Monday, December 10, 2012


By Pamela

I can't resist photo-bombing Joan.
Yesterday afternoon, I walked into Joan’s kitchen to place her bags of leftover food (there wasn’t much!) and said, “It seems like we just left.” Thursday afternoon I picked her up on my way to our retreat and, much too soon, it was over. For all the time we spend in preparation mode and for the hours we commune in each other’s company over the long weekend, the time goes by in an exhalation.

Armed with food and wine, laptops and inspiration, we spent a wonderful weekend sequestered in a lake home where the television never blared, the phone rarely rang, and the world outside never demanded of our time and talents. Bliss.

I asked my five writing women to share their retreat experiences here. For me, I savored the moments of quiet writing solitude interspersed between spontaneous, often-whispered conversations; read-aloud critique sessions; wardrobe selections (and malfunctions) during our annual photo shoot; dinnertime camaraderie and a surprise crafting session that resulted in bracelets that only we will wear and treasure. I know I’m already excited for what 2013 will bring for this talented group of women I’m so blessed to have in my life.

Susan attempts to get some natural smiles from us.
I have a way of setting lofty goals for retreats, and I seem to wake up each morning a little terrified and daunted by what's ahead of me. Thankfully, this year I had an extremely productive Day Two of the retreat that really made it worthwhile. I didn't get in my daily jog or morning yoga. In fact, I don't think I left the chair on Day Two… but I hammered out some good first drafts of scenes that will most likely make the cut. Besides the writing, I feel really good about getting away for a few days with this critique group. We are diverse, and opinionated, and maybe a little quirky, but somehow it always works!

Joan lights the Menorah.
Another great retreat behind us! I loved exploring a new house and lake, and connecting again with my writing pals. There was wine and chocolate and coffee, good books, a great view and a hot tub we managed to forget about. I was amazed by new words from Pamela, Susan and Julie, struck again by the genius in our little group. Julie and Susan surprised us with the sweetest craft during our retreat—beads made from the words of each of our books, plus other whimsical designs.

For The Lost Legacy of Gabriel Tucci: musical notes, clocks, bicycles and geometrical designs. I will treasure it! But did I meet my goals? I'd be lying if I said I came away with my new story's nucleus, one character who has gelled into a shiny snowflake. But I did manage to brainstorm two great story lines and a clear vision of where they might lead. One is a more likely choice for my next project and another might be a perfect follow up. I love the writing life! 

Kim is drawn into the trees.
My goal for the trip was not about putting words on the page, but rather to refill the creative well. I spent all of one day sitting on the dock and sketching a portrait of my daughter. I love to draw, but never seem to allow myself time to do it if I'm at home. Another day I did research for my next novel, walked by the lake a lot, took photos, and had conversations with everyone.

My favorite part of the retreat was definitely making my bracelet. I love knowing I can now literally wear pieces of everyone's manuscript. It was also interesting to partake in a traditional Jewish meal and watch Joan light the menorah on the first night of Hanukah—I think that was a new experience for several of us.

Elizabeth finishes her bracelet.
I headed off to this retreat without a specific goal other than to feel like it was a good use of my time and resources by the end of the weekend. Loosey-goosey, I realize and agree, but it seemed like the best choice for where I am right now. And it turned out to be precisely the right course of action. If I’d had a set goal, I would never have accomplished what I did this weekend. I’m still holding details close to my vest (you can ask the other five WWW women how vague I am about what I got done), but I completed a satisfactory amount of work, and the quality of the work was beyond satisfactory.

To say I am immensely pleased is not an overstatement. And I still had time to read most of Rachel Simon’s The Story of Beautiful Girl, and it gets several thumbs up); enjoy the lake by both walking its shore and admiring its birds and swells over coffee on the dock; and to bask in the company of my writer buddies. Really, what more could I ask for? Chocolate, you say? Peanut butter cookies? Apple turnovers? Check! 

Another wonderful time of food and fellowship.
I managed to write an essay for an upcoming guest post and solidify my novel-in-progress a little more, and I continue to feel excited about this new story. It was wonderful to be back together with my What Women Write friends as it seems as if we've been scattered to every corner of the universe this year. Laughing around the delicious dinners we planned and prepared in pairs, watching the apparent disaster then miraculous completion of our manuscript bead bracelets (including some surprising expletives muttered over tangled wire and unraveled paper beads), reading and critiquing bits of what we'd worked on this weekend, our traditional group and individual photo shoots, and quiet one-on-one chats reminded me how very special this group is to me.

Five years ago, I longed for such a group, and resigned myself to believing it would never happen. Boy, did it happen.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...