I am a member of The Coeur du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I often refer to it as a small but mighty chapter.
Last weekend was the Coeur du Bois annual retreat.
We spend the weekend at a cabin. There is a cost of sixty dollars. This covers the rental expense of our lodging and food. It isn’t a fundraiser; it’s a perk of membership.
Janis McCurry served as president of the chapter several years ago. During her tenure, she and her board began the summer retreat. The first retreat was split between two cabins. One location was the McCurry family cabin on the shores of Payette Lake, and the other cabin belonged to Robin Lee Hatcher. The two groups came together during the day to work.
The original idea was to use this time to brainstorm and plot novels. Some members noticed that it was difficult for writers to take suggestions on current works in progress. It was decided that an easier approach would be to plot the writer’s next project. That way no fingers would be crushed by others’ suggestions.
We’ve had Saturday film night. The group watched a movie and had a discussion afterward about plot elements. We’ve had Friday game night. I’m going to confess, I hated the Friday night games. I didn’t see the tie to writing. My feelings changed on the subject a few years ago—at a cabin in Crouch. That was the last game played at retreat. After the game, we even coined a phrase. “What happens in Crouch, stays in Crouch.” Our chapter has changed that saying to, “What happens at retreat, stays at retreat.”
An optional Thursday night was added and many members decided to make it a long weekend.
Through the years, the retreat has changed to meet the needs of the members attending.
I can’t go into the details of what happened during the weekend. “What happens at retreat, stays at retreat.” But I am going to share a tremor-inducing moment called Power Hour. A timer was set and we worked for an hour, uninterrupted. As I have stated, retreat is to serve the individual member. During that hour, people did what they wanted. The keys of laptops clicked, there was the sound of pages being turned, fingers brushed over reading devices, research was conducted, people slept. During the Power Hour, the cone of silence was on. If you needed to talk to someone, it was done away from the main living area of the cabin. There was something about having that timer going. There were four or five Power Hours each day. People could continue to work on their projects at other times, and many did. There was just no guarantee of quiet.
During the weekend, I managed to complete a scene that has driven me insane for over a month. I wrote seven pages, which is huge for me. I read a book.
When we had breaks from Power Hour, we met in a small group to apply the Hero’s Journey to The Hunger Games, and Bet Me. I read someone’s plot outline and discussed it with them. In a small informal group, we helped an author with some plotting issues on their next project, and listened to a new author’s first three pages.
My writing partner and I had two meetings with Beta readers to discuss our work in progress. They’d been given the manuscript ahead of time, and had a few suggestions to improve our novel.
It was a busy weekend.
Retreat is special because it gives writers time to focus on…writing. Most people leave retreat feeling rested and revitalized. I am happy to take part in this event. There are chapters too large to do something like this.
It was amazing how much was accomplished during that time.
My critique group sees the benefit of retreats. We have a fall and a spring retreat. We stay in Boise, check into a hotel Friday night, and stay until Sunday.
Have you considered making arrangements for a writers’ weekend? What things would you need to do in order to have a successful retreat?