The Midwest Writing Center has announced that the terrific novelist Mary Howard, author of Discovering the Body and The Girl with Wings, is the 2016 winner of the Great River Writers Retreat. Congratulations to Mary! She’ll be reading at the MWC in Davenport at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7, and I for one can’t wait to hear her, talk to her, and have her sign my book.
I won’t lie to you, though; I wanted that prize. In fact, I coveted it. The winner, in addition to the prestige, gets a week-long stay at the Benet House Retreat Center at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, IL. I stayed there a weekend last January, and I can tell you it is such a beautiful place that I actually felt, when turning into the driveway, that I was entering holy ground. And I’m not a person normally sensitive to these things; it takes a whole lot of spiritual energy to hit me between the eyes in a way I’d notice.
In fact Benet House is such an inspiring place that I am already looking forward to taking part in an artist’s workshop there on Saturday, November 5. But I’m really looking for a reason to go back just to enjoy the quiet space, just to sit by the fireplace, browse the library, walk around the lake, sit with the sisters at prayer, and feel the beautiful, restful, restorative power of the work they do. It’s a writer’s retreat, spiritual refresher, and lesson in gracious hospitality, all in one.
The good news is, I came close; I was named as a finalist for the award, along with LeVan D. Hawkins and Audra Kerr Brown. That’s an honor, indeed, to know I was in the running with such talented writers. It gives me the little boost of motivation I’ve been needing as I toil away at my desk, day after day. And, as Scarlett O’Hara would say, there’s always next year. And next year. And the year after that.