Friday, August 14, 2009

Off to Retreat

I leave today for what is always one of the most restorative and rejuvenating events of my year: my writing group’s annual retreat up in the Colorado high country, in a house overlooking Lake Dillon.

I have been a member of the same writing group since I moved to Colorado in 1992. Originally there were eight of us (when I joined, I became number eight); now there are five, but the other three remain dear friends who join us at our annual holiday dinner (and one was almost lured back to join us at this year at the retreat). We began as a group of children’s book writers, some published, some unpublished. Over the course of the years, every single member has become published, and we’ve grown from our original focus on children’s books to encompass all kinds of writing: adult mysteries, mainstream women’s fiction, science fiction, juvenile and adult nonfiction, picture books, chapter books, middle-grade novels. In our seventeen years together, we have collectively published over 100 books.

We’ve been going off on retreat together almost as long as we’ve been in our group together. Our retreats have now found a format that we all love and cherish:

Friday night: we discuss the year’s Newbery Award novel (this year, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman). We read aloud the author’s Newbery Acceptance speech from the Horn Book, passing my copy of the Horn Book around the room so that we each can read a page in turn. We then engage in an elaborate ranking exercise, where we compare this year’s winner to all the others we’ve read together to come up with our master list of favorites and duds. The two perennial favorites remain The Giver by Lois Lowry and Holes by Louis Sachar. Will they be toppled this year? (My prediction: no!)

Saturday morning: we luxuriate in a glorious daytime critique session. I usually launch my new book for the year at the retreat and in fact have the first two chapters of a brand-new book, and a book proposal, with me to share tomorrow.

Saturday afternoon : free time! Often we walk (partway) around the lake. One year we rented canoes. This year we might go see Julie and Julia at the local theater.

Saturday evening: we share little tidbits of writing inspiration or read aloud from favorite books. This year we’re going to perform a melodrama written by one of our members, complete with props, costumes, and signs saying HISS and BOO.

Sunday morning: go home, renewed, restored, and ready for another wonderful year of writing together.

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