Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Snapshot Of A Writers' Retreat


The Romance Queens in their element! 
The Romance Queens is a group of writers who chat online about all things life, love and writing. Whilst chatting is one of their gifts from God, they’re also good at making plans. 
Plans to meet.
Eat Tim Tams. 
And steal time away from the ordinary for a few days of solid writing. I know this because I am one of the Romance Queens, and the only one who couldn’t make it to their recent writing retreat in glorious Queensland.

But because the Romance Queens are generous souls, they kept me up-to-date with their mischief progress on an hourly basis. Between the four of them, Andrea Grigg, Catherine Hudson, Skye Wieland and Nola Passmore, I heard FOUR daily points of view, often contradictory and always hilarious.

My inbox pinged all day and most of the evening with the latest version of their merry making and such high adventure should never be contained. I decided to interview these four and share with our ACW friends a little of their writing retreat, hosted by the lovely Andrea Grigg in her beautiful home by the sea.

Andrea ~ The writers' retreat was held at my home on the Gold Coast, Queensland, the second week of the Easter school holidays, April 12-19. Being together was terrific, but the perfect weather made it even better. We made the most of it and walked along Currumbin Beach, over beautiful Burleigh Hill and around the lake system where I live. There was even swimming involved! 

Once we'd exercised and breakfasted, it was straight into writing. Basically, we ate and wrote and ate and wrote. We went out for dinner at the local surf club on Cat's birthday and again for kebabs on Thursday night (a tradition in the Grigg household) but we'd always have another writing session afterwards. What a dedicated bunch!

Dotti ~ Dedicated, indeed. I don’t know what I envied the most. The morning swimming report or the writing sessions! Both, I’m sure.

Now tell us, why is dedicated writing time alongside other authors so important to you? 

All smiles at the Romance Queens' writing retreat


Andrea ~ I got a kick out of watching the others at work. Nola was totally focussed, but Cat and Skye were much more like me ... easily distracted! The best part about being together (other than having fun of course! ) was being able to discuss things then and there, bandy ideas around, brainstorm solutions. Nothing can beat that.

Catherine ~ Writing is such a lonely job - and one prone to make you a little crazy due to the nature of the craft. There's so much to learn, but stories burn in your heart, urging to be put on paper. Being with other writers reminds you you are not alone in doubting yourself - not alone in occasionally thinking "hey that scene I wrote is pretty good!" (And hating it the next day, loving it the day after that, then thinking it's award winning...You get the picture)

Skye ~ I love spending time with other authors! It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned writer, there’s always something new that can be learnt from networking, hanging out, and just having a good laugh with fellow authors. Who knows what could transpire? In between bouts of Tim Tams, morning runs, lamenting over the fact that I don’t have a paddleboard or kayak, something amazing could happen - even collaborative works…who knows?

Nola ~ When you commit to writing with others, it's like that time is sacred. You can't not write. You can't make excuses, you can't procrastinate until the muse strikes. You have to put derriere in chair and write. Since you're with other authors, you know they share the highs and lows with you. They know this is important and they're going to encourage you. They "get" you in a way that non-writers don't (no matter how supportive those non-writers are). The bonus of being with other Christian writers was that we were also able to pray for each other's projects and discuss controversial issues relating to Christian and mainstream markets. Plus it was fun being able to bounce ideas off of other people who are as crazy as you.

Heads down for hard work
Dotti ~ Did you set any personal writing goals before, during or after your retreat, or were you happy to see what came of it once you arrived? 

Andrea ~ I figured I wouldn't get a whole lot of writing done seeing as how I was the host and there were things to be done. I edited instead, so, while Nola achieved 10 000 words over 4.5 days, I lost 1500! I didn't mind at all - I got a kick out of seeing three happy campers.

Catherine ~ Before retreat I was really considering giving up writing for a multitude of reasons, perhaps none of them very good reasons but it felt real to me. I could not seem to get my first novel's introduction to flow right, and the standard I wanted to attain seemed too hard. I set some tasks for the retreat but didn't know what I would achieve out of the list.

I discovered I need to RELAX. This was my key word. I am the boss of my writing and since I've already decided I want to self publish, and I generally take constructive criticism well, I don't think I'm at risk of producing works I'll be embarrassed about. I just need to RELAX and enjoy the process.

Skye ~ I was really excited leading up to this retreat - and it wasn’t just because Andrea lives near the beach. :) I have been working on editing my work-in-process for some time, and I’ve struggled to find the motivation to pick it back up again after going through a stage of feeling that it was rather - well, lifeless in many aspects. Just prior to the retreat, Cat introduced me to a new teaching program geared towards helping authors with deep editing techniques. I went ahead and bought the first module. This started me on a whole new journey with my manuscript and brought back some of the excitement for the story. My personal goal before the retreat was to both continue studying these modules, as well as applying it to my work. During my retreat, I found myself someone distracted at times, but I was still able to plod through with moderate levels of success. Since returning back to the “real world” I am still excited, but need to discipline myself now to find that work/life balance so I can make the time required.

Nola ~ I had a goal to write 10 000 words on my novel during the four full days I was there.  The reason I was so specific is that I've applied to an Editor's Boot Camp being run by the Queensland Writers Centre in August and I need a full draft for that.  Not only would writing 10 000 words boost my word count, but it would also let me know whether I really could get this draft done.  I met the goal with time to spare.  It really boosted my confidence and showed that I can do it when I set my mind to it and have help from above.  

Happy Birthday, dear Catherine
Dotti ~ Taking yourself away from family and other commitments for a writing retreat often feels like logistical gymnastics. What did you achieve during the writing retreat which made it worth the sacrifice? 

Andrea ~ Hosting the retreat was easy. I planned the menus in advance and shopped the day before everyone arrived so it was all good. I have to say, my husband and daughter were wonderful about having three extra women in the house - mind you, they both worked during the day so they were only subjected to our craziness at night. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat which is just as well because apparently they're all coming back next year!

Catherine ~ Peace, relaxation - and more laughter than I've had in months. Need I say more? Oh yes I do - it was worth my husbands gratitude upon me returning to our kitchen, he he he. 

Skye ~ I can honestly say that regarding my work, I got several chapters through some deep editing techniques during the retreat, but spending time talking about these techniques with friends and being able to spend that time sharing about our journeys with our work was something that I found the most valuable.

Nola ~ It was definitely worth it.  I met my personal goal of writing 10 000 words, but I also learned from the others.  It was great to be able to throw ideas around with other authors.  I was the "ring-in" because the others were more in the romance genre, but we were all working on such different things. We spent some time one afternoon reading some of our work to each other and getting feedback. That was really valuable. Whether you were writing adventure, suspense, romance, historical or contemporary, I think we all learned from each other. It was also helpful to hear about different tools and strategies that others have found helpful. Plus it was a whole lot of fun. We had designated writing times, but we also swam, walked on the beach, watched movies, ate great food and generally chilled out. I'd love to go again and would definitely recommend it to others.

Dotti ~ So there you have it. The wrap up of a highly successful writing retreat with goals met and kindred spirits stirred for what we must all return to when the fun is over… the solitary world of writing.

Have you attended a writing retreat? What impressed you most about the Romance Queens’ week-long gathering?

Blessings
Dotti 

*****


Dorothy Adamek lives in Melbourne with her Beloved and their three gorgeous kids. 

She's the winner of the 2013 FHL ~ Touched By Love Competition, 
and the 2104 Inspirational Category Winner of the TARA Writing Contest. 

Enamoured by all things 19th century, she writes The Heartbeat of Yesteryear, Historical Romance - Aussie style. Come say G'day at her blog, Ink Dots. 

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lovely post Dotti - I want to rewind time and do it all again! (This time can you come along?)

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    1. Oh yes please... that would be fun. Next time I'll try not to have a daughter graduating from university. ;)

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  2. It sounds like so much fun, and so productive :) I saw the posts on Facebook and wished I was there too!

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    1. Me too, Melissa. This is why I wanted to share some of the fun here for all to savour and perhaps inspire others to sneak off for their own retreat.

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  3. Thanks for the write-up Dotti. I've missed the pool, the laughs, and all the 'ping-pings' of those messages since I've been home. My only regret is that I didn't get you to include more about Skye's cat videos in the blog post :)

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    1. I miss the notifications, too. Except for the days when there were too many I had to read back over pages just to catch up! Thanks for sharing the fun with me. :)

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  4. Hahaha, yes, easily distracted and very distract-ing. But hey, we still got through and most of us achieved some of the goals set. It's a great way to set us all up for the rest of the year anyway. Gets us in the "groove". :)

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    1. I love that Skye. "Setting us all up for the rest of the year..." I imagine early in the year is good for setting fresh goals and later on is good for assessing how they were met. Hmmm... Two a year, I think I'm hinting at here. :)

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  5. i really wish there was a group of writers here, that i can connect with. It is also hard finding Christian writers. (i am hoping with a write-in planned next week i might connect with some)

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    1. I hope you find a group, Melanie. It's a wonderful way to feed into the encouragement of other Christian writers and readers. So important.

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  6. Sounds great. I just lost my last comment! I'm busy at the moment but will be hoping to find a writer buddy early 2016. Preferably Christian but not essential. I write mainly Christian but not always. Redlands area.

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    1. Good luck in your search too. Jeanette. Sometimes a writing buddy is there for a short season and that's a great way to start off. Hope you find that group or one partner soon. :)

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  7. So wish I could have been there with you ladies! Maybe next year though. I'll be a lot further along in my WIP by then so will be more beneficial. Sounds like it was definitely beneficial for you ladies attending though!!

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    1. You and me, too, Ellie. We missed out this time but I hope this snapshot of their fun filled in some of the gaps. :)

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  8. What a lark! I'm not sure I could concentrate with like-minded authors around. And maybe they wouldn't be able to either. I'd want to bounce off questions, opinions and the like.Hey. maybe you were doing that anyway by the sound of it!

    As for what impressed me most about those loveable Romance Queens was the great fellowship and the help they gave each other...'all in the same boat' so to speak.

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    1. I think a lot of the time was spent bouncing ideas around. Judging from the behind the scenes jokes I needed an interpreter to properly decipher! I imagine the relaxed atmosphere allowed for much brainstorming. :)

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  9. Thanks for your comments everyone. It certainly was beneficial for the writing, but a lot of fun too. If you can connect with those in your area, I'd strongly encourage you to give it a try. Even if you just meet for a day somewhere.

    And Romance Queens, I can't believe none of us mentioned our catch cry! "Stick it in the wash and it'll be grand." You had to be there - LOL

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    1. Thanks for sharing the retreat with me Nola. Those hourly reports were golden!
      You were a fabulous dibber dobber. I mean team leader. ;)

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  10. Thanks Dotti, Nola. Skye, Catherine & Andrea for sharing your retreat with us. I've never done one and must one day.

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    1. I hope you get to enjoy your own writing retreat one day Ian. I think you'll find it a lot of fun and worth the time and effort.

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  11. We just realised that we forgot to mention one of the most important things about the retreat. When we arrived at Andrea's house, we each got our own little gift bag with chocolates, notebooks, pens, hand cream and other goodies. Andrea was certainly the hostess with the mostest!

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  12. I know a lot of people were interested in what we were doing and a little envious, but there's no reason why retreats like this couldn't occur more often among us. The key thing was organising it a year in advance so that people could plan for it ie. Cat came all the way from NZ. Thoroughly recommend it!

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  13. Sounds like great time and so pleased for you all. I'm not at all sure it would be "good' for me - or others there. Afraid I'm a "talker" who has to deliberately remember to "listen". In the past I have tried to go to a quiet house elsewhere with Ray, but it just doesn't work for me. I've found that when I get away from my desk and work surroundings I'm far too easily distracted and simply can't concentrate enough to get into my characters heads and scenes. However, it would be great when revising and editing a completed manuscript. Thank you all so much for sharing this with us.

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  14. Dotti, great interview! I'm glad you all had a fun time together and achieved your goals :)

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  15. Fun, motivational, productive, and memorable.

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