I went to Mexico a few days before my December writing retreat to learn to create retablos with Judy Dykstra-Brown. I’d met Judy at our writing retreat the year before and was enchanted by her art—walls of her beach house hung with a small portion of her retablo collection. Judy creates visual stories in these small niches whose ancestry is in the Mexican “laminas,” small oil paintings on tin, wood, or copper which are used in home altars. Before I left for Mexico, Judy suggested I think what story I wanted to tell with my retablo and to bring items that I could include in the niche.
2015 was a year of the Wild Women. My book, Wild Women, Wild Voices was released in April, and much of the year centered around the book, completing the final steps before publication, the actual release, and in many months following, promoting it, celebrating it, and celebrating wild women in general. My “story” would be Wild Women and my retablo would be in honor of the book and what the idea of Wild Women means to me.
La Manzanilla, Mexico, where you’ll find a beautiful beach, a mangrove that features 200 resident American crocodiles and dozens of species of gorgeous birds, warm Pacific waters with a gentle surf, jaw-dropping sunsets, friendly people (Mexican and otherwise), a vendor’s market on Friday, many good restaurants with freshly caught fish, and for a few intense and exciting days last week, a gathering of ten women who’d come for a writing retreat.
This is the second part of the Q&A with my friend Anitra following my return from my month-long writing retreat in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. While there I worked on my new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next Spring.
Anitra: Did work come out of that concentrated time that might not have in your normal life? Or did it just come faster because you could concentrate more?
Judy: I definitely got more work done in the concentrated time than I would have at home in my “normal” life. I averaged five or six hours at the writing desk each day, in addition to the reading, research, and notes outside of that. The length of time is not so surprising, but the day-in and day-outness of it is something I don’t have in my life at home.
Because I was able to have that time, and because I was isolated—no distractions—the work stayed alive. Mornings began with pages and pages of journal writing with coffee, and thoughts and ideas and doubts and confirmations about the writing and the project itself filled my journal each morning. At the end of the writing day, I often turned to my journal again to write “outside the story,” threads that developed during the writing that I wanted to explore.