Off the Beaten Track

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Off the Beaten Track

Today’s post is doing triple duty. On Sunday I mentioned I was at a writers’ retreat, and I’d love to share my experience. Also, I took a lot of pictures while I was there, knowing I could use them for two of my favorite photography challenges.

This was my second year participating in the Arizona Dreamweavers retreat. (I wrote an article about last year’s retreat.) We stayed at the same location, the Breath of Life retreat house up in the mountains of Pine, AZ.

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The grounds have lots of little places to sit and relax, or meditate, or pray (click on the small images to enlarge):

Arrivals started at 3:00 pm, with bunk selection, followed by a craft and optional henna tattoo. Then dinner (the meals were spectacular! I had the shrimp), and a brief introduction meeting, including a 35-word pitch for a current or finished manuscript. The rest of the evening was free so that we could do what we came to do–for most of us, that meant undisturbed writing. Besides a good-sized meeting room, the retreat house has lots of nooks and crannies to write in.

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That’s me in the center in the blue jacket.

The rest of the weekend was loosely structured around meals, with a few optional sessions to gather and talk or do stuff with the other writers. While writing Saturday morning, I felt restless, so I went for a walk with my camera and took photos for my two challenges. First, for the A Photo a Week Challenge, in response to the prompt Off the Beaten Track:

There was a walk scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon, and I had been looking forward to it, but my little photography walk convinced me to skip it. One, the roads were very steep. And two, I had to step carefully, because I’d injured my foot last Tuesday folk dancing. I’d have slowed everyone down.

These are my offerings for Tuesdays of Texture:

Another option for the 3:00 break was an idea session about queries, synopses, and any other writing-related topic of interest. I skipped it, because I was struggling with the project I was working on, and I wanted to push through. After dinner (I had the salmon), I participated in the Master Mind session on Building a Brand, then I wrote until 10:00, when I finished the outline of a middle-grade novel idea I’d journaled about in 2005. I was dead tired because I’d written until 11:30 the night before, and then not slept due to being in unfamiliar surroundings. I’m happy to say I slept much better the second night, despite the trumpeting of the local elk.

I got up at 5:00 the next morning, took a shower because nobody else was up, and drank five cups of coffee while checking in on my favorite blogs. (Candy, the owner of the retreat house had already prepared pump-thermoses of six different kinds of coffee!) Then breakfast was served (did I mention that the meals were fabulous?):

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Blueberry French toast, with Canadian bacon and boiled egg.

After breakfast we wrote until lunch. I ate way too much lunch. And there was so much dessert left over from the other two days (this decadent thing made out of ice cream sandwiches and pudding; two different kinds of apple pie; muffins; and cake) that I was compelled to choke down a slice of pumpkin spice cheesecake.

After lunch the group convened for debriefing. My take-aways from the group discussions were:

  • An email newsletter is your #1 marketing tool.
  • An author website is more important for a writer than a blog. Hmmm. I have to think about that.
  • Scholastic and other publishers recognize the need for high-interest, low-reading-level books for Middle Grades and Young Adults, due to the large number of English Language Learners in our schools.

I went to the retreat with the intention of spending as much writing as possible. All I had was a title and some 12-year-old notes–and Scrivener, which I am just learning to use. I managed to create a full outline, 23 scene index cards, and the first 221 words of the manuscript. It was hard going, and at one point I thought I was going to have to abandon the project, but I kept working, and the ideas came. Remember: don’t give up.

I also renewed some friendships from last year, and made some new friends, too.

2017 Arizona Dreamweavers

How about you–are you able to get off the beaten track periodically and just work on something you love, whether it’s writing or quilting or scrapbooking or art? Please share your experience below in the comments.

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