Archive | Writing Retreats

A Writer’s Miscellany

AnotherReadThroughI kind of love the word miscellany, whose official definition according to the Google is ” a group or collection of different items, a mixture.”  It sounds charming and old-school and like it would be said by a schoolmarm wearing a Little House on the Prairie outfit.  And honestly? The word and all its implications is way more grandiose than the collection of items I have for you today.

Which all have to do with me. I hope that still makes them a  miscellany.  Anyway:

Thing #1: I’m doing a special love-themed reading in honor of Valentine’s Day at my favorite Portland bookstore, Another Read Through.  The date is February 13th, from 1:30 – 3 and I’m appearing with several other local authors. Since the theme is love, I’m pondering reading the sex scene from Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. (Which for reasons unknown to me is selling in the used section of Amazon for $58 and up, even though it is still available new.)

And since this is a miscellany, I’ll tell you a funny story about the sex scene, besides that it was the one thing agents commented on over and over when I was shopping the novel.  Anyway, my daughter and son-in-law have a habit of reading books out loud to each other in the evenings (at least they did, before they managed to produce two boy children).  It was Russell who read the sex scene out loud and when he was finished, put the book done and was silent for a moment, then said, “My mother-in-law wrote that. Not sure how I feel about that.”

But reading it out loud in the comfort of your own home and reading it out loud in front of a group of people are two different things. So I’ll probably chicken out.

Thing #2: The very next weekend, in the very same location, my biz partner Debbie and I will be presenting the second round of our workshop, The Ins and Outs of Publishing.  It is a day-long workshop with lunch provided and our first group loved it and learned a lot.  We cover the entirety of the publishing world and bring in our friend Angela Sanders to cover self publishing. You can read more here. But let me also add that the bookstore is a great spot to hold a workshop.  Elisa has a cool upstairs loft that we use and we sit surrounded by the mystery section. I dare you to attend and not buy a pile of books (since the bookstore is mostly used, you can go home with a stack for not that much money).

So that’s it, that’s my miscellany.  And now I am off to the bi-weekly writing group, loosely called Wednesday Writers, that Debbie and I torture run.

What’s going on in your writing world?

Photo from the Another Read Through website.

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Inspiration from Room to Write

800px-Tower_at_Scarritt_BennettI just got home from Nashville, where I co-produced the re-instituted Room to Write, along with Terry Price and Janet Wallace.   This event is not a writing conference.  Rather, as we like to say, it is a time for uninterrupted creativity.  While we did offer several talks throughout the weekend, they are totally optional, because the point of the weekend is to give you time to get away and write.  So we emphasize that if you’re in the flow with your writing, stick with it and don’t come to the sessions.

The event is held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in the heart of Nashville, a gorgeous spot that is a former college. As such, it is dotted with cool old stone buildings and beautiful mature trees.  It’s a very popular spot for weddings. Each participant gets several meals in the Harry Potter-style dining hall and a room.  The rooms are, shall we say, spartan, and most of them share a bathroom.  When I say spartan, I mean spartan: one single bed, one desk and a chair.  I’ve actually grown quite fond of these rooms and am able to do some great writing in them–like I’m holed up in my own little writing cave.  But participants also have free run of the entire campus and many of us ended up hanging out in Lasky, where they serve coffee and there’s lot of places to sit and write.  I got a lot of good writing done up there, too.

I could go on and on about what a great time I had, including dinner with my student Norma at Epice and lunch with the beloved J.D. and Donna at Chuy’s, but my real intent here is to share with you some good info I gleaned from the presentations.

Labyrinth Walk

First up was Terry’s labyrinth session.  We met in a fine mist at the SBC labyrinth, which is based on the one at labyrinthsbcChartres Cathedral.  Terry is a labyrinth fiend and full of great information on them.  A labyrinth can be used a lot of different ways, but it is most often used for  spiritual or creative purposes.  It is one path with no tricks and no dead ends, unlike a maze.  You just follow the marked path (in this case, it is a grass labyrinth delineated by bricks) all the way through.  It will lead you to the center and back out again.  You don’t even have to think, and the point is not to.  It can be useful to ask a question before you enter the labyrinth and most often you’ll receive an answer before you depart.  Keep your journal handy!  I’ve walked the labyrinth many times and this is the first time I’ve failed to get an immediate answer, though it did come to me later.  If you would like to find a labyrinth near you, check out this site, which lists labyrinths all over the world.

Sustaining a Writing Practice Over the Long Haul

This was my session, and I had a great time.  Since we were a small group, I invited everyone to chime in with comments and questions as we went along and it turned into a great discussion about how to keep to the page.  I divided it into 4 segments: writing, doing something writing-related, doing something that will lead you back to your writing, or doing something that will support your writing.  The feedback that I got was that the ideas were very helpful and so I’ll probably work them up into a blog post or two in the coming weeks.

Creating From Wildness Through the Poetry of Rumi

This was another great session from Terry, using Rumi’s work to encourage wild, mad creativity in our writing.   It was a rich, deep session.  As one of our attendees said, “Terry is like blood pressure medicine,” and he is.  Very chill and calming and wonderful.  Here’s a snippet of the Rumi poem, I’ll Be Mad, to give you the flavor of it.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.

Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad.


Leaving the Writing Cave and Building the DreamJanet at Room to Write

Janet’s presentation on the mindset and marketing pieces we writers need for the business side of our lives was powerful.  She alternated between mindset recommendations and marketing advice.  Examples of mindset are: make peace with your desires, nurture your relationship with money, improve your gratitude, practice self-care of greater success faster, and nurture your relationship with time.  For marketing: write a personal manifesto, get clear on your ideal customer (or reader), use social media to build community and sell your books, find your tribe and continue to thrive.  Great stuff.  I took a ton of notes.

Besides the sessions and the blocks of time to write, another great aspect about Room to Write is meeting your tribe of writers.  We enjoyed an opening Happy Hour event to discuss goals and ended with breakfast at Panera on Sunday morning to talk about what we accomplished.  In between, there was much camaraderie over meals, a few spontaneous tarot readings, new friends and contacts made.  All in all, a wonderful time, well worth flying across the country for.  Of course, Nashville is my second home so I’ll head there any time!

Are you planning to attend any writing retreats or conferences this year?

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Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*

Yeah, I know.  It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave.  Because, NaNoWriMo.  You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_l

And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.

But I’m telling you that you must.  That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile.  And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:

Go to a writing event.  Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees.  But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them.  I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way.  Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.

Join a critique group.  This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work.  We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work.  You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.

librarybooksGo to the bookstore.  If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores.  But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books?  Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever.  And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Have a writing retreat.  Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January.  It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul.  Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write.  Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat.  Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up.  Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season).  Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.

Take a writing workshop.  There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college.  They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes.  Check with your local writing group.  Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors.  Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September.  (You can read about this year’s adventure here.  I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly.  But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)writersworkshop

Take an online class.  Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this.  And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world.  But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too.  There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January.  Again, consult the Google.

Do something fun and forget about it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off.  Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge.  Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery.  One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.

So, how about it?  What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?

*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do.  And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.

Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):

Typewriter–kiamedia

Library shelves–click

Writer’s workshop–marshalltownpubliclibrary

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