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In Susan Szafir’s recent interview with writer Shana Burg, she asked, “where do you do your best writing?” Like me, Burg said she works most often at a noisy coffee shop (though a new puppy and a comfortable chair may have her changing her tune!).

This reminded me that one of my goals for the summer is to locate a suitable place for, and schedule, a fall weekend writer’s retreat. Having spent many, many hours writing my memoir in coffee shops from Oslo, Norway, to San Francisco, California, I decided I just can’t face it anymore: the piecemeal editing, the risk of over-caffeinating, the risk of under-caffeinating, the unexpected social element (which can be great or not-so-great), the ease with which I can throw in the towel and go shopping instead, or the moment when, no matter how much I’m cookin’, I have to leave. No, I’ve decided: I need to take myself on a mini-retreat and finish the damn book. I’m not going to apply for a residency, though that would be amazing (and if that’s your bag, check out this great resource). Instead, I’m looking closer to home. After some deliberation, here’s what I’ve decided I want in a writer’s retreat:

A low price tag

Distance within driving of home



More solitude

(But not too much solitude–a cabin in the deep dark woods will not work; I’m writing a book about fear and anxiety, after all, and I’d like to minimize both as I work!)

A desk, an outlet, and a place to put my books

A beautiful, rural setting with a place to walk or hike in the afternoons–I am picturing a retreat by the sea, but the mountains might do in a pinch

A comfortable bed

No pressure to socialize, but the opportunity to chat if boredom sets in

Availability of caffeine (but not too much!)

A husband willing to stay home with my three-year-old while I go

Since the last on the list is firmly in place, the rest is up to me. As I live on the California coast, I am most likely looking at a September weekend in Monterey or Big Sur. All summer, the thought of this glorious retreat–wherever it might be–is sustaining me through the fallow writing periods.

Dear readers: What do you look for in a writer’s retreat? Have you ever taken one?