It’s winter here in Western Australia and there was no better place to be than with a group of friends in front of a log fire! Tess Woods recent Winter Writers’ Retreat in Geographe Bay in the south-west of Western Australia was the perfect escape! Here’s a snapshot of what I gained. I could rave on for several pages but I know I’d lose you!
(i) New friendships
This is the most amazing benefit. Making new friends and creating close bonds with one or two was the first and most amazing thing that happened. An added benefit is that one person lives in a nearby suburb so we continue to see each other. Others are online friends. I can’t write in a vacuum and gaining social contacts who really sharing about writing is beyond value.
(ii) Manuscript Assessment
Feedback on several pages of my manuscript has set me on the right path and cleared the way forward. Tess’s comprehensive assessment is invaluable. In a one-to-one discussion Tess’s honest comments about what worked and what needed changing were delivered in a kind, encouraging manner and gave me a lot to work with! Tess openly shared her insights and knowledge about writing and getting published. Even though I’d completed my first and second drafts long before the retreat, I knew my current draft needed lots of work and I gained a clear way forward.
(iii) Writing tips
Heaps of writing tips were shared! Workshops in the mornings covered a broad range of topics. During the sessions we shared our experiences and bounced ideas around. Hearing others’ journeys gave insights which confirmed my own path or gave me food for thought. I came away with a range of great tips from the following topics –
- Twelve ingredients all page turners have in common
- How to write convincing sex scenes
- Ten biggest mistakes since becoming an author
- Marketing (all about websites, newsletters and facebook)
- Eye-opening tips from great authors
- Stephen King’s rules for writers
- Hints and tips about Time.
(iv) Sharing with others
When we met each other we had no idea what was happening in each other’s lives. It was a privilege to get to know Tess and her lovely family.
As strangers we came together in a supportive microcosm in which we shared the gamut of life from the joy of a newborn grandchild to the deep sadness in the sudden passing of dear friends. It reminded me of our commonality and highlighted our strengths.
(v) Time to write
Writing opportunities were interwoven into the fabric of each day. We could sit outside and enjoy the beautiful location, curl up in bed or on a lounge chair or find a spot in the sunshine to sit and write. I culled words, wrote more and generally moved my manuscript along. With the assessments given on the first day it meant I had a focus for the whole week ahead. This was definitely a huge benefit.
(vi) Optional tours of local sights
We visited a mere handful of the plethora of options available in our stunning south west. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory was a definite hit.
We chose to pack two workshops into a morning so we could all scramble into the van and head to the Cowaramup festival!
Some of us were caught heading into the famous local fudge shop for a sweet treat.
We were also privileged to meet local author, the lovely Lily Malone.
(vii) Being spoilt!
Yes, that was a fantastic benefit! We arrived to a wonderful spread for lunch and the food continued to be amazing! No meals to cook! Thanks, Tess! A lovely gift bag filled with special treats waited for us in our rooms. We also had no beds to make and fully serviced rooms, (optional and courtesy of the venue). All of this meant we had time to focus our energies on writing.
Respite from the daily grind and from a month of craziness (check out my previous blog post!) in which life took on a major change restored that quiet space inside. I would have loved two or three more days to settle into that space, but I know it’s there.
It’s hard to know what to expect from a retreat. Each one has its own focus. Apart from anticipating feedback on my manuscript and gathering insights from workshops, I know I came away with unexpected benefits. Writing is an isolating profession. The sense of connectedness with others will stay with me for a long time.The reminder to slow down, to be in the moment is ever-present. Inner peace is priceless.