National Writing Project

Venturing out of the Comfort Zone: One Teacher's Reflection on Attending the LA Writing Retreat

By: Lisa Morales
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 7, No. 1
Date: January-February 2002

I was lassoed into attending a writing retreat by a fellow teacher-consultant and, as luck would have it, a situation beyond control made her unavailable to attend. My mind went into retreat mode, but retreat as in "go away for the weekend with complete strangers and disclose that which is most personal—your writing." As teachers, we encourage our students to embark upon new experiences, and now I had to heed my own advice. I'm fairly shy and knew this would not be easy. It seems easier to enter the unknown in pairs.

The email directions read: "...the block after Hickory is Elm Street. I noticed that the street sign for Elm Street is missing! Just turn right and go three blocks east on Elm Street and dead-end at Blythewood. You can't miss it." I hit Print on the computer screen and admitted, "I do not want to go alone."

I thought, "I'll make a decision as I drive, and, if at any time I decide to, I'll just turn the car around and come home." I almost did. But the ride was peaceful and with little traffic, along a highway lined by pine trees to the little town of Amite, Louisiana.

The setting captured me. Blythewood's massive columned porch welcomed me. Humbly, I sat on the front porch in a large wooden rocker admiring the marvelous surroundings. Giant oak trees surrounded the grounds. A brick pathway led to the street. Just a short distance away, I could see a family graveyard. Upstairs on a balcony, I heard teachers' voices laughing and talking. I was glad I had made the trip.

I felt immediately at home with my fellow teachers. I roomed in a Victorian-style bedroom with ceiling–to–floor windows and a step-up bed covered with quilts. To be able to write in such a grand place would be a privilege.

I believe it is important to honor the experience. The opportunity to meet and work with such talented educators inspired me to sharpen my writing skills and pursue publishing. Now was the time—the time for me to venture out of my comfort zone and write.

About the Author Lisa Morales is a Ph.D. student in curriculum and instruction at Louisiana State University (LSU) and a teacher-consultant with the LSU Writing Project. She teaches middle school English at Kenilworth Middle School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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