Healthy Soul

Literary Sisters’ Retreats

My hobbies are traveling, enjoying exquisitely prepared food and reading. All three come together whenever I travel to a Literary Sisters’ Retreat. Created more than 12 years ago by bookseller Ruth Bridges, the retreat brings together authors and readers for stimulating salons, a day of exploration and a night on the town in cities all across the United States.

My blood sister Charmaine and I have cemented so many friendships with authors and fellow readers across the nation by attending these retreats.

Literary Sisters in Napa Valley

Each retreat is three days. Ideally, you’ll arrive on Thursday to have dinner with members of the group. Fridays are dedicated to exploring the city with a local tour guide. Saturdays are all about reading, authors and salons. Sunday is a fantastic brunch before heading back home with a well-nourished intellect, a satiated stomach, and years of stress evaporating in the peals of laughter shared with many returning friends and newly made acquaintances.

Here I am on the left with my sister Charmaine. Literary Sisters Retreat, Santa Fe, NM.

Authors and fellow readers

Like you, I’ve gone to the book signings and authors’ readings at local bookstores and libraries. None of them ever allowed me the opportunity to chat in a relaxed atmosphere. At the retreats, you can share a meal with several African American authors at the same time, learning not only about the craft of writing but what makes them tick, how they got into and stayed with writing, and the challenges experienced in the world of publishing.

Did you know that a book garners its ratings in much the same way as a movie: A book is rated on its sales the first week while a movie is based on that first weekend. That’s how those bestseller lists are developed. It’s the sales that determines how much shelf space a book gets, AND where those shelves are located in the bookstore. Let’s keep gifting our family and friends with books written by African American authors.

A look back at some of the retreats

Virginia Beach:

The 10th anniversary retreat was held in Virginia Beach, the same venue as the first one. Many of the readers and authors at the first event were there. What can ever top an entire evening with Grace Edwards, Karen Quinones Miller, Gregory Morris, Victoria Christopher Murray, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Karen Siplin, Jacquelin Thomas, and Valerie Wilson Wesley?

You don’t know all of them, you say – now is the time to get your book clubs to start reading their works.

L-R back row: Ruth Bridges, Karen Siplin, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Gregory Morris, Jacquelin Thomas. Front row: Karen Quinones Miller, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Grace Edwards, Victoria Christopher Murray.

Boston:

And the food! There are dishes we drool over from the other side of TV land as we watch them being made on the Food Network by chefs we know by sight, but never see ourselves eating in their restaurants. Well, the retreat to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard gave Charmaine and I – as well as literary sisters Ellen and Gloria from Detroit – the distinct pleasure of having lunch at Blue Ginger, the Wellesley, MA, restaurant owned and operated by Ming Tsai, chef on the show Simply Ming. I cannot remember what the others ate but can easily conjure up the taste of my entrée, Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish. It was so very delicious. I bought the cookbook specifically to get that recipe, but have not yet mustered up the courage to attempt it. Soon!

Desserts at Blue Ginger restaurant.

Washington:

It’s Friday morning. I am on the bus at 8:50 a.m. I will not be left behind when it drives off at 9 a.m. Although I have visited Washington before, today will be my first time on “the tour” for the African American perspective on our nation’s capital. After the solemn yet moving ceremony of The Changing of the Guard at the 1,100-acre Arlington Cemetery, we rode past sections 23 and 27 with the headstones of members of the U.S. Colored Troops who served in the Union Army during the Civil War but were segregated from their white peers for burial. Leaving the cemetery, we were able to see the site of the planned memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to stand in the same spot he stood to deliver the famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Marker - Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the I have a dream speech at this spot

San Francisco:

With retreats in places like Washington, Virginia Beach and Boston, there is no shortage of fun events at night. In San Francisco, it was off to Yoshi’s Jazz Club to be a part of the Earl Klugh experience. Indeed, wonderful memories of my favorite acoustic guitarist jamming with David Lee, who had played keyboards with Parliament-Funkadelic.

David Lee, Jennifer and Earl Klugh.

Located at 1330 Fillmore in Oakland, Yoshi’s was just doors away from the former headquarters of the Black Panther Party at 1336 Fillmore. Wow!

Marker - Black Panthers' San Francisco headquarters.

Interested in a Literary Sisters’ Retreat? You can contact Ruth Bridges at avivatravel@aol.com or call 866-681-7828. It’s an experience you’ll want to repeat.

If you are ever in Napa Valley, it must be Brix.

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