A Conversation with “Permission to Practice” Retreat Facilitator, Cathy Lentes!

1. Tell us about your writing! What genre do you write and what subjects do you tend to write about?

      Let’s say first that I love writing. Period. And I write a little bit of everything. I have shelves of completed journals. I have folders and notebooks and napkin scraps and old envelopes capturing odd moments of inspiration. I started writing poetry as a child and continue to think of myself as a poet first, but I love any writing that has a poetic nature. When I completed my MFA late in life, I focused on writing for young people, but I also did a semester in creative nonfiction. After graduation, I went back to complete a post grad semester in poetry to work on a full length manuscript. On any given day, I may work on a picture book in progress, draft a new poem, or edit an essay. No matter what I’m writing, I love playing with words and nature usually finds a way in.

      2. Do you have a writing routine or rituals?

        I have had many routines over the years. When I was teaching kindergarten and first grade, I often used my precious half hour lunch break to eat and scribble at the same time. As a stay-at-home mom, I wrote every day from 9:00-12:00 while the kids were at school. As a fulltime psychologist assistant in the public schools, I mostly wrote on weekends as my work was too exhausting during the week. Now that I’m newly retired, I’m still discovering a new rhythm.

        As to rituals, paper first. Later, the computer. Tea, open windows, my cats nearby. If I’m settling in for a long stretch, I light a candle. Sharp pencils. A variety of colorful pens. A book of poetry nearby for finding my way again.

        3. What inspires you?

          Pretty much everything. I am an observer, a noter, a pay-attention-to-it-all kind of person. Animals, nature, grocery store shoppers, the old men who gather at McDonald’s every morning.

          4. Why do you write?

            I write to make connections. To figure out what I think. To work through emotions. I write because that is how I process being alive. To say to others, this matters.

            5. What do you want people to know about this retreat? What makes it unique?

              This retreat is about beginning and beginning again. And again. As writers, we toggle between being greatly inspired, bursting with things we want to say, and then utter frustration that it’s very much harder than it looks to do it well. There’s often a tension between the desire to write and the ability to do so, and to keep doing so. In this workshop we’re going to look at what other writers have to say about the process of being creative, try out many possible ways in and ways to continue. We’re going to build a bridge between a dream of writing to writing life.

              And we’re going to make stuff…there will be glue sticks! (Think of it as kindergarten fun for grownups…remember how fun it was to just PLAY?!?)

              6. How do you “follow your creative heart?”

                The biggest thing in my life has been giving myself permission to call myself a writer. I’ve been writing forever! I’ve had the passion for writing as long as I can remember. But writers seemed like a foreign species to me, an “other” that didn’t include me. But with personal determination and kind nudges from wonderful mentors, I gradually began to believe. Being a writer can mean being published, but it doesn’t have to. Mainly, following your creative heart means doing what you love because you love it and it brings you joy. It means giving yourself permission to create your own personal magic.

                7. Here at RWC, we have a heart for writers at all stages of their writing journey. What inspires you to work with beginning writers?

                  I guess I have always loved working with beginners. I taught kindergarten and first grade for many years. As a writing teacher, I have worked with those same young ages all the way to college students and older adults. What I love best no matter the age of the learner, is to encourage, to say there’s no one right way to do things, and to show that even if we all start here in this little spot together with the same prompt or writing tools, each person’s lived experience and imagination is going to take that individual on their own magic carpet ride. It’s an amazing thing, a joyous life-giving thing, and it happens every single time.

                  8. What do you love about RWC? Do you have any special memories here?

                    After following RWC on socials and signing up for the newsletter and dreaming about going there for quite a while, I finally signed up for my first retreat and immersed myself in forest bathing (a retreat I highly recommend!). The land is beautiful and inspiring, the retreat spaces welcoming, and the woods and wildlife always at the edges of your consciousness.

                    Favorite memories include almost falling asleep on a large limestone slab in the field with eyes closed listening to bees, making friends with all the cats, and spending time in the garden. And of course, that retreat magic of entering a group of strangers on Friday and by Sunday having made new friends who have shared laughter in our circle, bared our souls just a little, and let our words live in the shared air. Wow! What more could you ask for?

                    9. What are you reading right now?

                      Just like I write all over the place, I also tend to have several books going at once. Current reads include: Kala by Colin Walsh(novel); To Speak For The Trees by Diana Beresford-Kroeger(nonfiction); and How To Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair(memoir).

                      10. And just for fun…What is one thing on your bucket list?

                        To complete visits to all fifty states. I have four left and they sound amazing: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon. Let’s go!