Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Writers Retreat--Part II
Yesterday in the comments someone asked how our writers retreat group was put together, and how I decided who to invite. I can take little credit for the formation of this wonderful group. I'm convinced God put us together.
It all started with my inviting one author friend to visit our home in Idaho. Then it sort of ... expanded. "Well, why not also invite another writer friend who's local." Then--"why not invite this third person. And the fourth..." Then--"Well, if we're having all these writers together, how about if we hold some plotting sessions."
By the time it was all done, about half the group was people close to the northern Idaho area, and the other half from nearby states--Oregon, Montana, Colorado, plus southern Idaho. We had nine novelists, plus two more who joined us--my assistant, who lives nearby, and my mom. Yup, Mama Ruth was not to be left out of such an interesting group, she declared. Now she's mama to all of us.
We decided to hold the group to our 11 people. Sometimes it's hard to say--we have a closed group, and we can't invite anyone new. But we agree that's the only way to keep the group viable. More people would mean cramming more people around the table. It would also mean more plotting sessions--and we can't do any more than nine per retreat. Additionally, when the group becomes more like a year-round church care group, sharing challenges and praying for one another, you don't want to bring someone new into that mix after five years without everyone agreeing that should be the case.
If you're thinking about starting your own group, here are some logistics that we've learned along the way.
1. Food. Keep the menus simple and divide the tasks. Those of our group who drive in bring a meal, either a lunch or dinner. We have sandwiches and salad for lunch, simple things like hamburgers, spaghetti, ham, taco soup, etc. for dinner. Everyone gets her own breakfast--I just provide all the fixin's.
2. Paper plates! After the first year we went totally paper--utensils too, and plastic hot and cold cups. No one should have to be in the kitchen, cleaning dishes three times a day.
3. Expenses. We keep track of food purchases, with the total being divided up. This year each member paid $40. Not bad for 4 1/2 days of constant eating. (Believe me--we don't starve.)
4. Plotting sessions. As mentioned, nine is our max. That's three a day. Don't overextend yourselves here. It depends on the length of your retreat. But if you go three days, you'll find that by the last day, the brains can get tired. Leave yourselves plenty of time for just hanging out and having a good time.
5. Plotting sessions point 2. We don't have any pre-retreat preparation for each others' sessions. We just don't have time to read a bunch of proposals and pages ahead of time. Each presenter only needs to prepare for her own session. She may have a handout of a proposal, or she may be prepared to take 10 minutes or so to concisely tell the others about the story/characters.
6. Beds. With all five bedrooms here full, I still have six more people to house. I bought the AeroBed blow-up mattresses. We line 'em up down in the huge finished basement--we call it The Dorm.
Our retreat is probably on the larger side, as retreats go. There are a lot of logistics for the hostess in preparing to house and feed that many people for four days. You can certainly plan a smaller retreat. But of course, the more writers, the more minds around that table in the plotting sessions. It's because of our large group that we can get so much done in 60-75 minutes.
Anybody else a part of retreat like this? I'd be interested in hearing how others are set up.