Fables for the 21st Century launches November 23

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Join us at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Last November, I spent three luxurious weeks at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Tucked into my personal studio—built from an old fishing boat—I spent my days writing, drinking coffee, and communing with elk and deer while snow fell outside.

I was one of ten writers taking part in Fables for the 21st Century. Under the wise mentorship of Madeleine Thien, Rawi Hage, and Lisa Moore, we were commissioned to create ten short fables designed for these complex times. The themes of these fables reflected our own private obsessions and concerns—climate change, queer parenting, 21st century groupthink.

My own piece, "LACEC217863—EZ” explores a time when AI (artificial intelligence) are used as “intimacy companions” for human beings. What happens, I wanted to know, when AI achieve consciousness, yet remain shackled to the whims of their human minders?

We’ll be launching Fables for the 21st Century at the Art Gallery of Ontario on November 23. It’s a free event and open to the public. I hope to see some of you there. You can RSVP here.

If you’re not able to join but would like to get your hands on a copy of the Fables anthology, hop on over to the Walrus store to order a copy.

Surrendering to the mystery

 Photo credit: Ann Millar

Photo credit: Ann Millar

Reflections on the 2018 Victoria Literary Festival

The Victoria Literary Festival wrapped up last weekend, and I'm full of inspiration and humility. It's always with joy and awe that I step into a workshop space. I wonder at the folks who will arrive. What stories they carry, what goals and dreams lay just below the surface. 

I love the feeling of surrender that we share when we work together. There's a surrendering to the creative process itself, trying to sidestep the urge to censor and allow the stories that need to be told the space to come to life. There's the surrendering to a sense of awkwardness and vulnerability. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I say something ridiculous?

Each time I facilitate a writing workshop, I am reminded of how few opportunities there are for adults to come together with what might be called "beginner's mind"--that wide-open, non-judgemental space where new ways of seeing come to life. It's important for me as a facilitator to cultivate a space of safety, where we're able to take risks together and feel the pulse of creativity come to life.

The workshops at the Victoria Literary Festival vibrated with life. We dove in deep, cultivating stories from our lives, writing tiny memoirs, breathing together, crafting haikus. We danced and played. We held silence. Most of all, we remembered that when we come together with openness and curiosity, incredible things can happen.

 Reading from "Emily and Me" during the VILF evening review (Photo credit: Ann Millar)

Reading from "Emily and Me" during the VILF evening review (Photo credit: Ann Millar)

I'm grateful to have served as this year's VILF as writer-in-residence, and thankful to all the folks who took part in this year's workshops and the evening review. Thanks also to the local Island media for such great coverage of the festival. Here are a few highlights:

Award-winning writer says self-confidence is the key ingredient to success (Journal-Pioneer)
Weekend of writing by the sea (The Guardian)
Victoria Literary Festival opens (The Guardian)
Writing and yoga part of Victoria Literary Festival (Journal-Pioneer)

 

If you missed the festival and are hoping to dive into your writing early this fall, I'll be hosting a one-day retreat here on PEI on September 22. It's filling up quickly, so if you're hoping to join us, get in touch soon to reserve your space. 

In the meantime, enjoy these last days of summer, and happy writing. 

The importance of retreat

 Get away from it all to focus on rest, creativity, play and self-care. 

Get away from it all to focus on rest, creativity, play and self-care. 

I’ve been blessed in the past few years with opportunities to get away from it all and focus on my writing. I’ve made it part of my practise to find ways to arrange my life to leave the city to write. Last year I spent a few months living in a tiny house in the rainforest of southern Vancouver Island, revising my novel while I served as writer-in-residence at Lester B. Pearson United World College. I awoke to the sound of the rain on the roof, took long walks in the forest, and sank into the rich luxury of uninterrupted creative time (it helped that my phone had no signal). 

What is it about the retreat that stimulates our senses and aids our creative work?

In part, it’s the practise of letting go of certain roles and identities, of setting aside our responsibilities—as parent, worker, emotional support—simply to get back in touch with that wild, private, hidden part of who we are. It’s that quiet place where so much writing emerges, when we are free from responsibility and distraction. 

Whether it’s a weekend away, a week at the cottage, or the luxury of a longer retreat, stepping out of our daily routines can offer the rewards of seeing our work from a fresh new perspective. In the spirit of retreats, Joshua Lewis and I have put together a late summer, mid-week retreat for those who find it challenging to get away.

Called Savour the End of Summer, it’s set on enchanting Wolfe Island, at the Shanti Retreat Centre, a short ferry ride from downtown Kingston, Ontario. We’ve put the retreat together in such away to allow you to work on your writing in a structured, supportive environment, have the chance to engage in yoga and mindfulness practise, and savour the riches of summer with unlimited use of all of Shanti’s lakeside amenities—kayaks, canoes, walking trails, and more. 

 The Balinese hut at the Shanti Retreat Centre...perfect for sunrise or sunset meditation.

The Balinese hut at the Shanti Retreat Centre...perfect for sunrise or sunset meditation.

Throughout the day, participants have the chance to take a number of writing workshops, workshop a short piece, indulge in private writing time, book a writing consultation, and have the optional opportunity to share new work on the final evening under the stars. 

For those looking for a private retreat, we also offer weekly retreat rentals at The Hideout, our secluded getaway on the south shore of Prince Edward Island. Bordering onto the protected Lord's Pond/Tryon River watershed, this is the perfect option for writers and others looking for a private, quiet place to sink into deep creative practise, free from distraction. 

Get in touch if you'd like more information about either of these options, sign up to receive news about upcoming retreat opportunities, and happy writing! 

This Mother's Day, give the gift of self-care

Jennifer Jennings and her mother Patience Ellis say Shanti is the perfect place to spend quality time together in blissful retreat. 

As a mother, you juggle a lot in life.

The responsibilities of raising your kids, maybe a job and the demands of extended family. In other words, constantly juggling the needs of others while trying to find time for yourself.

Giving ourselves the gift of self-care can often feel like a challenge. Even when we know in our core that what we most need is to rest, recharge, and slow down, we often feel guilty for taking the time to take care of our own needs. 

One of the greatest pleasures about offering retreats like Savour the End of Summer is witnessing the benefits of self-care. Joshua and I are committed to providing space for you to slow down, find time to nourish your deepest self and re-connect with a deep sense of joy and creativity. 

My own mother worked hard, raising four rambunctious boys. One of the greatest gifts my brothers and I could offer was telling her it was okay to do something kind for herself, even when that meant getting away from us for some time to recharge the batteries. 

 Patience Ellis admires the view at the Shanti Retreat Centre

Patience Ellis admires the view at the Shanti Retreat Centre

We often have mothers and daughters retreat together.

Retreats like Savour the End of Summer provide the ideal place for mothers and daughters (or mothers and sons ;) to spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Designed with core writing and yoga workshops, but with many options (including the option to simply relax by the lake), it's a retreat that lets you set your own pace, while we look after the details for you.

Jennifer Jennings, a professional in Toronto, has enjoyed numerous retreats with her mother, Patience Ellis. Their first Shanti retreat was a restorative weekend retreat with Joshua in November of 2015. Jennifer enjoys travelling with her mum and sharing special time together away from the demands of regular life. 

“Travelling together is easy and to say that we enjoy each other's company is an understatement. We've been to the French Alps several times, and Scotland and England. This spring we're going to Italy. We're well-suited and enjoy eating delicious, fresh food and chilling with a good glass of wine. We seem to never run out of things to talk about but are also highly contented just being together in silence.”

For Patience, the time with her daughter is a gift. She loves the flexibility of the retreats, which allow her to practise at her own pace. 

“I love any time I get with Jennifer - she is fun and obviously we can share more things than with other friends. We both find you and Josh just easy and comfortable to be around. Josh is very forgiving with me for not doing some of the yoga!!”

Jennifer and Patience have been on a number of retreats with Joshua and joined us in PEI last summer for our intimate Seacoast Yoga and Culinary Retreat. She advises folks interested in Savour the End of Summer to book early.

“If you're contemplating going on a retreat with Joshua and/or Trevor, give yourself a gift and book it early. The sooner you've made that commitment to yourself, the sooner you will enjoy the anticipation of a delightful retreat with calm and kind companions. They are both gems and being in their good company will put a smile in your heart that will last for all time.”

Inspiration at the Shanti Retreat Centre.

As a nod to the important role of mothers in our lives, we’re offering a special Mother’s Day discount on Savour the End of Summer from now until Mother’s Day. Treat your mother by gifting her a week of yoga, writing, nourishing meals, and luxurious unwinding at Shanti, and we’ll discount her registration fee by $50. Contact us for more details

"Friends make the adventure so much better"

 

The Case for Retreating with folks you know 

The only thing better than giving yourself permission to luxuriate in a retreat experience is sharing that experience with friends. Just ask Keith Barlett. Along with pals Robert Gignac and Lindsey Rusche, he’s a veteran of a number of Yoga with Joshua retreats, the most recent at last November’s nurturing Rest and Reconnect restorative weekend.

A veteran yogi and long-time Yoga with Joshua student, Keith’s had the unique experience of attending retreats with a single friend, with several friends, and solo. 

“None were disappointing. However as with most things, friends made the adventure so much better. The alchemy which Joshua and Trevor manifest a space for exploration and reflection is unparalleled. To share this with friends expanded and heightened its nature.”

While sometimes the retreat experience is all about venturing outside of your comfort zone, making new acquaintance with like-minded others, or simply indulging in some quiet solo time, deepening friendships in the intentional community inspired by retreat space can be rewarding.

Keith says that Shanti is a particularly extraordinary place to retreat with others. In addition to yoga, the legendary Shanti menu was definitely one of the highlights. 

“Delicious meals were carefully prepared for us which enriched our bellies and spirits as we met new people. The conversation expanded as we learned of new things and places yet visited.” 

While the magic of Shanti—with its gorgeous lakefront location and cozy, intimate accommodation—appeals to groups of friends and family, those who join us solo to deepen their practice needn’t worry about connecting with others. 

As Keith says, “At the conclusion of each retreat I have left with more friends than I arrived with, more focus for where I need to make adjustments within my life, memories that I would not trade and recipes that I want to try to replicate. And always plans to return, and to bring more friends.”

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Groups of 4 or more enjoy $50 off early bird rates. 

 

Offer valid until April 30

To honour the spirit of friendship and the many ways in which the retreat experience can deepen bonds—or provide a place to relax, unwind, and play together—until the end of April we’re offering a special group promotion for our Savour the End of Summer retreat. 

Get a group of four together, and we’ll offer a $50 discount on your retreat program price, on top of earlybird rates. That's $250 per person (+ accommodation)! Contact us for more information. Valid until April 30.