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Author works to help other writers tell their stories

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | August 25, 2021 1:00 AM

Author Laura Munson says writing is akin to breathing.

“Writing is my practice, my prayer, my meditation, my way of life, and sometimes my way to life,” she says. “It’s the way I breathe.”

From her home just outside Whitefish, Munson has created a life centered around writing her own words and finding ways to help others learn the art of telling their own story.

A New York Times bestselling author, Munson’s novel “Willa’s Grove,” was released in March last year, 10 years after her first book, a memoir, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.”

After her first book was released, Munson was of course still writing but in anticipation of becoming an empty nester, she also started looking for what would come next in life. She began reflecting on the people she met across the country during book readings and speaking events at women’s conferences.

“So many of them said, ‘I don’t have a voice,’” she said. “I realized that we don’t make space for people to tell their own story. Whether or not you want to be a writer, it’s emotionally liberating to tune into your thoughts and share them.”

She posted a question on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in attending a writing retreat in Montana, and within two hours, she had more than two dozen people sign up.

So she set out to create a safe space for writers founding Haven Writing Workshops and Retreats in 2013. Since then she has annually hosted retreats, workshops and a writer-in-residence program for writers on all levels of their creative journey.

“I created the retreat I would want to attend,” she said. “It meets you where you need to be met. I ask people to dig deeply into their own voice through various, guided writing prompts and hours of class for each day. Montana is a character on the retreat too – it’s usually a place none of the attendees have been.”

Held at Dancing Spirit Ranch in Columbia Falls, the retreats have welcomed writers from all over the world gathering in small groups to work through the creative process together. Through her foundation, she also provides scholarships to the workshops to people who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

“When people leave home something happens,” she says. “When they leave their daily habits and their comfort zones, and come to this safe space for their creative self-expression, it allows for magic to happen.”

Inspired by her retreats, in “Willa’s Grove” Munson tells the story of four women who all find themselves at a crossroads coming together at a Montana homestead where they can be in the wilderness and learn from one another.

During her cross-country book tour for “Willa’s Grove”, the world began to shut down last spring due to the pandemic. Munson cut the tour short, coming home to Whitefish, and once again began to look for what would come next.

She started a weekly, online, free journaling workshop called, “So Now What Journaling.” Every Friday for more than a year, Munson guided more than 600 people from all over the world through writing practices.

Munson says she knows how healing writing can be and how it can help with processing everything that’s happened as a result of the pandemic, and the pandemic is even more reason for people to tell their stories.

“I think that writing should be up there with diet and exercise in the realm of preventative wellness,” she said.

She expects to be back leading in-person workshops this fall, noting that people are starved for live gatherings, especially when it comes to telling their stories.

For more information on Munson’s books and retreats, visit www.lauramunson.com.