Green Fields. Blue Mountains. A White House. A Yellow Dog.

A Writer Retreats

I was on a quest. A quest for a room of one’s own to finish my draft, far from the hurly-burly of New York City.

A lucky Google search led me to The Porches Writing Retreat and a photo of an antebellum house in the James River Valley of Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ladylike and pristine, she’s perched in all white on top of a green hill.

The Porches writing retreat second floor porch

The lower porch is wide, welcoming and wears azalea and iris and every manner of flowers by day.

porch swing at The PorchesHer lines are elegant, her appointments sophisticated: she’s graced with two porches, each with breathtaking views and a distinct vibe. The upper porch is not unlike standing on the deck of a ship, a-sailing into the trees.

At night, it wears diamonds, as every stylish woman should.

porches night

The lower porch has another reason to linger, a yellow dog named Maizie. Part Labrador, part hound, all old soul, she was my chaise mate, my furry ottoman, my boon companion as I went from chair to chair, working out knotty plot twists and reading dialogue aloud.


Now to the room of one’s own. The Porches has five in fact, each radiating color, personality and the uncanny ability to suggest the right book at the right moment.

walk in the woods

The Jade Room was a tonic to my jangled nerves. Go for A Walk in the Woods, it urged upon my arrival. Now. Now. Now. And not just any woods, the Appalachian Trail.


The Garden Room offered social commentary and cheek as Thackeray kept a disdainful eye on my laptop.

Vanity Fair book

And Treetops, glorious sun-filled Treetops, the writers’ garret I always wanted called forth the eight-year-old nerd who wrote and wrote and wrote, in imitation of a clever spider… and prodded the grown-up writer who needed to crank to get her draft done.


A retreat is never all about the words. The laptop must be closed, the mind rested, the body moved. Porches’ setting more than obliges, with fairytale walks, hikes and drives that include mountains, rivers and broadsheets of green hills and cows like commas (look close).

screen door view

Last and most important, the spirit that makes Porches run. A guiding spirit who gives each writer the space they need to get their work done, and also flits about with words of encouragement, a book suggestion, a laugh, a glass of wine, a cup of sugar, directions. Being a writer, too, and therefore modest like the rest of our tribe, she asks that I do not reveal her identity. Instead, here is her spirit totem.

trudy bird

Embrace all of these and what do you get? A sense of place, a lasting feeling of peace, a finished draft.

And the desire to return, immediately.


-by Kathleen O’Donnell

Kathleen O’Donnell is a writer living in New York City. By day, she is a web copywriter. By night, she is working on a young adult novel. Her flash fiction story First Virtual appeared in Sudden Flash Youth: 65 Short-Short Stories (Persea Books, 2011). She received her M.A. in Creative Writing from New York University. For more images from her recent Porches stint, see

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One thought on “Green Fields. Blue Mountains. A White House. A Yellow Dog.”

  1. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I’ve
    read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.

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