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Writing Retreats on the Train

During the only year I ever participated in NaNoWriMo, I lived in Santa Barbara. My mom was also competing, and one weekend we took trains north and south to Capistrano for a writing retreat. The train follows the 101, and the view of the water opens up just north of Ventura. Every time I see that sweep of water, my breath catches and I can’t quite believe this great world we live on.

We got a hotel room and wrote and took walks down to the mission and ate at the Denny’s across the street. We got caught up on our word count, and then got back on our trains.

Twice this year I had the chance to travel to Seattle via train. Look how happy this makes me!

It’s like the train is a portal into Poem Land. I sit down, open my notebook, and the poems pour out. The seats in Business Class are a bit wider–one side has single seats. A comfy, private seat, a fold down table, a wide window, and a cup of tea just down the hall. Perfection.

I was worried about other passengers talking or being a distraction. On most of the trips, the conductor has politely reminded everyone to take phone calls or conversations to the dining car. It’s as if all of us have work to get to!

I do make sure my phone is loaded with a podcast or two–just in case I need a bit of distraction. (Most recently it was Kate Bowler talking to Gretchen Rubin and Julianna Baggott’s class, Efficient/Creativity.)

I’ve also taken Kim Stafford’s The Muses Among Us with me on both trips. It’s a slim book that bears re-reading. Often just a page or two is enough to send me back to the page.

I’m already looking for reasons to ride North again in the coming year.

To see all the posts in the series Listening to My Life :: Homeschooling an MFA in Poetry, click here.


  1. What a wonderful memory. Countless times we’ve driven I-5 by Capistrano and I tell the story of the two trains and two writers who just turned out to be you and me. Much love to you tonight. Mama

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