WE NEEDED TO CHECK OUT THESE WRITING RETREATS

ImageWe weren’t invited, but here we are again. I watched as you gathered for your first retreat as a group and noticed – hey we are all together in our age areas. This is great and maye we can add a point or two.

We like the idea of spontaneous visits to a country when you do your writing and critiquing. Sure everyone wants to write, but don’t you want to hear the stories too? Maybe you should add – WRITING AND CRITIQE RETREATS. OOPS, here we go opening our mouths. SHH.

The evening begins and the hostess has set up a Paris writing place. Music fills the air, the wine is cool, the coffee aromas penetrate the small room, and the table is a small iron circle with small chairs. You feel like you are in a sidewalk cafe in Paris. Your hostess has pictures of her trip to France all over her small room and gives a snippet of information about each one.

Then down to work writing and getting the next few pages written or revised. We stand outside and listen. Nothing but the sound of fingers on laptops and no talking. There is something missing – conversation. An evening of writing with your friends satisfies the soul, but what about the quality of writing. We knock and ask if we could observe this Paris scene.

Observe doesn’t happen; instead we begin asking if anyone would read their written words.Startled, the writing stops. “Why?” one lady asked. “We are here to write.”

“But, wouldn’t it be nice if you could hear comments and get new ideas? Sometimes, we need to see our writing and our story from another person’s view point. If you get stuck on a scene, a character’s attitude, or another character wants to take over, wouldn’t this be the best place to hatch out a new angle?

“When you read out loud, you might hear your story in a different tone and is there any conflict there? Or, are there too many conflicts? Do you know where you are going with your story? Is the plot clear and did you start at just the right place?”

We get stares. “We’re sorry for the intrusion,” and stand up to leave.

“Wait,” the hostess hollers at us. “We never thought about all of these questions when we worked together. We are not a group of ‘young chicks,’ and maybe you could help. Would you stay for a while?”

Of course, my friend and I could not resist. Two hours later, a lot of discussion went around the small room: writing, exercises for characters, subplots, and names of characters. “When your ages creeps upward, viewpoints of life change, and yes, we all know a lot more about life than the younger ladies. This is what makes your coming of age novels different than your characters who have faced life, death, loneliness, and still want the passion, tender moments, and love.”

“Just remember, you are here to help each other make their writing the best it can be. Always be polite and critique the writing, not the writer.”

As the hour got later, the women moaned about the workload facing them tomorrow.

“No, what you had this evening was a blessing. Tomorrow is an opportunity to encounter what your character may face. Do this as a challenge and let your writing show your fortitude. Hey, we all can’t fit the same mold, thank heavens.”

“Uhh,” one lady responded. “Would you be able to join us next time at my home?”

The other ladies responded, “please?” One lady in particular extended her hands toward both of us. “I noticed my writing was for the younger generation, and it’s been quite a while since I looked back. I think my rewrite will be in a era all of us know, and this is exciting.”

Since, it is not polite to refuse, my friend and I agreed, keeping the excitement hidden under our coats as we left. “Next time.” Our mission instead of being accomplished, was just beginning. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” and realized we’d said the same thing at the same time. Hey, what are friends for, if not for a friend.

HOW’S THE WRITING RETREAT GOING?

You look around your new home writing retreat. No, it is not big and some of your research work gets piled up, BUT your family honors your signs, hours, and respects your space.

Your writing has improved and you are not afraid to do revisions. In fact, you went to your critique writing group and got some great positive feedback. Several of your writer friends wanted to get all the information on your new space. So, you pulled out the pictures on your phone, and got some crazy comments. Now you have some assistance to pass around; not on writing,but on home retreats.

Then an idea popped into your head. Instead of going to the group, let the group come to you. Invitations to visit your retreat went over big. Good thing there are only three other writers in the group. A date decided, you get ready for your own writing retreat and share with your group.

Every one shows up and crowds into your small space. There is room enough for each one, pens, pencils, and a writing pad. As all of you work together, there seems to be a more concise effort of writing, revising, new thoughts, and no interruptions. Two hours later, you offer drinks and snacks in your kitchen.

Your writing pals responded with: (1) I must have a retreat in my home. (2) Do you realize we all got a great critique? (3) We had no interruptions from people around us. (4) I want to host the next writers retreat. (5) I felt like we were really at a writer’s retreat.

When everyone left, you walked back inside your new “hidey-hole” and grinned. No, it is not up on a mountain top, or at the beach, but close to home for everyone. And a new creativity hits your brain. With a few funky pictures, each new home retreat can be from a different location, and you can’t wait to share all of your new insights.

These locations can be done with pictures, scents of candles of the location, soft music from the country to set a feeling, and snacks of that location. And guess what, all of you can be wherever your writing takes you. Now, to send out this email.

See you next time, at a new location in a home, and I have no idea where we will be. I’m ready to write and write and write.

DO WRITING RETREATS ENTICE YOU?

energyLook at the sun shining your your work. No noise; just peace and quiet.  You look around your home, your small writing area, the kids, the spouse, the laundry, the phone ringing, and you think – RETREAT. OH. YES. PLEASE.

You look around again and see “budget,” and know this is out of reach for now.  The kids need you at home. Maybe later when they are older. Your spouse has a heavy work load and you feel stuck. Not so fast.

Hey, you are a writer — get creative and involve the whole family. When everyone takes part, they will begin to realize you write and need space, quiet space. Even if your home is small, look at all the different corners and speculate your area. I’d forget about the laundry room and the kitchen. Why? Heat and steam from the laundry might not be the best area for your computer. Kitchen has two reasons: 1) traffic flow to the fridge 2) heat from stove and odors of pot roast. Both can kill your train of thought and make you stop and eat. No. This is not your retreat area.

Brainstorm your home from corner to corner. What about the space behind the big chair in the living room? No one is there during the day. Look at any space in your bedroom. I know, bedrooms are for bedrooms; but sometimes during the day, the chair in the corner can convert to  a “king’s” chair, complete with outlets, light and a window.

You think about the utility room. The room where tools are kept and remember there is heat out there. If heat, maybe you can have air; not the a/c, but a small fan and you remember the window. Your spot? One night at dinner you bring the discussion to the table. You’ve done your homework and now is time to present your retreat.

Shelves. Yes you need shelves to hold your material, your books, your research information. And, this area has shelves with ten year-old paint cans and who know what else. The bench would work for a table, once all the litter is gone and a new cover placed on top. There are outlets, and a light. Your computer would fit at one end of the table and give you room for revisions and research.

You need a chair, maybe two small chairs; one for the table to write, and one comfy, soft chair to read, edit, and think.

There is a window that does not open and looks out onto a scrawny tree, but you can fix this. Bring in fresh flowers and place them on a ledge below the window each day. Music from old records, only you remember the words to, and do not forget a candle.

Everyone seems to agree about the space. Movies on television won’t interfere, video games you won’t hear, and the i-pod can play the latest music sounds. NOT QUITE…..The notice on the door or area:  WRITER AT WORK – DO NOT DISTURB FROM _____ TO _____. This is left blank until you enter your retreat.

Might not be the retreat you saw advertised; yet you have your own space and your family helped.They know what’s inside and feel more connected.

Happy Utility Room Writing.

JUGGLING YOUR DAY

Two friendsHere we are to welcome you to June 2013. Never thought we’d get this chance, but we find at the circus, they know what they are juggling, how many pins, bottles or whatever they are using on a certain day, and they know how many will come down.

We are talking about lives, people, activities, the famous ‘to-do-list,’ kids, families, hobbies, and most important our writing. Let one of those circus people handle this for 24 hours and see what happens. They’d head straight to us for lessons. So, we decided to share a few of our tried and true tips with you. Hey, some may work and some may not; you and only you can know the answers.

As a writer, we are creative. We create stories, characters, learn to elaborate a lot in fiction, so what happens when we find ourselves buried under stacks of dirty clothes, a broken washer, a crying kid, a nervous husband, who can’t find the other sock, and a deadline on our book?

We Juggle…… with the phone in hand, we call the service repairman about the washer, search through the correct drawer for the missing sock, hand the kid a Oreo cookie, and turn on the computer. See – simple. Well, maybe not quite this simple, but we do know how to get organized and get things done.

Get hubby off to work with matching socks, feed all the kids still at home, before the school bus arrives, throw the dirty clothes beside the washer that decided to take a break, and have a cup of coffee. The school bus comes, and if it is summer time, you shove them in the car, drop them off at a play center or have ample materials at home to keep them busy. If the are old enough, they make their own beds. Gotta learn sometime. If they are in the early stages, they won’t know if the beds are made or not. Just throw the covers up and bingo – a made bed.

The dirty clothes are no worry. Why? Until the service repairman makes an appearance, there is nothing you can do. Remember, your computer is on and waiting for your fingers only to caress the keys with wild characters, and a deadline looming over them. So you get the kids settled, toss the dishes in the dishwasher, hoping it still works, and then you pull your creative side out of your head. Your fingers are flying by on the keyboard and you feel all the tension around you disappear, except on-screen.

All of the morning jolts have not damaged your ability to create. In fact, you feel more alive with all the chaos around you than the quiet, drab, times you’ve tried to write and nothing came from your head to your fingers. You have 2,000 more words for today’s session, and then……cries from the living room, the TV blasts, and another challenge of who gets to watch what. No, they are now in the kitchen and you hear the refrigerator door open and close and……”You dropped the jar.” “No, you did.” So you put on your referee helmet and approach with caution. Strawberry jam covered part of the floor, and the peanut butter jar the other half. At least they both came in plastic jars and no glass splinters sparkled. “I hope you both wanted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, except there’s no bread.”

I got the stare of doom from both of them. “But, you can lick up the strawberry on this side, then crawl to the other side for the peanut butter.” The stare of doom turned into a ‘she’s lost it,” and then huge giggles. “I scrubbed the floor last night, so let’s have lunch.Afterwards, you can let the dog in and whatever is left; guess who cleans up. I have a few more hours at the computer and better see a sparkling floor.”

A lesson taught. A lesson learned, and I got to finish my 2,000 words.

See juggling can be fun. Lighten up and roll with the punches. When this happens, we find more energy, better relationships, and a whole lot of fun. And, you thought we are just two ole ladies – think again. We have lots of ammunition and whatever happened to humor? Stick with us and you’ll learn all over again.