Missing Nimrod

A year ago, I attended one of my favorite writing retreats: the writers’ weekend at Nimrod Hall. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it this year, and I missed the camaraderie and stimulation I find at Nimrod. I recommend my readers find a good residential writing workshop; in addition to the community of writers you’ll meet, you’ll also receive great feedback on your writing. Below is a blog post from this time last year, telling a little about Nimrod and the programs it offers. I hope you’ll check out the opportunities they have!


For many years I’ve traveled to Nimrod Hall in Millboro, Virginia, for their annual writing retreat. Nimrod has inspired several of my stories and given me hours of valuable writing time.

Nimrod Hall main buildling
Nimrod Hall

Last year I kept a travel log of my two weeks at Nimrod. I shared everything from packing my bags…

Packed for Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop

…to the wild women writers I met there.

women writers at Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program
2015 Week One writers at Nimrod Hall Writers Workshop
Note card showing women standing in a stream. Text reads, "We arrived at Nimrod with no baggage"
Note card by Susannah Raine-Haddad

As I prepare to depart, I look forward to my misty morning walks,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop misty lane

and family-style meals with writer friends,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop writers at lunch around table
2015 writers at lunch
Nimrod Hall writers lifting fake wedding cake at breakfast table
Who but Nimrod Writer Women would be passing around a paper mâché wedding cake at breakfast?

and uninterrupted writing time.

"Do not disturb" sign on door knob
No writer is ever disturbed between breakfast and lunch–and seldom otherwise.

This year I will share my travel log on my Facebook page. I hope you’ll join me there.

Happy writing!

view of Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during walk
Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during my morning exercise

Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

The Value of a Top-Notch Writing Workshop

nimrod writers workshop
Each summer for more than ten years, I’ve attended Nimrod Hall summer writing workshops. Unfortunately, I cannot attend this year. But you could! There are still a few spaces left.

 

Why am I recommending Nimrod? You could see my blogs from years past. But here is a brief overview.

 

Excellent writing teachers. I’ve worked with all of the Writers in Residence—Cathy Hankla, Charlotte Morgan, and Sheri Reynolds—and they are all great. Published writers all, they give informed comments in one-on-one conferences and lead productive group critiques. And every one of them goes above and beyond the scheduled hours.

 

sheri reynolds
Sheri Reynolds [Source: Nimrod Hall]
Valuable writing colleagues. Attendees are a combination of returnees and newbies. Maybe it’s self-selection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere of collegiality, but everyone wants everyone else to succeed—no back-biting, no competition. All accept the responsibility to read and critique the work of others in their group. They are honest, telling what is strong and what needs work, always delivered respectively.

 

Protected writing time. No meals. No laundry. No childcare. Every morning and as many afternoons as you want can be devoted to your own writing projects.

 

Leisure options. There are several walking trails, swimming, tubing on the Cowpasture River, just to mention a few. Personally, I love going to the nearby Jefferson Pools, where the women’s (and men’s) baths allow me to relax in the historic waters—bathing-suit optional!

 

Great food. Prepared fresh, creative and tasty, and vegetarian is always an option. Meals are served family style, and seating is fluid. Over meals, one can get to know people not in one’s own writing group.

 

Wonderful conversation. Some of this happens over meals, but also at evening readings, while relaxing on porches, etc. I have never met a boring writer!

 

Lasting friendships. I am in touch with Nimrod colleagues all across the country, especially within Virginia. It’s an enduring network.

 

A productive week. I’ve polished short works for submission and edited sections of novels while at Nimrod. The energy is contagious.

 

A bargain price for so many benefits, room and board, for a week. I cannot recommend it too highly!
 
nimrod writers workshop

Nimrod Lingers… You, Too, Could Benefit!

I’m still working on re-entry. The thing about Nimrod is that there is always something to see. Here is a selection of things you might use as writing prompts:

 

The frog statue is supposed to be Elvis. You know the story of the princess kissing a frog and turning him into a prince. Who might have kissed The King to turn him into a frog?

 

elvis frog nimrod hall
Who might have curated these collections, and why are these particular items of interest?
Write your own rules. Or write about a place that would post the ones below. What happens if someone breaks the rules?

What if an uninvited guest drops by?

Notice the edge of a folding chair just visible in the big, hollow sycamore. Write about who might be using that chair, and why.

 

sycamore tree writing prompt
Or try your hand at writing flash fiction and include all the items from one–or more–of these groups.
#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

And when all is said and done, if you aren’t writing at or about Nimrod, read!

 

And this really is all till next year!

Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

Wrapping Up Nimrod, 2016

 Energy is always high when I arrive at Nimrod on Sunday: getting settled, reuniting with friends, meeting the new writers, and getting the schedule for the week ahead.

 I was in Square House again this year, my favorite room!  It’s downstairs, dim, and I know where my things will fit and how many extension cords I’ll need.

 

Monday through Thursday at Nimrod is intense: focused writing, talk with fellow writers—who often ask how your work is going, which certainly reinforces that focus and productivity are expected and rewarded—reading every day for workshop, sharing opinions with other readers, then listening to the 8:00 readers after dinner…

 

All of this happening across varied genres leaves me feeling worn. I suspect others do as well.
flowers nimrod hall
So an open day on Friday was cherished! I walked in sunshine for the first time.

 

imaginative writing janet burroway
Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway
It’s also a chance to tie things up. I (finally) turned to to the reference Cathy Hankla had given me on Monday! Unfortunately, I could not send off “Repair or Redecorate?” because my computer went all wonky. The touch-pad didn’t control the cursor. Damn! But at least it’s ready to go. I started packing to leave on Saturday.

 

Thurday's readers at nimrod hall: Kristy Bell, Ruth Gallogly, Kit Wellford, Jane Shepherd, Judy Bice
Thurday’s readers L-R: Kristy Bell, Ruth Gallogly, Kit Wellford, Jane Shepherd, Judy Bice
I got a photo of Thursday’s readers on Friday evening, in the course of a most entertaining variety show! This was new to my years at Nimrod. Kristy Bell did an incredible job as MC! We had multiple readings of poetry, fiction, memoir, and all the other genre’s represented here, up and down the emotional spectrum. But we also had musical interludes!

 

Terry Dolson accompanied Judy Bice, Amelia Williams, and Sheri Reynolds while the rest of us joined in as well as we could on such classics as “Country Road” and “Bobbie McGee.” I’m here to tell you, Sheri Williams does a mean Janis Joplin!

 

Most year I’ve gone to the Jefferson Baths. This year, I mourn missing it. But several of us had accepted a neighbor’s invitation for drinks and a visit to the champion sycamore tree: 10 feet across, 33 feet around. It was good viewing and very good scotch!
Every year we take a group picture. This one came was Saturday morning, just after breakfast.

 

nimrod hall summer arts program 2016
L-R, kneeling: Foust, Kristy Bell, Nancy Hurrelbrinck,Jennifer Dickinson, Judy Bice, Ruth Gallogly; L-R standing, Terry Dolson, Jane Shepherd, Kit Wellfod, Charlotte Morgan, Cathy Hankla, me, Sheri Reynolds, Molly Todd, David Cooper, Betsy Arnett, Amelia Williams, Frances Burch.
Unfortunately, several people left on Friday. Oh, sigh. Maybe next year!

 

By 10:00 Saturday morning, Frances Burch and I were on the road. We followed our usual routine: we stopped in Crozet, Virginia for shopping at Over the Moon Bookstore and lunch at Crozet Pizza. For the first time ever, we had their specialty pizza that is a white base, topped with herbs, summer squash, and peanuts! It was excellent.

 

I was home by 3:00, but Nimrod lingers. There’s always a long re-entry time!

 


Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

Writers at Nimrod, 2016

What a week it’s been! Where to begin? Well, I guess with this message:

Begin Anywhere Nimrod Hall
“Begin Anywere.” -John Cage
So, how about walking through a typical day? As you know, I’m fond of before-breakfast walks—usually damp and misty. But glories abound, from wildlife and flowers along the way, to the little graveyard up the hill, to the Cowpasture River down the hill.

People gather to await the breakfast bell, still slightly groggy. But after a coffee infusion and a more-than-ample breakfast, we are hyped for the sacred writing time, which lasts till 1:00 lunch.
This year I finished and revised a 6K word short story mystery AND submitted it! So thanks to my fearless leader Cathy Hankla and my workshop/critique group members for comments and suggestions.
One of Cathy’s great strengths as a teacher is that she always seems to come up with targeted reading for specific writers. This year she brought Imaginative Writing for me. It contains “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, a wonderful example of showing an incident from the POV of a hired worker. But of course, Cathy is incredibly talented herself.
I tend to be a cave-dweller, so while others hike, run, do yoga, or go tubing on the river, I keep writing. And everyone understands.

Happy half-hour was typically celebrated with our workshop group, followed by dinner during which we dispersed among the other writers present. Then we adjourn to the renovated Rec Hall for 8:00 readings. On Sunday night, Cathy Hankla and Sheri Reynolds read and Charlotte Morgan gave us our marching orders about the week’s structure.

David Cooper and I read the first night. I read 600 words on “Repair or Redecorate?” which I hope you’ll have an opportunity to read in the Richmond Times-Dispatch sometime soon. David is a “retired” man of the cloth and counselor who bicycles, does yoga, and seemed perfectly comfortable surrounded by all these writer women!

Tuesday night’s readings were by Frances Burch, Jennifer Dickinson, Nancy Hurrelbrinck, and Molly Todd.
Frances Burch Jennifer Dickinson Nancy Hurrelbrinck Molly Todd Nimrod Hall
Wednesday night we had Betsy Arnett, Foust, Amelia Williams, Heath Lee, and Terry Dolson.
Betsy Arnett Foust Amelia Williams Heath Lee Terry Dolson Nimrod Hall
Thursday night it was Judy Bice, Jane Shepard, Ruth Gallogly, and Kristy Bell—and I didn’t get a picture! Maybe I can rectify that later.

This diverse group of writers includes poets, fiction writers, memoirists, inspirational writers, historians—you name it. Several are from the Richmond area, and therefore likely to be available for local readings, signings, etc. Besides me, Elizabeth Smart, Frances Burch, Judy Bice, Molly Todd, Kristy Bell, Terry Dolson, David Cooper, Foust, and Suzanne Munson fall into this category. But we also had writers from Roanoke, Boyce, and Afton, Virginia (Heath Lee, Betsy Arnett, and Amelia Williams, respectively), and two from Charleston, WV (Jane Shepherd and Kit Wellford). And then there were the outliers, Ruth Gallogly (Brooklyn, NY) and Denny Stein (Freemont, CA).

These are wonderful, interesting, dear people. What are the chances that I’ll see them again before next year?

One reason I love Nimrod is that I never know what I’ll come across. It might be riders from Vinyard Farms next door. These are Amber and Frankie—the horses, not the riders.

Amber and Frankie horses Vinyard Farms
It might be fellow walkers…
…or it might be an abandoned barn and gas pump. It’s always something!

Barn Nimrod hall
And it’s always great company, great energy, and unstinting support! We don’t leave till tomorrow, but I’m missing it already! Stay tuned next week for a final wrap-up.
Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life.

Nimrod Writers, 2016

I treasure the constancy of Nimrod—all the things that stay the same. The physical surroundings have been spiffed up a bit from five or so years ago, but it’s basically unchanged: the main building, where hummingbirds gather and people wait for meal bells…
. . . the Old Post Office—which is the only pace where smoking is allowed. You will notice that the smoking porch doesn’t get much business!
Square House Porch nimrod hall
The Old Post Office porch
. . . and all the spaces where people could lounge but aren’t, for these pix were taken during the morning, which is sacred writing time, and therefore all good little writers are sequestered in their rooms…
Lawn chairs Nimrod Hall
Another thing that hasn’t changed about Nimrod is, as Charlotte Morgan says often, “There’s no such thing as a forced march!” So if one chooses not to write in the morning, that’s fine—as long as one is quiet and doesn’t encourage others to sluff-off.
hammock lounger nimrod hall
And one more thing that hasn’t changed: every year there are new t-shirts!
Once upon a time, Nimrod was a hunting camp, and reminders of that past are here still. As you can see from the following pix, the image has morphed over the years from the traditional trophy head to my personal favorite:
There are two new deer this year:

What’s new at Nimrod Hall?

This year, for the first time, there are three writers in residence present at the same time—Cathy Hankla, Charlotte Morgan, and Sheri Reynolds. Oh, if I could work with them all!
This year, all the writers mingle over meals and at the 8:00 evening readings:
Other meeting are much as before—i.e., critiques in small groups and a one-on-one conference with one writer-in-residence. I will meet with Cathy. I’m happy to be here!
Vivian Lawry Nimrod Hall
Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

Nimrod Hall, Here I Come!

For many years I’ve traveled to Nimrod Hall in Millboro, Virginia, for their annual writing retreat. Nimrod has inspired several of my stories and given me hours of valuable writing time.

Nimrod Hall main buildling
Nimrod Hall

Last year I kept a travel log of my two weeks at Nimrod. I shared everything from packing my bags…

Packed for Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop

…to the wild women writers I met there.

women writers at Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program
2015 Week One writers at Nimrod Hall Writers Workshop
Note card showing women standing in a stream. Text reads, "We arrived at Nimrod with no baggage"
Note card by Susannah Raine-Haddad

As I prepare to depart, I look forward to my misty morning walks,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop misty lane

and family-style meals with writer friends,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop writers at lunch around table
2015 writers at lunch
Nimrod Hall writers lifting fake wedding cake at breakfast table
Who but Nimrod Writer Women would be passing around a paper mâché wedding cake at breakfast?

and uninterrupted writing time.

"Do not disturb" sign on door knob
No writer is ever disturbed between breakfast and lunch–and seldom otherwise.

This year I will share my travel log on my Facebook page. I hope you’ll join me there.

Happy writing!

view of Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during walk
Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during my morning exercise

Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

War and Murder at Nimrod Hall

This post also appears on the Virginia is for Mysteries blog. Click here to read it and more stories from Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II. 

Virginia is for Mysteries blog
“War and Murder at Nimrod Hall” is part of Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II

 

In high school, I hated Ohio and American history. I didn’t want to memorize the dates of battles, the names of generals, the placement of Ohio’s 88 counties and their county seats. In college, I avoided taking a history course of any sort. But after graduate school, historical fiction, biographies, and memoirs ignited my interest. I find social history, and the civilian parallels to military history, fascinating. Thus, I am more interested in sex during the Civil War than in mapping troop movements at Gettysburg, what was happening in medicine and sources of corruption than who was in charge of which part of the armies. Thus my story for Virginia Is For Mysteries, “Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery” was born, with the amateur detective being Clara, a good-natured prostitute who specialized in serving men with benign fetishes in and around Richmond during the Civil War.

 

I enjoyed writing Clara, and readers seemed to enjoy the story, so for Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II, I decided to take Clara from Richmond to the West. But why Nimrod Hall? For one thing, it’s historic, the property established as a farm in 1783. For another, I’ve enjoyed summer writing workshops at the modern (but rustic) Nimrod Hall of today for more than 10 years. It still stands near the Cowpasture River, and has the original fieldstone fireplace.
Stone fireplace at Nimrod Hall
Nimrod Hall’s original stone fireplace from 1783
I’m familiar with Bath County, Millboro and Millboro Springs, and Warm Springs. In addition, the Bath County Historical Society is the baby of Richard L. Armstrong, the man who wrote a booklet titled, The Civil War in Bath County, Virginia. He was very helpful and willingly shared his thoughts. If you are ever in Warm Springs, stop by—and then enjoy the waters at what are now called the Jefferson Pools.
ladies baths in Warm Springs, Virginia
The ladies baths in Warm Springs, built in 1836
Ultimately, I was able to weave local war history and the names of its actors with the Civil War railroad system, the history of Nimrod Hall and its public scandals into a story in which Clara arrives at the farm to become enmeshed in murder and intrigue that never happened—but could have!
Nimrod Hall main buildling
Nimrod Hall

Learn more about Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II here. 

Writers on Writing

You may recall that in one of my previous blogs, I mentioned talking with writers about writing as one of the best things about a writing workshop at Nimrod. Although not as interactive, there are lots of ways to get inside writers’ heads.

A writing friend sent me this link to a New York Times opinion piece by Stephen King on the question of whether a novelist can be too productive.

His short answer is that how much you write (publish) isn’t a reflection of how well you write. But there are many paragraphs of well-crafted opinion that are well worth reading. Of course, you already know that Stephen King wrote one of my favorite books on writing.

On Writing by Stephen King book cover
Stephen King’s On Writing

On Saturday, August 29, NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed Ursula Le Guin on Weekend Edition. Among other things, she talked about the effect of aging on her writing. She is 85. It’s well worth a listen.

If you are a magazine person, there are many places to get insights about and from writers. Two of the most popular are Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest.

Poets & Writers and Writer's Digest
Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest

If you are more of a book person, especially if you are focused on mystery writing, you might consider Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James. (You can also read “Mystery Writing” Lessons on her website.) Or these.

Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton book covers
Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton

There are many books by writers about writing, both classic and modern.

classic and modern books on writing
The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer, Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

One of my favorite bits is one of Elmore Leonard‘s rules: Leave out the parts the reader is going to skip anyway. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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