Two weekends ago I attended a writers’ lockdown retreat sponsored by the Whidbey Island Writer’s Association (WIWA). It was held at the Captain Whidbey’s Inn on Penn Cove in Washington. Typical for fall in the Pacific Northwest, the air was filled with mist and the ground was covered with a cacophony of colored leaves. The cool, damp wind, made the historic lodge appear warm and welcoming. It was a perfect weekend to spend locked down in a rustic lodge on a beautiful lagoon with twenty-two other writers. A great blue heron watched as I made my way to my room facing the lagoon.
I had never been to a writer’s retreat or conference and had no idea what to expect. My concerns ran from the cost (would it be worth the time and money) to wondering if the “experts” would think I couldn’t write. The twenty-three inmates gathered in the tavern at the beginning of the lockdown. While enjoying drinks and finger food the wardens provided the rules of our captivity and reviewed the schedule of activities. Nervously we introduced ourselves to each other. I could tell my trepidations were shared by most. It came as a relief that two writers had voluntarily returned to be locked up for a second time. The camaraderie warmed me as much as the fire roaring in the lodge’s stone hearth.
The coach/mentors were Bharti Kirchner, Terry Persun, and Stephanie Kallos. (Click on their names to link to their websites.) Not only are they each extremely talented, they were generous with their time, advice, teachings, motivations, and encouragement. The weekend was structured to provide plenty of workshops (with specific topics), salons (for group discussions on any writing topic of interest), and time to write, write, and write some more. The tranquil environment, complete with its isolation was perfect. No phones, television, or internet interrupted the peaceful atmosphere of creative minds soaring.
Prior to the retreat we each submitted a writing sample which was reviewed by our assigned mentors. On the last day each participant received a one-on-one critique. For some, the experience aided them in moving from “writer wanna-be” to “author”. Most left with the determination to finish the project they have been thinking of, or working on, for years. I was in the process of writing my fourth novel, after completing three novels this year. For me, the experience sharpened the tools I already use and added more to my toolbox. We all learned from each other during the 2 ½ days we spent together. We are all better for it.
I would highly recommend attending writer’s conferences or workshops. In addition to the advice and critiques you receive from the professionals, you share ideas, make new friends, expand your network, learn and support each other. Kudos to our wardens from WIWA who organized a professional, productive, and fun lockdown. We were all paroled, but I expect we will be incarcerated again sometime next year. I look forward to it.
What retreats or workshops do you recommend? I would love to hear about them.
Happy Reading and Writing!