First things first, the winner of the SUPERNATURALLY Prize Pack of Awesome is:
My Life With Books - Jennifer K Jovus!
Congrats, Jennifer! Please email me at natalie(at)nataliewhipple(dot)com to discuss your prizes and such. If you don't reach me within a week, I will draw another name.
Alrighty, on to the retreat! I hate to rub it in, but there really is nothing like a writers retreat. This one in particular wasn't put together by any fancy host or anything—it was just me and a bunch of my friends, one of which happens to have access to a cabin. We planned the food and travel, everything. Basically, it was just a bunch of friends getting together.
The Friends: Michelle Argyle, Renee Collins, Candice Kennington, Jenn Johannson, Kasie West, Sara Raasch, and me.
Though we've known each other for a couple years if not more, the internet is what originally brought us all together (well, except for Candi and Kasie, but they're special). People say you don't necessarily need a blog (which is true), but if it weren't for mine I would have never met some of the best friends I've ever had in my life. Maybe blogging won't affect my sales in the long run, but it has affected my writing—it has improved my writing by connecting me with information and crit partners and a venue in which to practice.
We had another retreat like this two years ago, and it is amazing to see how far we've come. At the first retreat, there were two writers with agents, and one close to signing with an agent. This year? Three writers had book deals, three were on submission, and one was querying. It felt like we've come so far in two years. In truth, we have, and I can't imagine what the next year or two will hold for us. Probably a lot of struggling AND fun, like the last two years. Funny, how those go together.
So what do writers do on a retreat?
We eat at old school drive-ins on the way down to the cabin (okay, and on the way home), because that's what makes for a good road trip and we're all about authentic experiences.
And of course we take pictures of us eating, because it's FUN and the memories must be captured.
And we cook a lot. Michelle, Renee, and I did a lot of cooking, and everyone else did a lot of dish washing (It was the best set up ever!). I think I enjoyed the cooking almost as much as the writing!
We also talk A LOT.
Most of the time, we talked about books and stories and all that good stuff. There is nothing like that face-to-face discussion of writing. It's kind of magical, how things come together in a group like that. We read our stories aloud. We discussed the business. We spent time brainstorming and troubleshooting and, yes, marveling at how much everyone has grown as writers.
Seriously, my friends are amazing writers! There is truth to that whole "you grow together" thing. We may write alone, but having partners in that journey makes it not only easier, but richer and more productive. I am so blessed to have so many friends who've watched out for me.
On writers retreats, there's also a large consumption of caffeine, so we can stay up and talk MORE. Sleeping is for after the retreat.
Let's not forget the considerable amount of non-writing fun, such a four-wheeling and swimming in desert rivers amongst red rocks and sucker fish. There's also campfires and, of course, stories around them, both funny and scary ones.
There may even be the occasional quiet moment, when we're working on those creative things we tend to gravitate to. I think Sara pwned the writing count, but there was also drawing and game playing and reading between the louder moments.
And there was plenty of "Oh holy crap, that's pretty."
Some "Whoa, Utah doesn't get enough credit for its beauty."
Even just plain O_O.
And the best part? Right here:
I got to spend the entire weekend with my little sister, who I love so much I get a little teary every time I see this picture. I was fifteen when she was born—how in the world did she grow up so fast? She reminded me every moment why I write. For her. For the smart, amazing, vibrant youth of this world. (Love you, Pika!)
Best. Retreat. Ever.