This past year I made a new writer friend named Jeannie Mobley, who consistently has the best ideas of anyone I've ever met for strengthening community among writers (so I've forgiven her for beating me out for the Colorado Book Award with her stunning debut novel Katerina's Wish). The best idea of all: whenever her husband is out of town for a weekend, she invites half a dozen women writer friends for a writing retreat. I attended one of of these retreats last January; I attended a second one this past weekend.
Everything about this idea is appealing.
1. It's extremely simple. We don't have to drive very far to get to Jeannie's house. There is no need for complicated advanced planning: some come for the whole time; others drift in and out; it's all good. Jeannie stocks up on some breakfast offerings (fruit, yogurt, bagels, cereal) and lunch fixings for sandwiches. We bring snacks to add, if so desired. We make no advance plans for dinner. The first time we ended up wanting to dine only on leftover lunch fixings (supplemented by Jeannie's divine black forest cake, and a couple of bottles of wine). This time we went out to a local barbecue joint and sat on a wooden picnic table beneath the generous shade of a cottonwood tree on a warm May evening.
2. It costs next to nothing. We chip in for the cost of the food, but that's it.
3. Jeannie's circle of literary friends is large enough that we get to meet new people, which is enormously stimulating. Even where we already know one another, most of us don't get together on a regular basis so this a chance to catch up on everyone's work-in-progress and have wonderful conversations about writing. E.g., over lunch we discussed such topics as "How do you create a really compelling villain?" and "How important is it to title your books to create an author 'brand'?" and "Is is true that kids don't read historical fiction for pleasure?" (Of course, we argued that the answer to the last one is no.)
4. We write, and write, and write, and write! As the title of this blog suggests, my usual writing process is to write for an hour a day. Period. That's it. But at Jeannie's retreat, I wrote all morning, for around three hours, and then wrote for another three hours that afternoon - my usual productivity times six. At the first retreat I stayed the night, and then wrote for three hours the next morning, too, coming away with not one, not two, but three completed chapters of the second Nora book. This time I could stay only for the Saturday portion of the retreat, but I came away with a plan for the third Nora book and a draft of the first chapter, which has serious problems, and a plan for fixing those problems, generated by sharing those problems with Jeannie and Tara and getting their suggestions. Whew!
So in just one day, I launched a new project, fostered new friendships, and came home with new energy and enthusiasm to move forward in this career and life that I love. Thank you, dearest Jeannie!