If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of Bob Mayer’s Write on the River Retreats, run, don’t walk to sign up… and tell him I sent you! The next one is September 12 & 13. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Limited to only 4 writers, it’s hosted by Bob and his lovely wife, Deb, in the warmth of their amazing home in Knoxville, Tennessee. An added bonus for a dog lover such as myself is the company of Cool Gus and Sassy Becca, their two labs. Not only did they provide writer dog support during our two-day long workshop, but they operated as incredibly effective foot warmers from their station under the table. The only downside? My dogs knew I had cheated on them the moment they caught a whiff of my suitcase. Ah, well. It was worth it.
In addition to the amazing food, champagne, and hot tub time, we managed to have an incredibly productive two days. The intent was to come with a new project and focus on the story kernel idea and the conflict box to get us started. Process was the goal. Although we let ourselves travel down a few tangential paths along the way, all of us ended up with a clear idea about what we needed to do. Heck, I came in with a logline that I had constructed as an off-the-top-of–my-head example for a blog post on pitching to agents two years ago, and left with a solid idea for a three-book mystery series that would appeal to readers of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. I have a loose outline and my next NaNoWriMo project, which I’ll squeeze into my current production schedule. What was interesting as a participant was that all four of us were writing in different genres and were at different phases within our publishing careers. Two people were unpublished in fiction, I’ve published fiction both as small press and indie with a desire to take my next series traditional, and the last author was formerly NYC trad published and is now indie. None of that mattered much, which was one of the reasons this was such a great workshop. We learned stuff from Bob, but he also picked up a thing or two from us. 🙂
But that wasn’t all. We talked about the business of publishing. As a newbie author three years ago, I started following Bob’s blog. Not just because he was a bestselling author, but because he had an interesting perspective on the publishing industry. Even though we wrote in different genres, I liked that he was former special forces and wrote from an intimate point of view when it came to military knowledge. To me, it gave his work authenticity. I have to say, it was fascinating listening to Bob in person talk about military history and the incidents that prove Sh*t Doesn’t Just Happen (book by the same title), something he also blogs about. One of the attending authors was also retired military, so some really good discussions ensued in the kitchen.
As a point of interest, the first book I bought from Bob was his book, The Green Beret Survival Guide. I bought two copies: one for myself, and one for my close friend’s husband. I loved the fact that he had a chapter on zombies that you could rip out and burn in a time of crisis. Anyway, I digress…
Beside the amazing networking opportunity that satisfied my love of community, I had an interesting personal revelation. If I had to answer the question “What does it take to be an author in today’s market?” I’d have to say the answer is “resilience,” which I define in this context as the ability to keep bouncing back, and never losing your faith in attaining your goal. It reminds of something an old boss—and the “best woman” at my wedding—once said to me. She told me she admired the fact that when it came to dating, I always picked myself up, dusted myself off, and gave the next guy in line the same chance as the last. I finally found my husband—the perfect man for me—at thirty-eight, and have never looked back. My perseverance paid off. I’m determined to be the same way when it comes to my writing career. Yes, it’s harder now than it ever was. But what keeps me here is the writing and the stories. The moment I lose sight of that, I’ll be lost. At the end of the day, as a published author, you’re part of the entertainment industry. To me, that means I’m part of the one of the most dysfunctional industries on the planet. It really makes you take a hard look at your values and decide who you are and who you want to be. What I discovered? I love my non-entertainment career which pays my mortgage (I really enjoy having a roof over my head!). But I’m also competitive at heart. I hate to lose. Because of that, I have the luxury of continuing to pick myself up off the ground and do the best that I can to break out in this industry, without really needing to worry about the financial aspects… That, my friends, is one of the best gifts ever. Even better? I’m happy to bring others with me, and thankful for those who have done the same for me.
That said, the weekend was everything you could ask for (and more) in a writer's retreat.
What about you, how does the thought of attending a writer's retreat appeal to you? Any others you would recommend?