Sometimes things just work out.
Last year I told my husband that I wanted to take a solo weekend writing retreat, or a “writecation,” so I could start working on the book that I hope to complete in 2017. I wanted to check myself into a hotel for a weekend and just write.
I considered booking a room at a hotel in Birmingham, but I knew I needed to get away. Otherwise, the demands of family obligations and the lures of social events with friends would be too much of a distraction.
About a month or so after having this conversation with my husband I was contacted by a representative from Hotel Finial in Anniston, Alabama. They offered me a two-night complimentary stay so I could have the writecation I’d dreamed of. But my stay at Hotel Finial exceeded anything I could have ever imagined!
Originally built in 1888, Hotel Finial began as a private residence, occupied over the years by the McKleroy, Wilson, and Kirby families. This Queen Anne Victorian-style home was eventually converted into the Victoria Hotel to serve local residents seeking a getaway and business travelers who helped Alabama’s growing industries.
In 2015 Del and Ginger Marsh purchased the property and created Hotel Finial, finding a way to give the hotel a more modern look while still preserving elements of its rich history, such as the intricately designed fireplaces and elegant architecture.
Hotel Finial is a bed and breakfast and hotel in one. The main house features four suites — three of which are named for the families who once lived in the home and one called the Grand Ballroom — and sophisticated common rooms perfect for meetings and meals. Behind the house are traditional hotel rooms, a cottage, a pool, and more.
After giving me a brief tour of the hotel, Ginger took me to the Grand Ballroom Suite, which was where I would be staying. When I walked through the door I nearly fainted. My “hotel room” turned out to basically be a one-bedroom apartment! My room included a dining area, a living room, a bedroom, two bathrooms and a writer’s nook, all tastefully decorated to create a chic and modern look.
Before starting my Friday night writing session I ordered carry-out pizza and a salad from Mata’s Greek Pizza, which is just a block away from the hotel. I enjoyed my pie in the dining area of my room and then I got to work.
At home I like to move from room to room when I work. I’ll write a few pages at the desk in my home office, then move to the dining room table to write a few more. When I get stuck I may move to the sofa of the living room and I also really like working in bed so I can spread out all my materials — journals, books, magazines, and laptop.
My huge suite allowed me to move about from room to room just as I do at home, but without getting distracted by dishes that needed to be washed or floors that needed to be swept.
Eventually on Friday night I got hit with writer’s block. The magazines and books I brought weren’t helping because my problem was I’d lost my sense of direction on my book project. (I’ll write more on this in a future post.) I was struggling with a very specific issue and I needed some advice.
So I turned to Jeff Goins’ podcast The Portfolio Life for guidance. The Wi-Fi at Hotel Finial is lightning fast, so using the internet to listen to podcasts or do research for my book was easy.
After a great night’s sleep, I started the next day with a made-to-order breakfast — bacon, eggs, grits, and biscuits — at the hotel, and then it was back to work. On Saturday, I not only worked on my book, but also worked on blog posts and exclusive content for See Jane Write members.
Everything about Hotel Finial made me feel inspired, from my chic suite to the elegant common areas downstairs. And sometimes while in my room I’d stand in the writer’s nook and just look out the window pondering the stories of all the people who drove by.
When I needed a break from writing, I lounged in the living room where I read the latest issue of Essence and caught an episode of Law & Order SVU.
Saturday night I had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and then spent some time at Spencer’s Bar, the hotel bar which is named after Ginger’s father. Jacob — the bartender at Spencer’s — and I talked music, celebrities, travel, and more. The extrovert in me needed some time to socialize.
After returning to my room, I ended the night listening to more podcasts and watching a few webinars.
The next morning I enjoyed another cook-to-order breakfast and then hit the road to head back to Birmingham.
I definitely plan to return to Hotel Finial for a vacation with my husband and when I do I’m going to spend time exploring Anniston. While chatting with Ginger and Jacob I learned so much about the city that I’ve planned my whole itinerary for my next trip. Here’s what I plan to do:
- Visit St. Michael and All Angels Church, the Anniston Museum of Natural History, and the Berman Museum of World History.
- Go hiking at Cheaha State Park, the highest point in Alabama.
- Enjoy dinner, drinks and live music at Cheaha Brewing Company.
- Have dinner at Effina’s Tuscan Grill or the Peerless Saloon & Grille.
- Have Sunday brunch at Classic on Noble.
Here are more scenes from Hotel Finial:
Photography by Kristen Stringer
Where will you take your solo weekend writing retreat? What do you hope to accomplish during your writecation?