While On Retreat Alone, Writer Feels At Home In Perfect Space

Wes Browning / Sema Films

Every once in a while we need a change in setting to get a fresh perspective and, hopefully, to be inspired. Enter “the retreat,” a tried and true way to get away from the daily grind.

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It isn’t reserved for just the office worker though, artists often use retreats to improve upon their craft. In this edition of “Writer to Reader,” best-selling novelist Joshilyn Jackson explains how.

Jackson goes on three to five retreats per book, typically with a group of close confidants.

“It’s how I get that ugly, messy word-clay I need to shape an actual book,” she says.

This allows Jackson to have some time to renew her friendships, all while working hard on their projects. For her most recent retreat, however, she ended up going it alone.

“I was nervous about it, retreating alone.” Jackson says.

She ended up finding space at Piedmont College’s Lillian E. Smith Center. The namesake being a civil rights activist and writer from Georgia. The center was once Smith’s home, located on Screamer Mountain in the middle of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The cabin Jackson stayed in used to be occupied by one of Smith’s sisters. In it, she found herself surrounded by the family’s old books.

“You can get to know a person by their bookshelves, you know?” Jackson says. The books were fitting for a civil rights activist – nonfiction books about social justice and novels like “The Color Purple.”

Those books, Jackson says, not only showed what Lillian E. Smith valued but were consistent with how Jackson looks at the world. And so, instead of finding herself lonely without her usual cohorts, Jackson found herself feeling at home in the room.

“I think it was the space. This cabin that had been so truly lived in and lived in by people who love all the things that I loved, who hoped all the things that I hope. It was oddly like basking in company.”