The Novel Retreat in Three Acts is held at the Saint Benedict Center in Schuyler, NE. (The town is pronounced ‘skyler,’ by the way. You don’t want locals to think you’re a hick when you get there. You’re welcome.)
This is a gorgeous, peaceful, non-smoking facility — just right for writers.
Main hallway off the lobby ….
As a participant of the Novel Retreat in Three Acts, you’ll be assigned a private room. Mine had a twin bed, an easy chair, plenty of light, a desk, closet, sink, toilet and shower. No TV, no radio, but a clock.
We met as a group in one of the large conference rooms, which had all the modern amenities.
Meals are served buffet style in the dining area at specific times — 7:30 for breakfast, 12:15 for lunch, and 6:15 for supper. If you’re late, you miss them and there ain’t nuthin close enough to drive to, so we wandered down at the appropriate time and stood in line, ready for the doors to open. This is at the very end of that long conference hallway.
A word about the food … it’s fabulous. Very homey, lots of comfort food. Always a well-stocked salad bar, homemade soups, and entrees like fried chicken, roast pork, and fish with side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh vegetables, homemade bread and rolls and delicious desserts. Everything real and made from scratch … definitely not your typical institutional food. I’d go back just to have more of that homemade chocolate pudding! When you register, tell Nancy Sharp Wagner if you have any dietary restrictions. They’re very accommodating as long as they know in advance. This is a tiny bit of the dining room. Behind me while I took the photo is at least three or four times this space.
The St Benedict Center is an enormous brick and concrete structure built in a bit of a valley. It’s bounded by farmland growing all kinds of crops — but I could only identify corn, apple trees and a vineyard, being a city girl and all. Sad, but true.
In April, when I attended Act 2, my room overlooked the sparkling lake behind the center.
In October during Act 3, my room overlooked a huge cornfield surrounded by trees covered in glorious autumn colors.
The Center is surrounded by lovely, meticulous landscaping.
But the unintended consequences of having thick brick walls in a valley out in the middle of the Nebraska prairie is no cell phone service. Personally, I like it that way. But you’re not entirely cut off from civilization. The landlines at the Center work and they have two computers available with high speed internet access. The guest rooms and most of the conference rooms have jacks for connecting your computer to the internet. But don’t use them. Cut yourself off from the real world for one weekend.
In our group, we had participants from Iowa, Minnesota (2), Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Montana (3), South Dakota (3), Georgia (2), North Dakota, and nine from Nebraska. Read some of their testimonials about the Retreats.
At Act 1, everyone is assigned small critique groups of three or four people. I was added to an existing group when I joined them for Act 2, and the four of us bonded immediately. For Act 3, one of my small group critique partners picked me up at the airport and several of us met for dinner in Omaha before driving to Schuyler. We also had some time to poke around The Old Market in downtown Omaha, which was lots of fun. Another of my critique partners, Lisa Stauffer, writes travel articles. She wrote about Omaha after she attended Act 2.
So, that’s an overview of The Saint Benedict Center and some general information about the weekend. Remember to tell Nancy Sharp Wagner if you’ll want to come a day early or stay a day later, if you have any food issues and if you need to be picked up at the airport. She’ll handle all those things for you.
And when you go, think of me when you scarf down that fabutastic pudding!
Isn’t this a glorious location? Can you see yourself basking in the glow of writerly adventures here?