As you read this, I am on a four-day self-directed writing retreat, with the goal of taking a stab at finishing my WIP called Batten, about a teenage girl dealing with a devastating disease by that name that has stricken both of her brothers.
Over the course of my writing career, I have attended many retreats or writing workshops. These have ranged widely in length of time, degree of intensity, variety of location, type or style of program, and takeaways. I’ll reminisce about a few in the paragraphs following.
Before I ever thought of getting published, I made annual trips alone and in the company of various ladies’ groups, to an Episcopal convent in Georgia. Many of those visits yielded a number of adult poems that were later published in various literary magazines.
Somewhere around 1998 I went on a beach retreat sponsored by SCBWI, (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). It was my first experience with this outstanding organization that has been my writing lifeline ever since. I remember getting encouraging feedback about my writing, but the best outcome of that weekend was eventually meeting Carol Baldwin, the Charlotte critique group leader. We went on to co-facilitate the Charlotte SCBWI conference and become lifelong friends and writing buddies.
In 2009 I attended the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, NY. During that pivotal week, Patti Gauch, former vice president and editor at Philomel Books, helped me rework my rough manuscript, Crazy, from an adult to a YA voice. I soaked up every word Patti said or wrote on my manuscript, and skipped about half the other presentations so I would have plenty of material to show her throughout that intense week. I owe a debt of gratitude to Patti to this day, because I’m sure her editing and confidence in me made all the difference towards the eventual publication of Crazy.
In October 2012 Lorin Oberweger brought her Free Expressions workshop to Charlotte, called Your Best Book. I took a middle grade novel that was finished but left both me and my critiquers unsatisfied. During the course of that week, I decided to abandon that novel and start over (it now rests quietly in a bottom drawer). And, in between sessions, two offers on Crazy came through via email, one of which was Eerdmans. In spite of all the blood pressure spikes, I learned more about world-building and digging deeper into characters and scenes than I ever had before.
Rebecca Petruck (Steering Toward Normal) presented her plot workshop to a small group of writers in 2013, and it was there that I discovered I can use plot charts and I would probably benefit from using them, but alas, in the end, I will always and forever be a pantster! And if that makes no sense to you, well, I advise you to put one of these workshops at the top of your list.
So, I tell you all this to drive home the point that writers need workshops and retreats on a regular basis, and that part of the fun is taking away something, or many things, that you might never have envisioned beforehand.
It is in that spirit that I am at a recently discovered gem of a retreat center near Statesville, NC (not a regular writers’ center so email me if you are interested) and hoping the muse will strike hard during this self-imposed crunch week.
AND, if you are reading this you have discovered I have a brand, spanking new website and I would LOVE your feedback!! New features include being able to search the blogs by category, tag, or month, and checking out where I’ve been (archives) as well as where I’m going. I hope YOU keep track of it, because honestly, some days I wonder both where I’m going and where I’ve been, ha!