Where to start? I've just come back from a writing retreat at the island with six other women who write SF. We've been meeting for brunch monthly now for almost a year, mainly to socialise about writing, and earlier this year we decided to get together for a long weekend away. I was able to provide the venue and so for the past month we've been planning the great retreat -- a weekend where we would write and write and eat and drink and write and have a generally fine time.
All right, okay, I've been planning the great event. The others had to put up with me allocating beds and requesting volunteers for meals and writing travel instructions and even developing a five-day schedule.
It was fantastic. It was the first time many of us had been away with anyone in the group, let alone seven at once, and we all got along really well. Everyone did their bit with meals and cleaning up, some of us went on walks, and all of us got a hell of a lot of writing done.
There are so many highlights to recount! On the writing front: one of us finished the first draft of troublesome novel (thanks to a goat), another discovered that she could write in a room full of people, and I made progress on my rewrite -- exiting the "rewrite of the rewrite" phase and entering the "rewrite proper" phase! For my part, it was unnerving listening to the clacketyclacketyclacketyclack of everyone's keyboards . . . Since I was largely editing, my clacking was rather limited, and I spent much of the time reading over words and staring into space (and listening enviously to the others typing at full speed!).
Some wrote with headphones. Others in silence. The overall room silence was beautiful and the energy almost palpable. Every so often, a brief conversation would break out for 5 or 10 minutes and then silence would descend again (or the headphones would go back on). Some wrote at the kitchen table, others wrote with computers on laps, sprawled on the couch. I tried both.
We did some "chitting" as well. This is a newly invented term for a "chat-crit". In other words, some of us had sent around first chapters, which we all read, and then sat around and discussed how they were working, without going to the lengths of a full crit. I loved this not only for the feedback, but also for the fact that we can now share and discuss our stories. It provides a small window, some context, for our subsequent discussions and we'll be able to brainstorm ideas hopefully, or at least have some insight into what each of us is doing.
For the most part, however, when we weren't writing, we were eating. OMG, how we ate. I guess we should have predicted it: ask 7 women to cater for a weekend and you have such an abundance of food -- and not just any old food, GOOD food. Every meal was more than accounted for, whether lunch or dinner, plus we had an "amazing breakie", which truly was amazing. And then there were the snacks. They weren't all unhealthy, although obviously the blocks of chocolate were, plus those evil chips I ate, but there were also nuts and avocado toast and fruit toast and OMG we ate so much food. We have all sworn to live in soup for the next week!
So now it is over, and we must hope we can all maintain this wonderful writing momentum. But hopefully we can do it again in a few months time. I am so lucky I can go down to the island on a regular basis, and now it looks as though I might have some volunteers to keep me company!