Sunday, April 28, 2013

True North (aka the WRW Retreat)

Last week was our local chapter -- The Washington Romance Writers -- annual "In the Company of Writers" Retreat. For this week's blog, several of the R8 share their favorite moments from the weekend AND one lucky commenter will win a signed copy of "The Good Woman" by the fabulous Jane Porter, courtesy of Candy Lyons.

Now, without further ado, I give you The Best of the WRW Retreat:


My favorite part of Retreat is how inspired I am after I come home.  I get so many ideas from the conferences and from being in that environment.  It's nice to be around so many people who share your passion for writing and books.

---Lisa McQuay


I love going to the WRW Retreat. First of all it's close, so travel is easy. Second, it's a cozy jumble of the nicest women I know and reminds me of the sleep away camp I loved as a girl. But thirdly, I love WRW because it gives me time to reflect on where I am with my writing goals. There are no soccer games to interrupt me, no office work to do, no man unable to squat in order to look on the bottom refrigerator shelf. Just me and my own thoughts. Each session I attend, each writer I speak with, and each guest I listen to (and laugh with), helps me reset my internal compass, reestablishing the true north of my writing life. I leave the Retreat with revised goals, a renewed sense of purpose and an action plan scribbled in the margins of my workshop notes. This year, I'm writing little pep talk notes to myself in my calendar to keep the focus and purpose going all through the year.

---Shellie Williams


People say that in heading to a conference, one should have an idea of what you want to get from the experience. I usually forget to do this until after I come home. So useful! But this year my goals were to leave my social anxiety at home, do a good enough job reading for American Author that I wasn’t booed from the room, and at the last minute, I decided I’d like to come home with at least one request from an industry professional to see my current WIP. Score! Well, at least on points one and three. Point two…hmm, I didn’t hear any booing and no one came up to me after AA to tell me how I ruined their story, so I’m gonna call that a win. And for being last minute, goal number three is another big win because it’s tied into goal number one. In leaving my anxiety behind, I opened myself up to taking a risk and it paid off. How cool is that?

---Keely Thrall


My absolute favorite part of the retreat was Sunday morning. I know, counter-intuitive, right? By Sunday morning we're all exhausted. LOL. But, I loved listening to Jane Porter's Sunday morning workshop and Cathy Maxwell's motivational send-off. Jane Porter said a few things that stuck with me: 1.) Attitude is everything; it's what sets you apart from other writers and it will be what helps you succeed in life. 2.) Relax. Be like the surfer who learns to relax on their board between sets of waves. Don't sit there and rail and shake your fist saying, "The waves will never come." The waves will come. The opportunities in life always come. Relax between the sets. Be assured the opportunities for success will come and be ready, but relax. 3.) Learn to take a hit like a quarterback. Rejection and hits will come in life. We understand that on some level. But we need to prepare ourselves like football players. When a QB throws that perfect pass, he knows--more than likely--that he's going to take a hit. He prepares for it and he knows how to take it without it leaving lasting damage. As writers, we need to do the same. We know rejections and hits are going to come. So we need to mentally and physically prepare for them so they don't keep us down. Jane Porter gave me a lot to think about and I loved it! Cathy Maxwell's "Go Write!" send-off was the last hoorah that had me rarin' to go home and do what I needed to do . . . write, write, write.

---Candy Lyons


My favorite part of retreat was being with my people, drinking at the bar, talking, catching up. I loved playing Apples to Apples late at night, then talking even later into the night with my roomie, Lisa McQ. I found Pam Regis and Kathleen Seidels' talk on the barrier in a romance was completely eyeopening for me. Loved it. Am looking forward to applying it to my current WIP.

---Marjanna Bogan


For me, the retreat was different this year. I've been struggling for a while now. With Life, The Universe, and Everything. ("Everything" is a word which here means "writing.") So I was in a weird place this year. Out of touch. Disconnected from both WRW as well as from the writing, but then the wonderful Cathy Maxwell gave the closing talk at the end of the retreat and it was so inspirational that it had many of us in tears. I wish I had it on video and I could show you, because I know I can't do it justice, but the part that had me in tears was when she said that human beings are created with space left within us. That we are unfinished works and that we can either fill those spaces with broken pieces or we can fill them with things that make us better.

I'm tired of filling the space with broken pieces.

For reals.

Now, Cathy's send-off sparked many great conversations with my friends, but one friend in particular sat me down and we talked about how to stop shoving in those broken pieces. I quit writing months ago. I had some good reasons for that. In fact, I had some very good reasons. But after all this time what I couldn't figure out was this: If I want so much to write, why don't I do it?

Everybody says the same things they say when you need to start exercising. Put it on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself that you can't miss. Yada yada blah blah blah. I would try those things for a while, but it never stuck because it always felt forced, to me. Artificial. Writing was my love. My art. I can't do it if it feels forced and artificial! But my friend said, "Don't. Don't write. Just sit down every day and write about what you love. Write about why you want to write a particular character, or a particular story line, or a particular setting. Write about why you want to write at all. And do it every day."

Don't laugh, but for the first time ever I made the connection between writing and exercising. See, I started getting on the treadmill in December for all the usual health reasons. But I started slow. Low speed, for short amounts of time. And I did it every day (which, in reality, translates to 5 or 6 days a week). Now, at the end of April, I'm on the treadmill most every morning for 55 minutes and in that time I get in 3.5 miles. I do it in intervals -- walk a lap, jog a lap, walk a lap, jog 2 laps -- until the time is up. And on the days that I don't do it, it feels weird. Almost like, I miss it! I miss seeing the numbers add up on my FitBit dashboard. I miss adding the entry on my Google calendar, with it's little yellow star. And yes, at first it felt forced and artificial. Like I was shoving exercise into my day. But not anymore!

Ding! Ding! Ding!

So, every day since the Retreat, I've been sitting down and writing about writing for 30 minutes. It still feels forced. Still feels a little artificial, because it doesn't just happen naturally in my day -- I have to think about it and plan for it, and make it happen. But man oh man does it feel good! And as I told my friend, seven days into it, I'm getting to the point where I'm tired about writing about writing and I can almost see myself actually writing. Like, drafting new words!

I haven't yet, I'm still taking it slow, but I can see it happening, and because I'm "forcing" it, it's going to happen sooner rather than later. One of my other friends is always saying, "The Universe rewards action." And she's right. Action is always the answer.

So what was my favorite thing about going to the WRW Retreat?

Getting back into my writing.


---Evie Owens


  1. Wow! Great Take aways for everyone from the WRW Retreat. Evie, thanks for sharing your story and kudos for sticking with the exercise and cranking up the writing.

  2. Boo-yeah!

    When I'm off the writing wagon and struggling to reboard, I'm always amazed by how much I enjoy writing. Why did I stop if I like it so much? How come it's still difficult to make it a habit when I feel good for having done it? A mystery, for sure.

    But I'm with you, Evie. Action begets emotion. Don't like your emotion? Make a move, take a chance, act! Baby steps are still steps and steps lead to 3.5 miles on the treadmill and finished stories ready for readers. May the universe reward your action!

  3. Thanks for the kudos, Shellie!

    And yes, Keely, it's a mystery for SURE. I mean, I KNOW, I totally GET, why it's a struggle to make myself get on the treadmill over and over. But why oh why is it such a struggle to develop a steady writing practice?

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  5. Go Evie Go!! You can do this!! I cna't wait to read what you've got going on in that writer's brain of yours!!

  6. So sorry to have missed Cathy Maxwell's send-off particularly. Been hearing good things about it all over cyberspace. But I'm especially glad her presentation is helping my R8 babes head in the direction they want to go.

    Evie, your summation of Cathy's talk reminds me of that old saying from the--ahem--1980's. Of course we were mere darling babies then. But so were computers and the phrase: garbage in, garbage out. Makes sense to me.

    Here's to all of us putting good things--not broken bits--into our hearts and souls.

    And here's to getting good things out.

    PS-Yay on the writing exercise, Evie! Go, go, girl!

  7. Thanks, Mary! And as far as what's in my writer's brain -- you KNOW you'll know because I always end up consulting YOU on plot. LOL.

    Nichole -- I'm going to ask Cathy Maxwell if she'll guest blog her send-off here on the R8. It's just too good to be missed. And thank you, for the encouragement. :-)

  8. Sorry I'm arriving at the party late. Last week was a bear. Great wisdom here from everyone. Loved seeing how everyone took in the same event and used it to leverage their writing career/journey right where they were at that moment. Excellent, ladies. Thanks!