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.