Wednesday, October 28, 2015

8 Tips for Having a Successful Writer’s Retreat

Hey, y’all! Erica Vetsch here. First, happy birthday, Seekerville! Eight years! That’s just so fantastic. I can’t tell you how many times I have recommended this community to new writers. On nearly every contest entry I judge, mentoring I do, or writing conversation that comes up, I am spreading the word about this amazing place to learn, grow, be encouraged, fellowship, and have fun. Thank you for helping so many writers live with #NoLimits! Kudos and confetti to you on your birthday!

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. 

The Cactus Creek Challenge is available on Amazon here!

The prequel to The Cactus Creek Challenge: The Legend of Obadiah Wilder is FREE for kindle! Download it now!

And I’m giving away a print copy of The Cactus Creek Challenge to someone who leaves a comment! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Marianne Barkman said...

Hi, Erica. I'm a reader, but found your tips fascinating. Of course, I love anything enfolding authors, for sure there novels. Thanks

Marianne Barkman said...

Just downloaded The Legend of Obidiah Wilder. Thanks. I'm hoping to win the next one! Or I'll buy it...whatever.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Marianne! Readers are my favorite people! :) I wish we could have reader retreats. We could bring books and just read and read and read.

I hope you enjoy Obadiah! I loved writing that story!

CatMom said...

Hey Erica! Thanks so much for sharing this post with us. I've never been on a Writers' Retreat but would love to sometime. Since being at our Georgia coast always inspires me, I've even thought about planning a small one there (and if I ever do your tips will certainly be helpful!).
I enjoyed the photos you shared - - especially seeing you and Mary Connealy. Oh yes, and also the photo that showed some of your gorgeous FINGERNAILS!! ;)
Hugs, Patti Jo

Connie Queen said...

I've never been on a writer retreat unless you count me going off myself to a cabin. And that time I had a lot of fun, but got very litter writing accomplished.

If I went to a retreat the goal for me would have to be to recharge and come away with some fresh ideas. I don't think I could write w/people around. I have a difficult time writing at home.

But I think I should go on a few retreats just for the fun of it. Who knows? I might actually get a lot of writing done.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Patti Jo! A serene environment does inspire, doesn't it? :)

Mary and I always have a great time, and we get a lot of work done, too!

The one picture of us together also has The Creepy Albino Deer in the background!!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

Connie, you should try a retreat with some writer friends! You might surprise yourself. Sometimes, for me, just hanging out with other writers who are being productive spurs me on to be productive.

Cindy W. said...

Great post Erica. I've never been to a writer's retreat but I have been to a church retreat where a lot was learned and we were overflowing when we left. I also observed a "retreat" or maybe it was a "critique group" once when I went up to Potawatami National Park and I observed and listened to them reviewing a manuscript and talking about what it was expressing and how they could do the same thing.

I would love to win a copy of your book. Thank you for the opportunity!

Party on Seekerville! It's hard to believe October is almost over!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love writers' retreats. I would pick that over a conference any day because I'm work-oriented and I like people and I like staying within my budget.

A writers' retreat can be set up to accommodate all of that. It's much harder with a big conference.

But Erica, you touched on so many good points here. It's vitally important to have a great group of people. And you're right, one negative voice can mess things up, which is a good reminder to me to BE QUIET on our next retreat!!!! :)

I only wish I was kidding.

I like simple environments for retreat, but I don't mind being in a tourist area, too because I'm self-disciplined enough to make writing come first. Then play. But not everyone is that motivated to work, so that's an important thing to think about when choosing a spot.

Wonderful advice!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


And I did not stay up all night for that baseball game, and to go 14 innings in the rain...

These two teams are so well-matched, it's an amazing series!!!!!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Great post, Erica! I've never been on a writer's retreat, but I'd love to. How about we all rent a GIANT house on the beach and have a Seekerville retreat?

The Artist Librarian said...

Just downloaded the prequel! No need to enter me in your book drawing --my mother has loaned me her copy and she really enjoyed it (I heard audible reactions e.g. laughing, as she read it)!

I feel like I could use a writers retreat right now ... I have a take home midterm exam and ... I just really need to start it, but I keep getting distracted (or finding other things to do to avoid it). Ugh, just need to do it. =)

Jessica Nelson said...

I just went on a retreat and thought it was amazing! It's so much easier to write when I know there isn't laundry to fold, etc. lol
Thanks for the tips and I'm glad you had a great time!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, ERICA!!!

Love the cover of your new book. Gorgeous cover!! The premise sounds so fun.

Okay, peeps don't forget to send your selfies to Seekerville!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Goals for Writer's Retreats:

1. Eat
2. Sleep
3. Write
4. Talk

Marsha Bernabe said...

I love the idea of reader retreats!

Jackie said...

I've hosted a writers retreat at my home. It was only two days, and I think most everybody left with new friends and a stronger story.

I pretty much didn't know anything at that time, but I had enough room to squeeze eight women into my house. AND I cleaned the house. Another lady led the retreat though.

I'd love to attend a retreat again!

Thanks for sharing the tips, Erica! I love the cover on your new book!

Rose said...

Hi Erica!

Terrific post. I was sad to miss the last St. Ansgar event because I/we had so much fun a year or so ago!

Your books sounds great.

karenk said...

A relaxing!!!

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks for a great post, Erica!! Definitely things to remember. Also, if you're bringing/making food, check for food allergies. I would love a writers' retreat. Our ACFW cluster group had one earlier this summer at the organizer's house, but I couldn't go that weekend. A lady led the retreat and then had different sessions/time frames others could lead or brainstorm, then we each brought a dish to share. Break times were scheduled in to go on a walk. The organizer of the retreat lives in the country.

Ruthy! Who won that ballgame? I stayed up way too late, but it was only in the 8th inning when I had to go to bed.

Jeanne T said...

Great tips here, Erica! I'm all over the planning ahead of time so you know what you're working on at the retreat. And yes, that would include planning for the family back at home. :)

I've been on a number of My Book Therapy retreats, and I've LOVED them! :) I've learned a lot, made writing connections and enjoyed being in a new place. Of course, these retreats are much more structured than some.

In January, I'm getting together with a couple friends and we plan to brainstorm out our next stories. We'll be staying at one person's home. This will be my first retreat of this sort, and I'm looking forward to it. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jessica Nelson, I agree. If the work is 50 or 100 or a 1000 miles away, I can ignore it.

And then when we take our breaks from writing, we have a great couple of hours of convo or food or seeking out cute places... and then right back to writing.

Jessica, I think you'd love it, sweet thing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jen, go do it.

You'll be happier. I promise. I hate that it's hanging over your head! How many more years of study do you have?????

I love how you embrace so many facets of yourself... and life! Go get 'em, Artist Librarian!!!!

Candee Fick said...

Thanks for all the great tips. Our local writer's group is having another retreat in a few months and this time I'm making sure that I can go along. Love the reminder to go with a plan in mind but be flexible. That's just how I write - plan the route then enjoy the journey as the characters start taking over.

But if you ever schedule a reader's retreat, count me in! That's my idea of a perfect vacation. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sally Shupe, the KC Royals prevailed in FOURTEEEEEEEEEN innings!

In the rain.

And someone told me Fox's link went bad so the coverage was interrupted.

Oy vay, that's not good!!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

Good morning! I am so bleary-eyed from staying up to watch the Royals win!

Cindy W. I think most retreats, writer's or church groups or whatever, are a lot a like and the same tips could apply...of course at a church retreat the attendees probably won't be talking about untraceable poisons or what the price of coffee was in 1845. :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy, I LOVED the retreat we had in Nebraska! I loved how focused everyone was, and how much we all got done!

And the cinnamon roll bread pudding was to DIE for!

Erica Vetsch said...

Jill, a giant Seekerville retreat sounds amazing!!! Think of the classes the Seekers could teach, all the writing we'd get done...and Yankee Belle Cafe could cater it! :)

#WriterHeaven :D

Glynna Kaye said...

Hi, Erica! I've never been on a writer's retreat--not sure what my expectations would be except to hope for a really solid word count to validate the vacation days taken off from work. But I'm not sure I could relax or concentrate in a place like that Victorian-decorated inn! :) I think I might be better suited to a woodsy, cabin-ish locale or simple southwestern-styled surroundings. Maybe one of these days I'll have the opportunity to give a writer's retreat a try! Sounds like fun!

I LOVE the cover of "The Cactus Creek Challenge!" :)

Erica Vetsch said...

The Artist Librarian...I love that name! :)

You have the soul of a true writer...i.e. you find creative ways to procrastinate! :D

I am the QUEEN of procrastination...I've been known to organize my kitchen utensil drawer to avoid writing!

I hope you enjoy The Legend of Obadiah Wilder!

Caryl Kane said...

Hello ERICA! Great to see you here at Seerkville. CONGRATULATIONS on your Royals win!!! Better get the Visine in those eyes early this morning. Thank you for sharing your practical retreat tips.

I already have a print copy of Cactus Creek Challenge. Have a great day!

Sally Shupe said...

Yes, Fox kept going in and out. It was funny watching the Fox people because it would go to them and they had no idea what to say lol. Then I'd hear the announcers saying, the first time they had paused the game, the game has been paused due to technical difficulty. I figured the game played on and I missed pieces. Not that part, unless there were other times when it went down and the game played on. I was busy writing at the same time lol. I wrote 1700 words on my story for a total of a little over 30,000 so far! Wish there were more baseball games...

The Mets usually beat the Braves, so I might end up pulling for KC. I don't know. I usually watch and cheer for whoever's batting lol. Or the pitching team depending on plays. My husband can't stand for me to watch football with him because it's whoever has the ball I'm rooting for. He asked me one time, which team exactly are you pulling for? I said I don't know! Do I have to choose? lol.

Erica Vetsch said...

Jessica, I do most of my writing at a coffee shop here in town because I get so distracted at home by all the things there are to do. Of course, when I'm home I don't really do those things, but I'll think about them and stare at them if I also have writing to do! :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, Tina, you have the priorities in a nutshell.

I love the socializing at a retreat (And I do plenty of it) but I also love to go home with a firm word count number to share with my husband so he will know the expense was worth it! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Marsha, I do, too. I wish every writer could have at least one writing retreat every year. Think of all the amazing friendships and all the great fiction we'd get to read as a result!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Erica, Welcome to Seekerville and what a fun post. I love retreats. I think it is so important to network and connect with other writers. Writing requires so much alone time so it is healthy and wise to get out there and socialize. smile

Love this comment. ‘Talk-your-head-off-with-Mary-Connealy-and-cram-in-some-writing-so-you-don’t-feel-too-guilty’ sessions)

Yes, yes, yes, that is what makes a successful retreat in my humble opinion. Talking and brainstorming and connecting with others who understand why you talk to yourself smile

Erica Vetsch said...

Jackie! Eight women in your house! Did the rest of your family clear out? My son and husband would run for the hills, and my daughter would join in the writer fun! :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Tina Is it in that order????? lol

Erica Vetsch said...

Rose, we missed you in St. Ansgar! You would've loved it. There were interesting people, great food, and of course, the creepy albino deer! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

KarenK, relaxing retreats is what it's all about. I'm glad I live far from the ocean though. I'd just find a nice beach chair and zone out for a few days. I love the sound of the surf scraping on the sand.

Erica Vetsch said...

Sally, that retreat sounds so well-organized! I'm jealous. I hope you get to go when they plan the next one!

And #GoRoyals! :D This is our year!

Erica Vetsch said...

Jeanne, I think the hidden gem of a lot of writer retreats is deepening those friendships and making those connections that help get you through the times when you can't get together.

How fun that you have a brainstorming retreat to look forward to!

Julie Lessman said...

OH. MY. GOSH, ERICA!!! The Cactus Creek Challenge sounds soooooo good, and I love the cover too! I was always a big fan of Annie, Get Your Gun, which this sounds like, of course, so I definitely need to read this!

And, WOW, thanks for all the free press for Seekerville, my friend -- you ROCK!!

As far as retreats go, I've never been much of a retreat gal, and I'm not really sure why, but I have an idea. Something happens to me in a group setting that makes me very uncomfortable. It seems like there are always cliques in every situation, which automatically make people feel left out. And I was SO ostracized (read: traumatized) in grades 2-4 when I was mercilessly mocked for my psoriasis by teacher and students, that to this day, groups make me nervous and insecure, so I tend to avoid them. Even going to ACFW is traumatic for me, believe it or not, which sounds strange, I know, since I'm so outgoing. But like I've said in the past, I am a recluse who has the misfortune of having an outgoing personality, so I fool a lot of people.

But I can honestly say that retreats seem to be realllllly good for the majority of people I know, so I'm gonna just chalk me off as out of the norm on this one, which should surprise no one since the "norm" has never described me before! :)


Erica Vetsch said...

Candee, I love that description. Plan the route, then enjoy the journey as the characters take over. That could apply to so much in life!

Plan the route, then enjoy the journey! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Glynna, the Blue Belle Inn is soooo fabulous. It is CRAMMED with Victoriana.

I've done retreats in little Nebraska farm towns, an Iowa winery in the middle of nowhere, a house on a lake in MN, the Blue Belle Inn...lots of places, and I've found it is the company more than the location that makes or breaks for me.

I hope you get to go on a retreat sometime soon. And that you rack up an unbelievable word count!

Erica Vetsch said...

Caryl! I am so bleary-eyed this morning, but since the Royals won, I'm good. :D One down, three to go!

Erica Vetsch said...

Sally, LOL! You root for whomever has the ball? That would drive my husband crazy, too! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

I have to head out to get my hair worked on. :D I will be be back in a couple of hours.

Also, I apologize, when I wrote this post, The Cactus Creek Challenge was supposed to be $1.99 for the month of October, but it went off sale a couple of days ago! It's back to the regular price! I'm so sorry! Perhaps one of the lovely Seeker ladies can go in and amend the post. :(

see you in a few!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Erica!

Going to a writer's retreat is on my bucket list. I'd love to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow writers, but more importantly, I'd love to get away from the household chores calling my name all day so I can write without distractions for once!

Thanks for the tips - you covered some things I hadn't thought about. I've been semi-planning my own individual retreat (the corgi and I in some cabin in the Hills), and your list helps.


Sally Shupe said...

Erica, yes, is that bad? Unless it's the Braves playing. Then I root for them. Otherwise, even I don't know who I'm pulling for lol. It's a surprise!

I am such a shy, introverted, introvert. Just going to the writers' meetings is a lot for me on some days. I couldn't imagine going on a retreat, but would like to give it a try. There is a writers' conference near me in Roanoke that I'm thinking about going to. It's for one day. One of the professors I had a couple of years ago is leading one of the sessions on writing a biography. He is the leading expert on Stephen Crane. I'd love to hear him speak again.

I am also thinking of attending the ACFW conference next year. Just thinking about it sends my system in a tailspin!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Erica,
A writer's retreat sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe. Someday. In my wildest dreams!

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks for the great advice, Erica! I'm sitting here feeling envious because in all my years as a writer I don't think I've ever been on a real writing retreat. Mary has tried and tried to get me on one of the Seeker retreats, but the timing just hasn't worked out.

And my chance to attend a writers retreat with Barbara Scott and the brand new group of novelists when Abingdon debuted its fiction line--stupid flight problems kept me from getting there! GRRRRRR!

Someday . . .

Sandra Leesmith said...

Fixed it Erica Thanks for noticing.

Kathryn Barker said...

Wonderful tips, Erica!!

I was invited to a writers retreat, even though I'm an unpublished writer, in beautiful Lake Tahoe, California....alas, sad, sad, but the timing was off...oh, was I ever bummed. Would have been my first one!

Do you think writer retreats are helpful for unpublished writers? Would you say a mix of published and unpublished is helpful? Or would you keep the group more uniform? Thanks!!

Congrats on your new book....and I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

Wilani Wahl said...

I have never been to a writer's retreat. thanks for sharing about it.

Sherida Stewart said...

Great ideas for writing retreat preparation, Erica. Your retreat at an inn (a B and B?) looks like a perfect place!

The only writing retreat I've been on was the virtual one to Australia Seekerville sponsored. That was fun!

If you live along a passenger railroad line, the idea my DIL and her CP had was interesting. They did a one-day round-trip by train from Seattle to Portland. They wrote while riding the train from Seattle. Arriving in Portland, they had afternoon tea at an elegant tea place while discussing plotting ideas. Back on the train, they wrote during the return trip home. It was a productive writing a lovely tea!

Thanks for your post!

Erica Vetsch said...

Sandra, I love the gabbing part of the retreats because we all see each other so seldom and there's so much to talk about. Hanging with writer friends is the TREAT part of ReTreat! :)

Just Commonly said...

Interesting. I honestly didn't know there's writers' retreat. I've been to faith retreats like church retreats or Urbana or specialty conferences, but not a writers' retreat. Well, maybe because I'm not a writer. Anyhow, thanks for sharing about it. It's definitely new info. And it's ok if you have a non-stop chatting session with Mary Connealy, she's cool that way. =)

Erica Vetsch said...

Aw, Julie! I just want to hug your little 2-4th grade self!!!

Maybe a two person writer's retreat is the answer for you. You and one other writer friend. Or you and your husband! :)

Conference is a mixed bag for me, too. I love seeing people, but I peg my "People Meter" pretty quickly. I tend to hang on the fringes of the bigger crowd and find one person to latch onto. :)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Excellent info, Erica.

I've thought about hosting one in Estes Park, CO but just haven't gotten around to it.
Several years ago, our local writers group met here at the house (TN) but we didn't have a different agenda than usual.

One of the ladies who started the group is an Emmy award winning writer, multi-published for short stories and articles as well as hybrid for her own books. She plans our annual holiday season writers meeting which typically includes some classes and writing time. And /sigh/ I have a schedule conflict and have to miss it this year. Drat.

Would be a fun thing to get some Seeker Villagers together and retreat somewhere regionally wouldn't it?

Your list will be so useful to myself and others, as evidenced by so many comments already!

Thank you much. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Jan, a cabin retreat with Tucker sounds heavenly! I wonder what is a halfway point between you and me. Sioux Falls maybe?

Maybe someday we can plan a weekend retreat in Sioux Falls. We could probably convince Mary to drive up. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Sally, I'm planning on attending ACFW next year. Find me and we'll 'introvert' together. :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Lyndee! So great to see you here!

Are there many options in your area for retreats? Even if it's just you and one friend. I tell you, it makes you feel so 'writerly!' It will give you a boost, not just in your word count, but how you see yourself as a writer.

Erica Vetsch said...

Oh, Myra! How frustrating! I would've been so bummed to miss that publisher's retreat. I have wanted to meet Barbara Scott for a long time. I have heard very nice things about her. We've 'met' online, but not in person.

Mary throws awesome retreats!!! Somehow, some way, you will get to one and it will be wonderful!

Erica Vetsch said...

Thank you, Sandra!! You rock!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Kathryn,

I don't think published/unpublished matters as much as whether you're all friends and can get along. :) I've been to retreats of just published, and to retreats with a mix. Both were great!

I think it also depends on the type of retreat you're planning on attending. Is it one where you're going to talk about industry news and have classes? Best to have some folks with experience on the guest list. Brainstorming or the piling up of crazy word counts? Everybody's welcome!

I was invited to a retreat at Lake Tahoe, too, and I couldn't go! :( So sad.

Erica Vetsch said...

Wilani, put 'writer's retreat' on your bucket list! It's worth it! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Sherida, that train trip sounds amazing!!! Of course, I don't know if I would get much writing done if the train went along the coast close enough to see the ocean. As this land-bound midwesterner, I would be smushed up against the glass trying to see all the sights!

Erica Vetsch said...

Just C. If we didn't put SOME restrictions on the talking, we'd do nothing else.

And you're right. Mary Connealy is one of the coolest people I know.

Erica Vetsch said...

KC, Estes Park sounds wonderful for a retreat. There's a big conference there each year, isn't there?

Just like the train/ocean, I would be in awe of the mountains. As a native Kansan-now-Minnesotan anything taller than a grain elevator is jaw-dropping! :D

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Erica, wasn't that fun????? I forgot about the bread pudding!!!!

A Ruthy specialty, mixed up in the cozy town of Lyons, Nebraska with Dorothy Moore's cinnamon rolls!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

We should do a Seekerville retreat.

Honestly, that should be a must-do.

Janet Dean said...

Erica, always fun to see you in Seekerville! Your story and book cover are enticing! Must read it!

I've been to conferences galore but have never attended an overnight writers' retreat. I suspect I'd want to talk and might be banned from the premises. Any tips for how to settle down and concentrate with friends around??

I did host a one day retreat at my house for our small RWA chapter and loved it. We had a schedule of activities and critiquing, along with time to chat and eat. We actually wrote our frustrations about publication on toilet paper and held a flushing ceremony. :-) Only one of us was published back then.


Tina Pinson said...

Been to some ladies' retreats but not a writer's. Sounds like a mini conference. Sounds like fun. I don't know that I would get much writing done. Maybe some brainstorming and socializing. Have to line up a group and funds first. ;-)

Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy, my only regret about the Lyon's retreat was that it wasn't long enough!

And my family was so jealous about the cinnamon roll bread pudding...Swoon!

Erica Vetsch said...

Janet!!! A flushing ceremony! That is so great!!!

Tips for not talking too much? A schedule helps. And headphones. And separate writing spaces/rooms. When Mary and Dawn Ford and I had a retreat once, Dawn camped out in the farthest corner of the basement bedroom.

Mary and I wrote at the dining room table.

Of course, I had to hole up in my bedroom for a couple hours to watch my beloved Jayhawks play. :D

Cheryl Baranski said...

I have been to a scrapbook retreat with a friend. It was okay. I am not a social person I would have rather stayed home and read a book.

Cheryl Baranski said...

If you haven't read either one of these books by Erica you need too. They are excellent!

Erica Vetsch said...

Tina, sometimes they are like mini-conferences, and often, if I'm going to a mini-conference, I try to go a day or so early or stay a day later, or both, and make it a retreat. :)

Start small if funds are an issue. My buddy Jaime Jo Wright and I meet halfway (about an hour from each of us) and write at a coffee shop for a day. It's a fun boost to the moral, and not too spendy!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Cheryl!!!

Folks, Cheryl is a member of The Vetsch Posse, my book launch team.

A scrapbook retreat sounds like fun, except for all the stuff I would have to schlep there and back. I make scrapbook pages for each of my novels, and the STUFF scrapbooking requires is serious. Almost as much as for quilting!

Meghan Carver said...

Ooo, Erica, a writing retreat sounds like heaven! I don't know of any around me, but now I'm wondering if I could put one on, even just for a day. Thanks for such a complete list!

Marianne Barkman said...

I've always thought it, but now I have proof that I am an introvert 83% of the time(supposedly no one is ever 100% of the time) so I'm in good company. But writing a book is hard work, and I'm also basically lazy. So hand over the books and no one gets hurt. Oh, the chocolate too for double the insurance. Hahaha lol

Gail H. said...

I still say The Cactus Creek Challenge should be made into a movie!
Anyone out there listening???

Erica Vetsch said...

Meghan, if there isn't one nearby, be the first! :)

With just a few broad strokes, you can paint in the type of retreat you would like, then invite some folks and have a blast! :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Marianne, how about a reader's retreat? Like a weekend book club meeting? Come, read books, eat chocolate, swap books, talk books, dream books...

Sign me up!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, Gail! Another Vetsch Posse member!

If Cactus Creek were made into a movie, who should play the roles of Cassie, Ben, Carl, and Jenny?

I have to brag here, I have the BEST street team ever!

Jan Drexler said...

Erica, Sioux Falls sounds great! Or maybe Mitchell? Get Mary Connealy on board and we'll do it. :)

Bettie said...

Thank you for sharing your great ideas. I just downloaded the prequel and look forward to either winning or buying your book. It looks like a fun one! I've never been to an official writers retreat. I do enjoy going down to my parents old cabin in the woods and writing there. They have passed away but our family has kept the place as a retreat for quiet solitude. It's where I do my best writing. No tv station...

Carol Garvin said...

I've just returned from a writing conference, and am in information overload and recalibrating-back-to-being-an-introvert mode! I'm such a loner, especially when I'm writing. My ideal retreat is getting away by myself to our cabin!

I've never been to a writer's retreat although my writer-daughter has, and from what I heard of hers, I'm pretty sure I could survive it. The venue was perfect. They rented a home on a private beach for a weekend, had lots of time for writing but also lots of free time for wandering the beach. They planned that they would do their own thing for breakfasts and each person would supply the food for and prepare one major group meal; they all shared the cleanup. It sounded great and apparently worked well for them.

Pam Hillman said...

I went on a retreat years ago. I was a newbie writer and the others spent a couple of nights at the campground. It was really close to me, 30 minutes away, so I drove up on Saturday and came home that night.

It was a lot of fun. Mostly while I was there, they brainstormed, but also read and critiqued each others' work. I think retreats are wonderful, and maybe if I went several times, I'd get in the mindset of putting my "nose to the grindstone" and writing at a retreat.

MY idea of a retreat is to retreat from the work of writing, and spend time with writer friends, brainstorming and plotting, sharing good food and better conversation. When you see your writing buddies once a year, I'm afraid I'd find it hard to hole away with my computer while there.

But, I AM teachable and adaptable! lol

Erica Vetsch said...

Jan, Yay! Mitchell would be fun because we could tour the Corn Palace when we needed a break! :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Bettie, those kinds of 'unplugged' retreats are soooo helpful and refreshing. Sometimes I think I discount the 'internet noise' that clutters my mind. It's so great you have a place to go to get some solitude and a chance to be productive away from the clamor.

Erica Vetsch said...

Carol, it sounds as if your daughter's group planned well. Knowing yourself and what refreshes and what stresses you is key to what kind of retreat you should attend.

And I understand about Conference information overload. It's like trying to sip water from a hydrant! It can take a few days to re-calibrate.

Erica Vetsch said...

Pam, isn't it great that there are all types of retreats? I went to one last spring that I thought was going to be for writing, but it turned out to be more social. Of course, I was on deadline and had to hide in my room and write a lot of the time, but I did get to hang with friends and make some new ones in the in-between times. :)

Pam Hillman said...

I like Tina's goals! :)

Goals for Writer's Retreats:

1. Eat
2. Sleep
3. Write
4. Talk

And my idea of the perfect writers' retreat is a small group of close friends with loose structure. Kinda like backpacking across Europe. Just my laptop and charger, and somehow come unplugged.

Also.....I can't believe I'm saying this!!!.... but no wi-fi and all phones are confiscated at the door with maybe ONE go-phone designated as the emergency contact for family members to call that number. Or if the retreat location has a phone, just that one.

I just think truly becoming unplugged for 3-4 days would be awesome. Just KNOWING you don't have access to the internet, social media and email is freeing. But if it's there, then you feel the need to catch up on those 300 emails (not kidding) that land in your inbox every day.

Janet Dean said...

Erica, tell us about the scrapbook pages you make for your books. Do you compile them in one large scrapbook? Do you use images of how you envision the setting, hero and heroine? Do you add artsy stuff to pretty it up?

I rubberstamp a few greeting cards but have never scrapbooked.


Melanie Dickerson said...

To be honest, when I hear about my writer friends going on a writers retreat, it makes me a little bit jealous. Okay, a lot jealous. But that's okay. I get over it. Right now I wouldn't even have time for a writers retreat. I have too much writing to do to make my next deadline. (I can't imagine I would do anything other than talk at a writers retreat. Being around other writers? Please. No actual writing would get done.) That's pretty much how it has been for the last year and three quarters. Maybe in another year I can slow down.

Erica Vetsch said...

Pam, I agree!

I have a writer's group meeting once a month, and we turn off phones, turn off wi-fi, and just write. It's so great!

Erica Vetsch said...

Janet, here is a blog post that has pictures of my scrapbook, (and links to other pages Heather {my daughter} and I have made.)

I buy paper that fits the setting of the story, and I often include a story blurb, and lots of embellishments that have to do with the story. Of course there's a picture of the book cover.

It's so much fun perusing the sticker, tape, glitter, paper aisle for things that fit the story.

Debby Giusti said...

Erica, thanks for spreading the word about Seekerville! Hugs and kisses headed your way!

I've never been on a Writers' Retreat. Just as Melanie said, I'd want to socialize and visit instead of work. I'm lucky that my home is quiet, and I can create without too much interruption. I fear that wouldn't be the case if I were in a cabin/hotel/B&B with some of my writing friends. I've want to chat and see what they're writing and then get their opinion on my story, etc, etc, etc! :)

I would, however, like to do a short brainstorming retreat, which would be invigorating and would unleash creativity. That would be a win-win, IMHO!

Will you discuss some of your thoughts about group brainstorming sessions held during retreats?

Erica Vetsch said...

Aw, Melanie, I'm sorry you're so slammed, and yet what a great problem to have. Deadlines.

Maybe you and a writing buddy could get together for one day of serious writing. Chat over lunch, but otherwise, write like your hair's on fire!

Gail H. said...

Erica, I'm not sure who should play each individual part but Bradley Cooper has to be in there somewhere! Those eyes!!!
It would be fun to see who would play those mischievous boy twins. I can just picture some of the scenes from the book in a movie!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hmmm. Bradley Cooper...hard to go wrong there! :)

DebH said...

Hi Erica
I love your recommendations for a good writer's retreat. I think I'd like one, but am concerned I'd never go because I wouldn't be able to justify the time off/away from family and the day job (not pubbed and still too far from being ready).

I'd be all in on an Estes Park retreat. Home is Colorado even though I'm currently transplanted in Virginia Beach (*sigh*)

I'd love some Seeker retreat time. Not all at once though, because I'd suffer from sensory overload and be unable to choose which Seeker mind to meld with. I am jealous of your Mary Connealy talk time, btw.

Would LOVE a shot at winning your Cactus Creek book. I'm bummed I missed out on the sale price. :(

Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. Sage advice to glom onto.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, DebH! Wouldn't a SeekerVillager Retreat be ace? We would wear the Seekers FLAT OUT! :)

I am totally blessed to get to hang with Mary from time to time. I'm hoping her cool and comedic genius will rub off on me. :)

Kav said...

I've only been on one retreat and it was for work. I work in a school and we had this principal who booked a retreat day at a monastery for the entire staff. We actually had to take a vow of silence -- well, everyone but the principal. And he 'talked' (more like lectured) the whole day long. Thank goodness it wasn't longer than a day retreat. But it was enough to traumatize me so I'm retreat wary. But a writer's retreat sounds soooo much better than that. LOL

Oh -- and don't enter me in the draw 'cause I've read The Cactus Creek Challenge and loved it!

Erica Vetsch said...

Kav, that sounds like torture! No wonder you're retreat wary!

I'd have been tempted to apply some duct tape and bung him into a monastic cell! LOL

A writer's retreat would be much better than your school 'retreat.' I promise! LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, you would love a retreat with me/us.

I promise.

Debby Giusti said...

Just read Janet's comment about the Flushing Ceremony! Too funny! Glad I didn't skip over her comment.

Erica, would love to hear how you've done group brainstorming at your retreats.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Debby,

This last retreat, I asked a couple specific brainstorming questions, and Mary and Dawn had tons of suggestions.

At the MN NICE retreat, they had a brainstorming table, and everyone who wanted, got a chance to describe their story idea and ask for help.

The one thing I shy away from about brainstorming is having my story taken over, or taking over someone else's. For me, my story idea is so elusive, that if too many people get a hold of it, they can run with it in directions I never foresaw, and I can feel as if I'm losing my story.

I try to be sensitive to that, and if I'm planning any brainstorming sessions, I come armed with a few specific questions or places where I'm either stuck or questioning my judgment, and stick to those.

When brainstorming someone else's story, I try to ask leading questions that will allow the author of the story to pull on plot threads rather than telling them what I would write/do.

Mary Connealy said...

erica, wait a minute. We were supposed to WRITE? Like ... like ... BOOKS?! when we were together?

I need to write that on my hand or something.

Erica Vetsch said...

LOL! Yeah, we somehow gotta move "Write while at the Writer's Retreat" up the agenda. :D

Mary Connealy said...

I think they MOVED the creepy albino deer. It was facing a slightly different direction.

I have daydreams about the committee that meets and discusses which direction the deer should be facing. (do they ever discuss whether the deer should even be there?

Dawn Ford was there and I dont' think she really THOUGHT about the creepy deer, even though she was warned.

I believe her exact words were, "Wow that's a real deer. It's white. It's kinda creepy."

A universal reaction and of course, the claim to fame in St. Ansgar, Iowa.

Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, but Mary, perhaps the deer moved on her own....

Mary Connealy said...

I'm pretty sure it died of natural causes and was widely loved by the town folks all it's life. This is NOT a hunting story. Or a 'car hit a deer' story.

This is a story of the triumph of the will against all odds.

Erica's including it in a book, right?

Erica Vetsch said...

And don't forget, they have a state permit to display animal if that isn't creepy enough in its own right! LOL

Mary Connealy said...

Wow, Erica, that is a seriously CREEPY comment.

Mary 'Creeped Out' Connealy

Mary Connealy said...

PS thanks for making this an '8 things' list. I sort of fell asleep at the wheel on that in my blog. I had four points and then called it done.

I am ashamed.

Erica Vetsch said...

NOT putting it in a book. But you thriller/creepybook writers out there, feel free! Ugh!

Mary Connealy said...

I think the funniest part of a writer's retreat is how long two or three or ten people can sit in a room typing in utter silence and no one thinks that's weird.

I mean these books do have to be written down you know.

Occasionally the silence is broken by hours of intense chatter, though.

Trixi said...

I've never been on a retreat since I'm not a writer, but it does sound like it takes quite a bit of planning!! Kind of like when we go on a trip somewhere :-) But it does sound like it'd would be fun to get together with other writers and brain-storm, get new ideas or bounce ideas off of each other, learn a new thing or two about writing & etc. And maybe somewhere in there....write?? *super big grin* Loving the pictures you've posted Erica, thanks for sharing those!

Hey since I'm one of your Posse members, no need to enter my name for your book. I've already enjoyed it and passed it onto another avid reader friend! But to those of you who haven't read it, you definitely WANT to....not a book to pass by :-) She laces humor, history and romance all in one neat book package! One person will be blessed by "The Cactus Creek Challenge" :-) The prequel companion novella "The Legend of Obadiah Wilder: The Glorious Defeat of the Dickenson Gang" is free on Amazon so why not pick up a copy for yourself?

Mary Connealy said...

Maybe Debby Giusti. She write's suspense.
And maybe not a deer. Maybe a bear. And maybe it's not dead. And maybe it's been lurking in the woods for say ONE HUNDRED YEARS. Spotting it is a sign you're going to DIE!

And then your heroine is out for a walk in the woods and sees the bear. And then people start trying to kill her. And the hero....a bear ursidaeologist...saves her but (okay write the book yourself, I can't be everywhere, Debby)

Pam Hillman said...

Kav, that wasn't a retreat, that was RE-TORTURE! Yikes!

No. No. No.


Erica Vetsch said...

Waving to Trixi, one of my amazing Posse members!!!

You're right. I am energized by writing retreats. And Mary's description is spot on. The only sound in the room is clacking keyboards. So much focus, so many words...then Bang! We're all talking and laughing.

Erica Vetsch said...

The Albino Deer/Bear sounds like a job for Mary Nealy.... :D

Pam Hillman said...

What's a ursidaeologist?

Must go look this up....

Pam Hillman said...

On second thought, DON'T go look it up.

Just... don't.

Heidi Robbins said...

Retreats sound fun and helpful! It must be awesome to get together with a bunch of ladies with similar writing goals.

Erica Vetsch said...

Heidi, it's the best! Sometimes it's nice to hang with people who get what you do. They speak the same language, have the same struggles, and know how to encourage you. :)

Trixi said...

Erica, did you see how I snuck in some fun marketing lingo there?? Gotta promote those AWESOME books by my super AWESOME writers & show a little love for you gals!!! Where would us readers be without you?? :-D

Erica Vetsch said...

Trixi, I DID notice. :D :D :D

Like I said, my Posse rocks. They never miss a chance to talk up their favorite authors!

Mary Connealy said...

You can look it up, Pam, but I just made it up so you might be looking for a while.

I found the scientific name for bear, URSIDAE and added ologist to it.

Some might say it's just plain WRONG. Some might say I don't know science.
I say I'm writing fiction and everyone should know that by now!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, goodness. Poor Kav. I'd be scarred and scared for life at a retreat like that!!

Sandy Smith said...

I would be more of a solitary or small group retreat person myself I think. But I would enjoy the social aspect of getting together.

Please enter me in the drawing. The book sounds like fun!

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, are you brainstorming my next book? Great! A bear gets loose. He's after the heroine. The bear scientist saves the girl, trains the bear for the circus and they live happily ever after under the big top. Did I get that right?

Mary Connealy said...

I was going more for a bear skin rug, but the world is sensitive and politically correct these days.

You'd probably better let it loose and find the bear a 'significant other' too.

Just sayin'.

Now you're on your own, seriously do I have to do EVERYTHING?????

Mary Connealy said...

I could do the vow of silence, if I got to write my book while he talked. And Erica wasn't there.
I wonder how sensitive he'd be to that, Kav???

Tanya Agler said...

Erica, I would absolutely love to go on a writer's retreat. I've been to conferences, but I've never been to a writing retreat. I listened to a workshop on tape, and the two writers giving the workshop said they purposely pick places for their retreats with nothing to do nearby so they don't feel the urge to go be tourists. I look forward to attending a writer's retreat someday. I read through the first couple of comments. I love Tina's goals: Eat, Sleep, Write, Talk. Sounds like my kind of writer's retreat.

Thanks for the post. The thought of someday attending one is very peaceful and exciting at the same time.

Erica Vetsch said...

Tanya, I hope you get to go to a writer's retreat sometime soon. Tina's got the goals right. Eat, sleep, write, talk. That totally sums it up. :D

Deanne Patterson said...

What a fascinating post, Erica. Since I'm not a writer I want a readers retreat. I want to be be to go to some of those really awesome reading library rooms I've seen on Pinterest and hole up there for even a few days with a bunch of books and read, read, read. Pure bliss ! Please enter me for your book. It sounds great. Thank you, Deanne Patterson

Marianne Barkman said...

Yes, Erica, a reader's retreat where we all sit quietly and read our books and drink our coffee/tea or other drink and eat chocolate. Unless that was the day I was an extrovert and I'd ...what? Talk? I don't know.

Chill N said...

Erica, I'm saving this post to give to someone else when they propose a retreat -- they organize, I'll attend :-)

I inadvertantly hosted a writers' retreat when some writing friends visited for the day. We sat on the front porch, watched the world go by on our acreage, and I don't think there's anything regarding writing that we didn't discuss. Most of us had our voices back in a few days.

Eager to read The Cactus Creek Challenge. Great premise ... and cover.

Nancy C

Julie Lessman said...

ERICA SAID: "Aw, Julie! I just want to hug your little 2-4th grade self!!! Maybe a two person writer's retreat is the answer for you. You and one other writer friend. Or you and your husband! :)"

And I would take that hug and double it back, my friend, so thank you! And I do tend to be a much happier person one-one-one because I like to go deep and really get to know a person, and that's hard to do in a group. :)


Sandra Leesmith said...

Erica You're the one who rocks

What a great day you've had and I love all the comments.

Missy Tippens said...

What a fun day! I'm sorry I'm late to the party. I actually have a writer's retreat coming up soon. I can't wait!! I love ones where everyone just works and does their own thing during the day. Then we come together for dinner. Of course there are breaks throughout the day. Those are always fun. :)

Thanks for sharing, Erica!!

Margaret Douglass said...

(Sorry I'm late!) Well I learned something new today! It never occurred to me that retreats could include more than one person. I always thought that they were private escapes where writers could clear their heads and focus. Having a group of writers to bounce ideas off of and new place and experiences to fuel the imagination sounds wonderful. I've never been on a retreat, but I'm going to have to try it someday.

Edwina said...

Great tips! One of the best things about a writer's retreat is the fellowship. I went to one this past spring sponsored by a group I belong to called WordGirls. It was hosted by one of our members and was held at her church. The group's founder, Cathy Carlton Willis, was the facilitator for the retreat and she and Dana (our hostess) thought of everything. We had classes, breakout sessions for writing (we each had our own Sunday school room to use for writing, praying, etc.)

Dana had arranged for all the meals to be catered by a friend who owns a catering service. Unfortunately, the Monday before the retreat was to start on Thursday, the caterer had emergency surgery, So the ladies of the church, including Dana's mother, stepped up to the plate and cooked the most delicious meals and waited on us as if we were royalty.

So yes, I'm a big believer in writers' retreats.

Please put my name in the hat for the drawing.


Sierra Faith said...

Thanks for the advice! I really want to go to a Writer's retreat someday....

bonton said...

Writing retreats sound like a fun, but helpful, experience - Erica. Some of the tips provided would apply to many situations other than writing retreats. Thanks for a great post!!