Sunday 29 July 2012

Writing Retreat

Many thanks to subscriber Faith Hope Cherrytea for suggesting the Canadian Reading Challenge.  I have four books for my list so far:  Hanging On To My Dreams by Arnold Henry, The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life by Camilla Gibb, Aberrant by Jo-Anne Sieppert, and Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald.  I have met Sieppert and Henry through my writing group.  In fact, I just had the pleasure of spending a day with them at a writing retreat we organized in Beautiful Alberta.  It was the first writing retreat for me and for most, if not all of the writers in attendance.  I think this was to my advantage as I put the event together.

I can't believe I've never done this before.  What a treat to be in a roomful of other writers.  To have them comment on your work, share their experiences and hear them read.  It was quite inexpensive, thanks to our lovely hostess.  It was nothing fancy, but I think the simplicity of the day lent itself to helping us create.  Here's what our schedule looked like:

9:00 Meet and Greet - We introduced ourselves over coffee, fruit and muffins.  I started the ball rolling by suggesting we talk about our favourite authors as well as what we enjoy writing.  Then I went over the schedule for the day and reviewed our plans for critiquing one another's work.  There were 11 of us, so I had each person bring 10 copies of a piece of writing they wanted some feedback on.  I knew some people were nervous about this, so I talked about how we critique in our writing group.  While reading a piece, we make note of what makes us laugh, any grammatical errors that we happen to notice, anything that is unclear and anything that stands out to us as especially good.  We had the day to read over the writing and make notes at our own pace.  This worked well, though I think next time I might put a limit on the length of the pieces.  Most of us found it difficult to give good feedback on all of the writing.

10:00 - 12:00 - We had time to write, read, edit or chat with other writers.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so those who wanted to chat could go outside and enjoy the view while they talked, which left the room nice and quiet for writing.

12:00 - 1:30 - We broke for lunch and had the option to go for a walk.

1:30 - 2:30  My friend Katie led us in a writing exercise.  These are fantastic for getting you out of your regular writing rhythms.  My latest book project started as a writing exercise used at a writing meeting.  We had the option to read our writing aloud when we were finished.  It is amazing how many ways a writing exercise can go!

2:30 - 3:30 - We had one more work block for writing, editing, reading or talking.

3:30 - We gathered our belongings and I asked people to share the best thing about the day and one thing to improve next time.

What a great way to spend a Saturday.  I'd love to know of your experiences with writing retreats.  I'd appreciate new ideas for next time.  Thanks!

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