On Friday, February 22, 2013 I attended my very first Indiana Horror Writers (IHW) Writer’s Retreat and the experience was very rewarding. I went into this with feelings of excitement and wariness. I’d heard stories from my fellow writers on what to expect and prepared myself accordingly. The first evening was spent settling into our rented townhome for the evening and unwinding from our outside lives.
When writers gather together it’s inevitable that we talk shop. Many of the struggles we face as writers are best understood and most sympathized with by other writers. But, there was plenty of time devoted to socializing and partaking in adult libations.
Our time together was semi-structured and not just a frat party weekend for writers, although we had our Animal House moments of lounging around drinking, listening to 80’s music and talking about such diverse subjects as our favorite pop culture icons to the role of S&M in writing.
On Saturday we all trickled out of bed and made our way to the kitchen for coffee—one of two brown liquids often associated with writers. We ate breakfast and then when everyone was at least semi-coherent, some of us participated in a writing exercise. The idea was to take a prompt and free write for fifteen minutes a piece of flash fiction, which we would then read to the group.
I was amazed at the level of creativity attained by some of my fellow writers. Their pieces—with minimal polish—sounded as though they were ready for publication. Although they all had speculative fiction slants, they were generally the funny type of stories you could find in Reader’s Digest or the Saturday Evening Post.
We won’t talk about mine…apparently the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.
Later that afternoon after a couple hours of idle conversation, we grabbed our laptops and headed to the great room for a workshop. The leader gave us certain broad parameters to follow in stages which focused on developing a viable plot for a short story and/or novel. At the end, we shared what we’d come up with and again the level of creativity was astounding.
Apparently by then the coffee had done its thing because my peers enjoyed what I’d written and it was something I could feel proud of creating, unlike that prior writing exercise which shall never see the light of day.
We then dispersed to grab showers and then make our way to Irvington for a debut book signing featuring members of our group. The bookstore was quaint and cozy. There were a number of people who showed up to meet, greet and get signed copies of our friend’s newest tome.
Riding the high of a successful book signing, we headed out to a neighborhood Chinese Restaurant for an evening meal. It was the first time I’d been to this particular establishment and I must say that on the outside it looked like a hole in the wall joint. However, the food and service was excellent and their menu prices were very reasonable.After everyone had gotten their food fix and were dealing with a case of the “I-tis”—after eating lethargy—we made our way back to our rented townhome to settle in for the evening.
A group of us again gathered into the great room and pulled out our laptops to pull up a piece of our work to share in a group reading. The stories shared were fantastically well written and crafted. The sneak peeks of, “Works in progress” from my peers was entertaining, enlightening and proved that I had joined a group of truly talented people.
Some of us, in an attempt to relive our youths stayed up until the wee hours of the morning; snacking, drinking and talking about nothing in particular. It was our last night and we wanted to be rebels, which we paid for the very next day.
As we tumbled out of bed like newly awakened day walkers, rising from a deep hibernation, we made our way to the kitchen for that morning elixir we writers seem to thrive on.
The end of our weekend retreat culminated in a brunch buffet where we talked about our assessment of experiences that weekend. Our out of town guests returned safely to their bailiwicks and we left in anticipation of next year’s retreat and what new and wonderful excitement it would hold.
This blog post is an illustration of how new experiences can and do strengthen our creativity and help to build important and lasting relationships for the future. If you are a writer and have the opportunity to attend a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend that you go.
You will be changed.