Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Long live the post-retreat high

by Pamela

I woke up this morning with the same revelation I had last night: I need to bottle this state-of-mind I'm in. It's pretty close to perfect.

It's the kind of feeling you get after spending time in the company of good friends--wonderful women who inspire, motivate and encourage you.

The six of us spent Friday through Monday at a retreat in East Texas in a town that started with Frank but the ending mattered little. We descended upon our location after a rocky start. Joan forgot her laptop (but fortunately remembered before we got out of Dallas). Then she realized she didn't have the power cord either (but not before Julie left home and could bring her an extra one). And then we stopped for fuel and got busy gabbing and didn't realize the gas nozzle was overflowing due to a non-functioning shut-off feature. (The attendants pushed the van out of a puddle of unleaded.) Then we waited a while in the gas station parking lot for Susan to meet us, until I finally mentioned that I wondered what was taking so long and then someone said we were meeting her at the restaurant. Of course the restaurant served us five lunches, only one of which passed as real food...mine ;)

BUT...all was fine once we arrived at the lake home we'd call our haven for the next three blissful, carefree, child-free days. We found plenty of niches to settle into for quiet writing times, and our view of the lake changed from peaceful to inspiring to spectacular depending on what time of day we stopped for a meditative moment. The television remained off, the food and camaraderie were never lacking.

We grazed through breakfasts and lunches but dinnertime fare was planned and partnered off. Friday night Joan and I prepared pumpkin-glazed salmon and grilled steaks with pasta and crusty bread. Julie and Susan served venison lasagna (Susan's husband prepared this in advance), salad and bread. And for our last night, Kim and Elizabeth made an Asian feast of potstickers, rice, grilled chicken followed by dark chocolate covered fortune cookies.

As we read our fortunes, we decided to put a literary twist on the silly tradition of adding "in bed" to the predictions and instead added: "in the publishing world." This is how it played out for each of us. (some opened two)

Elizabeth: A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed friendship in the publishing world.
Joan: You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily in the publishing world. / Your curiosity will lead you to great achievements in the publishing world.
Julie: Remember three months from this date; Good things are in store for you in the publishing world. / Your lucky number for the week is the number two in the publishing world.
Kim: You will will attend an unusual party and meet someone important in the publishing world.
Susan: Your charm has inspired a secret admirer in the publishing world. / You will be traveling to distant lands for business purposes in the publishing world.
Pamela: You will be showered with good luck before your next birthday in the publishing world.

Each evening, after spending most of the day sequestered in solitude, we'd clear away dinner dishes and then pull out our laptops to share our writings with each other. I told Joan as we readied for bed one night, "I'd love to read a passage I've written and have each of you close your eyes, breathe a satisfied, collective sigh and tell me how gifted I am." But that would prove less than helpful. What each of us offered was encouraging but real. We critiqued in a manner that exceeded just pointing out grammatical errors or POV issues. As writers and readers--most of us quite prolific and voracious--we were able to see beyond our friendships and suggest what will make our writings that much better.

Today, the view out my window might be a little different than the serene lake images I savored over the weekend, but the encouragement and motivation remains. And even though our next retreat might be 364 days away, I can still reach out for my friends and know they are with me every step of the way.

For more photos, be sure to check out What Women Write on Facebook.com.


  1. Saw your photos on FB. What a lovely place! And how lucky you all are to have each other.

  2. I wish we could go back. (Sigh).

  3. I take none of it for granted, Jenna. Our grouping has been very serendipitous. Me too, Kim. It pained me to write: 364 more days.

  4. Your new design is beautiful!

  5. Thanks, Isabelle. We thought it was time for a makeover.


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