Last weekend I hosted my first writing retreat at Fernglen Forest Retreat in the lovely Dandenong Ranges. Six of us were in attendance, all horror and speculative fiction writers. The attendees were all published authors in either fiction or non-fiction, and in some cases both, and were all looking for a bit of space to write, talk writerly stuff and hang out with other writers. We only scheduled two events and the rest of the weekend was writing time.
The first event was a get-to-know-each-other dinner on the Friday night at a nearby restaurant, the Pig and Whistle Tavern. It just happened to be Christmas in July and we enjoyed three courses of wonderful Christmas fare. The food was fabulous and the service efficient, warm and friendly. We ‘may’ have had a bit too much champagne, but, mission was accomplished as we got to know a bit about each other and what we were working on. As an added bonus to guests, Isabelle Rowan produced the loveliest gift bags. Thank you, Isabelle, they were gorgeous (check out the pics in Rebecca Fraser's blog post).
On the Saturday morning, we were fortunate to have Deborah Sheldon as a guest speaker. Thanks Deb, we all thought you were brilliant. Deb gave us an overview of her impressive 30+year writing career which included screenwriting, researching for TV shows and medical, crime and horror writing. Deb then opened for questions.
Deb was asked questions about markets, her experiences with small and large publishers and agents. We also covered how to manage stories with multiple timelines and how Deb approaches writing a short story and a longer work. Deb explained her own writing process and where she plots and where she pantses, and how she always knows the end before writing her story. And, she delivered all this information with the greatest encouragement making us feel we could all become better masters of our work.
One of Deb’s comments that now sits as an affirmation in the back of my mind is: ‘There is no such thing as a bad idea, only bad execution.’ This one phrase is a great way to manage rejection and not take things so personally, because let’s face it, you put yourself out there with every bit of writing you produce and it’s easy to feel like a failure.
Then we all settled in for some writing time. It was cold outside, but we had great heating, great company and whether we wanted to work alone or with others around, we were warm and cosy.
In the evening, after dinner, we all read out a piece of writing that we had been working on and discussed the positives of the stories and how the stories may have been improved. Everyone was respectful and there was no criticising, as it should be when you workshop another’s work. Then, some of us finished the evening with a spa. It may have only been 3°C outside, but it was 30°C in the water. And nope, I'm not posting the spa photos!
The next day we finished our last little bit of writing, packed up and said goodbye to the cats, the wildlife and the place that had been our retreat for the last two nights, all feeling as though we had made some new acquaintances, learnt a little and become a bit more committed to our craft.
A big thank you to all the attendees for making it such a fabulous retreat, and to Fernglen Forest Retreat for providing such a wonderful venue. If you would like to hear more about this retreat, check out Rebecca Fraser's post where she talks about her experience as a retreat attendee and shares additional pics which include a photo of Isabelle's gorgeous gift bags.
In about two hours I'll be heading to the hills with a load of supplies for the inaugural Writers Retreat where six of us will spend a cosy two days writing and having writerly discussions at Fernglen Forest Retreat. The idea came about because someone said, 'Be great to have a writers retreat', and hey presto, months and many hours planning later, here we are. The day is upon us. This particular retreat has 6 attendees and they are all members of the Australasian Horror Writers Association. It should be fun, as long as we don't lose power, in our secluded cabin in the woods ...
This is our schedule:
Friday: After meeting at the retreat venue in the afternoon, we'll have a Christmas in July dinner at a local restaurant. Then it's plotting, chatting and writing - but not too late with the chatting! We have some serious writing to get done.
Saturday: No sleeping-in here! After a cooked breakfast, our guest speaker award-winning author and editor Deborah Sheldon will arrive and talk about her 30 years+ in the writing and publishing industry. Deb will join us for a selection of gourmet pies from the local bakery for lunch, then it's back to writing. Dinner will be a serve-yourself Mexican fiesta and then there's more writing and of course, dessert.
Sunday: Maybe it's a workshopping morning, maybe not. On Sunday we'll play it by ear as it will be the last chance to write before we check out at 12.00 noon. Guests are invited to an optional lunch post weekend at a nearby book cafe, just to end on a writerly note.
It's going to be cold in the hills, but I forecast warm conversation lots of productive writing.
Photo courtesy of Fernglen Forest Retreat.