The Blogchatter Writing Retreat


 Serendipity ; 
Noun: The development of certain events accidentally in a happy way.


Call it serendipity.

One look at Blog Chatter’s writing retreat info retweeted on my timeline & without any further reflexes, I booked a slot immediately.  For years, the writing was more of a therapeutic act than a profession. The blog was an online journal of my musings, short stories and poetry. The conundrum between returning to a corporate career and pursuing writing full time was lying unresolved for some days. I got a premonition that this retreat may be the catalyst I needed to arrive at a decision.

The Blogchatter team was prompt & responsive to my queries. The details as below and agenda for the retreat were mailed way ahead in time.

Venue: Taj Gateway Resorts, Damdama Lake, Gurgaon

Dates: Check in on 16th July at 11 am 
           
Check out on 17th July from 10.30 am to 12 noon

Ticket* includes: Blogchatter Sessions +  Accommodation on Twin 
sharing basis for one night and all meals

*

The D day arrived. Google Maps showed two roads leading to the hotel to cover 15 km. distance from my house. I decided to take the one less travelled. After almost an hour spent crossing the road barriers of cows lounging on the road, literally ploughing through the ebbs and flows of deeply caved roads, marvelling at mystique around fiercely guarded farmhouses en route, we arrived at our destination.
Wah Taj! I sighed. Taj has been the epitome of hospitality and luxury for decades. The 90s hospitality graduate in me rued not working at Taj during the decade old hospitality life. As we entered the conference room pre function area, a sparkling smile greeted us at the foyer. That was Richa Singh, Founder of Blog Chatter. I felt home.
Amongst the participants were renowned travel bloggers, mommy bloggers, published authors, developers, RJ, editors and Illustrators. Some people knew each other virtually or in real life, some were complete strangers.
Always a back bencher, I settled for the last table in the room. (My Theory: you get a larger perspective of any conference from a backseat 🙂 ).

Who would have thought of meeting kindred souls at a writing retreat or a blogger’s meet?

(Not me).

*

Richa introduced Blogchatter and imminent speakers to the attendees and everyone introduced themselves.The other participants on my table were RJ Prateek, lovely Bhavana Arora and the talented illustrator Neethu Krishnan. Strangers who turned friends by the end of the retreat.

The other participants on my table were RJ Prateek, lovely Bhavana Arora and the talented illustrator Neethu Krishnan. Strangers who turned friends by the end of the retreat.

I also got to meet the elusive Desi Traveller who informally shared excellent photography and blogging tips during the retreat.

The opening session was by Kanchana Banerjee, a communication specialist and author of ” A Forgotten Affair“. Kanchana shared her fascinating journey of pitching her first book to the publishers. She also gave us a glimpse into her second book, a work in progress. She also shared valuable tips related to writing and manuscript presentation. I read excerpts from her book recently and it tops my”to be read list” on Kindle now.

I couldn’t resist but get my camera from the room to capture the moments. And I could manage some heartwarming clicks.

A tea break followed. The generous Taj staff ensuring personal attention to all those attending.

The next session was by very wise travel blogger & editor Samarpita Mukherjee. Samarpita spoke about the role of good editing in writing, the pitfall and way out. She also shared some valuable tips on the writing process.

The next session was by the illustrator Vidhi Nagar of Tathya. It was an engaging session on thinking visual, with fun activities to tantalise the creative minds. The same concept was reinforced in my creative writing workshop recently. Have been using it to draft characters/moments effectively since then.

Vidhi’s session was followed by a session on critical elements of writing by publisher & entrepreneur Dipankar Mukherjee. An engaging session, discussing the role of conflict in writing process was the biggest creative take away of the day. That was the element on my mind for a new piece of writing.

Serendipitous, did someone say?

The discussions moved on to the restaurant tables during lunch. My heart was firmly stuck on the caramel cake.

In the evening, Taj team took everyone for a tour of the resort. We continued to chat at the picnic zone. I indulged in a lot of photography.

As the twilight settled in, discussions moved to the “Swirl” bar. Dinner was at the Oriental restaurant “Sian”. In between sessions, all the participants got chatting and by the end of the day, at dinner tables, people were sharing life stories, moments amidst bouts of laughter and choked throats.

One could see misty eyes and feel the joie de vivre / camaraderie amongst participants, speakers, organisers alike.

So, we were back at the grand conference room for binge writing and discussions on social media channels over some midnight martini.
A late night sojourn was followed by an early morning fitness session with Himanshu & Aditya from The Sweat Shop, Gurgaon. For the groggy eyed participants, who could pull themselves out of the slumber, it was a rewarding session. Exercises, games and lots of chatter about healthy eating, lifestyle changes and of course, exercising.

The morning session post breakfast was by Aditi Kumar Mathur. An army wife, travel blogger & a published author, Aditi spoke about how Travel fuels creativity.

Nostalgia is peppermint. Leaves the tongue tantalising much after it has been consumed. There were such tantalising moments people shared their travel memories.

#ThrowbackSunday, it turned out to be. Our star participant was Gauri, Aditi’s feisty young daughter with a mind and opinion of her own about hotels she stays at.

Our star participant were -Gauri, Aditi’s feisty young daughter with a mind and opinion of her own about hotels she stays at and Ananya Kamboj, a 14-year-old accomplished blogger from Punjab.
We headed back to our rooms thereafter to check out. Making promises to stay in touch (technology, My Lord) and meeting again, people bid adieu to each other and the resort.

A writing retreat at Taj Damdama sounded enticing, to begin with. It promised creative writing workshop, art journaling, fitness activities and games, travel workshop, social media channel management.

In the end, it turned out to be all this and much more. A productive and enriching retreat, with memories to savour and cherish.

img_1250

And yes, I took the well travelled Sohna Road back to Gurgaon and was home in 30 minutes. There is, after all, some reason why some roads are well travelled 🙂

Thank you for reading. It is a coincidence that I finished this long due blog post today.

This also marks my journey with #MyFriendAlexa and Blogchatter all this month.

Yeah, “I am taking my Alexa Rank to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa”.

My current Alexa Global ranking is 33 million.

The musings over Taj, Damdama experience is blogged Here

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