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Tender II Wild Writing Retreat

With Bethany Bylsma and Tyler Dunning

September 3 - 6, 2021

photos by Rachel Morell

Tell Your Truth . . . 
Tend to the Wildest Parts of Your Story . . . 
Take Time & Space to Honor What is Within . . . 

A 4-day, 3-night retreat on Whidbey Island, WA

September 3 – 6, 2021

Tender||Wild Writing Retreat

You have stories—some that you wear like a resume to the world. You know who you are, where you’ve been, and what has shaped you. But when was the last time you looked at the stories that sit in your belly, the stories that have begged to be told, the stories that have brought you to this moment?

Join us as we explore the wild parts of writing, the tender stories that must be told, and ways to engage yourself and others in writing practices that bring life back.

Bethany Bylsma, Tyler Dunning, and fifteen of your newest soul-friends are ready to meet you on this 4-day retreat exploring the therapeutic benefits of writing.

Join us for a journey into these ideas:

Writing in the Wellness of Everyday: There is a fallacy to creativity in that many believe it first requires crisis and that self-destruction is the fast track to creative success. We hope to challenge this long-held notion by encouraging you to seek creation in wellness. You are here, awake, alert, alive. Your next essay doesn’t need to come from a bad breakup; the quote “write drunk, edit sober” doesn’t need to be taped above your desk. In this initial session we will introduce this notion of “writing in wellness” through introductions, inspirations, and an “altar” exercise. Tyler and Bethany will then talk about their ten-year backstory and the power of being penpals.

Writing Through Hard Emotions: Therapeutic writing is simply writing that relates to healing, addressing the dis-ease of our lives. For many, memoir, essays, and short stories are ways to record personal histories. And yet, all story is fiction. It is the way I remember the Christmas of 1990, not the way you do. Learning to confront our own stories, depict friends and family, and learning how and when to separate sentiment from narrative is important. In this session Bethany will lead the group in writing practice based on Where I’m From poems used in classrooms across the country. Tyler will give personal anecdotes about lessons learned as a memoir writer.

The Art of Honesty: Finding your particular voice can be scary in life, and in writing. We learn from a very early age through mimicry, encouragement, and relationship. Our writing has a similar developmental process. We learn by what we read, we write using the voice of our teachers, our muses, our inspirations. And then we come into our own. This 3rd session will blend writing prompts and exercises with an exploration of the land at the Whidbey Institute. Bethany will offer conversation around thin/thick descriptions used in therapeutic spaces as a way to offer engagement around honest writing, and Bethany and Tyler will discuss their chosen platforms as places that hold their honesty best.

Addressing the Ego: Ways to Avoid Taking Personal Critique Personally. Any creative process and art form that is to be shared asks of us to sacrifice our ego on the altar of criticism. Not everything we do will be loved. Not everything we write will be understood. Not every story will translate to a larger audience. So how do we survive the scrutiny of others while at the same time bravely offering ourselves to the world? This session will address tips and tricks of the trade: How to grow more comfortable sharing your work, how to metabolize rejection and critique, how to send your super-ego to a timeout in order to pursue the work.

This writing retreat is not only a space to write, reflect, and learn. It is also a space to be quiet, to connect to the rhythms of the earth, the stories of the land, and to allow your body and mind to both rest and be enlivened to write again, write down what is in your bones, write down what your heart cannot let go of, write for health and healing, write for necessity.

Offerings and opportunities include:​​

  • Workshops on therapeutic writing, poetry, non-fiction, publishing, pen-pals, writing through grief, and rediscovering the sacredness of the written word
  • Writing prompts each day with amble time to reflect
  • Forest walks/hikes through the land
  • Locally sourced meals
  • Open space and writing time​​

We hope you will join us.


Bethany Bylsma
Bethany is a therapist, finally seeing clients in person again at her private practice in Seattle. After 10 years of being pen-pals, they decided to share the magic with others and will be your hosts for the weekend.
Learn more about Bethany Bylsma
Tyler Dunning
Tyler is a professional writer, working from home in Belgrade, Montana, as an Associate Editor at Only One, a storytelling platform for ocean conservation, where he writes & edits articles and produces short films.
Learn more about Tyler Dunning

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