Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writers Retreat

This past weekend my writers group, Creme de la Crime, held its twice-annual writers retreat. One of the two times we go away, generally to a nice little town tucked into the southeast corner of the state, the other we spend at one another’s homes. This was the latter time. Saturday we spent at Carl Brookins house, Sunday in the Party Room of my co-op. Nine could attend, and each of us brought two or more chapters of whatever we’re working on to read.

Our group meets once a week and at those meetings one or two of us will read a chapter of a book we’re working on or, occasionally, a short story. A copy of the reading(s) is handed out to the listeners and we all read along as the author reads aloud. Then there is a ten or fifteen minute period while we go over the reading, marking things we like and/or problems we feel need to be addressed. Then we take turns giving feedback.

At the retreat this happens writ large. That is, the readings are longer, and everyone gets to read. We go all day Saturday and most of Sunday. Volunteers among us bring the ingredients for a casual breakfast and a sandwich-salad lunch and a hot dinner on Saturday, and a breakfast and lunch on Sunday. All of this is arranged at several of the weekly meetings in advance of the retreat.

This year’s retreat was particularly fine. Every person’s readings was great. One member, who has been working on the same novel for years, seemed to cross some kind of boundary and produced a chapter that was positively brilliant. Her writing was lyrical, the setting evocative, the two main characters beautifully described. We pretty much agreed, it's time she found an agent. Our newest member is trying to sell a finished novel with an unusual setting. None of us in the group can understand, from what he’s read of it so far, why he hasn’t succeeded. (Publishers can be so blind! This thing has best-seller written all over it.) Another member, who is struggling with a health problem, seems to have discovered that, instead of a distraction, her problem has concentrated her mind, and produced a reading that was simply excellent. She has invented a villain who is deliciously creepy. Our most renowned author has settled into another great entry in his long-standing, best-selling, award-winning series. And so on. I have been fussing with the start of And Then You Dye and finally just sat down and wrote something light and a little silly – and they loved it! So it’s like everyone’s muse got together and decided to give us all a break. It was the best retreat we’ve ever held, in my opinion. The only problem was, it was hard to find something critical to say about the readings, they were all so good.

I have said it before, but I’ll say it again, if you’re trying to break into writing, see if you can join, or start, a writers group. There you’ll find people after your own heart, along with the advice and encouragement it takes to be a success.

3 comments:

Linda O. Johnston said...

I agree that being part of a critique group is invaluable, Monica, no matter what stage of writing you're in!

Monica Ferris said...

I know the first writers group I joined was probably the reason I made my first sales. And I know my current writers group has improved my writing immensely.

Betty Hechtman said...

It sounds like a great weekend.