Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Tools, You Are Not Alone



Recently, I visited Kansas and Missouri friends for a writing retreat where we each worked on our own projects. Four of us were writing and one illustrating. Because this group used to write together once or twice a week, it was easy to fall into a comfortable rhythm. During meal times and evenings we chatted, played games, and chatted some more. Of course, we took breaks for bird watching, stretching our legs, seeing the fish in the pond get fed, etc.
One of the advantages of a retreat like this is limited cell service and limited household chores (only cooking and cleaning up after meals). That meant dedicated time to focus on work. I caught up on a bunch of rewrites I wanted/needed to do and moved forward in my WIP. I saw others doing research, writing, planning a future book, editing, drawing and painting. Work!
Another advantage of a retreat is the shared information. One gal is working on a low residency MFA in children’s writing through Vermont College of Fine Arts. She shared tidbits from lectures. We urged her to get her submission in for an award. We all encouraged another gal not to give up writing. And, of course, we exchanged information about good books–now my “to be read” list is even longer. ☺
A task I was doing was comp titles for a picture book I’d written. One friend asked me how I found them. “I just used Amazon,” I said. I showed her there was a lot of nonfiction on my topic, but only one fiction picture book and it was from the 1980s.
The same gal asked a question about her new Mac (she’s switched from PC) and the result was I and another made changes to our word doc default, too.
So, work, exchanging information, good friends, fun, food, all equaled a great time! The others enjoyed it too and we unanimously decided to repeat the retreat. THANK YOU, Heather Trent Beers, Kate Barsotti, Jenn Bailey and Lisha Cauthen. It was so much fun being with you all.
Recommendations for planning and enjoying YOUR personal creative retreat:

  1. 1. Choose people you trust and respect. Everyone at our retreat paid her agreed upon share. I love that my friends were considerate and said to the two of us with knee problems, “take the downstairs bedrooms.”
  2. 2. Don’t invite people who do drama. No one fussed about where she sat, slept, what she ate, sharing bathrooms, etc. People drank, or didn’t drink, alcohol as desired, but no one got drunk. A peaceful atmosphere goes a long way to make a productive retreat.
  3. 3. Plan at least two full days for work not counting arrival time and departure time. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and settled in and didn’t worry about serious work that day, although we talked about writing and the publishing business. (Of course!) This let everyone unwind. We left Monday morning at check out time–again since we were packing up, no creative work was done. Loved having two solid days of accomplishments.
  4. 4. If you’re not used to working with these people, agree on an informal schedule.
  5. 5. Bring some fun games or relaxing activities. But if someone wants to continue working when everyone else is recreating, no nagging.
  6. 6. Keep your group small enough that you can share a bed and breakfast or retreat cabin/vacation house and be the only guests.
  7. 7. Someone needs to be the point person to find and book a venue. We started planning two plus months in advance.
  8. 8. Decide whether wi-fi at your location is important to the group or not. We wanted it.
  9. 9. Share the food expense, meal planning, preparation and cleanup. The only problem we had was too much food. For example, ladies kept adding items to bring that weren’t on the agreed list, so we had duplicate snack foods, which returned home. (Or choose a venue that provides food, although you’ll still probably want snacks.)
  10. 10. Arrange carpooling because it’s a lot of fun to talk while driving, too.

My local writing group and I have been talking about a retreat. I think we need to quit talking and plan!