The Writer’s Life - The Porches in Norwood, Virginia


People always say it’s not where you write but how you write - the time of day, absence of distractions, self- discipline, and patience. For me, location plays an important part.

I just spent nine days at a writers’ retreat in an Antebellum farmhouse by the James River, on four acres with well-tended gardens in Norwood, Virginia, in Nelson County. The house has been lovingly restored by its owner, Trudy Hale, a writer and co-editor of Streetlight Magazine, an online journal of literature and art.

Sunset on the James River

Sunset on the James River

There are five bedrooms for writers and artists who must come with a project in mind. Each room has a queen or double bed, writing desk, comfortable chair or sofa, and A/C. Communal space includes a kitchen, parlor, and two gracious front porches, perfect for a fresh cup of coffee at breakfast, communing with other guests, reading, or watching hummingbirds in the wisteria bush as they compete for the sweet nectar.

Each desk has a window view

Writing table with a view

I fell asleep to the buzz of cicadas and was awakened by the rooster’s crowing. Trains carrying coal from West Virginia punctuated our days and became a welcome friend. The Porches Writing Retreat holds such a spell that many guests return and request their favorite room.

The Dove Room on the second floor

The Dove Room

Norwood is east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with marvelous views of the Piedmont hills, less than an hour from Charlottesville and its airport. Down from 56 Pine Hill Lane is Christ Episcopal Church. Members of the multi-generational Goodwin family who once lived in Norwood preached there; and William Archer Rutherford Goodwin (1869-1939) began the 20th century efforts to preserve and restore Colonial Williamsburg. Although the church is now closed, Trudy has purchased it and intends to turn it into a gallery.

Hills surrounding The Porches

My writing project at The Porches naturally focused on chocolate. On my departing morning, I treated Trudy and a few writers to a tasting of Vietnamese chocolate - a 75% bar from Shark Mountain Chocolate in Charlottesville. On my next visit to the James, "the river where America began," I plan to bring samples from Marou, a French chocolatier that crafts its chocolate in Ho Chi Minh City.

Assorted Vietnamese chocolate bars

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Photos courtesy of Trudy Hale at The Porches, except for photos of the Dove Room and Marou Chocolates

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