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Photo by Julie Holmes

Christine DeSmet on a Writer’s Oasis

Christine DeSmet is the author of the cozy Fudge Shop Mystery Series. You can find out more about her on her website, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Oasis:  “1. A fertile place in a desert, due to the presence of water; 2. any place or thing offering welcome relief in the midst of difficulty, dullness, etc.” ~ Webster’s New World Dictionary

I always return from my writer’s oasis changed and uplifted. What I receive at the well is profound.

cover of Deadly Fudge Divas by Christine DeSmet

This particular oasis is real, a four-day writers’ retreat I attend and moderate every August replete with an inspirational water source—the Crystal River. The oasis is the Crystal River Inn just south of Waupaca, Wisconsin.

A writer’s “oasis” is more than a place—it’s also the people who come to the well with you. A group of my University of Wisconsin-Madison Master Class novel writers celebrated ten years of retreating this year. Long ago they dubbed themselves the “Writing Sisters” and the class that couldn’t stop meeting. There are now 15 novels among eight of us with publishers of all sizes, as well as blogs and other writing.

Your retreat may be different, of course, but here’s the Writing Sisters’ formula:

Worthwhile retreats require effort. Be willing to make it happen. Scout venues that will be a treat.

Know why you are “retreating.” The Writing Sisters created a short, meaningful mission statement and one member had copies framed. It’s on my office wall and speaks to commitment to good writing, compassion for each other, and celebration.

Next, decide membership scope and type of writing if that matters. We found 6 to 8 members means a close-knit, productive group. Members need not all write the same genre. The Writing Sisters, their professions, and genres are:  Blair Hull, minister, mystery; Julie Holmes, tech writer, mystery; Martha Miles, house painter and pet sitter, historical suspense; Roi Solberg, intuitive, suspense; Ceone Fenn, school counselor, historical and women’s fiction; Lisa Kusko, college communications department chair, YA fantasy; Bibi Belford, middle-grade teacher, middle-grade fiction and picture books. Novels forthcoming include Julie Holmes’s mystery, Deadly Secrets in Plane Sight, and Ceone Fenn’s women’s fiction, It Happened At Whisper Lake.

Create an agenda beforehand. Do you want a moderator/expert on board?

Email critique/discussion materials beforehand to save retreat time. We email up to 20 double-spaced pages two weeks ahead.

Email critique/discussion materials beforehand to save retreat time. We email up to 20 double-spaced pages two weeks ahead.

Plan food/drinks with a sign-up list. The Crystal River Inn’s full breakfasts are exquisite, served on fine china and with crystal glassware. The Writing Sisters bring lunch/dinner food so they can stay at the venue to get more done. Refrigerators are provided.

Hammock at the author retreat attended by Christine DeSmet
Photo by Julie Holmes

Plan at least one outing. In the past, we’ve enjoyed a boat ride and a historical site. Activities create bonds, memories, and stimulate creativity. 

Celebrate progress. I edited four of my projects:  screenplay, new mystery series, children’s picture book, and short story. I needed to celebrate! The Writing Sisters enjoyed a special dinner at the historic Green Fountain Inn

Create an inspiring ritual to start or end your retreat. The Writing Sisters begin each year with a walk on the expansive labyrinth mown into a wildflower meadow.

Take photos; keep journals or diaries. Your writing history is your IDENTITY. The Writing Sisters created a 10th reunion book through Shutterfly, edited and designed by member Roi Solberg.

I hope you seek or already enjoy an oasis. A writer prospers with regular visits to the well.

For another impression of our retreat, check out mystery author Julie Holmes’ recent blog post in which she is visited by Mr. Muse.

What tip do you have for successful retreats? Do you have a recommendation for a venue you loved, or one you’d love to travel to for the first time?

Christine DeSmet

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, and the Mischief in Moonstone Series set in northwest Wisconsin. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Facebook.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Christine — oh, Oh, OH, it sounds stunningly wonderful! Perfect. What a treat to look forward to each year.

  2. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Thank you, Laurie. I know that you enjoy getaways, too, and those walks along your nearby river.

  3. Avatar
    Laurie's Story

    Christine, that sounds just lovely — and what a positive way to keep up the inspiration. I especially like that you call yourselves sisters, for that automatically creates a bond. I feel like a lone wolf sometimes, so I always admire tight-knit writing groups. I’m still waiting for Laurie Buchanan to open her fictional “Pines and Quill,” so I can retreat there!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      So true about Pines and Quill! I’d love to meet there, LOL.

  4. Sherrill M Joseph
    Sherrill M Joseph

    Christine, thanks for sharing about your special getaway spot, preparations, and fun activities with your writing sisters. A friend from Evanston, Illinois, just sent me a postcard from where she and her husband are vacationing: The Historic Hillside Inn in Ephraim, WI. I think it would be renewing for all us Blackbird Writers to retreat there! I look forward to meeting all of you someday.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      That would be fun. Ephraim is such a quaint place. It’s fun to know they even have an airport that offers a free car to get you to your destination! (For small aircraft. A cozy mystery I read once had big jets landing there with flight attendants and such; the author’s research was a tad suspect, LOL.)

  5. joyribar

    I’m so glad you shared this, Christine. What a special time for you and your “sisters” to share and make new memories annually. This is such a helpful guide to planning a retreat or to make a good decision about attending one. I’m inspired by nature, so my retreat choice must include, wooded trails, water, and some kind of garden.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      That’s my kind of retreat, too, obviously. Closeness to nature. I’m not big on meeting in the middle of a city etc. for a retreat. Unless it has magnificent gardens, nature, etc., right outside my door and I don’t hear traffic. (P.S. The editor spelled it “cozay,” not me. I’ve asked her to correct that for us “cozy” writers.)

  6. Tim Chapman
    Tim Chapman

    Sounds great! Hopefully you don’t have as many murdered members as P & Q. ;^)

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Pines and Quill Retreat (in Laurie Buchanan books) surely is a rather dangerous place, isn’t it? But the food is so good, LOL, that you naturally ignore the dead bodies nearby until after dessert. Thanks for the funny comment, Tim.

  7. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Oh, this sounds positively tremendous! Another spot I would love to go for a writing retreat is Estes Park, CO.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      I’ve only been to Denver, Colorado, and that was for a Romance Writers of America national conference. I saw some of Colorado on my way to the rodeo, and the hills and mountains are beautiful. Seems like a perfect place for a retreat.

  8. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Wow Christine. I long for something like this! If I’m ever going to organize an event like this, I’ll follow your lovely plan. Thanks for sharing. I could feel the good vibes from your renewal just from your descriptions.

  9. Avatar
    David de Felice

    Digging around in my email, I just found this post. What a wonderful thing, Christine, an oasis for writers! I miss the gathering of writers at UW.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, David, for stopping by. Yeah, we all miss those gatherings. What energy in those meetings! And all the laughter and smiles while learning tons of new things every time. Keep watch on the Wisconsin Writers Association and attend their next conference.

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