Wildacres has been called the Magic Mountain, and its appearance matched its mood. The mist was like an entity among us. It shaped itself around trees, hovered over cobblestone, seeped through windows. Wildacres itself is a retreat location at the top of one of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. At 5000 feet above sea level, you could watch the sunrise on one side of the retreat buildings and on the other, the sunset. That is whenever the mist rose high enough to reveal brilliant lavender/blue skies. Every week throughout the year they open up their facilities to different groups; everyone from flute players, to gem/rock collectors, to painters. Two weeks in July are set aside for the Wildacres Writing Workshop. One, an unstructured retreat; the other is the workshop. A person can attend either or both.
I arrived to Wildacres for the workshops with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. This would be my third trip, but some time had passed since my previous visit. Would people remember me? Would the friends I’d made last year be back also? My fears quickly dissipated when Judy Hill, the director and founder of the workshop, gave me a big hug.
Sunday was the first day of classes. I’d chosen Ron Rashes novel class because he writes on a literary level to which I aspire. He has won many awards and next year Angelina Jolie will be staring in a film based on one of his novels titled, Serena. I noticed right away the group of fellow students in his class were insightful and courteous and seemed to only want to help each other improve as a writer.
Structured into each day were three home-style meals, where we are encouraged to sit at a different round table, with different people each time. It was a great place to make friends, and to encourage each other. Also a part of each day was activities in the evenings. Sunday and Monday nights, the teachers read from their work. Authors such as Luke Whisnant, Janice Fuller, Michael Parker, Philip Gerard and previously Ann Hood all read from their current work or those still at the printers. It’s easy to see why so many of the faculty have won awards for their writing. Tuesday and Wednesday are the student readings, where nervousness is calmed by a kind and encouraging audience.
Friday no one wanted to believe it was the last full day. We went to our classes and meals in sort of a mental fog that was magnified by the mist that had hung around all week. Every year on Fridays a group of theater-types put on a series of skits. Most of show makes fun of things that happened during the week, or during the year in society. The belly laughs help to lift the disappointment that this was the end of an amazing week.
Saturday we all wound our way back down the mountain, inspired to make the next year one of success until we could all meet again the following summer.