Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Blue Belle Inn B&B

The beautiful Blue Belle Inn. I have such a crush on this house. It will definitely show up in a book sometime. 

This past weekend is one I will long remember as a highlight of my life as a writer. For months, my dear friend Mary Connealy and I have been trying to meet up somewhere for a writing weekend. We finally found a date that would work for both of us and selected the beautiful Blue Belle Inn located in St. Ansgar, Iowa.

I felt a tinge badly because it is only an hour away from me, but it's at least four hours from where Mary lives. BUT, in my defense, the inn belongs to fellow ACFW member and author Sherrie Hansen, and we wanted to give her our patronage rather than someone we had no connection with. (You can learn more about Sherrie and her books by clicking HERE.) So we settled on this B&B and made the reservations. 

I've been a bit under the writing gun with editing a manuscript and polishing a proposal, and I was feeling the need to get away and concentrate on it. My agent had also asked me to work up some new fiction ideas for future projects, and I was feeling like a creative desert. I had nothing left. I was stale, dry, a creative husk.

Then I arrived at the Blue Belle Inn. Charming doesn't begin to describe this wonderful house. The atmosphere inside shows the hostess's kind heart. Sherrie has a real gift for making you feel as if the Blue Belle is your home. The rooms are so breathtakingly beautiful, the food amazing, the ambiance created by the antiques and the woodwork and the lighting and the furnishings...it was as if my soul breathed in fresh air for the first time in months.

I was fortunate enough to be able to arrive there on Thursday and have a day to get adjusted and buckled down to work before Mary arrived. You see, I love Mary to death, we're soul-sisters, twins. We even share a birthday. And we love to talk: writing, family, life, whatever, it doesn't matter. We've been known to close down some restaurants, we've stayed so late chatting.

This is the Plum Creek room across the hall from our room. It was so gorgeous, I loved to stand in the doorway and just gaze at all the pretty things. The far window that is so bright has several blue glass bottles on the windowsill that catch the sunlight. And the windows in that alcove are all curved, with curved glass in them. So pretty!
That Thursday alone, away from errands and chores and the temptation to distract myself with television or sewing on my Red Cross quilt was wonderful. I explored the house from top to bottom (Sherrie gave me the run of the place, and every room I ventured into was more beautiful and restful than the last. Each room is named after a literary place, and it was fun to see the books and furnishings blend so well together.) inhaled the scents of roses and lilacs and fresh-cut grass, and sat on the front porch swing letting my mind wander to fictional ideas and places, refreshing my heart.

I worked too, at a little table in the Sherwood Forest room, surrounded by pine boughs, medieval-themed tapestries made by Sherrie, and cunning little extra touches that made the room a lovely sanctuary. I accomplished a lot of editing. My goal for the weekend was to edit at least 30K more words, and I wound up with more than 42K. Yay!!! AND, as a result of the calm, peaceful atmosphere, my mind generated some new ideas for stories that I quickly put into a document to explore after I've turned in this current project to my agent.

Things just got better when Mary arrived. Sherrie gave us the key to the Anne Of Green Gables Cottage next door and we spent the majority of Saturday over there in the cool quiet, Mary on the sofa and me at the dining room table. When we got tired and stiff from sitting still so long (and couldn't stand being quiet for a moment longer) we'd walk a few blocks of downtown St. Ansgar, Iowa for lunch, to browse the antique and gift shops, and to take yet another gander at the Rare And Famous St. Ansgar Albino Deer (aka Creepy Deer.) Yep, the people of St. Ansgar were blessed 30 years ago with an albino deer, and when the doe passed away, they had it stuffed and mounted, and it resides in its own climate controlled, glassed in gazebo in a little (minute!) park on the main drag of St. Ansgar. Don't believe me? Check out the photo. Those red glass eyes stare at you, no matter which window you peer into.


Creepy, right?
The weekend was about refreshing my creative self, editing like my hair was on fire, and catching up with Mary and enjoying her company. And I got all of those things and more. I would encourage you to check out the Blue Belle Inn's website and Facebook pages by clicking the links below.

Question for you: Have you ever been to a B&B, on a writing retreat weekend, or seen an albino deer? 


19 comments:

  1. I've never seen an albino deer, but I did go on a writing retreat with one of my good friends several years ago. We went to a cabin in Estes Park, Colorado, where we wrote and explored. When we got tired of writing, we'd having spider solitaire tournaments. :) And in the evenings we stayed up late watching Jane Austen movies. It was amazing! One day when we returned from a drive through the national there, we were greeted by a herd of wild elk, just wandering between the cabins.

    That is the best writing weekend I've ever had. I wrote 17K words and finished my second book in that cabin. I tried to replicate it by myself a few months back, and it did not go nearly as well. There's something great about joining a friend in a new place and keeping each other accountable to get that writing done.

    I'm so glad you and Mary had such a great time. It looks gorgeous, and you can count on anything Anne of Green Gables related to be good for your writing. :)

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    1. It's so hard to replicate really getting away. I've tried setting up my writing area in another room, locking myself in my bedroom, etc. but it just isn't the same. Maybe it's the $$ on the line? I figure I have to be productive since I forked over some cash for the experience. :D

      And I agree, anything related to the Anne-girl has to be good!

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  2. What a great writing retreat! And I'm with you... the deer is creeeeepy!

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    1. Thank you, Virginia. Mary keeps insisting it isn't creepy at all!

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  3. Replies
    1. When you come visit, we can go there and you can say yes to both. :)

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  4. What fun!
    An albino deer? Is this where Mary got the idea for the town obsessed with Maxie the giant mouse?

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    1. Actually, her inspiration came from another town (see her comment below) but I have a feeling the albino deer might make it into another of her stories. :D

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  5. No, but this post makes me WANT to be there!! That entire trip sounds heavenly, Erica!! So glad it left you recharged!

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    1. Next, time, Katie! You will love this place!!!!

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  6. I just got back from a writing retreat with a friend! It was soooo good! It sounds like you were able to get refreshed AND get a lot accomplished! The best of both worlds!

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    1. Yay for writing retreats!!!! So glad you had a good time at your retreat too!

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  7. Cathy, it's NOT where I got the idea. I got the idea from Algona, Iowa, the home of the world's largest Cheeto.

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  8. When we go back, you're all invited. It's a 2.5 hour drive straight south of Minneapolis which is a hub airport and should have the best ticket prices to fly into.
    And Erica will pick you up.
    Uh........it's okay for me to volunteer you, right? Erica? Honey?

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    1. I'll pick up passengers, you spring for the rooms. :D

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  9. And the deer was NOT creepy. it was lovely, except maybe the pink eyes, but mostly it was lovely. I tried to get in the building to pet it and when Erica bailed me out of jail, we got right back to work.
    And no, the ankle monitor doesnt' chafe hard ly at all, Erica. (I told her I'd let her know). And the restraining order will have lapsed in plenty of time for me to come back to town...as long as we don't do it for three to five years. (with good behavior I could be back in St. Ansgar in 18 months)

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    1. Perhaps you had the wrong pair of glasses on to properly assess the creep-factor on the deer.

      Glad the ankle monitor isn't giving you too much trouble. ;)

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  10. Erica - I'm super late to the party here! But I was just looking up ideas for a retreat (Lindsay Harrel and Melissa Tagg are coming to my house in June!) and I was directed to this post!! I've recently had the pleasure of "meeting" Mary Connealy online in the past couple of months and she is so much fun. Love that you two made this retreat happen!

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