SwampFire Retreat for Artists and Writers


9th annual retreat, 15-17 July 2016

There were twice as many of us this year at Steve Smith's studio and 4 Corners Gallery for SwampFire, compared to 2015. Steve invited a special guest, Heidi Reichenbach Finley, a Turkish marbling artist.

The weather was perfect: not too hot during the day, not too cold at night . . . with clear skies all three days. As always, we shared fine fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. On Saturday Heidi awed us with a demonstration of Turkish marbeling techniques and then helped us create our "masterpieces."

Heidi Finley describes Turkish marbling paint, tools, and techniques.

Heidi and Monica Heckel discuss Monica's color choices.

On Friday evening Steve had us all drawing our favorite images and then he and his associate, Rebecca Graves, turned our art into decals to apply to cups and fire in one of his many kilns. By Sunday morning the cups were ready for us to take home as a memento of an amazing retreat experience. Thanks, Steve and Heidi.

Dawn Burns

Never Assume

Never assume.

Never assume you can control how a story is going to end or the path your characters and you, the writer, will have to walk to get there.

Never assume that if you only had enough determination, if you only could find the right words, if you only could stick to a certain schedule or formula, your story/life would cohere, make sense, change the world.

Never assume your name will never change.

Never assume. Instead, write!

Fling yourself headlong into the messiness of what you were made to do. And then, for awhile, be still. Be still and soak in the world around you, trusting that the words will come as they always have, trusting too that even through the greatest heartbreak and pain, the beautiful will always manifest.

Never assume. Write. And in writing, be faithful to the path you have been given to walk, bearing witness to the hope that is present always in the world.

Heidi Reichenbach Finley

Since I am a visual artist, this may be all the writing I do this weekend. I am an appreciator of writing and writers and have enjoyed the company of SwampFire goers. Thank you for including me.

It’s very energizing for me to come together with other creative souls. My mind was comfortably blown at SwampFire!

Steve Smith

It’s always different, this time so many cars, my yard was full of cars tents creativity, each SwampFire turns out different, kind of surprising because we tend to plan basically the same, but lives change, stories come to an end, it’s hard to top growth, comfort, friendship. It’s just good to see the studio so full of energy.

Jan Bechtel

Back at SwampFire after many years—good to be alone and together with other artists. Mostly time to sit in quiet at the edge of the soybean field, surrounded and soaking in the beauty. The gift of looking and seeing. The gift of silence and birdsong. Peace . . .

Zoe Anweiler

For two months I have lived in fog.

Perhaps longer.

A place where I forgot the things that make me alive.

Lost sight of the mountains I live to surmount.

I breathed free this weekend, reminded my soul is soaked in love and desire to make and connect and create new worlds.

When it rolls back in I’ll have a face to push it back.

Mey Hasbrook

While I love my community-arts projects, it is great to have time just to play. Thanks, SwampFire.

Linda Bales

Second SwampFire, loved doing the poetry piece for Ariel and the marbling for Sarah—so grateful I got to come this year.

Alex Friedman

Slept in the car, waiting on my emergency instant coffee to kick in, thinking about the drive. Mosquitos, great food, novel writing, friends new and old—another wonderful SwampFire.

Rachel Baker

SwampFire at Steve’s studio

This weekend is always rejuvenating—for my writing, my peace of mind, my relationships with my friends and fellow creatives. The conversations and ideas I’m exposed to here carry with me until the next time. This year’s paper marbling demonstration with Heidi Finley was relaxing; our whiskey cups (and Lucy’s cat art) were fun. Looking forward to next year!

Marian Plant

If I keep coming to SwampFire long enough I just may remember that the only real preparation needed is getting the dates onto the calendar and holding fast to coming. In another year my inner space will have changed again as does each season in each new incarnation. This time I return home with images of a doe in the midst of a verdant, undulating soybean field, a family of sand cranes striding from treeline in the field, and a delicate blue dragonfly. Oh, and a little more peace.

Eva English



Monica L. Heckel

I am very thankful that I was able to get this weekend free to be here and not be constantly bombarded with all the responsibilities and people who “need” me or my input/feedback, taking time to get back to the creative in me.

Blessings of Peace and all good.

Becky Miller

Sometimes we find moments walking to a tree in our backyard, but sometimes moments surround us in infinite possibilities. SwampFire is one of those latter times. The gathering of artists and those open to and fascinated by it invites a depth and breadth of possibility and discovery. I am exhausted, but full . . . Full of life, love, recovery and joy. Create, love and breathe.

Returning here shall be my greatest joy.

Michelle Marshall

It has been a long time since I have joined the SwampFire community. It reminds me of how helpful it is to be around creatives. Exploring different ways people express in various media is a way for me to gain insight. It is helpful to me to be alone in community—to allow space to explore my inner world. So glad to be here and to see what will rise from the space in which I am.

Mary Catherine Harper

SwampFire grounds me

—the fire pit holding coals for cooking our meals, simple process, simple food

—my narrow tent holding me safe from mosquitoes at night while being open to the temperature drops, open to the sounds that critters make in the night: the crickets, the birds, especially the family of cranes just a few feet away in the nearby field

—the circle of camp chairs each evening holding us together as we mull over the work we have done in our separate spaces

—the idea of SwampFire holding me in balance between what I’ve created in the past and what my art might become . . . tomorrow, the day after, on other ground



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