Lian Dolan is a writer and producer. She co-hosts the long-running Satellite Sisters podcast. With Satellite Sisters, she has written two collections of essays, toured with Oprah Winfrey and written a column for O, the Oprah Magazine. She is the author of two best-selling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife, published by Prospect Park Books. Her next novel will be published by Harper Collins in 2020. She's a columnist for Pasadena Magazine. Lian graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Classics. She lives in Pasadena with her husband and two sons.
Did the retreat meet your expectations?
Yes! I enjoyed the retreat entirely—from the drive up to Sonoma County to the reading at the vineyard to the quiet lovely accommodation. I’d never done a writer’s retreat before so I didn’t have a boatload of expectations going in, but I can say for sure that I was inspired and accomplished a tremendous amount in a short time.
What was the most unexpected part of your stay?
Without the endless to do’s of daily life, I was able to stay focused in my work for hours and hours. Honestly, I did not expect to get so much done on my manuscript. Having the luxury of time and solitude was new to me and it created a real atmosphere for productivity. I got a ton of writing done during my writing residency.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your retreat?
I really enjoyed the reading at the winery. It made the drive and the effort to get to Sebastopol worthwhile. It was a chance to meet readers from a part of the world that I don’t get to very often. It inspired me for the week ahead.
Did the vineyard setting inspire you and/or your writing? In what ways?
Horse & Plow Vineyard was beautiful and relaxing, but not distracting! Waking up, making coffee and checking out the chickens in the yard was a great start to the day. I was inspired to be in the moment and stay focused. The project I was working on didn’t really lend itself to any vineyard references, but I can see working in the setting into another piece of writing because it was so special and evocative.
What did you work on during the retreat?
I used the time to complete a draft of a novel that was under contract. Prior to the retreat, I was behind on my writing schedule and the pressure was bearing down on me. But thanks to the retreat, I went home with a completed draft which was very satisfying. There was no way I would have gotten as much accomplished at home. The book will be published in April 2020 by Harper Collins/William Morrow.
What other activities did you do during the retreat—any napping, hiking, or exploring the local area?
To be honest, I tried to write 24 hours a day! But I did sneak in a few yoga classes at a nearby studio and some lovely walks in the morning and the afternoon on the walking path in Sebastopol.
Did you participate in any activities or events arranged by the host winery? If so please elaborate.
Horse & Plow hosted a beautiful reading for me in their tasting room. A crowd of about 15 people showed up—which surprise and delighted me. People ordered wine and appetizers and we hung out for a few hours on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was a really lovely event.
Can you sum up your experience in ten words or less?
Time + Solitude + Wine = A Great Writing Week