Sometimes You Just Have to Get Away

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Sometimes You Just Have to Get Away

My husband and I don’t travel much. The last trip we took together, in June, 2012, was absolutely fabulous—to Oahu! But we’re very content to stay in our comfy little home.

Nevertheless, a change of scene can reinvigorate your creativity.

When my friend Shonna Slayton invited me to the Arizona Dreamweavers writers’ retreat the last weekend in August, I jumped at the chance. It was held at the fabulous Breath of Life retreat house in Pine, AZ, up in the mountains. The change of scenery (and temperature!) from the Phoenix area refreshed us. (Click on the smaller image for enlargements and to see captions.)

When the thirteen female writers arrived at the center, they chose their bunks and got started making dream catchers. Throughout the weekend, writing and non-writing activities were scheduled: a critique group, appointments with a massage therapist, kick-start writing prompts, a hike, brainstorming, and an expert panel. Each attendee could participate or not. Some chose to write undisturbed.DSC02822

Friday dinner, three meals on Saturday, and Sunday breakfast were provided, as well as unlimited access to decadent or healthy snacks, coffee, and soft drinks. And the food was delicious. How wonderful to be able to write without meal preparation intruding on your thoughts.Retreat

I passed up on the massage, but I did go on the hike to Tonto Natural Bridge. It was challenging for me, but oh, so worth it.

The highlights of the retreat for me were the critique session and the expert panel.

Six of us participated in the critique group. It focused on the first 10 pages of our work-in-progress. We each emailed our manuscripts to the other critique partners in advance so we could read everyone’s work and make notes before the retreat. I sent in my first pages of The Unicornologist. The consensus of the group is that my story starts in chapter two, which I subconsciously knew but have been resisting. Hearing it out loud, along with suggestions about how to include the first chapter info later on, gave me the courage to work on revamping my opening.

At the panel discussion, two authors shared their publication stories, a publicist shared how she assists authors with their marketing, and a reader for a publishing house explained what happens to manuscripts in the slush pile. Their talks opened my eyes. Did you know that publishing house readers are unpaid, even though most have degrees in creative writing? The one on our panel signed on so she could see for herself the criteria that publishers use to mine the gems from the unsolicited submissions. Only the top 5% ever reach an editor’s desk. Agented manuscripts have a better chance, because they’ve already been approved by a gatekeeper.

The major drama of the retreat was provided by a centipede that invaded one of the bedrooms. Thanks to technology, it was immediately determined that this was a venomous centipede. I decided not to be part of the team that dealt its demise.

Another perk of going to a writers’ retreat is making a lot of new friends. Although everyone knew at least one person there, no one knew everyone. Yet they were an incredibly nice collection of people to share quarters with—fourteen of us in three bedrooms. (And everyone strove to be very quiet after 10:00 pm.) We’ve all promised to keep in touch—and come together again next year.

Retreat 2

Sometimes you just have to get away, learn something new, experience a change of scene, hang out with a group of women you’re not related to, and decompress. It refills the metaphoric creative well, so you have some depth to draw from again. Lots of ideas were generated at the retreat, and we all went home refreshed and inspired.

How about you—have you gone on a writers’ or artists’ or crafters’ retreat? Would you like to hold a retreat for your writers’ group? Share in the comments below.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

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