When Words Count Retreat Center in the beautiful, bucolic Vermont town of Rochester -- the details make for an unforgettable destination all writers should be lucky enough to experience. I knew I had found my way to a small slice of Heaven from the moment I walked in and spied a sign advertising the Writer's Cafe, the name for the dining room and comfortable sitting inglenook soon to the immediate right beyond the front door. I arrived on October 7, a brisk overcast Sunday, after a delightful ride up through New Hampshire and across the heart of our closest neighbor to the East. And for the next four days, it was my absolute pleasure to explore this new, beautiful space designed specifically to pamper writers. The details were, quite honestly, divine.
My journey to When Words Count began while I was checking emails up in my private room at Camp NECon this past July, when I happened to catch an ad on my Facebook page that offered a free stay at a new retreat center in the Green Mountain State. I applied, not thinking much about the deal again until the day after I returned from Star Island when I received a phone call from spokesman Jon Reisfeld announcing I had won one of the fifty sweepstakes prizes -- a three-day stay.
Chaosium Press) with me. And so we departed. Lunch in Lebanon, NH. A beautiful and effortless drive through northern forest country dressed in colorful autumn foliage. A trip over a mountain, thanks to wonky Mapquest directions, and then we followed the crisp white signs set at intervals along a winding road to When Words Count. Perhaps it was my lack of preparation, or the absence of real build-up -- as stated, this particular trip sneaked up without much fanfare, sandwiched between a retreat to Star Island I'd anticipated for nine full months and an annual week-long visit to North Conway.
All of the guest rooms at When Words Count are named in honor of celebrated authors -- Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickenson, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was originally booked into the Robert Frost Room, but got upgraded to Arthur Miller, a room so elegant and comfortable, I glided through my edits and had them emailed off to my waiting editor a minute or so before 5:30. I then wandered down through the Julia Child kitchen to the Gertrude Stein Salon, the central gathering room complete with bookcases, comfortable seating, and fireplace, where Chef Paul serves delicious appetizers and cocktails to guests. Dinner followed at six; it was, simply put, exquisite. Hors d'oeuvers in the Stein Salon that first night were phyllo tarts with goat cheese and a trio of onions. Dinner consisted of grilled pork tenderloin on a potato galette with homemade chipotle creme fraiche, roasted Atlantic salmon with a maple-mustard glaze, saffron-scented Basmati rice and sauteed spinach, wedge salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing and grape tomatoes, and warm chocolate chocolate chip cookies.
Three of my fellow four conferees during my stay arrived right before Sunday night dinner. The first, the delightful and talented Amber Lisa, inspired me with her passion for writing and her enthusiasm for the retreat center, which was as instant as my own. We dined, laughed, returned to the Stein Salon, and were treated to an impromptu concert by singer/songwriter Chrissie Van Wormer, who blew us all away with her angelic voice and original lyrics. I retired to the Arthur Miller Room, slipped between the supremely luxurious quilt and high-thread-count sheets, and passed out seconds after closing my eyes.
As stated, a slice of Heaven, truly.
To be continued.