When I think of writing retreats, I think of going to a beautiful place and being instructed by a famous and wonderful instructor. In the next five years I plan to attend Natalie Goldberg‘s writing retreats in New Mexico. You know Natalie- the author of Writing Done the Bones from 1986 and The True Secret of Writing from 2015 and many other great books. If you ever get the chance, listen to her books instead of reading them- I love her accent and her voice.
But the best writing retreats to me are those in which you get a lot of writing done. You complete a lot of work on your current WIP, receive some genuine and helpful critiques and even send submissions sent off to publishers.
Three years ago when I left Hawaii to move to Austin Texas, I had to leave my wonderful writing group, the Sundae Writers. It is called Sundae Writers because we liked to eat ice cream and meet on Sunday. In the twelve years that we met, we tried to meet at least once a month and we would spend the entire day writing critiquing, eating, talking and enjoying each others company.
Lora left first. She moved to Northern California to complete a Master’s degree and then became a professor. I left next. Jackie and Darlene are still there, but Darlene is always busy being a principal and she and Jackie almost never meet and write. Jackie was sad when I had to leave.
We vowed that we would get together once a year and spend one whole week writing together. Against all odds, with the tremendous support of our families, we are proud to say that we have met for 3 years straight.
The first year, all four of us met in Los Angeles and drove up to the Pine Mountain Club. It was beautiful, with cool mountain air and plenty of space to write.
The second year only Jackie and I could meet. We chose a condo in Las Vegas because of the cheap airfare and equally cheap VRBO condo that Jackie found online. There wasn’t any cool mountain air, but there was plenty of space and a pool.
This past year, we met in Las Vegas and drove to a friend’s house in Lake Havasu City. Again, it was only Jackie and I. It was 114 degrees every day from 8 AM until past sunset. There was plenty of space and a free house.
I keep careful notes on the groceries so we know exactly what we need and don’t need from year to year. We also keep careful notes on the airfare, housing costs and rental cars so that we know what we can handle for the year coming up.
I know one of the main secrets to our success in Jackie. She is so driven and focused. When I wake up in the morning she’s already writing with her first cup of coffee. She sets high goals and meets them. I wish every writer could have a writing friend like her, but I am also thankful she is mine!