What is it like to live with a writer–or ten?

Writers have been portrayed as being difficult to live with within most communities.  Eccentric, demanding, prone to the lifestyle of a hermit, we still reach out for a collective group of likeminded people.

Blogging helps with this.  We pour our struggles and frustrations onto a ‘virtual page’ and it circumnavigates the globe in an instant.  Normally, support comes back to us, but not always.

Participating in writers’ residencies, workshops, retreats, critique circles and other groups intended to knit us together with understanding fellow writers, can be positive or negative depending on the sensitivities of those involved, and how they mesh with ours.

On October 1, 2015, I set out on a journey which included nine other writers.  For two weeks we co-existed in a beautiful former inn on the corner of Main Street and Pease’s Point Way in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.IMG_0777


The word is Wampanoag for ‘land between the currents.’  How appropriate!  It was the land, and our group the currents for those two weeks.  Rising with tides of our creativity, we bounced between the buoys and found new inspirations, even if they weren’t necessarily what we had originally planned to write about.


This was extended to include a reunion/workshop with some former attendees and a couple of new participants at The Essoyes School in Essoyes, France, and then narrowed even further as one of the writers and I set out for some additional inspiration in the South of France. IMG_2122 IMG_2258

Seeking words to define life, emotion, and experiences, our attempts to make sense of life as we know it often led to anguish, tears, excitement, joy, pain.  Slashes of drama taking shape, heartrending paragraphs, humor, fun, groupings of those looking for the same things–or not–through expressive lines of poetry or hard-hitting definitions, filled hours and days.


Art, music, bus-catching, train-hopping, taking ferries and taxi cabs, language barriers, beautiful and sometimes strange new foods, old friends, new friends, familiar and never-before-seen-by-us sights, adventure, missing loved ones, lighting candles in chapels for lost loved ones, taking pictures of landscapes which never quite captured their awesomeness, feeling history in our bones.



Henry James advised, “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”

Over the next weeks, I’ll share a few of these adventures here and on my travel/random blog Writingfeemail in an attempt to follow James’ advice.  They won’t necessarily appear in chronological order, just as they resurface in my mind.  I’ve also reconnected with an artist whose work I’d like to share with you, and although she isn’t fluent in English, nor I in French, we have agreed to attempt an interview.  Should be fun and interesting.

If there is something you would like to hear about first, add it to comments and I’ll use it as a prompt to conjure the experience.  And as always, thank you for sharing this journey through words.


Clearly, I was a bit blown away!!

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   


  1. So much encouragement and self help seems available to writers these days, Renee. If they have the resources, of course. It sounds like a fascinating life but I’m sure there’s a little angst in there too.

    1. More than a little…Jo. I think ‘angst’ is often a writer’s middle name, especially mine. Yikes! But every experience is an opportunity for growth, for a new cast of characters, and inspiration to write from. Thanks Jo!

  2. “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” Love this quote, Renee! I’ll look forward to experiencing more of your adventures. What a great opportunity for you.

  3. I love this post, Renee. In 2002, I had 8 wonderful days on writers’ retreat in New Hampshire, and the gift of guidance, feedback, time to write, and good food and wine to sustain the creative spirit was superb.
    I especially liked the “land between the currents” meaning that especially reminded me of writing getaways that could be called “creativity out of chaos”! 🙂

  4. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures, Renee. Sounds like an amazing and wonderful experience – and good material to write about! I would love to immerse myself in an extended writing retreat someday.

  5. What a fantastic idea. And you certainly set yourselves up in a very beautiful part of the world. I love the photo of you being swept away! xx

    1. Thanks Charlie. Le Mistral played a big role in my ‘blown away’ moment. For a couple of days the wind was pretty strong, making it difficult to walk across the bridge. I thought once or twice it would rip the phone out of my hand. But yes, it was still gorgeous.

  6. Such a wonderful experience… I love your post and the photographs alongside your words…
    and, finally, you are very witty to highlight that great quote by Henry James, “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”. Thanks so much for sharing. Sending best wishes. Aquileana 🐉☀️

    1. Wow, Kim! Thank you so much. The hairstyle was arranged by ‘Le Mistral’ who blew through Avignon for a couple of days straight, cooling things dramatically. But it was still sunny and lovely in the South of France. They only average 22 days of rain yearly. I think I might retire there!

  7. A close friend sent me your website, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts–they come alive whether referencing your childhood or the craft of writing. When I write, an avocation for me, I often think how wonderful and crazy it is to live with the writer that is me–not always an easy task.
    Thanks for letting me know I’m in good company.

  8. Ah, I’d love to do this! There are so many days when I’m working at my job for income that I really just want to be writing! But soon I can make that leap, I hope! Thanks for sharing the inspiration! ~ Sheila

    1. I hope you can too, Sheila. It’s a real gift to yourself and your writing adventure to absorb some time focused on the craft and replenishing the well of inspiration.

    1. Thanks for the reblog, Jonathan, and the lovely comment. You are so right. It does take you right out of the normal everyday life occurrences and zap you into a new space of creativity.

  9. The writers’ retreat, followed by some additional travel, sounds absolutely wonderful. It must have been a wonderfully energizing experience.

    1. It was a rare and wonderful time, indeed, and the first time in my life I had been away from home for such a long period of time. Energizing at the time, but now…the recovery…lol.

  10. Wonderful! I and six other of my creative writing students went on a ‘writing retreat’ on Martha’s Vineyard a few years ago – early spring. It was glorious. There’s something in the air there that is conducive to good writing – or maybe it’s just the camaraderie of writing together and focusing on that.

    1. Wow. This is fantastic. Did you attend Noepe, or was it another retreat? There is definitely something about the island–its food, culture, history–that emits an invitation to creativity. I met photographers and artists at the wharf early in the morning when I’d head out to catch the sunrise. I can still close my eyes and hear the ‘Chappy’ ferry and the water slapping against the dock. Ahh…

      1. No, I made up our own retreat. We stayed at a B&B, wrote in their conference room with wide windows, and then cleared our writerly cobwebs with walks in the morning and late evening. Marvelously creative place, YES.

  11. I really like writers groups, debate and speech makers groups, book clubs and coffee shop poetry groups. So many ways writing can be expanded and enhanced. I think travel, in and of itself, invigorates and intensifies our senses, Renee! 🙂
    Loved the two workshops. I have been often to Massachusetts and lived my 16th summer in Rockport, home of lovely Bear Skin Neck and Motif #1, the red famous fishing barn where photographers and artists gather to capture it on film or canvas.
    In the future, I will especially look forward to more details about France. Sadly, this week they faced a horrible tragedy so you may end up having to hold off on the positive and wonderful adventures you had there. . . 😦

    1. What’s happened in France is shattering, especially since I was there only two weeks ago and realize the criminals planning this attack were likely there and maybe in the same public spaces with me. Yet, Paris was so lovely, and the atmosphere so safe and inviting, I was oblivious. It’s fun to hear about your time in Massachusetts when you were 16, such an impressionable year. I look forward to learning more about your travels and work as well. Thank you!

  12. Rene, this post is like one of those teaser trailer that leaves viewers waiting to see what happens! I’m looking forward to reading about your travels and adventures as well as the interview with Anne! Loved the windblown photo! You look beautiful! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.