Locked Down at WIWA Retreat

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.

Lagoon View from My Room

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 Lodge Tavern

Lobby Fireplace

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.

Lodge Lobby – A Great Place to Read!

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.

View of Penn Cove

What retreats or workshops do you recommend?  I would love to hear about them.

Happy Reading and Writing!



What We Did When the Power Went Out

If you were housebound with no power, how would you spend your time?  We live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest; specifically the Seattle area.  As many of you probably have heard, it snowed this past week.  In typical PNW fashion, after it snowed, it rained, and then it froze, and then it snowed some more, and then it rained, and then it froze, and so on…

pine, ice, Seattle, power outage, power failure

Pine Tree, Top Half Broken Off

pine, ice, Seattle, power failure, power outage

Another Formerly Tall Pine

dwarf weeping cherry tree, ice, Seattle, power failure, power outage

Dwarf Weeping Cherry Tree Encased in Ice

ice, Seattle, power failure, power outage

Closeup - Ice is 1/2" Thick

My wife and I have been spending so much time everyday working on my novels.  While I’m writing the next book, she is editing, arranging for publishing of my third book and marketing all of them.  Reading has always been a joy for each of us.  Our house is like a library, with shelves of books in almost every room.  Neither of us has read all of them (yet), but every book has been read or is on a shelf for “to be read” books.  We decided to take advantage of the downtime and pass the time doing our favorite activity (well, maybe second favorite).  We strapped on forehead flashlights and read.  We each read two books in the two days.  It felt so good to be able to hold a book someone else wrote and savor the journey it took me on.

Carolynn Reading by Flashlight

The power came back on Saturday afternoon and we went right back to work.  I hope we manage to allow ourselves some reading time without having to wait for another blackout!

Happy reading,

Richard Alan