too.

Anonymous said...

Elbert Hubbard (NOT L. Ron Hubbard) built The Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, NY largely for the same purpose around the turn of the century. Stephen Crane was a regular there.

My ideal setting would be calm, isolated. I wouldn't host workshops per se, but would instead encourage casual discussions among small groups. Sharing ideas, little snippets of writing, that sort of thing.

Jeff said...

"But I know it wouldn't be financially or logistically feasable."

I think with the right investment and advertising it could be. I'm sure you could find two or three other writers who would be willing to be part-owners in the project. Writing magazines, internet, and conferences would be a good place for advertisement.
I like your idea of having it in a central location. Easy access.
Speaker/guests representing various genres could be secured on a rotational basis throughout the year.
To be honest, I'm surprised such places don't already exist.

Bethany K. Warner said...

I'd come, so long as Stacie's suggestion of coffee is implemented.

As for guest speakers... um... I think I'd listen to lots of people though right now, Joanne Harris would be high on my list.

anne frasier said...

emom: i totally agree about wireless in each room.
when i write, i google like crazy. also agree about the library.

tribe: come on! let the crack dealers stay!

anne frasier said...

rob, that sounds wonderful. some people might not want to travel that far, but on the other hand the distance might be part of the appeal.

john, i'm always amazed by people who can write in public places. william kent krueger wrote entire books at a restaurant down the street.

anne, yes, the Hancock House in Dubuque, Iowa, is a great place! I'm glad i didn't get that joint in stillwater 3 years ago. it needed too damn much work. but i have my eye on another place.... hehe

anne frasier said...

stay-c: a coffee bar. YES! must have that.
jason: i like the idea of casual too. maybe the rare special guest would just mingle and hang out.

jeff: i think there are some places like this in the country, and i also think people have tried to have such things but they haven't done that well. maybe it's considered too much of a luxury, and people are too busy. and now we can get so much information from the internet... this kind of thing isn't as popular as it was years ago.
but i do think a quiet writing space is something a lot of people still need.

anne frasier said...

bethany, i think you and stay-c are both in wisconsin....
not all that far from minnesota.... or dubuque, iowa. oh, and then there's a cool, really laid back B&B in milwaukee....

coffee and maybe a dessert bar....

Mary R said...

I think it could be doable.

Here's a place you could use as an example, Grey Gables Inn in Vermont.

They offer many different weekend packages.

I found them through the elopement package! Googled "vermont inn elope" on Wednesday - married on Friday! They handled everything, justice of the peace, dinner at a local restaurant, cake, champagne. The owner says it's a fun package for her to do.

There is a knitting Bed & Breakfast in New Hampshire that offers weekend retreats to knitting groups, with a discount if more than eight are coming. She cooks breakfast, and the group brings the other food with them. I think most writing groups would enjoy a reasonably priced annual weekend (or week) retreat. It would make marketing more productive as well.

(Found you through - like the site)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Okay, for me...

A fireplace. Some place a bit spooky. Lots of books, like an old-fashioned library would be really cool.

Actually, I'd buy Casa Loma and use that. All the secret passageways and the towers....

I'd love to have the same thing. Kevin and I've talked about it.

You mean who would I have as a speaker/guest if it was my place, or your place? I'd go anywhere to hear Ian Rankin. If it was my place, I could make a long list of people - anyone's welcome at my place.

Anonymous said...

my dream retreat would have to have good company. you get a strong group of creative people together and it's like a freakin pantheon.


Bethany said...

Yes I have thought of this. And even made a business plan to do it (beautiful part of the country too Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the summer--lots of nature, less congestion, etc)--and hell I could almost do it.

But, I need to write. And damn if i don't have enough time to run a bed and breakfast for writers that need broadband, coffee (lots of coffee), walking trails and all things writerly. :-)

Let me know if you decide to try it--I'm SO there. :-) With chocolates.

waldo said...

I applaud your idea, and would definitely visit such a place. I think Stillwater would be a good location, though I think Marine on the St. Croix, just a little further north of Stillwater would be better as it has a more remote feel to it.
But, let me just play Mr. practical for a moment, and state that running your own business takes a lot of time and work, albeit in an arena you love.
Last year I opened an Arthouse Cafe in St. Paul, that features independent short film on a large in house screen. I did this because I love the arts community and in particular film, and wanted to become more involved in that local community. My venture succeeded in my being more engaged in the local (and national to some degree) arts community, but the hours I put into the business really took away from what I really love to do, and that is write and produce film.
I would suggest that if you pursue this avenue, and if you can afford it, hire a few people to run and promote the business early on, so that you can continue to do what you really love - and that, I'm assuming, is to write.

anne frasier said...

mary r: thanks for the link, and welcome to my blog! that is a good example -- the elopement weekend is great! :D I love it!

sandra: i agree with the spooky part. casa loma. wouldn't that be cool!

emeraldcite: it's all about the company. and the spooky place. and the comfy bed.

bethany, yep, time is the problem. mine would have to be almost self-serve, and i'm not sure people would appreciate that. and even with self-serve, I'd still have to deal with too much crap. welcome to my blog. :)

waldo: okay. you talked me out of it. :D note to self: no B&B.

but seriously, i'm afraid it WOULD take too much time. i'd only want to do it on a very limited basis, so that probably wouldn't be practical. maybe it's better to just have these events at a B&B somebody else owns. i've done that before, but we've never really focused much on writing, but it's always nice.

i wondered how your arthouse cafe has done. i'm sorry to say i didn't know about it until i went to your website. that's probably because i seem to have stumbled into a black hole a a couple of years ago and hardly even pick up a city pages.

anne frasier said...

the response to this thread makes me think this is something people would like to partiipate in.

the problem with a B&B is that most aren't very big. but that's also what makes the idea appealing...

waldo said...

The last thing I would want to do is talk you out of pursuing a dream. I really DO like your idea, and really WOULD enjoy staying at such a place as you describe.

You can have your dream(cake) and eat it too. Just keep in mind that if you pursue with caution to the wind(over-indulge), the reality of it all(calories) may not be all you originally bargained for.

Aroma's is surviving. It is right in the heart of downtown St. Paul, which is a challenge in and of itself. We are paying off the debt incurred in opening, and not pulling any income out of the business yet, which I guess isn't unusual for the first year.

I don't mean to have too somber of a tone here. It's probably because it's late in the day, and I probably should be out in the sun instead of stuck in here. Cheers!

anne frasier said...

waldo, i appreciate your perspective. i really don't think it's something i could make work without it consuming me and negatively impacting my career -- unless i had the funds to hire people right from the begining, which i don't. but who knows -- maybe the right place will come along one day. but this thread has actually given me another idea... more on that later!

e-mom said...

I would run it for you, but you'd have to have it on an island, or somewhere below the mason dixon line, I don't see how anyone can write when they're freezing their bums off.

anne frasier said...

emom, good point. sometimes i forget i need to get the hell out of here. at least in the winter. it IS hard to write when it's cold. my metabolism slows to a crawl. then the feet turn blue. not pretty.

bekbek said...

The cold can also be inspiring, though. I stopped doing most of my creative things when I moved South. 'Course, it could be I've just been busy with my man-toy, but whatever.

Library: You keep an online catalog of the library holdings, and one way a guest can get a small discount is by contributing a book to the library, something that the library doesn't already have (which they can check online prior to their visit), and something good --the contributing guest has to sign his/her name in the book, vouching for its worthiness (plus, you get a host of cool collectors' items should you ever have to shut down, auction them off).

You need a guest kitchen, where guests can gather for a kitchen party while a couple of them cook their favorites.

And I personally would like a good pool table. You can put it in my room! :)

Charge MORE than the other b&bs around there. You're offering a specialized atmosphere for a special group, and it'll be totally worth it, because they'll be at home with people around them who'll respect their needs for work and relaxation.

A partnership with a couple of writers would take the pressure off you personally (although partnerships can also add pressure).

And you can have something like four fund-raising weeks or weekends every year where you have one or two guest authors and you open it up to their fans to come and spend the weekend and have a chance to get to know them. Not everyone would do it, but some would be willing, either for a fee or to contribute to the operating costs. You could offer to name the rooms after these special guests, for their contribution. :)

You wanna arrange some kind of taxi service to the nearby bar with the most character, so that the drinkers can go someplace to really whoop it up on a Tuesday night or something.

And uh... knowing the few writers I've known... you'll have to be pet-friendly.


anne frasier said...

cold can be inspiring, but not when my feet are blue!

i like the idea of taxi service and pet friendly. :)

fundraisers -- also a great idea!