7900 High School Rd, Elkins Park, PA

DATE: Saturday, May 4
TIME: 9am – 5:00pm
LOCATION: The Manor House at Whitpain Farm, Blue Bell, PA, 19422

Join an Open Book one-day writing retreat and focus on your important creative work!

Give yourself the gift of a day of writing: a quiet day in a bucolic setting, surrounded by a small group of other writers. The Open Book Writers Retreat provides you with practical ways to overcome inner resistance to writing and to get the creative spirit flowing. We’ll work on calming that strict and cranky inner editor and we’ll use mindful techniques and writing exercises to stimulate your practice. And in addition to all this, we’ll create a calm, quiet, private space where you can write and, at the end of the day-long retreat, have something to show for your time!

The day will present two hands-on workshops, with quiet writing time interspersed. The morning workshop will be led by Lynn Rosen, director of the Open Book program of events and co-owner of Open Book Bookstore. Lynn will address how to get out of your comfort zone and calm your inner editor. In this hour-long workshop, we’ll find ways to identify and address our fears and to overcome the internal obstacles that inhibit the creative process.

In the afternoon, a two-hour workshop on mindfulness for writers will be led by Susan Barr-Toman, noted writing teacher and published novelist. Susan teaches Mindful Writing workshops and retreats through the Penn Program for Mindfulness. Her workshop will focus on using meditation to connect with creativity and to flesh out the details in your writing. She will provide a series of hands-on exercises to stimulate your writing practice.

See below for a full description and the agenda for the day.

COST: $150


Open Book one-day writing retreats take place at the Manor House at Whitpain Farm in Blue Bell, PA. This beautifully-restored colonial farm house sits on the edge of acres of green space, surrounded by trees, a brook, and a wide, sunny vista. We will occupy the entire first floor and have full use of the home’s numerous rooms, from the 1704 Room with its original colonial stone fireplace, to the modern and expansive kitchen and butler’s pantry. There is plentiful space for writing at individual tables in the various rooms.


The retreat begins at 9am and closes at 5:00pm. We intersperse quiet, private writing time with the two main workshops.

The format of the retreat is as follows:

9:00am – 9:30am
Arrive, register, settle in. Meet and greet your fellow writers. Select your table where you will be having your quiet writing time and settle in.
Coffee/tea/water/fruit/snacks provided and available all day.

9:30am – 10:00am
Begin with a moment of silence to dedicate ourselves to the writing to be done that day, followed by a welcome from Open Book director Lynn Rosen.
Do some quick short writing exercises to warm up.
Goal setting: what do you hope to accomplish today? Share with the group and set realistic goals for the day.

10:00am – 11:00am

The Discomfort Zone: Writing Your Way Through Fear and Overcoming the Inner Editor

Writing is easy, right? As the process is described in that famous quote attributed to sportswriter “Red” Smith: “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

We all have fears to face that wait for us on the blank page. Sometimes these fears are so overwhelming — insecurity, self-doubt, that wicked inner editor — that we’ll use any excuse to avoid sitting down to write. Time for a load of laundry, anyone?

In this workshop, Lynn Rosen will talk about doing what writer Susan Jeffers describes as “feel the fear and do it anyway.” We’ll talk about learning to face fear, overcome the inner critic, and break out of our comfort zones to discover new energy and to keep us moving forward with our writing!

11:00am – 12:15pm
Quiet, private writing time in your space.

12:15 – 1:15pm
Lunch Break
We will gather together to enjoy lunch in the main room and Lynn will lead a mid-day assessment to discuss how our writing is going. Writers will be invited to share any challenges they would like to talk through or get advice on. During the lunch break, you will also have the option of taking your food back to your table to continue to work. Note: please bring your own brown bag lunch. We will provide hot and cold beverages, snacks, dessert, and access to a full kitchen with a sink, stove, refrigerator, and microwave.

1:15pm – 3:15pm

Creating the Dream: Slowing Down to Discover the Details

Author and teacher John Gardner writes that the job of the writer is to create a “vivid continuous dream.” As writers, we need to slow down and immerse ourselves deep into the details, so that our readers escape into another world, complete and sustained.

Often we race to the end of our work, only to find we don’t know what our piece is about. Or we jump from plot point to plot point to realize we are hanging on the edge with no place to go. Our characters are skeletal, our settings mere placeholders. We need to delve into the details to create depth.

In this afternoon session, Susan Barr-Toman will lead a mindful writing session—meditation, writing, and then sharing—that will relax and slow us down, so that we can discover and capture those details that create not only the setting or atmosphere, but the meaning of our stories. Exercises will be specifically targeted toward capturing the details in your writing.

Spend the afternoon meditating, writing and sharing. No previous meditation experience needed. Remember to bring pen and paper for this portion of the day. No screens please.

3:15pm – 4:15pm
Quiet, private writing time in your space.

4:15pm – 5:00pm

Unwinding with Wine and Readings
We’ll relax, celebrate, and those who wish to will read aloud to the group something they wrote that day. We’ll close by setting some more goals for ongoing writing to keep our work going and maintain the momentum of the day.

NOTE: All tickets are non-refundable.

We will provide hot and cold beverages, snacks, and fruit throughout the day, cookies after lunch, and wine and cheese at the end of the day. Please bring your own brown bag lunch. Full kitchen facilities are available should you need a stove, refrigerator, or microwave.


Susan Barr-Toman leads Mindful Writing workshops and retreats, in which participants connect with their creativity through meditation, writing exercises and sharing. For the past few years, she has taught Mindful Writing with the Penn Program for Mindfulness

Susan Barr-Toman

For nearly a decade, she has taught creative writing through her workshops, as well as undergraduate and graduate classes at Temple University and Rosemont College. Susan holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Her debut novel When Love Was Clean Underwear was selected by Ann Hood as the winner of the Many Voices Project’s Fiction Prize 2007. With her sister artist Sarah Barr, she published the children’s picture book Mary Mulgrew, What Did You Do? A Pushcart nominee, her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, Watershed Reviewr.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal, and Literary Mama among others. As an essayist, Susan writes about love, loss and mindfulness. Her short story “Town Watch” was anthologized in South Philly Fiction. Learn more about Susan’s work HERE.

Lynn Rosen

Lynn Rosen is the co-owner of Open Book Bookstore, located in Elkins Park, PA, just north of Philadelphia. She runs Open Book’s extensive program of classes, workshops, and events for readers and writers. Lynn is a long-time book publishing industry professional with many years of experience as an editor, literary agent, instructor, and author. She teaches writing and publishing classes at Open Book, and has been a professor at Drexel University, Temple University, Rosemont College, and numerous other academic institutions.  Previously, Lynn was Editorial Director of Book Business magazine, and Director of Graduate Publishing Programs at Rosemont College. She has served as Editorial Director at Peter Pauper Press, as Senior Editor at Running Press and, earlier in her career, as an Editor in the Trade Division of Ballantine Books. In 1991, Lynn launched Leap First, an independent literary agency, which she ran until 1999. She is the author of Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests (Clarkson Potter). Lynn graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an Honors degree in English, and holds a Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. More information about Lynn’s background is available HERE.

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