Salt Cay Writer’s Retreat

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Last June, I wrote about the progress I was making in my efforts to write more and talk about it less.  That post was done shortly after I committed to attending the Salt Cay Writer’s Retreat.  I am back from that experience and wanted to share a little about it.

As I pointed out in my earlier entry, going to a writer’s retreat was a long held dream of mine, but one that intimidated me.  I snuck into this one by bidding on it in an auction and thus, removing the fear of rejection. I know, I was a coward.

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As a part of the retreat, I had to submit 20 pages of my work.  I discovered that while I have been writing more than ever, I didn’t have much that extended for 20 pages, except a novel I’d started ages ago.  I dusted it off and read through it again.  I liked the concept and really wanted to see if I could breathe life back into it.  So, rather than taking a precious baby to be evaluated, I took a dead one and asked for advice on how to pick it back up and make it better.  I had about 135 pages written and was stalled when I didn’t know where to go next with the story.  I had the plot clearly in mind, but I had written myself into a corner.

Through the workshop process, I found myself informed, inspired, and educated about so many aspects of the writing and editing process – so much so, a couple of epiphanies took place.  I had approached the story from a completely linear standpoint and I needed it to become non-linear.  I backed myself out of the corner I’d written into and added some more conflict.  I wrote the ending first and found that once I’d done that, I knew how to bridge the part from where I was to where I needed to go.  And I found a working title for it that allowed me to integrate a whole new aspect into the story that weaves through it in a way that helps hold it all together.  I am happy with the result and finished my first draft of it two weeks ago.  I have been revising and editing, and sent it out to early readers for feedback – and am now trying to polish it until I feel it’s the best it can be. This is a major milestone for me: I can say I finished a novel and it’s a book I enjoyed reading.  That’s enough to make me happy.

IMG-20131023-00337I took a partial manuscript and reworked it to turn it into a real story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something that I could not have done without this retreat or the insights I gained at the workshop.  I feel honored to have been a part of the group and to work with the faculty on site.  It truly was a life changing experience.

And did I mention the dolphins?  Swimming with dolphins is also on the bucket list so this was a bonus.  During our time with the dolphins, I forgot about being self-conscious in a swimsuit or worrying about looking ridiculous and had an enchanted experience dancing, hugging, kissing, and being propelled across the enclosure by Missy and Auntie V.  I can honestly tell you it is better than you can imagine.  A huge thank you to the team at Dolphin Encounters, especially Kelly Cartwright Meister for her warm and welcoming hospitality.

IMG-20131021-00330My sincere thanks to Karen Dionne at Backspace, to the Folio Literary Management crew (Jeff Kleinman, Michelle Brower, Erin Harris, and a special shout out to Erin Niumata for her tweet that got me there), to Steve Fisher from the Agency for the Performing Arts, to editors Amy Einhorn and Chuck Adams, and to the writers in residence, Jacqueline Mitchard and Robert Goolrick.  I could not have asked for a better or more helpful first time experience.  I am motivated to keep writing and learning. I have stories to tell.

Progress, Progress

Sometimes I think I’m going nowhere fast.

One of the real challenges of any sort of creative work which is a sideline to your normal career is that one tends to feel as though they aren’t making the progress they should.  I often feel that when I consider how seldom I do blog posts that aren’t flash fiction, or miss a week of generating even 100 words.  It makes me feel like I’m falling behind in my commitment to myself.

Sometimes it helps to do a review and see what you’ve done that is on track rather than focus on all the things that are not.  For me that review is encouraging.  I have been taking steps in the right direction, albeit small ones. That’s OK.  Even small steps are progress and I am pleased to say that at least I haven’t completely abandoned my goal of doing more writing.

In the past year and a half, I have:

  • Gathered up all my old work and attempted to get it typed up and in one place
  • Reread and edited old work to see what may be usable or salvageable – or if there is a hidden gem in one of them.  So far, I have found some charcoal, which, with enough applied pressure and time, may become a diamond.
  • Written or performed writing exercises more than 20 times
  • Written 29 new blog posts that were not flash fiction
  • Written 41 flash fiction entries, one for inclusion in an anthology
  • Shared some new work with trusted readers and incorporated their feedback
  • Joined SheWrites, an online community for women writers, agents, editors, and publicists whose mission it is to provide support and encouragement to writers of all styles
  • Bid on and won a scholarship to a one week writer’s retreat, which will be in October

As I put it all in a list, I feel better.  I committed to do more and I am doing much more than I have ever done.  This is real progress.

Now about that writer’s retreat – this is a long held dream for me.  I have looked at them in the past, but have been intimidated by the application process and the fact that I feel like a poser.  I want to be a writer, but that doesn’t make me one.  I do write, but I don’t really know if it’s any good.  I feared rejection and found a loophole – I bid on this item in an online auction supporting Diabetes Research and lo and behold, my reserve bid was ultimately the highest.  Now I have a place and although I still have to go through the official application process, the fear of rejection is gone.  Whew!

The retreat actually retires many ‘bucket list’ items for me – to challenge myself to become a better writer by attending a writer’s retreat, traveling to the Bahamas for the first time (the retreat is on Salt Cay), and last but not least, swimming with dolphins.  I think this is a home run – 3 new experiences in one!

So here’s to progress, however small the steps may be.  And here’s to recommitting to doing more to keep moving myself down this path.  I love the challenge and can’t seem to keep from trying.