Writing Retreat in San Miguel de Allende, May 2017

I’ve been trying so hard to write our story. It has been three years since we lost Rebel Heart. While we interviewed with This American Life about what happened (you can listen to that episode, Call For Help, here), and while this piece written by Kevin Grange for the Journal of Emergency Medicine, was recently published, neither I, nor Eric, have told the complete story of what happened at sea in April of 2014. 

Writing workshop with Amy Ferris, March 2017.

Writing workshop with Amy Ferris, March 2017.

I’m working on that. I’ve done two of Linda Schreyer’s, Slipper Camps, or online writing workshops (dubbed Slipper Camp because you can write from home in your PJs) and I recently attended a workshop held by Amy Ferris in LA about writing/righting my life. Both of these tools have helped me break through mental and emotional blocks to access the story in my head that wants to be told. Time, and therapy, have done their part as well.

One thing I’m becoming increasingly cognizant of is how hard it is for me to write at home. Even when my girls are away, and the house is relatively quiet (remember, Eric and I work from home), the presence of everyone and everything is still there. Getting away helps me write.

So I went all the way to San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico to keep my writing momentum going. 

San Miguel de Allende (SMA) has a long tradition of attracting artists, poets, painters, writers, and other creatives. It welcomed me like a long lost friend.

What’s amusing is that I needed to get away from these, my favorite humans, in order to write about them and write about our life together on Rebel Heart.

God, he’s gorgeous.

And these two just shine.

This is Lizz Huerta. Isn’t she fabulous? Lizz is a writer. She has been publishing poetry, memoir, and fiction for over 10 years. Check out this story she wrote that won the 2016 Lumina Fiction Contest. 

She and our friend, Beau, rented a gorgeous home right in the center of SMA and invited me to join them. Lizz and I have talked about doing this before: renting a comfortable home, in an inspiring location, and spending our days writing and sharing, and our nights, exploring, drinking, and then writing and sharing some more. The stars had aligned so I bought a ticket from Tijuana to Leon (one of the airports closest to SMA) and drove down to San Diego.

The night before my plane left I got to see a huge group of my San Diego mom friends. They are women I love very much and who have been there for me time and time again.

Left to right: Brigid, Teal, Kristine, Monique, Alex, me, Katie, Sandee

The next morning, my brother, Rich, drove me to the new Cross Border Express Bridge and I sauntered across an international border to the Tijuana Airport to catch my flight. Easy, breezy, travel girl.

After many, many hours of travel, I walked into a four story home in San Miguel de Allende to the smell of a home cooked meal, a heavy glass of red wine, and a killer roof-top view.

No, seriously. Check.out.the.view.

And this is Beau. Lizz and I BOTH used to date Beau. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m in San Miguel de Allende with my ex! And Lizz’s too! And you can go ahead and think I’m weird. Most people already do. I like weird. 

We’ve all been friends for years. And Beau is also friends with Eric (my husband) and Hari (Lizz’s boyfriend) and everything about this trip is awesome, including Beau’s cooking, and his wonderful support of our writing. He also walks behind us like our bodyguard and gives us all the hours we need to write and laugh, and cry, and listen.

The first full day in town, I walked up to the roof and started writing.

Lizz read a fiction piece of mine I’d recently submitted to a writing contest. It got turned down and this only bugged me a little because it’s a really a damn good story idea and I am going to write it regardless. After I finish the story of Rebel Heart.

We spent hours writing. In between we munched on chips, and guac, and salsa. There were coffee and cookies too.

Finally, we said, ‘let’s be done at 5,’ and ice cold, Mexican beers were poured.

We walked to dinner that night at a local corner restaurant but as soon as we had finished, we headed back to the rooftop to catch the evening view and to share our writing.

In this photo, Beau is reading a piece I’d written for the memoir about life on Rebel Heart. It’s a sex scene that happens on the Pacific Crossing and I was so nervous as he read it. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not to include pieces like it in the story I finally publish. After talking to fellow writers, I believe I will. I still need Eric to read it, and approve, and I’ll do that before I move forward, of course. Sex is integral to the human experience; it’s certainly fundamental in ours. If it’s written well, and it moves the story forward, I think I have to do it.

To my relief, Beau, said ‘wow,’ and ‘it’s really well written.’  :whew:

Lizz read us one of the short stories she finished that day. Her goal has been to finish a story a day while she is here. Her productivity, and not to mention her creativity, is amazing. This particular piece was about a mysterious, time-traveling Mariachi. I cannot stop thinking about it.

I’ve been writing on and off for years with Lizz. We did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) together in 2010 and during that time she shared many of her favorite methods for getting large chunks of writing done in short bursts of time. 

On the second morning, she had me draw three cards from her deck to help set the mood for my writing that day. I wasn’t at all surprised when these three were flipped over:

1.    The word wants to be written.
2.    What do YOU feel?
3.    Defend to the end, the worthwhile.

The universe was in tune with my intentions. I continued to write my story.

We had lunch at El Mercado and enjoyed the vibrancy of the city as we walked.

There was a May Day parade happening for International Worker’s Day (that’s not a line of taxis, it’s a PARADE of taxis.)

After hearing Lizz’s story the night before it was especially thrilling to see all the mariachis.

We wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. We wrote until it was time to watch the sunset again.

Then we all went out to dinner. I often tell Lizz that if I’d had known her in our twenties, we would have gotten into so much, of the best kind, of trouble together. 

Now we’re in our 30s and we still make trouble, just a little more sedately. 

The third morning we headed to some local hot springs at a place called La Gruta, but La Gruta was closed. Luckily, the neighboring hot spring, Escondido, was open. 

This is the writer, Elizabeth Rosner. She was introduced to us online by our mutual friend, Amy Ferris, and was brave enough to say ‘yes’ to meeting two women she’d never met in person for a morning in some mineral baths. 

Elizabeth is a writer and a teacher. She is the author of three novels, The Speed of Light, Blue Nude, and Electric City, and a poetry collection called, Gravity. Her upcoming book, Survivor Café, the Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, comes out in September 2017, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

We explored the springs together and talked the way only writers who have never met before, but have the common connection of writing, can.

Is this real life?

If you ever visit San Miguel de Allende, I highly, highly recommend you explore the hot springs at Escondido.

After the hot springs it was back to work and back to writing. That afternoon we all separated into different parts of the house to focus.

Our last night came too soon.  I can’t wait to kiss Eric and to squeeze my girls, but the siren song of San Miguel will remain in my heart for quite a while.

Thank you, Lizz and Beau, for the friendship and the opportunity. Here’s to next year and another writing retreat. Please!