I am feeling very indebted to two people I never had the chance to meet, but who recently gave me a wonderful gift: a one-week writing retreat at their beautiful cottage in peaceful Avonport, Nova Scotia.
The two were Maritza Jane Reisman Jampolis, who went by the professional name of Jane Reisman, and her husband, Neil Peter Jampolis. Both were award-winning scenic and lighting theatre professionals who lived in New York, and later California, but who came to Nova Scotia in the mid-90s to work on the Atlantic Theatre Festival.
On a road trip around the province, Jane fell in love with a 230-year-old cottage right on the Minas Basin and went on to buy it and turn it into their summer home. They affectionately called it “Cowslip” in honour of the farm next door where cows graze on a hill, serenely observing the coming and going of the tides. Jane collected cow-related art and took cow-related photos (see pic below!).
In 2003, the couple, who were avid readers, founded the Jampolis Living Trust and requested that Cowslip be donated to a charitable organization and turned into a retreat space for writers or artists. The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS)applied to the Trust and were the lucky recipients of this donation. After receiving additional funding to operate and maintain the property, WFNS has begun offering the cottage to emerging, established, and professional authors from Nova Scotia and beyond. This is how I came to spend the second week in May at the gorgeous Cowslip, or Jampolis Cottage, as it is now known.
I spent hours and hours writing at a desk on the second floor of the house, in front of five huge windows overlooking the sea. And when I wasn’t working, I had morning tea on the back deck watching the busy crows, robins, starlings, and sparrows; walked and biked along country roads and the nearby dykes; and spent evenings in the “reading room” facing the ocean and the setting sun. It was glorious. Oh, and I also braved the sea one day and went in for a quick icy dip, a la Wim Hof!
The thing that I felt over and over again, in addition to wonder (!), was such deep gratitude that these two generous souls decided to leave such a meaningful gift, meant to sustain and inspire future creatives. The ripple effect of this act is so profound. Who knows how many writers will be impacted by their generosity over time, and who knows how many new poems, stories, plays, novels, and memoirs will be created, at least in part, at this wonderful cottage.
The power of a writing retreat is something I’ve written about before and it bears repeating. If you can clear the time in your schedule, a retreat will sprinkle magic onto whatever project you are working on. Not only is it a respite from life’s other responsibilities but it gives you a chance to focus for longer chunks of time and also to have the spaciousness to think in bigger picture terms.
And the amazing thing about this particular retreat space is that WFNS has made it accessible to everyone with their Sponsored Residency program.
Check it out!
Writing Your Way Book News!
This charming and welcoming bookstore, carrying both used and new books, opened just over a year ago. If you haven’t checked it out yet, this is your nudge!
Also, a big thank you to those of you who keep the good online reviews coming and who continue to buy copies of my book for friends and family, near and far. Huge gratitude! 💛❤️🧡💜