Tag Archives | writing retreats

Otherwhere: Almost Summer

It has come to my attention that next weekend is Memorial Day. Could somebody please tell me how that happened? And, though summer doesn’t officially start until after the solstice, we all know that Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of long, lazy days, right? Well, if someone could show me a universe in which adults actually got to enjoy long, lazy days I’d move there in a nanosecond.  In the meantime, how about some fun links to peruse in those stolen moments of your busy, crazy days? Here goes:

Writing

How to share your work and get discovered.

Creating your character’s world.

How to gain more confidence.

Tips for writing that novel.

Some words on setting.

How to start writing a novel if stuck.

Should you let your creativity rest?

Travel Porn

In honor of upcoming workshops I’m teaching, here’s some Oregon Coast porn (there’s still a few spots left in my Sitka workshop) and France porn (one spot left, but we have someone seriously interested so act now if you are, too).

Author Blogs I Like

Rachael Herron

Emilie Richards

Kathleen Tessaro’s nice piece on how she got published.

Joshilyn Jackson. (Lots of fun, but hasn’t been updated for a couple of months.)

That’s all I’ve got for author blogs (though I feel like I’m forgetting a couple of obvious ones that I read). Do you have any that you read? What I like in an author blog is getting a glimpse into their life, besides stuff about their books.  I don’t mind some self-promotion because, duh, that’s the point, but I do like a bit more than just marketing.  Share your favorites in the comments.

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Five on Friday: Glories of Coffee Edition

Writing OutsideGood morning! Let’s dive in.

What crisis occurred this morning: I woke to the news that the electric coffee pot was not working.   This was not good. This was very, very bad. I pulled out my phone and looked up the hours of the nearest Starbucks (luckily, we’ve got at least three within a very quick five-minute sprint) while hub plugged and unplugged the pot and pressed the on button repeatedly. It didn’t help. Finally, he had the brilliant idea to boil water and pour it through. That worked. I have coffee.  I will not not murder anybody.

What I’m picking off my computer: Fir needles. It hit 85 degrees here yesterday, a record, and I sat outside beneath the fir tree and worked all afternoon. My computer was also covered in pollen when I came in, like absolutely every horizontal surface in this town. Which is why every human who lives here is sneezing, blowing their nose or itching their eyes, like me.

What I’m working on: I have a ghostwriting project that I’m really enjoying. Its an intense subject, but lots of good ultimately came from it.  We had some wonderful new students at our bi-weekly Wednesday Writers group this week, and we now have a good number sitting around the table talking about writing, all of whom are doing wonderful work. And I have several amazing  students and clients (Hi Mitch, Hi Courtney) who are producing regularly and several working quietly behind the scenes.  At least they better be working. (You know who you are–you’re working, right?)

And workshops–I got workshops! There’s the three-day Mapping Your Novel at Sitka Center in June (which is close to half full), France in September, which is one person away from being full, and COMING RIGHT UP is a workshop here in Portland called How to Write a Book. It is April 23, all day Saturday and it’s going to be a ton of fun, so if you live here, join us.

Oh, wait, what, you want to know what personal projects I’m working on? Well, um, er, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve got so many ideas for novels and stories in my head I’ve had a hard time landing on one. But I think I’m getting closer. I totally kind of drive myself crazy in the between-projects stage.  I can tell you another cool project I’m working on, though. It is going to be a series of prompt journals that I’m very excited about.  I’m creating these with my cousin’s wife Nancy, also known as the Sister-From-Another-Mother.  Look for them to be out soon.

What I’m reading: Honestly, a pretty silly romance.  But the reason I’m reading it is that I’ve realized, duh, that women’s fiction grew out of the romance genre,  so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go to the roots and see how books are constructed. The bare bones of the structure in a romance makes it easy to parse.

And then there’s a book I’m not really reading, but more using as a reference. It is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication.  But really, it is about a whole lot more than revision. What I like about it is that he has short sections on various topics, such as character, setting, etc., with bullet pointed information that makes it easier to process. There are also longer swaths of exposition, but those are easily ignorable if you are so inclined, as I am. I got this book from the library and I’ve renewed it a couple times but I think someone else now has it on hold and it is overdue. So if you’re the one waiting for it, I’m sorry! I’ll get it back soon.

What I’m doing this weekend: Organizing my office. I know! I’ve said this every Friday for the last few weeks. But I’ve made progress, I swear. (Though if you saw the stacks of boxes on the floor of my office, you might not think so.) Last weekend we got the area where the boxes had been stored cleaned up. And there’s just a few odds and ends left over to move down.  Things I rarely use and thus don’t know what to do with.

I will admit that I spend very little time on the organizing during the week, because I’m so busy and important. That’s a joke, by the way.  But it just always seems that the things I’m working on take priority.  If I were a brave woman, I would share photos of my messy office. But I’m not, so I won’t.

That is absolutely all I have today. What’s up with you?

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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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Five Things on Friday: August 14, 2015

Sunset_401450119_5UwyR-XL

I saw a sunset just like this one!

Where I've Been: I kinda fell down on posting at the end of last week (no 5 on Friday post) and the beginning of this week.  That's because I was at the beach.  I stayed with my family at my daughter's in-law's house in Garibaldi (thank you, Dennis and Carlene).  We also visited old, old, old (and by old, I mean since birth) family friends in Arch Cape.  I shouldn't be posting about Arch Cape here because it is pretty unknown, as in on a weekday in summer the beach is deserted, and I would like it to remain that way.  So don't go there, (as one of our favorite governors famously told people about coming to Oregon to live), please.

What I've Been Reading: Have I obsessed about Dietland here yet?  It is the best book I've read in ages, so full of unflinching, radical and incredibly brave commentary about body image and the way women are treated in North America.   Every woman should read it immediately.  Men, you should too, but prepare to become very defensive.  I'm now reading The Ambassador's Wife, by Jennifer Steil.  I kinda put it down to read a couple books about writing, but I like it well enough.  

What I'm Excited About: A really, really, really, really good publisher is considering my novel, The Bonne Chance Bakery.  Think good thoughts, please!

Where I'm Teaching Next Fall and Winter: I'll be teaching my Get Your Novel Written Now class right here online this fall, starting in October and early-bird pricing is good until I leave for Europe on September 1st.  And then, for those of you farther east and south, I'm part of the staff of the reborn Room to Write in Nashville in January.  Join me at one or both.

What I'm Obsessing About: Clothes.  As in, what to take to Barcelona, Collioure, and Paris.  I gave away half my wardrobe (not exaggerating but I will admit to having a lot of clothes) earlier this summer and felt like I had nothing to wear.  So I've been ordering things like crazy.  I love shopping online.  I think I have it all figured out now.  And I realize how very lucky I am to have this problem.

Oh, and by the way, I'm going to try my best to post regularly from Europe.  Yeah, that worked out well last year.  But on the off chance you've had an idea for a guest post, this would be the time to hit me up with a query about it.

And also–follow me on Instagram because I'm going to be posting photos from my travels there, and at the moment you can see pictures of Poo and Mr. Rock.

What's going on in your world? Please do tell.

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Events and Workshops

Secrets of Publishing

Stay tuned for information about a Portland workshop on publishing, coming this fall!

 Room to Write

This beloved Nashville event is being resuscitated! Start your new year out right and join me, along with Terry Price and Janet Wallace, at the gorgeous Scarritt-Bennett center on January 7-10, 2016.  Meals will be provided so all you have to do is write, and, if you so desire, attend mini-workshops on aspects of writing and marketing and kibbutz with other writers.  But make no mistake about it–the emphasis is on having plenty of time to write!  What better present to give yourself?  Find out more information here.

Europe 2017

Every year, I co-teach a weeklong workshop somewhere in Europe during September.  This year’s workshop is full, but consider joining us next year!  We’ll have information up in October.

None of these work for you? 

Feel free to contact me about teaching at your workshop or retreat!

A Writing Retreat/Workshop in France

It is cold where you are, no doubt.  And wintry and gloomy.  

On such a day, you might start dreaming of summer and travel.

On such a day, perhaps you might dream of summer, travel, and writing.

On such a day, maybe you might dream of summer, travel, writng, and France.

In which case, I have just the thing for you:

Pezenas–Writing in the South of France Boutiqes-de-pezenas

Yes, I'm returning to France this year, and you can come, too, if  you would like!  (You know you want to.)

My business partner Debbie and I have been running writing retreats together for the past few years. This one will be our third, our second overseas.    Last year we went to Ceret, and our participants had a blast–and got a lot of writing done.  This year we are going to Pezenas, in the same region, and we've got a gorgeous house right in the middle of town–which means you can walk to shops and cafes (where you might want to partake of the French habit of a glass of wine mid-afternoon while you write).

France_location_mapThis year our workshop will focus on character. The way it works is this: We meet every morning from 9:30 to 12:30 to discuss our topic, workshop your writing, and talk about the book-in-common we all will have read.  Debbie and I are both published authors with many years experience teaching, and we guide our classes with a supportive yet firm hand.

After the workshop, you're free to explore and write (you will have assignments) all afternoon. Sometimes we do group activities but we also like to keep it loose and open so you can do what you want.  In the evenings, we reconvene for wine and dinner (again, you're free to do what you like, but our groups tend to be wine-focused convivial).

You guys, this is as good as it gets for writers.  Trust me.  It's wonderful.  But don't just take my word for it.  You can read testimonials here (and also learn a lot more about the retreat).

It truly is amazing how much you can get done when you are away from home.  In case you've not yet gotten the retreat bug, here is a collection of posts from previous retreats and workshops I've participated in, which will help to give you a flavor of them:

 10 Takeaways From France

Here, Not There

The Art of Retreating

Writing Away From Home

Writers Connecting

Do you attend retreats or workshops regularly?  Chime in! (And if you're interested in joining us in France, email me.)

 

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Jet Lag

I have returned.

EiffellTower

France was wonderful.  Paris has only gotten better in the years since I've been there, and Ceret, the small town in the south of France where I spent a week leading a writing retreat, charming.  I had full intentions to blog regularly during my trip.   Obviously, that didn't happen.  To my credit, I did try, but discovered that with an Ipad, one can only use Typepad, my blog host, on an app.  Which I did download.  But then it seemed easier to walk to town and enjoy an afternoon glass of vin rouge than figure out how to use it.  So I didn't.  (But, between teaching and drinking, I did manage to write quite a bit on my own projects, so that, at least, is something.)

In the meantime, after the 12-hour flight (10 from Paris to Salt Lake City, and 2 from SLC to Portland) home on Sunday, I've been a bit wigged out, trying to straighten out a weird sleeping pattern, and catch up with a million things that happened while I was gone.  So my grand plans for blogging have gone astray.

However, I am working on a round-up post (that will also go out with my newsletter) for Thursday, and I'll have a book review posting on that date as well.  So please stay tuned, and know that I missed you.  By the way, the writing retreat/workshop was fantastic!  All of our participants turned out a high level of writing and seemed well satisfied with the week's work.  Next September we're going to Italy–so start making plans to join us now!

Until then, you can view my photo stream, with tons of pictures of Paris and Ceret, on Instagram. 

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The Art of Retreating

Travel_paris_france_942640_hI'm in France, embarking on a week-long writing adventure, co-leading a workshop/retreat.  (Not to make you jealous or anything.)  There's probably nothing more invigorating for your writing than to get away with the specific intent to write.  And, if you struggle to find time to write in your daily schedule, a retreat can offer that time.  I have a client who gets all his work done on his novel by taking writing retreats every month or so.   Here are some ways to accomplish this:

1. Find an
organized retreat
, where a group of people comes together to create time to
write. Sometimes other activities are planned and in most cases, these
activities are optional, should the writing be going well. You can find listings
at Shaw Guides, or if you're looking
for the best of both worlds–instruction and time to write–check out my
retreats at Let's Go Write.   (We're heading overseas again in 2014, possibly to Italy, so stay tuned.)

2. Band
together with a group of friends and create your own retreat
, as I have done on
several occasions. Going in a group can reduce expenses considerably, and the
camaraderie after writing sessions are over is priceless. Some writers like to
read their work at night, either what they've been writing that day, or
finished work, and some prefer to keep to themselves and ponder the next day's
session. You can rent a house, stay in a bed and breakfast, or find a resort.
Just make sure everybody is clear on the ground rules from the outset.

3. Design a
personal writing retreat
. When you're coming down the home stretch on a
project, going off by yourself to work on it can help you finish. Hours of
solitude devoted only to your writing fuels a lot of inspiration. Find an
inexpensive room in a nearby city and take yourself away to work. I have a
friend who often takes personal writing retreats at a college town, because
accommodations are plentiful. Resort towns in the off-season are also good. Or
check out this site for more
options.

4. Go to a
writer's colony
. This is a bit different in that there will be an application
process involved. Writers apply for residencies of anywhere from a week to
several months, and in many cases, meals and everything you need are provided.
Competition is fierce, especially for the most prestigious colonies, such as
MacDowell. But there's also quite a list of lesser-known colonies that might
interest you. Either google or check them out here.

5.  If
all else fails, design your own retreat while you stay at home.
  Inform
everyone you know that you'll be focusing exclusively on your writing and then
follow through–turn off the phone, shut down the email boxes, refuse to answer
the door. Because in reality, retreating is a mind-set more than anything else.
It is committing to keeping outside influences at bay while focusing deeply on
your own work, that which is most important to you. And that can be
accomplished anywhere.

Retreat Guidelines

Once you get
there (whether there is across the ocean or behind the doors of your office),
here are some guidelines to get the most out of the retreat:

1.  Go
with a specific project in mind.
  It is generally best to stick to
working on one thing, but if you have a crazy right brain like me, you might
want to bring several.  Retreats are great for making lots of progress on
a novel, for instance, or for conceptualizing and get a great start on a short story or essay.

2. 
Have a goal in mind.
  We start our Let's Go Write retreats with a session in
which every participant names their goals.  As with all goals, it is good
to be specific.  Not, "make progress on my novel," but
"write 8000 words on my novel."

3.  If
the muse hits, go with it
.  If you're in the flow, don't stop. 
Doesn't matter if you are at a retreat with planned activities, go with the
flow and get those words on the page.  That's the point, after all.

4. 
Don't overlook the power of bonding.
  One of the best things about organized
retreats is that you'll meet other writers.  Connecting is vital for
writers, and something we often overlook in our furious efforts to become good
writers.  You can go to a retreat, have plenty of time to work, and still
meet other people.  Our Let's Go Write retreats are famous for our convivial Happy Hours.

5. Don't judge by
word count alone. 
If you don't
hit your intended word count, don't brand yourself a failure.   You've probably gained more than
you think, because having space and time away from the concerns of day to day
life allows the mind to open up and expand.  It is easier to
conceptualize, and to look at the big picture. 

Do you take writing retreats?  Do you prefer going in groups or alone?  Leave a comment–I'd love to hear your experiences!

Photo by beggs.

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It’s In Deciding

What's one of the most powerful words in the English language?

Decide.

As in, deciding to do something.  With all your heart and soul.  And then following through and doing it. No matter what.

There's magic in that there action.  Deciding and doing it.

I bet you've experienced this.  I know I have.  When I've absolutely, positively committed to something with no waffling, amazing things happen.  The problem is that most often we don't decide.  We don't commit, or we commit in a half-assed way, leaving ourselves room to weasel out if we end up not liking it.

I've been thinking a lot about this.  Last week I was in Orlando, at Suzanne Evans' 10K Coaching Club intensive.  Suzanne emphasizes the importance of deciding in the sales cycle and also in life.  Her position is that most of us wobble through life without really making strong decisions.  Not so with successful people.  They make quick decisions and follow through with action.

Deciding relates to writing, too (doesn't everything?).  Have you had the wonderful experience of deciding to write a story and feeling like it was almost channelled to you?  Or perhaps you have committed to writing a novel, and suddenly you are in that amazing space where every ounce of determination that you have goes to writing it.

Indecision is death to writing.  It is death to action.  And we are a society of indecisives.  To be a writer is to be decisive by the very definition of the word–you're putting words on paper, one after another, a decisive action in and of itself.   Writing is intentional, and intention is decision.

Are you with me on this?

Let's all decide to be more decisive about our writing, starting right here, right now, today. 

What will you decide to write?

***Something I decided to do that I feel really good about is host writing retreats with my friend and fellow writer Debbie Guyol.  Our first event is in San Antonio in October.  Check out more here.

 

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