From Edith, starting to walk around again (after getting a new knee) north of Boston.
Here’s Part II of my poll on writing retreats, with answers to my questions from authors Tiger Wiseman, Ramona DeFelice Long, Liz Milliron, and Holly Robinson – their bios are at the end of the post. Check out Part I for the purpose and feeling of a retreat, although of course there is overlap.
- Writing snacks ( I bring potato chips)
- A good book or two
- Comfortable walking shoes
- MP3 player
- For work, only what you need. Before you leave, prioritize your projects and bring research, notes, etc. for those projects only, instead of every possible story on your dream list. Bringing too many projects can leave you feeling like a failure because you’ll never get to them all.
- Comfort items, like your favorite pillow, blanket, teddy bear, Christmas lights, a sound machine.
- A story idea or issue that can be discussed or brainstormed as a group. This is a real bonding experience.
- A journal. If you are a newbie, it may help to note what you brought that was a godsend and what you left behind that you longed for. If you have a meaningful experience, journaling it will keep it alive for you long after the retreat is over.
- A camera! I use my cell phone and love looking back at photos of my writing escape places.
- Anything you need to make your writing space comfortable (pillows, lap desk, favorite blend of tea, etc.).
- Something you can take notes on (cards or a phone app), preferably portable so if you decide to take a walk and inspiration strikes, you’re prepared.
- Materials for the WIP – me I never go without my MacBook air, which has everything I need on it, but if you write longhand make sure you have all your things. This sounds silly, but I once went on a retreat and a woman there had forgotten half her research materials.
- Snacks to power you through the day (our retreats are never lacking for food, but if you crave something bring it along).
- Comfortable clothes to write in. I am known in our Sisters in Crime chapter for my Cookie Monster pajama pants.When the pants come out, everyone knows I’m about to hunker down.Jeans are for socializing, but Cookie Monster is for writing!
- Flannel Pajamas & slippers: my favorite writing uniform
- Running clothes: I find that solitary runs with music are the best way to wake up my brain
- Bath bubbles: Yes, a bath works wonders to ease the kinks in your body after writing for hours
- Quick reads: when I’m intensely writing, I like a good mystery or thriller for escape
- Chocolate & wine: yeah, I know those are two things, but they go together!
E: I’m seeing a theme of snacks and comfort, there! And what I bring is no different.
- Comfy clothes and walking shoes (yes, and slippers).
- My smaller laptop, favorite pen, and paper notebook.
- Super easy meals. I don’t want to waste time cooking unless I’m with others.
- Wine and chocolate, of course.
R: I lose the bulk of the first day and the last day for coming and going, so the optimum
short side is 5 days, because that leaves you at least three full days to write. I have been away for two weeks and four weeks, and the first is too short and the last is too long. For long term I’d say the sweet spot is three weeks.
R: I have hosted. Once I rented the retreat house and invited a few people I thought might be available. Another time, I specifically invited people who’d been to a past retreat, as a reunion. A schedule that allows for private work all day and a dinner followed by group readings, brainstorming, discussion, or just chilling with wine is my favorite program. If there are workshops or any programming, those should be in the morning so the afternoon can be devoted to a long period of writing.
H: I do have mini-retreats at my Prince Edward Island house. I only take friends who write
as intensely as I do—that’s just three people to choose from—my favorite friend to take is one who knows when not to talk! Which is pretty much all day, unless we’re on an afternoon walk, or after the wine comes out after dinner and we share what we’ve been working on.
- Tiger Wiseman is an aspiring mystery writer & confirmed foodie. She blogs at Pen, Spoon, and Dagger.
- Ramona DeFelice Long writes every morning at 7:00 a.m. in her home in Delaware. She is an independent editor specializing in crime fiction and an accomplished essayist and short story author. Twitter: @ramonadef.
- Liz Milliron writes The Laurel Highlands Mysteries. Her short fiction appears in Blood on the Bayou, Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical.
- Holly Robinson is a novelist, journalist, and celebrity ghost writer whose latest novel is Folly Cove. Visit her at her web site and on twitter @hollyrob1.