That was the first thought I had when I arrived at the ANWA (American Night Writer’s Association) Northwest Retreat. The retreat was held at Walla Walla University's Marine Research Facility in Anocortes, Washington. We were right on the water, where the passageway of Puget Sound opens up to the San Juan Islands and then on to the Pacific. It was the perfect place for a writer who loves the mystique and metaphors associated with the ocean and the rocky islands and cliffs that rise up out of the Puget Sound. As soon as I got there I wanted to plunk myself down on the front porch of one of the little gray cabins facing the water and write to my heart’s content.
Unfortunately, in the hurricane of preparation it takes for a mother of four to leave her home for three days I left my laptop cord at home, and it was already dead (*Sigh*) by the time I got there. I suppose I could have written long hand, but reading my handwriting (especially when the ideas are tumbling over each other) requires the equivalent of a Rosetta stone, even for me.
In many ways I’m glad my laptop was dead. I couldn’t work on my blog, or on revisions, or even obsessively check my e-mail. I was forced to focus on the sessions I went to, and to interact and socialize with my fellow writers. And that was inspirational.
ANWA is an association for writers like me who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I belong to two chapters of SCBWI that I love, and I have a critique group that I wouldn’t trade, (unless maybe you threw J.K. Rowlings, Stephanie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins into the mix). But there is something wonderful about being in the company of people who not only share your craziness and your dreams, but share your beliefs--including the belief that writing isn’t something that just happens, but is something that flows through us from a divine Heavenly Father who loves us, and wants us to develop and share our talents. (Even if it means the house isn’t always clean or our children have to dig through a pile of laundry in search of clean clothes to wear to school.)
All of the women who attended the retreat are balancing their writing with taking care of kids, households, volunteer work for our church, volunteer work for their communities, and many had jobs outside of the home. The name Night Writers describes us well—we often only have time to write in the late evening hours--after the house is finally quiet. As a recovering vampire and night writer, I fit right in.
The main speaker was Janette Rallison, author of many young adult novels including MY FAIR GODMOTHER, IT’S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL, and HOW TO TAKE THE EX OUT OF YOUR EX BOYFRIEND. Janette talked about “Finding Joy in the Journey: The Road Toward Publication, “Reliving High School Forever: Writing for the Young Adult Audience”, and “Escaping From the Slush Pile.”
The workshop classes were skill related. I took classes on self-editing and plotting and I participated with a critique group. I learned and relearned skills that I know will make me a better writer. Between sessions we had writing prompts and activities, including a coffee-shop style reading of the shortest poems ever (title as long as possible, poem as short as possible while still being a complete thought.) Here are the two my poetic partner and I came up with:
TIPS ON HOW TO ESCAPE THE SLUSH PILE IN A TOUGH ECONOMY
ASPIRATIONS OF THE DESPERATE AUTHOR ON
RECEIVING HER 100th REJECTION
To be read before dead.
We also took breaks for “grammar quickies” and door prize drawings. (The prizes were books, of course.)
The retreat was two nights and two days. My friend and fellow writer Sarah Hyatt came with me, and we had four other roommates. True to the “Night Writers” in us, we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking about plotting, writing, and our kids. (That’s what moms do, no mater what the situation.)
I left the retreat refreshed, inspired, and ready to move forward with my writing. More than that I had made valuable friendships and connections with thirty-five women who are just as crazy as I am.
Thank you to all the ladies who worked so hard to make our ANWA retreat so wonderful!