Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Planning a Writing Retreat

I have written about writing retreats here in the past. Last month, I was on vacation and made that into sort of a writing retreat, but since I can’t do that again for awhile, I started thinking about other things I could do instead. And then it came to me: a one day writing retreat for my local writers group. I suggested the idea to them and was asked to start planning something.

For this first time out (maybe it could become an annual event), we are going to stay in town to keep costs low. I picked a part of town where there are restaurants, outdoor seating areas, a walking trail, public library, hotel and a university. Plenty of places to use for a day-long or half-day writing retreat.

The first thing I did was to make a list of things that might be important to a group of writers. This list by no means is complete. There may be other things that are important to you or to your group. You may use my list and add to it. Perhaps brainstorm with some other writers.

  • Goals – What do you want to get from the retreat? Write a chapter of your novel? Complete a book? Start a book? Write an article? Try out some new writing prompts.
  • Location – Do you want to stay local or go out of town? If spending at least one night away from home, where might the group want to stay? Hotel, bed and breakfast, cabin by a lake?
  • Length – Will it be for one day, a weekend, a week or longer? What about a particular day, week or month?
  • Writing time – How long do you want to write? Maybe the entire retreat, half of it, a few hours a day? Are there other things you would like to do besides writing during the retreat?
  • Work area – Will you be sharing your work area or will you be working alone? Indoors, outdoors, table, bench, library, café. Are there a number of cafes on the street or neighborhood where you plan to go? Try café-hopping while you write.
  • Social activities – What other activities and sites are available? Walking trails, shopping, museums, theaters or spas might be nearby. Get some exercise, do something besides writing, relax, have fun.
  • Meals – Will you eat together as a group or separately? Share the cooking, dine at restaurants, pack a picnic lunch, have some snacks. And don’t forget beverages, including wine.
  • Writing kit – What do you need to bring with you to help you write and to provide inspiration? A tote bag filled with items such as notebooks and pens, laptop, books, magazines, photos/art, music, etc.
  • Conversation – What will the group talk about? Bring a book on the craft of writing to discuss, an experience you want to share, suggestions on how to overcome writers block.
  • Online or offline – Will you forgo email and social media? It might be ok to do some research for the book or article you are working on, but for most of the retreat, try to stay away from the internet.
  • Types of clothing - What kinds of clothing do you want to wear/pack? If you wear a literary or writing t-shirt when writing, would that make you work harder? Perhaps it’s a shirt you got at a writing conference, ordered from NaNoWriMo or purchased from another source. You might get some compliments and comments on it when you are out and about!

I have a kit which I will use during the planning and at the retreat. The Writer’s Retreat Kit: A Guide for Creative Exploration & Personal Expression by Judy Reeves is a boxed set of cards and a book. This set covers the planning of retreats and includes lists of writing prompts. It’s full of ideas that writers will find useful, whether the retreat is far away or at home. http://judyreeveswriter.com/writers-retreat-kit/.

What would you like to do on a writing retreat? Have you been on a retreat? If so, what did you do? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences here.

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.


4 comments:

  1. Hi Debbie, this is a great idea. I want to try it with my group. When I went to a Highlights retreat where there were presenters, I looked up their websites and learned about them and read books by them beforehand. It was a big help in making comments during the retreat. Writing prompts are a good way to get going but I suggest having everyone bring a piece of writing to critique and in addition, maybe even focus on a writer and a current work. I'm listening to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd right now and when I'm done I'm going to go back and take notes on the way she put her paragraphs together, something like Action--thought--description--exchange + action. Also, I want to learn about her, see if she has a blog. It's just so interesting, I'm enthralled by it which of course is what I want my readers to feel like about my stories.

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  2. Wow - this is a big thing to take on, but you map it out well and provide excellent tips. hope yours goes smoothly.

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  3. Debbie, this is an amazing and 'can do' writing retreat idea. You created an in depth list. I agree with Linda, it'd be a good idea to bring something each of you want critiqued. Have fun!

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  4. What a great idea. Please share with us how your experience after the retreat.

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