Instead of writing a new year’s post about my writing goals for the coming year, I decided to reflect for a moment about the year I just finished. On a non-writing front, 2019 was an odd year for me (mostly personal stuff), and I had some financial difficulties, but all in all it was a good year. I didn’t get nearly as much written as I’d planned at the beginning of the year, but even a little progress is good, so I’ve decided to focus on that. And so, on that note, here are some of my writerly highlights from the past year:
Favorite Book of 2019
Since the dieselpunk historical fantasy novel I’m writing has elements of a mystery story, I’ve started reading some mysteries. My favorite read was Silent Murders by Mary Miley, the second book in a mystery series set in the 1920s. I read the first book, as well, and enjoyed it, but the second book was the better of the two. I have the third book sitting on my book shelf, so I’ll be reading that this year. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I took a four-day writing retreat with the members of my monthly writing critique group. Last year we’d decided to try a retreat, and loved it so much that we did it again this year.
We booked a 6-bedroom cabin at a retreat center in a nearby town, and spent four days just writing. Yes, we did other things, too – went for walks or a swim, got together for meals and a movie every evening, and chatted here and there about our writing projects. We all get along really well, and even though we’re all writing different things in different genres, we enjoy talking about writing and even helping one another with brainstorming ideas.
A scenic view near our writing cabin.
This week I’m blogging from the grounds of Hollins University, which is hosting the annual Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. This is my first time attending this workshop, though it’s not my first time at Hollins. I graduated from Hollins with a BA in English and creative writing (many moons ago), and so it’s been a fun yet strange experience being back on the campus after so many years.
The scenic Hollins campus
I’ve attended writers’ conferences and other workshops before, but never a week-long event. Classes are in the morning, then a short seminar after lunch, and the afternoon and evening are for reading, writing, going for walks, open mic readings, and whatever else you want. It’s wonderful to be away from the bustle of everyday life for a few days, on the quiet scenic university campus, and surrounded by like-minded writers. Continue reading
This past weekend I treated myself to a mini writer’s retreat. I rented a little cabin through Airbnb (free plug here for the Airbnb site and this cabin in particular). While there’s nothing particularly stressful about my home life, I just wanted to get away for a couple of days, and give myself an excuse to not get distracted by the hundreds of little things that can pop up when you’re sitting at home trying to write.
This little cottage was perfect: cozy and rustic but still had all the amenities (air conditioning and wi-fi being the most important), easy to find but not in the middle of town. Being surrounded by nature is relaxing and inspiring for me. It was refreshing to wake up to a rooster crowing, and take an afternoon stroll down the road and be greeted by a horse at his pasture fence. Even though nothing I’m writing on right now features farmlands or roosters, this sort of environment pus my mind and spirit at ease and therefore lets the creativity rise to the surface.
Here are a few take-aways from my writing weekend:
- Two nights is not long enough. Next time I decide to take a writer’s retreat (whether by myself, or with a group), it needs to be longer.
- I didn’t feel guilty about being anti-social. Actually, I spent several hours chatting with my wonderful host (who is also a writer) and had a lovely time. A writer needs to be a keen observer of people, which is hard to do if you’re a hermit. But for just a couple of days it was nice to not put on makeup and not leave the house except to sit in the garden and write.
- I really need to live in the country, preferably near the mountains. While I don’t want to live so remote that it takes an hour to get to the nearest grocery story, it’s nice to drive down a two-lane road and not see a traffic light—or a traffic jam—for a few miles.
So now I’m back to my regular life, driving through the bustling city and wearing makeup and looking presentable. But I came away from this weekend feeling refreshed, inspired, and with several writing tasks checked off my to-do list. The trip was well worth it and I hope to do it again soon!
My view of the garden when I sat outside to write