Finding Your Voice: Write Doe Bay

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
—    Anais Nin

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Well, hell. I guess it’s time to write a post.

There’re 3,400 miles between where I’m sitting right now and where I spent the bulk of last week. That’s a lot of space, and I’m swimming in it—treading water somewhere between a living room on Orcas Island where I shared an incredible experience with 36 people, and the living room of my own home where two kids are currently being pushed in a laundry basket, their laughter a different kind of music than what accompanied us last week.

Write Doe Bay was an experience. I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect walking in, even though we wrote our intentions on that first day—intentions like “find my voice” and “remove my creative block”—but I do know I personally didn’t expect to be so stirred by the weekend and the people who shared it with us.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener

I’ve tried to put my finger on what it was exactly that has left so many of us in this “Wow” haze. I mean, I dropped Nella off at preschool yesterday, noticed Dash was asleep in the back seat, and I drove. For an hour. To nowhere in particular–north four miles, east three more–listening to music, honoring the space of peaceful thought in my head.

Of all the memorable elements of Doe Bay—the landscape, the vulnerability, the stories, the meals, the music, the deep discussions on art and sharing and the creative process, the notebooks that opened blank and closed full of stories—I keep coming back to connection. We want to connect. We want to see and be seen.

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Detached from the noise of the outside world, surrounded by cliffs and ocean, bonded by music and shared meals, confined to cabin space that held both hilarious stories and secret insecurities, we connected last week. And that felt really good. When we missed our kids, when we questioned what we wore, when we evaluated what we write and why we write it, when we took a different look at the life we left at home to travel far, when we scanned the room and searched for shreds of “you’re just like me”, when we asked questions, searching for answers that would line up our differences, when we felt out of place and uncomfortable, those connections we made felt good. Assuring, forgiving, uplifting, honest, relatable, insightful, hopeful–all of the things I want my writing to be.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener 

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Connection is where writing begins. Maybe not writing, but story-telling.  Anyone can write—study great sentence structure, learn about perspective and tense and details, say something interesting—but story-telling begins with connection and telling one’s truth. If we can do that in our writing—connect to a person, an experience, an emotion, a new perspective— we possess the ability to affect someone else’s story. Writing connects people.

We shared stories last week.
Words and music.
Pain and mundane.
Sorrow and celebration.
All of it was important.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener
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Thank you so much to my friends at Blue Q who stand by this whole “what I really want to say…” bit. They sent socks for every Write Doe Bay participant, so that whenever we feel creatively blocked, our feet can speak for us.

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More on Daniel Blue tomorrow. I learned so much from this artist and song writer.

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Realizing I was hanging on to some memories from the weekend that heightened this idea of our experience as “another world”, I remembered my skydiving experience from my twenties today. Surprisingly, I was one of the only dive rookies on the plane, surrounded by die-hard free fallers.

Sky diving was their life—waking up every morning, checking the weather, calling friends to confirm that flights were still a go, packing chutes for the two hundred forty-seventh time.  They lived to dive and dived to live. Some of them even worked the food stand outside the skydive center in exchange for free flights. The thing is, they found something in that experience—something they didn’t find in real life—or at least not to the extreme they felt while skydiving. Combined—the sense of family created between friends, the thrill of overcoming fear, the freedom of sky and space and a limitless view of the world beneath them, the clarity that came in those clouds, the wind prevailing over all the confusing noise of the world—it was so good, they decided this is what they wanted to do in life. Dive out of planes every day to feel brave and free and aware of their place in the world. After my dive—the one I was terrified to make in the first place—it all made sense. The freedom I felt was addicting, and for a split second I thought that maybe I too could take a year off and work the food stand. Become friends with Ace and T.J. and all the other dive guys who ditched their real names when they traded a career and family for the repeated experience of free fall every day.

I felt that a little bit coming home. I wanted to dive again. Head back to Doe Bay with my family. Return to the security of those walls, that island, that space–the perfect subculture of vulnerability and exhilaration, freedom and friendship. But real life is here, and everything we experienced fully concentrated and at our finger tips on Doe Bay can also be found right where we are. We just have to be willing to see it. So we bring our truth, our voice, our vulnerability and our trust to the people around us. I’m looking forward to weaving everything I learned last week into new experiences right here.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener

Fifteen minutes before our plane landed back in Naples (after a red-eye, 8-hour, 2-flight experience), I told Heidi, “We never wrote intentions for how we’re going to go home–what we learned. Quick–get a piece of paper.” Grabbing pencils, we both dug through our purses for paper scraps. On the back of my boarding pass, I wrote the following intentions:

I intend to be more present with my family and make conscious efforts to say “no” to noise.

I intend to confidently stand by my work, my beliefs and who I am.

I intend to stretch beyond my stereotypes of others, who I think they are and work hard to understand their underlining story. I intend to recognize that when I perceive people are very different from me, it’s often based on my own insecurities.

I intend to make more time for my own free writing. No excuses: “Bitches get shit done,” as a lovely participant put it.

I intend to find more ways to implement what I love to do–the specific gifts and talents God gave me–into my life and work.

I intend to create more opportunities to quietly and attentively focus on my own needs for creative space.

I intend to fully accept myself and my own story; when we truly do that, the less we need love and the more we can efficiently give love.

What does this have to do with writing and creating? For me, everything.

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Of course, I give myself room to be human. But it felt good to write them down.

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Hats off to every story-teller who showed up to Doe Bay last week. You traveled far, you showed up, you listened, you shared, you trusted, you each brought something different, something needed to the experience. I’m still unwrapping the gifts your stories brought–your serious, your funny, your kindness, your strength, your questions, your quiet–you’ve all left your mark. Every one of you.

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Photo Credit: Jesse Michener

We write, we create, we tell stories to leave a mark.
What will your mark be?


Last week’s contributions about leaving my kids for this trip:

Quieting the Things to Do List over at BabyZone


Leaving Kids Without Guilt over at eHow


Leave a Comment
  1. You. Are. Lovely. :) thanks for sharing your trip!!

  2. I love this so much. I’ve never been a very brave person. I like to stick to my comfort zone, but I seriously thought about signing up for Doe Bay. My heart started beating fast and my palms got sweaty just reading the invitation for it. In the end I couldn’t do it, but I love the idea of writing down your intentions and tonight I intend to be more brave.

  3. What an amazing experience. I am going to try and find something like this local to me. ( Australia is a bit far from Doe Bay!) Thanks for sharing. Bron

  4. Thank you. I needed to hear this tonight. Sharing our stories isn’t always easy and it’s good to be reminded that it matters.

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  6. When I first saw your post on IG about Doe bay my heart pitter pattered, and I flaked out, thinking that I wouldn’t be a good fit there, like my voice wouldn’t fit in, and I would be really uncomfortable. By the time I got up the nerve to even mention it to my husband it was sold out, and while I was sad, I was relieved. Then when Nici posted, I though “OK here is your chance” and I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. I went back on IG and posted on her feed that I was thinking about it, and the next thing I knew I had other women from all over posting their encouraging words. Their words convinced me that my words would be good enough, and I signed up that night for October. I am bummed that I didn’t get to meet you, but I know that October will be full of the same special moments that you spoke of here, and I can’t wait! ~ Leanna

  7. It looks like such an amazing time! As a fairly new blogger getting back into writing after years off and still trying to find my voice, this type of experience sounds amazing.

  8. Wow Doe Bay really looks and sounds like a truly enriching and inspiring experience. Love the picture of you and Heidi together!

  9. Good to have you back Kelle :-) it sounds like Doe Bay was a fab experience. As always your words make sense and I for one am grateful to read them,now I need them to settle into my soul,ready for when I need them :-) x

  10. I was so looking forward to hearing about your trip and you didn’t dissapoint xxx

  11. I want to hear more. I savoured every word & felt like this was only the beginning, that there was so much more to come. So many of us wish we had the balls to just up & go & experience something so fabulous & life changing so please give us more than just a glimpse into what this week was all about.

  12. It sounds like such a moving experience! When I had the chance to sign up I passed it by, feeling too insecure and sure I wouldn’t fit in. I regret it now. The workshop in October overlaps with a trip we already have planned :( I do hope you fabulous group of ladies will do this again…and that this time I will be brave enough to take a chance.

  13. Good stuff. As always. Glad you had a great trip. I love getting to go along with you so to speak, through your writing.

  14. Good stuff. As always. Glad you had a great trip. I love getting to go along with you so to speak, through your writing.

  15. I really like this post. I’ve followed your blog for years now and I’ve laughed at some entries, rolled my eyes at others and teared up at still others. Your ‘voice’ seemed to have been missing for sometime and I was honestly becoming quite bored with your blog. Dare I say, you yourself seemed bored by it too. But this post is one of the best you’ve written- heartfelt, insightful and honest. I hope this is the beginning of a new, more authentic voice for you.

  16. It’s so hard to put the Doe Bay experience into words and girl, you nailed it.

    For me the weekend was about personal storytelling/memoir in all forms. A song or poem can be just as personal as an essay and it was exciting to see all of these talented people in their element, sharing and perfecting their craft.

    I love that you wrote down your intentions for after the retreat. I’m going to do this as soon as I get some caffeine running through my veins this morning.

    Finally, thank you for being such a kind and giving mentor to all of us at the retreat. Your words and presence are so powerful.

  17. DOE BAY!! I DIE! One of my favorite places on earth!

  18. I love this. And I’ve saved your “Connection is where writing begins…” paragraph into my favorite quotes list because that really is what it’s all about.

    That picture of you ahd Heidi speaks a million words.

  19. It sounds like a very cleansing experience. Beautiful, idyllic photos.

  20. Amazing and beautiful! This brought tears to my eyes, and maybe I’m just emotional right now, or maybe it’s for no other reason than the fact that this is my heart. My desire to write, and pour myself out into paper. Yet I’m finding it hard to let my heart be vulnerable enough for that to happen. I find myself busy and in creative when I want to be available and creating. Thanks you for sharing, I so wish this is something I could have attended, I didn’t know about it in time! But maybe another day 😉 For now, I’m about to board a plane myself and will write my own intentions. Xo

  21. It had been so many days since you’d posted I started to worry. Then I remembered you mention Doe Bay a while back. I’m glad I was right. :) I’ve only realized in the last year or so that I love writing, and I’m decent at it. Never thought I was. I’m not confident enough yet to put myself out there “in person.” I, like many others, hide behind the distance afforded by the Internet. Some day, though, I’ll get there. I look forward to that day. Thanks for sharing.

  22. I think your blog is so beautiful, and your family, and your outlook. I am asking this question not to be mean or unnecessarily provocative, but because it is something I think about and I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone thought about it: why do you think there were (if I’m not mistaken) no people of colour at this retreat? I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and have noted the times people of colour have appeared in your posts. Again, this isn’t me pointing a finger or blaming you for the way things are (I also recognise that you obviously must have friends of colour who just don’t appear on your blog!). I am simply making an observation, and wondering why things are the way they are. I love the pictures of your girls’ ballet classes and parties; the pictures of you with friends at the beach; the pictures of you meeting with readers or fellow bloggers in real life after first getting to know each other online; the pictures of Down syndrome-related events and gatherings; the attempts to reach out to other female bloggers/writers — but as a person of colour, I just wonder where all the others are 😉 . I hoped that when you invited guest bloggers some time ago, there might be some non-white voices, but there weren’t. You should not feel guilty or responsible for fixing this homogeneity single-handedly, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Where are the people of colour? Did anyone at Doe Bay notice that everyone was white? Did anyone say anything about it? Do white people notice when every single person in the room is white? Sorry again, there is just no graceful way to broach this scary topic, but I promise you, I’m not doing it from a place of unkindness. I think you *do* talk about some scary things, so I felt like if I asked, you wouldn’t just avoid the issue/ignore me.

  23. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. Just thank you.

  24. Preets: you bring up fantastic points. I’m one of the organizers of the workshop and wanted to chime in. Personally, when we all gathered for the first time, I noticed the lack of racial diversity immediately. I tallied it as one of our talking points as we develop future workshops. Because we don’t advertise, I think we are missing a mark by not having anyone of color as a presenter. It’s the most obvious step we can make moving forward (and there are others). Obviously, 2014 is already set, but I’m excited to think about how things can evolve in 2015. Thanks for asking an know that this is on our radar.

  25. I think I need a vacation too… !

  26. My mark will be to make sure that my children know how much God loves them and live by his commandments. To stand strong in their faith in this sometimes difficult world. I want them to have compassion for all but never change for anyone. After all we’re put in this world to please Him only not anyone else.

  27. Well, look at me finally leaving a comment for you after all of these years! Thanks for your candor, your friendship, your honesty, your truth last weekend. Your post made me feel like it was all worth it – the travel, the insecurities, the late nights, the rawness of it all. I’m changed and settling back into my life. A friend wrote me today and wanted to hear about my trip. I told her I wasn’t quite ready to talk about it and she wrote me back. She said “don’t lose that dreamy edge.” I’m trying not to. xoxo

  28. Your Blog is my favorite!
    I am always lifted up when I read your stories.
    You give me things to think about or you put a smile on my face. Every morning I check to see if you have entered a new post so this morning I got a real treat!

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  30. I just ready your ‘Quieting the Things to Do List’. YES! Perfect timing for me to read this when I was just falling apart last night because of the almighty ToDos.
    The entire article hit home for me.
    Two of my very favorites:
    1. “..our miraculous ability to subconsciously remember them all..” so true!!
    2. motherhood mantra repertoire
    Yes indeed.
    Loved hearing about your experience.

  31. I still can’t believe you were at “our” Doe Bay! We go camping every summer in an 19th century farmhouse that has been in our family for as long as it has existed, just a few miles down the road from Doe Bay. (Yes! There someplace a little more remote!) Many coffee runs have been made there, many evenings in the hot tubs, many nights eating pizza. That open mic night? That’s when my cousin got engaged last summer.
    All that to say, it’s crazy to me that of all the places, you flew from Florida to spend a long weekend at our hippie resort! I’m so glad and thankful that it was for good. Waiting with bated breath to hear more about your stay in our neck of the island! :)

  32. I so love that you and my sweet daughter were there together, what a wonderful experience for all of you!

    xoxo, Bug & Ruby’s Gram

  33. Kelle- the photo of you and Heidi….oh-i-love-it! So glad you posted….I love having you as a blog friend, you inspire me .

  34. I just love your writing. I mean, really, really love it. When I started reading your blog after Nella was born it changed me. That sounds so cheesy, I know..but it’s true. It was like I was reading my own heart. I went back and read every entry you ever published. It awakened this part of my heart that had fallen silent once I got married and had my kids. Your words reminded me that I loved writing and why in the world did I stop doing it?? So here’s my question: how do you find the time? Do you set aside a block of time each day or a few times a week? I would love to get back into it…do you have any tips? I know music is a big one for me. If only I could have my brain jot down what’s on my mind as I drive, listening to the radio! Thanks for your inspiration. I’d say you are doing a great job with the whole connection aspect :)

    Angie from Ohio (angiepics on Instagram)

  35. Thank you for sharing you experience! I have enjoyed browsing through you blog. It offers great inspiration.

    Hope you’ll check out my blog as well!

  36. Looking at your last picture with all of the writers I am wondering if that is Elke Govertson in the front row? I’m thinking hat is the amazing writer of Mamlode from my hometown of Missoula, MT. But, maybe not :)

  37. Love reading you , you are the inspiration . I wanted to start blogging too but still in a learning process :)

  38. Hey Kelle, I loved this post as a reader who first came to your blog merely for your photos(and I still do love them). I’m not good with words…no great story telling here, but I love that your stories come with pictures and these are wonderful! Thanks for sharing your joy.

  39. I just think this whole thing sounds dreamy. I have realized in the last five years or so, how much I love to write. I have come to crave it…feel like if I don’t write it down, it’ll be lost somehow. I would love a retreat like this. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned with us.

  40. Hi Kelle,
    I’m been reading your blog since Nella was born. Our kids are the same age and gender. I live in Bellingham WA. Which is sort of by Orcas. So glad you got to come here. Thanks for writing.
    Talia Nuckolls

  41. While I didn’t attend Doe Bay I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and Claire at the bookstore. I came from Bellingham simply to connect. To meet you and share the brief moment in time with you both. Reading your book and blog has given me a lot of encouragement as a new mother without her mother to lean on. It helped me realize that this is a small work really and we are all in it together. Thank you Kelle for connecting with us all!

  42. I’m going to the Write Doe Bay experience in October. I sure don’t know what to expect, but after your post I have a slightly better idea… only slightly! I just can’t wait. I don’t know why I signed up–sure I’m a writer and sure I am at the forefront of my storytelling experience–but it felt like somewhere I just had to be, something I just had to do. I can’t wait. Can I say that again? I can’t WAIT!

  43. Kelle…so.awesome.
    What an exceptional experience for writers. Which leads me to ask….do participants have to have a blog, write for other things like magazines, or have “author or writer” behind their name in order to attend? I LOVE to write. I have a need for detail. I just don’t happen to write for anything in particular. Everyone has a story, everyone is an author. This would be such an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to grow in their writing.

    And so cool to see guys there! I thought is was a retreat/workshop for women. :)

  44. Well, bring it on home, Sister.
    That’s the beauty and pull of art, it comes and goes with us. It stays and moves with us. I guess that makes us….artist?? :)

    Love hearing your words about writing and so thankful you got to live in that specific space for a while.

  45. Its beyond fun to see pics and read a post from just a ferry ride from where I live. So glad Washington was good to you with amazing weather. Its not all gloom and doom here the way people say it is 😉

    This post is beautiful. Moved me to tears and got me thinking. Two things I need.

  46. Gawd I wish I could have been there with you!! It must have been great to be there with Claire and Heidi too. I can’t wait to hear all about it in less than a month!!!!! yayayayay!!

  47. I’m sure you’ll never read my comment, but I love that you are so validating. You really give respect every walk of life and that’s why I keep reading. You give a breath of fresh air. I don’t agree with everything you say, but I admire your attitude and genuine love for all. Your an amazing woman.

  48. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your trip with me (us). I say me because I always feel you are telling only me your story. That’s probably selfish I know! Doe Bay sounds like my kind of writers heaven! What a beautiful time you had. Oh and that photo of you and Heidi, completely beautiful and completely raw! Yours is a sacred friendship I believe! Thanks for the post! xxx

  49. What a fantastic experience. I can only hope I will get an opportunity like this one day. Writing is a true passion and something that brings me internal joy and peace. I am a stay at home mom, and writing and blogging my silly and serious stories have kept me going on the hard days. Other tough experiences I have endured prior to becoming a mom are something I’d like to write about one day, too. I’ve learned that heartaches, big or small, are really what make the beauty shine through a person once they are overcome. Love always wins. Thank you for your inspiration. Please keep writing, and if you ever want a mentee, pick me.

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