Since I just returned from a Writer’s Retreat (Or, as I like to call them ‘Talk-your-head-off-with-Mary-Connealy-and-cram-in-some-writing-so-you-don’t-feel-too-guilty’ sessions,) I thought I would talk about Eight Tips for Having a Successful Writer’s Retreat. There are lots of things you can do before you go, while you’re there, and after you get home to help you make retreats a real treat.
|ACFW MN NICE Group Retreat|
1. Define what makes a successful retreat. What is your goal for this retreat? Is it reaching a certain WORD COUNT? Is it brainstorming with friends and getting a novel completely outlined? Is it a time to relax and reflect and refuel? Having a clear goal in mind will help with the rest of the planning.
2. Decide upon the type of retreat you want. Do you want a loose structure where attendees can do what they want, when they want? Do you want scheduled classes and brainstorming sessions? Do you want to include some sight-seeing, or marathon writing sessions, or research trips to museums? How much fellowship vs. how much work time?
3. Decide upon the venue. There are so many options: hotels, retreat centers, campgrounds. You could host it in your home, too. Each venue has pros and cons. Expense, space, level of luxury, food options. Are you going to cook for yourselves, eat out, or does food come as part of the accommodations? Will your family be happy to be invaded by a group of writers talking about writing non-stop? Is wi-fi provided? Do you want it to be provided? How centrally-located is the venue? How spendy is it?
|Jaime Jo Wright and Erica at a one day writer's retreat.|
4. Decide upon the folks you want to attend. The retreat experience is often made or broken by those who attend. Do you have a handful of close writer friends who share your goals? Do you want to open it up to an entire writing group, critique circle, or organization? Would it be more profitable to you to go on a solitary retreat, or go with just one or two friends? Start small with a handful of folks that you already know you get along with. One difficult or negative voice at a retreat can take down the entire group. If you’re not the one in charge, then go with a mindset to get along with folks and be a good retreater.
5. Prepare as much as possible beforehand. Determine what you’ll be working on while you are on the retreat. Are you brainstorming a new story, editing, writing a draft? Know in advance so when you get there, you don’t waste time deciding where to start. Pack wisely. Bring the right clothes for the season. If you’re taking turns making meals, shop early. Plan your travel. Flying, driving, sharing a ride? Plan enough time to arrive without feeling stressed. And don’t forget to get things on the home-front squared away so that nothing implodes while you’re gone. If you have small children, arrange for their care. Pre-make meals when you can, lay out clothes for the kids (and maybe your husband) for each day you’ll be gone. Plan a fun activity for them for the evenings. (You might get so good at this the kids will beg you to take retreats more often.)
|Writer's weekend at the Blue Belle Inn in St. Ansgar, IA.|
6. While you’re at the retreat, be flexible. Remember, things rarely go exactly as planned. Let go of your grand expectations and get realistic. You planned to write forty-thousand words this weekend, but four thousand is probably more in the realm of possibility. If someone wants to switch up the plan, evaluate the switch and see if this is a hill on which you want to die. There are some times when you have to put your foot down and say, “No, I can’t play right now. I have to write.” But sometimes the change can be a good plan. Evaluate and be willing to be flexible.
7. Be sensitive to others. Respect each others’ space. Respect each others’ personality types. If someone needs quiet to write, but you need music to write, wear your earbuds. If someone wants to go for a walk to clear her head, don’t be offended if your offer to go along with is turned down. Respect each others’ sleep-time. Some folks need lots of sleep, some not as much. Some need quiet and dark to sleep, some folks like the light on and white noise music playing. Some people are natural night-owls and are at their most creative after 10 pm. Be sensitive to your roommate’s needs. Don’t keep them up if they need to sleep. Also, recognize that you’re one of a group of individuals. Don’t expect everything to be just as you would have it at home. Go with the flow and extend grace to each other.
|Mary Connealy & Erica at the St. Ansgar Retreat|
8. Be prepared to do your share. Are you teaching a class? Have it ready, have handouts done, make sure you know how to work the projector, etc. Are you riding with others to the retreat? Be ready when they show up, and if you’re the driver, arrive when you say you will. If you’re a passenger, chip in for gasoline. Bring what you said you would bring, be responsible for things you signed up for, and be on time for scheduled things. This type of can-do/will-do attitude will ensure that you’re invited to the next retreat.
BONUS TIP: After the retreat, evaluate what you think went well, and what you would change. Was the group too big? Was the location good? Was the retreat over- or under-planned? Did you come away refreshed with much accomplished? Did you feel you got bang for your buck? Keep all these things in mind when planning the next retreat.
Questions: Have you been on a retreat before? Did it go well? Would you do it again? What tips do you have for making a retreat successful?
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
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Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.
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