7900 High School Rd, Elkins Park, PA

DATE: Saturday, January 12
TIME: 9am – 5:00pm
LOCATION: The Manor House at Whitpain Farm, Blue Bell, PA, 19422

Give yourself the gift of a day of writing: a quiet day in a bucolic setting, surrounded by a small group of other writers.  Join an Open Book one-day writing retreat and focus on your important creative work!

This Open Book Writers Retreat will nudge you out of your typical writing patterns by helping you to exercise your creative muscles in a new way. We’ll focus on the spiritual and the artistic aspects of your creative process in order to help you break through to new insights and new ways of working.

The day will present two hands-on workshops, with quiet writing time interspersed. The morning workshop 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 quiet the inner critic.

The afternoon workshop will be led by Janice Merendino, recipient of the Moore College of Art and Design 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. Janice will lead a workshop that uses drawing techniques to support and enhance your work as a writer.

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:

9am – 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.
Pop-up bookstore available to browse (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 – 11:30am

Creating Your Writing Space: Mindfulness for Writers

Thoreau escaped to a secluded pond for two years. Woolf had a room of her own. Writers need time and space to create, but most of us are overscheduled and can’t get away for reflection and solitude. We don’t have a peaceful place to call our own. Give yourself this time to learn how mindfulness meditation can give you the tools to create your own sacred space where you can quiet the noise and access your unique creativity no matter where you are or how much time you have.

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

11:30am – 12:15pm
Quiet, private writing time in your space.

12:15 – 1:30pm
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.

1:30pm – 3:00pm

”See What You Want to Say: Drawing for Writers”

This workshop will focus on exercises that will stimulate writers to go into unchartered waters and take on the challenge of learning something new.  Writers will learn to use techniques of drawing with an eye toward the creative concepts and useful approaches that can be brought back into their work.  The workshop is designed specifically for those who “can’t draw a straight line,” in other words, all reluctant beginners are welcome.

You will learn:

  • a representational way of gestural drawing that will enable you to feel more comfortable quickly sketching figures and the environments in which you may find themselves and,
  • a non-representational, abstract way to express what you want to say about the inner life of a character.

3:00pm – 4:00pm
Quiet, private writing time in your space.

4:00pm – 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 novelWhen 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 bookMary Mulgrew, What Did You Do? A Pushcart nominee, her work has appeared in Watershed Reviewr.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal and Literary Mama among other. 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.

Janice Merendino

Janice Merendino is the recipient of the Moore College of Art and Design 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. Here’s her brief bio in her words:
I am a professional artist, college professor, and one of five founders of The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. My artwork is strongly influenced by Japan and Japanese art.  I have exhibited my work there and visited multiple times to study ceramics, calligraphy and  traditional “urauchi” scroll mounting, a technique I use in my work.

In 1998, I founded The Branch Out Project to design drawing and problem-solving workshops for major corporations, government agencies, community groups and schools. Along with my work with The Branch Out Project, I design and teach art workshops at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a variety of audiences including adults with disabilities, veterans and people with Parkinson’s disease. For more information about Janice’s work, click HERE.

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