For many years, the Washington Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, held its annual retreat at the Hilltop House in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. I remember driving up from DC for my first one. I had nerves, baby. Just who were these writers anyway?
It took another year before I relaxed enough to enjoy the journey to WV as part of the magical weekend we call In the Company of Writers. I started thinking of the drive as a pilgrimage - a necessary precursor to the weekend that allowed me to slough off work and worries and get into the proper mindset to appreciate the celebration ahead of craft, talent and people.
The other weekend a small group of writing friends gathered at the Boonsboro Inn. Traveling most of the same route from DC to rural Maryland, I experienced that feeling of preparation and transformation again. Of opening myself up to the spirit of the weekend and what it might bring. I had my most comfy fleece, had packed my computer and my favorite pillow. Leaving I70 for Rte 40, I felt my shoulders drop from my ears to, well, my shoulders. I admired the rolling hills and eclectic architecture of western Maryland. I exchanged writing histories with my traveling companion, swapped plotting tips, and hopes for the weekend and the future. We giggled and chuckled and chortled over just how lucky we were to be a part of this writer’s weekend. This journey to an immersion with folk wired with that little bit extra called storyteller.
Alas, the Hilltop House has bitten the dust. Age and the elements ganged up on the old girl and now she’s being scrapped and replaced with a modern day spa. The views will still be stunning, but the building itself will no longer be the Mecca for our writers it once was.
And that’s okay. We have a new home for our retreat in Virginia out Rte. 66. The road might not have the same visual appeal as that I traveled to Harper’s Ferry. But the act of leaving one space and place and way-of-being for another, the intentionality of becoming a modern day pilgrim, remains the same.
Those writers I mentioned at the top? Over the years they’ve become a necessary part of the whole. Fellow friends and pilgrims whose writer souls get wanderlust during cherry blossom season and ache to travel the path that leads them to be In the Company of Writers. Just like me.