Observations on the RMFW Writer’s Retreat

For me, the word “retreat” conjures visions of cabins, high in the mountains, surrounded with nothing but lodge pole pines and spiritual seekers namaste-ing each other when they’re not singing Cumbaya. It suggests hours of enforced quiet, meditation, and later, equally enforced sharing of experiences.

Given that, I had no idea what to expect from the RMFW Writer‘s Retreat. Do writers even speak “namaste”? Surely a group of people striving for originality wouldn’t inflict a tired old spiritual (that’s repetitious to boot) on each other? Sure, I can read a schedule as well as the next wannabe-bestseller, but, “quiet hours” filled me with dread and images of schoolmarms with rulers for hand-whacking.
All right, I might be exaggerating just a wee bit, but if I am, I assure you, hyperbole has a purpose. Which is to provide a solid counterpoint. Create tension, or at least expectations! Because rather unlike the retreat of my fretful imaginings, the RMFW retreat could only have been more fun if it were longer.
Quiet hours were honored, not enforced. When the odd conversation broke out, writers either joined or kept their heads down. Mostly chats spilled over into or from mealtimes (and the food, also, far better than feared) and involved a great deal of laughter and story-sharing in ways that left me feeling energized to leave my heart on the page.
On one point, the retreat did match up to my fears: the “enforced” read-aloud evening session. Oh how I dreaded sharing my work. Did I have to read it? Couldn’t they just pass my pages around? But in the end, my chicken liver didn’t get cooked. My fellow authors smiled at the right moments, liked the right characters, made me laugh at myself, and it, too, in the end, was “fun”.
Before that word loses meaning, I’ll toss out another one: invaluable. That applies to the agent review session with Kate Testerman of KT Literary Agency and her assistant Renee Nyen. These two ladies did us the incredible favor of critiquing query letters and the first two pages of our stories, if we liked. Not only did we get invaluable feedback, but also, we got laughs and smiles and even a few tears from Kate’s dramatic readings.

I know some authors got a lot of writing done. I didn’t, but through no fault of the surroundings. I’d just received edits on A New Dawn, due out back on a very short turnaround, and I had to spend my time on revising and rewriting instead of pumping out new words.That’s all right. I enjoyed the retreat, made some wonderful friends, would recommend it to anyone, and, wonder of wonders, actually came away refreshed.

So maybe we spoke a little spiritual renewal after all. But you still won’t catch me singing Cumbaya.
(Crossposted to the RMFW May newsletter)