A Portable Writer’s Retreat

Marilyn Monroe Writing at Home
Marilyn Monroe Writing at Home – Buy at Art.com

Recently two writers I admire were lucky enough to be able to get away to a writer’s retreat, complete with cabins, mountains, a hot tub and even a chef! They enjoyed a very productive, inspiring retreat with other writers. Someday, I’m going to do that.

In the meantime though, most of us can’t manage such wonderfulness. It occurred to me that there’s something we can do on a much smaller scale – assemble our own individual “Portable Writer’s Retreat” bag to set up a writer’s retreat whenever the opportunity arises. I’m using a quilted coffee-themed bag that was made for me one fine Christmas. It’s roomy, cushioned and fun. Need a bag to get started? Tote Bags by Makoshark offers some fun choices!

Here’s some ideas to help you get started on your own Writer’s Retreat bag.  Grab a satchel, tote bag, backpack, or what-have-you, stock it up, throw it in the car  or sling it over your shoulder and go for a nice wander until you find the perfect spot for your retreat. A park? A library? A coffee shop? Whatever suits you and your muse!

I posed the question ‘what would you put in your Writer’s Retreat bag?’ to my writer friends.  Together, we all came up with the following list. You won’t need everything, and I’m sure you’ll come up with items we didn’t think of. I’d love to hear your additions in the comments!

  Writer’s Retreat Bag Ingredients


Writing Materials (of course)

Low Tech

  • Writing journals
  • Pens and Pencils – more than one! Stock many.
  • Color Pens
  • Sharpies
  • Idea cards. Those are pictures cards: subject, action, object. When you are out of ideas, you pick one of each, and try to make them fit together.
  • Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Sure, you could download it on to your tablet’s book-reading app, but having an actual dead-tree copy gives you tactile joy. Plus it’s a small book.
  • Pocket Dictionary/Thesaurus
  • Index Cards
  • A collapsible flat writing surface (if you are in a park rather than a coffee shop).

High Tech

  • iPad (my choice. And I use the Werdsmith app. It’s clean, stable and suits me)
  • A spare charging cable for your cell phone (just in case you need to access the Internet for research)
  • One writer commented, “if you have a wifi only tablet, I like the 4g base station that AT&T sells with 5GB of data for $50 a month.”
  • A real keyboard, with Bluetooth
  • 11 inch MacBook Air

Thinking Helpers

  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Silly Putty
  • Headphones for iPad or your musical device
  • Essential Oils.  For mental clarity, try Rosemary, Basil, Juniper Berry, Peppermint, Sage


  • Water, Coffee, or Tea bottles: I received a glowing recommendation for Contigo Autoseal Travel Tumblers, and another recommendation for the Contigo Astor. These have lockdown tabs and I am told they are completely spillproof, even when stuffed in a purse or laid on their side.
  • Another writer recommends a Water Filter Bottle.
  • Trail Mix. Perhaps dried cranberries, unsalted cashews and almonds, with dark chocolate bits. Or my favorite, granola, cashews, almonds, and M&M’s.
  • Chocolate. 85% dark should be good for a thousand words!
  • Mints
  • Hard Candy
  • Gum


  • Hand Lotion
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Hat
  • Fingerless knit gloves


  • Business or calling cards with your name and a email address only (you can write your mobile number on the back if you think it’s safe to share)
  • A little totem to cheer you up if/when you get stuck

One friend, who shall remain unnamed, said that his bag would contain, “Mechanical pencil, whiskey flask, brass knuckles, post-it’s, gin flask, passport, fake mustaches, tequila flask, lawyer’s phone number.”

Another friend with less of a shady past and a tendency to ramble said, “Something chewy to give people when they need to shut up. Like REALLY big chewing gum. Bandaids with Winnie the Pooh on them to be every kids favorite random aunt! But then a clown nose would fix both those things. And it might take less space in your bag. It can also be used when there is awkward silence (I hate that). I am getting a red nose!!”

I hope you’re inspired to stock up your own bag.  Perhaps you’ll even want to include a red clown nose.  The brass knuckles might weigh you down, though.


Full Steam Ahead to Happiness

Say you’re a writer. (Yes, I’m hearing “You’re A Writer!” from those of you permanently mindwarped by Zucker Brothers movies).  Anyway – you’re a writer, and are adept in the genre of Steampunk.  You come across the submission details for an upcoming anthology, and pause to read it through.  To your surprise, there is a stipulation that your submission has “No depressive ending, no preaching, no agendas, no angst-ridden misery.”

This stipulation comes from the Happy Smiley Writers Group, who produce anthologies.

That’s right.  Your cast of characters isn’t eaten by Cthulhu. Your beloved hasn’t removed your head and wired it to run his pneumatic devices with the power of your pain while he canoodles with a clockwork doll.  Your city doesn’t burst into flames due to an errant Tesla coil.

Steampunk has often been so closely associated with dark sci-fi and horror fiction, frosted with Victorian medical and scientific terrors and just enough goth to seal the deal.

I’ve been wishing for more positively empowered writing – Engineers that actually succeed in creating that perfect future, dreamers who find their fantasies can come true.

Maybe I can find a dose of my Steampunk Happiness between the covers of “The Steampowered Globe”.  I’m looking forward to finding out!

Please read Jess Nevin’s review!  (Jess IS one damn fine reason Steampunk is a happy, wonderful place.)

4th Annual Flash Fiction Contest – R. F. Burton Library

(reposting what the delightful Miss Canolli Capalini has written in the New Babbage forum.)

Alas, I fear I have been delayed.  This year’s annual flash fiction contest is running a bit behind.  However, this does not invalidate it and I am happy to say, the R. F. Burton Library is proud to present it’s 4th Annual Flash Fiction Contest.

Beginning December 1st through January 15th, the R. F. Burton Library will be accepting submission of the Flash Fiction Genre.  There will be a mailbox placed on the first floor of the lobbey of the library, where notecards may be submitted.. or they can be given to me directly.  (Bearing in mind, of course, my IM’s do occasionally become capped).

To clarify for newcomers, Flash Fiction is a genre of writing that challenges the author.  Complete a story, a moment in time, in 600 words or less.  Now, this may seem impossible.. but do stop by the library and pick up any (or all) of the three volumes of “Dialogues” available there.  You can see that published entries are quite entertaining and brilliant.

This year’s theme is a bit different..  Wind Up Key(s)..  You may use this phrase metaphorically, allegorically, literally, mentally, physically, or in a complete abstract sense.  As an image component, etc..  but the story must incorporate the idea or physical object somehow, in any way you care to do it or in whatever manner that portrays what it means to you.  The only standard is it must be set in a steampunk setting.

Now, here are some rules:

1.  All entries must be submitted with RFB4 and the authors name in the title of the notecard and must be submitted full perm.  (example:  RFB4 – Canolli Capalini).  Any entries without this will be summarily destroyed and ignored.

2.  All entries must have the title of the piece, the author’s name, and the WORD COUNT at the top of the notecard.

3.  Illustrations are accepted and must be submitted full perm (that’s right, you can illustrate your magnificent Opus).

4.  Winners of the contest will be the first story featured in the publication and will receive 5000 lindens.  Subsequent runner ups will also receive 2000 lindens.  (There is no loser here, ladies and gentlemen, this is merely for more incentive).

5.  Just to be clear here.. the winner of the contest is chosen by me, Canolli Capalini.  I am the sole judge of this shindig, and if questioned, may provide a reasonable justification of why I chose what story I did.. and I may not.  I’ve been doing flash fiction for years, and have been published, so I think I have a fair idea of what I’m looking for.

6.  All stories that are submitted to the contest remain the author’s property, but will be for use of the library in any way it sees fit.  That means I can reprint your story, publish your story in connection with the R.F. Burton, distribute it and publish it online as part of the R.F. Burton collection.  *Note:  This does not mean that anyone can glean the stories from the library and republish them elsewhere without the library’s (i.e. my) specific permission.  It does mean that you may submit your story to multiple contests if you choose.  Should someone else solicite your participation, all well and good, but please let me know.  This is to keep individuals from using this endeavor to further their own personal gains and publications.

7.  This contest is open to ALL.  You do not have to be a Babbagite in order to participate.  However, for my own curiosity, if you are not from New Babbage (i.e. if you are from Steelhead, Caledon, etc) please note on the notecard with the title and wordcount.  This has absolutely no bearing on judgement and it is only for my personal edification to see where people actually submit from.  🙂

Beginning December 1st, there will be a mailbox posted just inside the doors of the library.  You may drop notecards there or submit them directly to Canolli Capalini.  I will not accept any submissions prior to December 1st and none AFTER January 15th.  Normally I run this contest Mid November to the end of December, but delays have shifted the time scale.

If you have any questions, please contact myself or Serafina Puchkina, the established library of the R. F. Burton Library.

Thank you for your time,
Capalini Fine Furnishings

P.S. Please note.  This is all in fun.  The library is owned by me and run by Serafina and we do this out of our love for the written word.  🙂

The Novel: Research Fun

I thought it might be a kick to list out the interesting sites I came across while writing tonight.  It’s such a great thing to have a few browser tabs open and the ability to leap from my manuscript out to confirm an item description, get a memory jog on what a widget looks like, grab a genealogy site to pick a name, and so on.  Writing has the side effect of making your brain get bigger!

Tonight’s Haul:

Vintage Depot Direct: Dimestore Items
A simple search for a vintage manila shipping label led me to all the goodies on this page. I want them all.

Making Music from Archives at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt, where have you been all my life?  I didn’t search for this topic at all, but I got there anyway!

In Search Of The English Eccentric:  Dead Eccentric #1
I remember that wonderful Telectroscope installation!

Virtual Victorian: The Original Domestic Goddess
Isabella Beeton is NEVER not interesting.  What I wouldn’t give for an original copy of her Home Management tome.

Quite a bit of the fascination in fiction writing is doing the research.  🙂

Only managed 500 words tonight, but jotted down a LOT on my novel reference document. If the book is the living room, the reference document is the attic and you would not BELIEVE all the craziness going on in there!

G’night, and NaNoWrimers, I am cheering you on!  You’re three days in – eyes on the goal!  Don’t edit or fiddle, just WriteWriteWrite!

The Duality of Reality

Greetings from Ceejay’s typist! This is the first actual ‘new’ post in this website. While there are oodles of other posts, they are older, having been imported from a google blog that is no longer in use.  If you’ve linked in the past to Ceejay’s World, you can remove that link and hopefully will be inclined to now link to this site, which is Ceejay’s very own registered domain. She feels so ‘real’ its rather unnerving to her! Now I will hush and let her talk.

… is she done now? Good. Ceejay here, and I wanted to talk about how utterly surreal it is to have a virtual reality wrapped around your shoulders like a warm cloak.  Yes, you heard that right. I am an avatar in a virtual world and right now my typist (that’s the lady that lends me her fingers so I can talk) is in the midst of writing a book about the story of my life.  My reality is having another reality layered over – and somehow, that feels normal.

So far, I know where I came from and a bit about my family – I know how I spent my childhood and teenage years. Before she started this project, I honestly didn’t have a clue, but every time she adds words to that document, they become real to me.  I’m both excited and terrified to see what my past-future holds!

A bit confusing, isn’t it? Well, confusion is something I’m very familiar, and even comfortable with. So, I really don’t mind being dragged along on this journey of self-discovery.

Since I seem to be her ‘muse’, or so she says, I have the notion to make my new website here sorta a hybrid, covering the realms where we cross over.  I’ll no doubt share a lot of news from my reality – the virtual world of Second Life, where I live, work and play.

But there’s hope that  the typist may share some of her thoughts on the art of writing here, too. And that’s okay, cause it affects me a lot, right?  I’ll get her to set up a category called “Writing” for those sorta posts.  We’d both welcome your attention and comments as we strive to finish this shared adventure.

Thanks as always for reading!