Saturday, July 28, 2012


I am writing this from a stool at the kitchen counter in the gorgeous house that my writing group has rented for our 18th - yes, 18th - annual retreat together up at Lake Dillon in the Rocky Mountains.  This year, for the second time in a row, we've expanded our traditional format from a two-night retreat to a three-night retreat, and we are adoring every minute of this luxurious expanse of time together.  On our first night, as we always do, we discussed this year's Newbery medal winner, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, and read aloud the Newbery acceptance speech from the Horn Book. We have given in-depth critiques to five manuscripts.  We have had long walks along the lake.  And we have eaten delicious and nutritious food; each of the seven of us is assigned a meal to share (I had lunch yesterday: curried tuna salad, made with green onions, celery, and chopped apples - quite tasty if I do say so myself).

I didn't bring a manuscript for critique this year, because I have been writing against the clock to finish a new chapter book, Annika Riz, Math Whiz, a companion book to Kelsey Green, Reading Queen, coming out this fall. (Next up: Izzy Barr, Running Star.)  This has been an intense month of writing for me, as I already had a tight deadline, and then got off to a bad start with my initial framework for the story (see my July 11 post titled "What you planned will not do").  I began all over again mid-month, with a much stronger story premise, and I've been frantically and happily writing ever since.  I've discovered that I'm happiest not only when I'm writing, but when I'm frantically writing, with real urgency and unflagging momentum.  There is no bliss like being on the home stretch of writing a book.  Joseph Heller once said, "The last third of the book takes about 10 percent of the time.  I don't know if that's due to confidence or because the alternatives have been narrowed down."

I have written an astonishing amount up here in the past two days - away from the distractions of the rest of my life and in the company of extremely creative and stimulating fellow writers.  I think what I've written is actually pretty good.  And - now I'm bragging - I just checked the word count on this chapter book after typing the last lines of Chapter 11, hoping that it would be pretty close to 14,000 words, as Kelsey's book came in at 13,969.  And here's what it was: 14,016!

Now I have major rewriting ahead, of course, but that's the easy part, and I'll have help from my writing group and my editor. It will get done! I think a glass of champagne is in order, don't you?  And luckily I just happen to have one with me, chilling in the fridge this very minute.

1 comment:

  1. I would love a writing retreat right about now. Enjoy your time!