Writer’s Retreats — Our Thoughts, Part Two

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***THE BLOGGER***

Two years ago, I went to my first ConCarolinas and had the great good fortune to meet several of the MagicalWords.net authors, as well as several fans and MW participants. One group of us in particular really hit it off and agreed to meet up again the next year. At the end of *that* con, as Melanie described, our final gathering resulted in “let’s have a writers’ retreat next year”. Like you do.

Imagine my surprise – all of our surprise, I think – as we started trading emails and beginning to discuss plans, and everyone remained enthusiastic. Along the way, a couple of people had to withdraw from the retreat itself for different reasons, but they stayed active and encouraging in the discussions all the same.

And what a real thrill to learn that Faith would be able to join us, both for some much needed post-con R&R, and also for some invaluable discussions about writing in general, and group critiques of our own works in particular.

The only thing I discounted, in fact, was how much *fun* we would have together. Different women, different ages, different countries and coastlines, even, but we share a love of the genre and of writing. And humor. Lots of humor. Which we needed for a few of those moments like bloody noses and thumbs and poison ivy and toilets and lightning storms. It wasn’t all a picnic, no matter how well fed we were throughout the week!

And the only downside to having that much fun, I would say, is that I didn’t actually *write* as much as I had hoped. But I did receive fabulous critiques on the first half of a story I’m prepping for submission by the end of this month. And through discussion, some great insight into improvements I might make on other WIPs. In particular, Faith gave us a lot of advice about *beginnings*, which all of us took to heart and incorporated in the works we had brought to share.

A beautiful setting, fabulous food, and wonderful fellowship. Who could ask for anything more? I hope this will be known as the first of our annual writers retreats. And I strongly encourage any writer, especially those like me, who are still working to become published, to find a group of like-minded people. Develop that trust to share your work and honest opinions. You’ll grow. Your work will get better. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a heckuva good time along the way.

BIO: Margaret McGraw writes fantasy and science fiction, including a daily prompt-writing blog <http://margaretsmcgraw.blogspot.com>. She’s also an IT manager and a freelance editor. And she wrangles dogs, a cat, too many unfinished craft projects, and a teen. More or less successfully.

Cheers,
Margaret
Visit my daily prompt-writing blog at http://margaretsmcgraw.blogspot.com

***

***THE BOTANIST***

Writers’ Re-treat? Did I Miss the First One? – George (Or being in the wrong place at the right time.)

I don’t remember last year’s conversation about having a writers’ retreat. When I received the first email concerning the retreat, I sort of went with it. My first book was coming out, I started another, and I was starting a new business in publicity. Oh, and I was dead broke.

Usually a deal breaker.

But seriously, an opportunity to get away, write, and discuss other peoples’ work? Who in their right mind would turn that down?

Shut up, I already know I’m not in my right mind.

It got better. We had a volunteer to COOK! YES! Fistpump! I don’t mind doing dishes, but I’m the worst cook that ever used fire. Or a knife, come to think of it. I kept my hat in the ring.

Whatever that means.

There were decisions to make about where to go. All sounded marvelous. The best was a ‘cabin’ in the mountains. Yeah, cabin. My home would fit on the back deck, next to the swinging bench. Four bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, dining room, and three bathrooms. I’ll return to that.

Things happened, money loosened, and I was now a part of the great Writers of the Roaring Gap Retreat. May the Powers That Be help them.

Things decided, things reconsidered, things planned, things scrapped. First there was the Romantic Times Con to get through. (Rocks, but it’s always overwhelming, and more so set in New Orleans). I sort of forgot about ConCarolinas, the retreat, and well, everything else.

Which wasn’t a good thing, since I had 200 pages of edits to do by June 1st. Oops.

Quickly got cheese and wine, which are my annual contribution to the Magical Words Party, and packed my bag. Light. Delta is hell on going overweight. Please note this last sentence.

I arrived on Thursday, and began my edits, ignoring everyone, including my Canadian roomie. Okay, I always ignore my Canadian roomie, but this time I had a good reason. I plugged her headphones into my computer, turned up the volume, and started adding commas that were indicated in pink. I went into a coma of commas. I despise commas. Actually, I want to ban the semicolon, but that’s a different story.

By Friday afternoon I was ready to hit the panels. The Magical Words panels offer education, fun, and some disputes. I love the MW panels. I learn a lot about wit. And writing. And gracious disagreements. The only way to learn is to hear all sides of a subject. There is no one wrong way. That doesn’t read quite right.

Sunday, it was over. The scary part was about to begin, six women in a cabin deep in the mountains. Somewhere. I didn’t even know where. I forgot to mention this part to my husband.

I do that once in a while.

He recognized the mountains when I sent him pictures, though. He wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there. Me either.

See, all these women write. They write for people well above the age of twelve. I write from the POV of a magical basset hound called George, and feel like I’m floundering much of the time. So many rules for writing, and I break them all.

Oh. You mean those rules are for ADULTS? Well, okay then. Huh? What’s a gerund? Dangling participles? Isn’t that the name of my next dog, Gerund’s Dangling Participle?

No? Faith brought out her teaching hat and explained how sentences can convey emotion, just with their length. Short sentences can indicate action, the sound of a heartbeat speeding up with adrenalin.

Um, that didn’t work so well. George seldom ‘speaks’ in long sentences. I did get the concept. I actually noticed it when reading Faith Hunter and Gwen Hunter. It was even in comic books. Okay, so Hulk might not be the best example.

Lastly, I didn’t have anything to offer at the critique sessions. I finished my edits, and the last thing I wanted to look at was Tillie’s Tale, and her pink commas.

That didn’t stop Faith. Nope, I was banished from the cabin, and sent out to write. I found a nice bench on the side of the mountain, sat on it, and it broke.

Figures. I sat on the grass and wrote five pages, both sides, of the first chapter of Phebe’s Pause. I had something to discuss.

If I could read my handwriting.

There is nothing better than being with other writers and going over ideas, flat spots, and things that really resonate. Then, there was me.

At least I got to hear a lot of wonderful stories. I also clogged the toilet, (we were saved by Faith who wielded the plunger with great aplomb and dignity), gashed my finger open on a chunk of white marble I insisted on bringing back home (remember the Delta weight limit?), and managed to get a large splinter in another finger trying to do my exercises.

Too much Valium for a medical condition may have explained a lot of my problems. Perhaps the snoring? The fact the second half of Phebe’s chapter sort of floated down the page. Or that I wasn’t coherent during a critique session? The clogged toilet?

Personally, I think I was invited as inspiration for new characters. I can’t prove it, but I’m going to read everyone’s work very closely in the future.

I managed to finish the first chapter of a brand new book, learn quite a bit about how to work with the language, and with the help of everyone, developed an outline. Yeah, I know, I just had to be different.

Oh, the rock and Delta? It made it home. In two large chunks, some pebbles, and a lot of sand. How did the TSA manage to destroy a large piece of marble?

BIO: Mindy Mymudes is the author of ‘George Knows’, published by MuseItUp, a midgrade paranormal mystery from the point of view of a magical basset hound. ‘George’ won the Predator and Editors  Reader’s Choice Award for best Children’s book. He also was an Amazon Bestseller. Mindy is often mentioned in Dog Fancy, and is quoted in the July 2014 issue. She also breeds, trains, and exhibits some of the top ranked English springer spaniels in the country. Her other work include articles in botanical journals, and a short for Pill Hill Press, Zombies, a Love Story.

Find her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Mindy-Mymudes/486126501426333?ref=hl
Blog: http://bassetbones.wordpress.com
Twitter: @GeorgeBasset

 

***

***THE FACILITATOR ***

And I guess that leaves me. Hi. I’m Faith Hunter, the woman who always tells writers to say NO to anything that takes them away from writing. You know. Like Cons. Writer’s retreats. Family vacations. I promise myself every year to STOP and just write. I’ve never followed my own advice, of course, but I’ve always wanted to. And this year was already full to bursting with travel and Cons and family events and eldercare—all the life things that take time away from writing. So I should have refused to put anything new on my calendar. Right? And stay home and write, like a writerly writer should.

But then comes the chance to fulfill a dream I’ve always had, a dream that stands in direct opposition to the demand to stay home and write. That dream was guaranteed to take more time away from actual writing, but it was, like, a dream dream. You know. A Bucket List Dream.

A writers’ retreat. Or maybe I should say, A WRITERS’ RETREAT.

Such a retreat had remained a dream for lots of reasons, from finding the right location, to what I’d *teach*, to getting a group of humans who could live together-ish for a week or so and not kill each other or come to blows or at least huge shouting matches. And what if something broke. I’m mechanical—dad saw to that—but the HUBS is like a magical fix-it man, so I haven’t fixed stuff in years. And who would cook? I can cook. Sorta. Ish. If I don’t mind the possibility of a dead body to hide. So, not me.

But I was asked to go. I thought about it a lot. I almost turned it down several times. But it was the dream. The dream dream. And … they had a cook already lined up. And the attendees already got along, so that eliminated the possibility that we’d need to hide a body. And I’d done three years’ at a weeklong conference in SC, with intensive courses, intensive critique groups, all on a campus, so I knew I had the material and the ability. And to make it even better, THE HUBS agreed to go and take the RV and we’d sleep in the parking lot and he’d go paddle by day and fix stuff by night. It looked … doable.

I bargained it out with them. Since I’d never done a retreat to this extent before, I wouldn’t charge. But I also wouldn’t pay anything. I expected them to say never mind. They agreed. Which left—the location.

In my dream dream the retreat would be located in a place that has no outside access, no cell phone access, no Internet access. You know, like on the top of a mountain. Miles from freaking *anywhere*.

And … I remembered that I sorta had a friend who owned such a place. So I put THE COOK in touch with THE LANDLADY and they worked out a price and … it all came together, making me THE FACILATATOR. Even with one member having to drop out at the last minute, and THE HUBS having to stay home with eldercare issues, it worked.

It was a lovely experience. The location was remote enough that I could only find one place in the house that a cell signal. The house was on top of a mountain at the back of a sheep farm. Everyone got along. The food was great, thanks to THE COOK. And I rediscovered that I am fully capable of unclogging a toilet. Someone has a photo of me doing just that. And best of all, there were no dead bodies to hide.

I didn’t get much writing done, and I’ll know next time (assuming I ever do the dream dream again) that 5 nights and 4 days isn’t enough to do it all. We needed 6 nights and 7 days to get in all that I wanted to share, and to also find time to write. We needed to buckle down and stop having fun and write. We needed … Well, never mind there. Even with the black-out fighter jets making runs over the house about 30 feet overhead in the middle of the night, even with the sheep screaming like a woman being stabbed in the middle of the night, even with the pitcher that I broke (and have been making restitution to THE LANDLADY for, though she says it’s fine, I’m guilty), and even with the stopped up toilet and the other toilet running and having to be turned off, leaving one toilet for 6 women, it was utterly lovely. The DREAM DREAM. Totally worth it.

Faith Hunter Bio — eh.

 

Roaring! (all 6 of the crew!) (IMG_7722) PS'd

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3 comments to Writer’s Retreats — Our Thoughts, Part Two

  • mudepoz

    There wasn’t enough time to write? *Looks at the 3000K mark on her WIP* What were you guys doing when I was at the fire pit or trying to figure out which plants were edible in case we got trapped there?
    BTW, Faith fixed that toilet with great aplomb once the plunger was found. Many things were found well after they were needed. Almost like the cabin was pranking us.

  • […] Writer’s Retreats — Our Thoughts, Part Two. […]

  • I liked how we all worked well together and got along so great. But the down side of that is that it was very easy to get to talking, rather than working. Lots of great conversations were had, but I did learn an important skill by the end of the retreat: how to extract myself and find a place to work quietly, even if I had to put those headphones on myself for a bit. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this in the future.

    Faith, I totally agree that this could have been a few days longer. I felt like I was just hitting my stride right when we had to go. Especially factoring in the Sunday night for post-con recovery. :)