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A Few Words on Retreats

Last weekend, I left my CC with FabHusband, packed up, and headed north to Burlington, VT for Kindling Words East. 

I'd been dying to attend KW ever since I heard about it years ago. It's for published children's book authors and editors only, which gives it a different feel from an SCBWI conference. It also had a blend of craft-focused lectures in the morning, with time to work in the afternoon. Since I love craft, and needed time to write, this was also a bonus. Lastly, there was loads of fun to be had, too--spending time with talented people who truly care about making good books for kids always leads to fun! (And dance-floor shenanigans. Of which there were a few. Ahem.)

But instead of writing about KW specifically, I wanted to take the time to write about retreats in general. I've had the fortune and opportunity to attend three kinds of retreats (four, if you count SCBWI--which is really a conference instead of a retreat, so scratch that one), and I've gotten something different from each one. And, I think, depending on what I'm working on and what my needs are at the time, I get something different from the same kind of retreat from year to year.

Having an uninterrupted block of time to immerse yourself in writing can feel like a selfish luxury--after all, you're taking time away from your family to travel to a cool destination, talk about books and writing, and then "work" with people from your imagination. But, here's the thing:

Writing, 98% of the time, is a completely solitary endeavor. Writers are alone when they draft. Alone when they revise. Alone when they revise again. (And again). We're alone when we send our manuscripts out and get editorial letters to puzzle through. Even if we're sharing the contents of letters with a spouse or friend, we're still the ones who have to go back to the page and do the work of sorting it all out. We're alone in our negotiations with our publishers (yes, agents are present in lots of cases, but ultimately the contracts are between author/publisher), and we're alone in our receptions of good and bad reviews.

That's why these moments of connection are so important. It's a time for us to feel less alone in our work, to share and cheer and support one another, and to give valuable insight on craft and industry that may spark a flame in someone else. 

This weekend, I had two major epiphanies about the book I've been working on--neither of which I would have arrived at on my own. It took another writer, with another perspective and different experience, to unlock the struggle I've been faced with. And the results will be a better book. Man, am I grateful! I wasn't the only one, either--several other people had similar experiences, all because we had the opportunity to come together and feed that creative spark some different fuel. 

I know that there are lots of brilliant writers who don't attend retreats or conferences and who come up with amazing stories and tell them in unique, distinctive ways. But for me, the sense of community, camaraderie, and inspiration found in a retreat is invaluable. 

PS: As soon as I download the camera, photos of the purple hair!

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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
Sounds amazing! And by the way, I am totally using the suggestions you made when we talked about my WIP at Harry Potter World! And it's making it so much better! So thank you :DD
Feb. 5th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
Yay! I can't wait to see it when it's done (hint hint)
Feb. 5th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
um...if that's an offer to read, I will take you up on it!
Feb. 5th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
Feb. 5th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Squee! Thank you! I'll email you :D
Feb. 4th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you had fun, and that it was such a productive retreat! Happy writing this weekend.
Feb. 5th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Feb. 4th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
YES. I had such a great experience during our little day-retreat that I can only imagine how amazing a weekend-long one can be. And you deserve it, lady. :)

Also: more pictures of purple hair, obviously.
Feb. 5th, 2011 02:18 am (UTC)
Someday we will do a weekend retreat together, and there will be shenanigans.
Feb. 4th, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
Sounds wonderful!!
Feb. 5th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
It was. *sigh*
Feb. 5th, 2011 10:15 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you had a good experience at KW!

I've never actually been on a retreat myself and I think I might end up having to just plan one myself to make it happen! :-)
Feb. 5th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, retreats are DIVINE.

Next year, I hope we all get in to KW. It was seriously amazing.
Feb. 5th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Well, you know I'm a fan of retreats. For one thing, I got to meet you. And remember your face changing from morning to afternoon after some wise words and listening. While I had my face smashed in a pillow trying to wrestle up metaphors. Oh, yeah, it's fun stuff and hope to do it all again, or some version!
Feb. 5th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
: )

My grin is from ear to ear, my dear.
Feb. 6th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
I've heard such good things about that retreat. Congrats on the epiphanies!
Feb. 6th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! It was AMAZING!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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