Last weekend I participated in a writing retreat held in Traverse City, Michigan. I’ve attended the Mid-Michigan RWA Chapter’s “Retreat from Harsh Reality” more than twenty times—even chaired it for a few years—but this was a totally different experience. This was truly a writing retreat. Rather than sneak away from activities to write, writing was the activity.
Of course we did leave our rooms and computers occasionally, primarily for meals and some socializing, but most of us were there to work.
I arrived at the motel around 3:30 p.m. Friday and checked in. To my surprise, this was a large motel right on the main drag (though east of the central part of Traverse City). Our group was checking in along with scores of cyclists in town for Saturday’s Iceman Cometh Challenge race (http://www.iceman.com/) and another large group (no idea why they were in town) and individual travelers. Management did group our rooms along one hall, but the place wasn’t exclusively ours.
At 4:00 p.m. I found Peg Herring (www.pegherring.com) in the lobby. She was the hostess of this retreat. She handed me a goody-bag of treats (chocolate, 2 snack-size bags of chips, and a string cheese), I asked if there were any changes to the schedule she’d emailed the day before (there were none), and I returned to my room. There I set up my computer, checked emails, and prepared to write. A little after 5:00 I returned to the lobby where some of the other retreat participants were gathering.
All in all, 11 of us participated in this retreat: 9 writers (a mix of published and not yet published), one reviewer, and 1 free-lance editor. Friday night 8 of us headed for the Red Mesa Grill, where we were met by editor/designer/book publisher, Mary Jo Zazeuta, who lives locally.
The Red Mesa Grill was jammed. Thank goodness Peg had called ahead. Even though the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, they had a table ready for us. The restaurant was noisy, making conversation difficult, but the food and drinks were good. After the meal it was back to the motel where some gathered in one room for sweet treats that one of the attendees had brought. I, and a few others, went back to our rooms and worked.
Saturday morning it was breakfast (provided by the motel), some socializing with those who came to the breakfast area at the same time, then off to our rooms to write. Several went out to lunch at noontime (and were joined by another local writer), but I’d had enough food at the breakfast buffet, so I stayed in my room and worked. At 5:00 we again met in the lobby (there were 9 of us now staying at the motel) and went to an Italian restaurant/deli Mary Jo had talked into staying open so we could have a quiet place to eat and talk. She joined us there.
This time we had a room just about to ourselves and no noise. We ate, drank, and talked and talked, and talked. After dinner, back at the motel, a few of us gathered in the motel’s “breakfast area” and had more sweet treats. I finally returned to my room, worked a little, read a little, and then crashed for the night.
In the morning I left Traverse City soon after breakfast. (We needed to check out by 11:00 and it was snowing with about 2 inches of accumulation already). The retreat was over.
Positive and Negatives:
1) Even though I’d had a month of solitude while my husband was off on his boating adventure, when I was at home I had other obligations that interrupted my writing: house chores, scheduled meetings and events, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. At the retreat it was write (or eat and socialize with other writers). No other interruptions.
2) Socializing was with others connected to writing, so conversations primarily focused on the business, in one way or another.
3) Since I’d gone to write, that’s what I did. No procrastination.
4) Definitely inexpensive. No fees or retreat costs other than the driving costs, room/motel cost, and food/drinks at restaurants.
1) It would have been nice to have had the place to ourselves and had a general meeting area or break area.
2) More time would have been nice. Basically all we had was Friday night and all day Saturday. Another full day would have been great, or, at least, most of Sunday.
Personally I would have liked (1) a short bio (writing oriented) regarding those attending, and a picture to go with that, prior to arrival; (2) to hear each attendee’s goal for the weekend…and if that goal was reached on Sunday; and (3) a quiet place to eat and talk the first night.
The group is talking about holding two of these a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. They’d like to vary locations around the state. It looks like it will be Grand Rapids next March. For more information, email Pegfish@yahoo.com
I liked the experience and accomplished my goal. I think others did, too. This group is not affiliated with any official organization, although most of us belong to Sisters in Crime and it was advertised through that organization and through the MysteryinMichigan yahoo group. Not everyone attending was published or writing mysteries.