This month we welcome as our guest blogger TWA client Lia Mack, novelist and activist and recently co-host to a brand new writer’s retreat in beautiful western Maryland. Don’t forget to share with your friends to earn serious brownie points (with them and with us <wink>) and leave a comment with your thoughts—we want to know your opinion!
When I started writing my first novel, I signed up for a local weekend writer’s retreat. Don’t ask me where I got the nerve, as I had been a “closet writer” up until that point. Yet there I was, out of my closet, sitting with other writers, writing with other writers, learning about the craft of writing with other writers. Even admitting to being a writer!
It was a weekend of total writing immersion and a pivotal point in my writing career. I’m not sure where I’d be today if I hadn’t taken that first real step toward taking myself seriously as a writer. Still in my closet?
Honestly, I’m glad I took the chance. Not only was I able to be finally myself – the writer I knew I always had been – I also got to meet and talk shop with other writers, which taught me a powerful truth: I wasn’t alone. We were all eager to write and learn, yet full of self-doubt. And yet, being grouped together for that writer’s retreat weekend with all that glorious writing time and comradery empowered me to not only keep writing but also to better my craft and eventually see my dreams of publication come true.
If interested in going to a writer’s retreat, just do a quick Google search and you’ll find high-priced, far-off getaways, affordable yet unique local writing retreats, and everything in between. And each one’s offerings – from gourmet meals to yoga to hiking to polar bear plunges even – are just as varied as the writers who attend them. So here are three keys to making sure you choose the best writer’s retreat for you.
1. Time to Write
Time to write is the biggest reason writers attend writing retreats, and therefore it’s the main focus of almost every writer’s retreat out there. Life is hectic and most days it’s convenient to push your writing off until tomorrow. And tomorrow. And again, tomorrow… So it’s easy to see the lure of quantifiable writing time.
Make sure the retreat has set aside enough time for you to actually write by looking closely at its schedule. Be sure it includes enough group or solo writing time to allow your creative juices to really start flowing! Consider the Rocky Mountain Writing Retreat in Colorado, which boasts 30 hours of writing time during its three-day retreat. Or The Genuine Writer’s Retreat in Maryland, which hosts both group write-ins as well as individual writing time in a unique tiny house village (full disclosure, I’m co-hosting this event, and I’d love to see you there!).
2. Explore the Craft of Writing
Although most writer’s retreats do focus on offering uninterrupted time to write, most host writing workshops, writing craft classes, and seminars as well. And while they are similar to what you may find at a writing conference, the ones at a writing retreat are much more intimate and geared toward participants’ needs. Some retreats even include one-on-one editorial sessions and work-in-progress critiques! Having the opportunity to have someone in-the-know read your writing and offer constructive feedback is crucial to discovering ways to better your craft.
And there are writing workshop types aplenty. For example, maybe you’re interested in plot, dialogue, character development and all that jazz. You’d want to look for a retreat that’s specifically geared toward fiction writers. Or maybe you’re interested in the publication process and how to build your author platform. You’d then want to find a retreat that will help you learn all the ins and outs of social media, websites, and the how to’s of getting published.
Or maybe you’re wondering just how other writers find the time to write? That’s why I developed the “KISSing Isn’t Just For Romance Writers” workshop for The Genuine Writer’s Retreat in May. Although I love kissing and romance, this one’s all about “KISS” – as in Keep It Simple Silly – and includes writer-friendly ways in which participants fine-tune their motivation and discover how they can fit in time to write well after the retreat has ended.
3. Meet Other Writers
True, some writers would rather hide in a cabin alone in the woods and write all day. I count myself among them most days, as that’s the best way I know how to write – without interruption. However, if you’ve ever spent time with other writers, as I did at my first writer’s retreat, you quickly discover just how empowering and inspiring it can be to meet with like-minded people in this solitary endeavor.
Meeting other writers, sharing in the experience and life of a writer can feel like coming home to people who, like me, have been a “closet writer” for years. If you ask me, meeting other writers face to face, not just on the Internet, is THE BEST part of any writer’s retreat. You’ll feel like part of a community. And you have the potential of making life-long writing friends!
Create Your Own Writer’s Retreat
If you’re interested in creating your own writer’s retreat, I’ve included some useful tips below.
- When choosing the location and accommodations for your writing retreat, keep in mind the vibe and value you want to bring to your attendees. Some retreat centers are all-inclusive, which makes planning easy! But all-inclusive could easily equate to pricey, so be sure to stay aware of the overall price you’ll be asking of your attendees if your aim is to keep it affordable.
- When deciding on your writing retreat’s schedule of events, keep in mind the overall writing value you want to give attendees. Is the point of your event to have writers meet other writers and build their confidence? Or are you having a retreat so people can meet well-known authors and have a chance to ask them all about their writing process? There are a great many ways to bring value to your attendees, so be sure to hone in on the exact advantage you want to deliver.
- Don’t forget the wise words from Stephen King’s The Shining… “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Attendees need to eat to fuel their writing sessions, and they need a chance to blow off steam and commiserate with their fellow writer attendees. So don’t forget the food and fun! That’s what getting together is all about.
- So whether you’re near the beach or up in the mountains, think of ways to use the natural beauty and amenities of your location to tie into your retreat. Hiking trails on the property. Yoga in the morning. A beautiful breakfast spread in the community house. And ensure the weather is conducive to outside treks as well unless you’re planning a skier’s writing retreat (and if that’s the case, sign me up!)
When deciding on the right retreat for you, it’s easy to get caught up in the wonder and excitement of it all. And you should be excited. You’re officially thinking of yourself and your writing as being worth the investment, which is key to further developing your craft.
Good for you, writer!
Whatever your desire and dream, I hope this article will help you make it happen. And if you’re tiny house-obsessed and can’t wait to get in some valuable writing time, strengthen your skills and sit around a warm campfire to talk about writing stuff, please join us at The Genuine Writer’s Retreat! As a bonus, if you register before the Early Bird discount ends on March 15th, my co-host or I will read and critique up to 10 pages of your current work in progress! I know how valuable it was to me as a new writer to be able to not only share my work with other writers, but also to get useful, constructive feedback on ways to better my craft. Therefore, I want to extend the same opportunity to you! Learn more here.
Whatever you choose, I hope the writer’s retreat you decide to invest your time and money in is all you hope and need it to be.
In addition to Lia Mack’s debut novel Waiting for Paint to Dry, her creative non-fiction has been seen in such publications as The Washington Post, Nickelodeon Jr. Magazine, Advances in Bereavement Magazine and Nesting Magazine. She is also a guest blogger at Award-Winning Writer/Director Angela Shelton’s Survivor Manual, a blog dedicated to inspiring and empowering sexual abuse survivors. A born and raised military brat – Go Air Force! – Lia was born in Kansas grew up in many places such as Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Italy, and Maryland. She currently resides in Maryland with her husband, two children, and three American Rat Terriers.