A Writers’ Advice: RETREAT! RETREAT! by Christina Mandelski
When I first started writing with a serious eye to becoming a published author, I was a young mom with two little girls. They were busy all day, and so was I, from about seven a.m. to seven p.m.
Bedtime back then was an almost military operation. Dinner, bath, books, bed. This was not just so that they could get their much-needed sleep, either. No, when the lights went out in their room, the computer switched on (I might have kissed my husband first), and the writing got done.
Fast forward nearly twenty years and my kids still keep me busy. The youngest is in the trenches doing her college applications, and I’m working and trying to carve out some time to fill out the FAFSA – which was invented by a total time-sucking vampire. My oldest is still at home and going to the local college. They don’t need me like they used to, but they also don’t go to bed at seven o’clock any more. In other words, there is a distinct lack of quiet in my house, pretty much 24/7.
Which is why I go on a writing retreat, at least twice a year.
Depending on schedule, family situation and your finances, I understand that writing retreats are not always possible – but if you shop around, do some serious pre-planning, and gather some friends, you might actually be surprised at you can make happen.
Here are some tips to planning an amazing writing retreat:
1. Find some friends. They’ve all got to be writers, working seriously on SOMETHING. They might be at different stages of their journey. Some may not care about being published, some may already be in print. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they want to get some work done.
2. Designate a leader. I retreat twice a year with a large group (There are something like 20 of us now), so there’s quite a bit of logistical work to be done, ie., booking property, collecting money, scheduling. We’re fortunate enough to have one woman who does most of this. We should probably delegate more, but she’s so good at it!
3. Stick to a schedule. At our retreats, said leader types out a schedule for each day (we usually book the large house where we stay for Thursday through Saturday night). It’s very important to have the schedule on paper. We’re all friends, and friends like to chat. But there has to be quiet, lots of quiet, to get things done. We’re not above shush-ing if someone forgets this rule. At our retreats, we start writing early in the morning, have a few breaks during the day, a nice long lunch, and at dinnertime the schedule ends and the fun begins.
4. EAT. We circulate an online form a few weeks before the retreat. Everyone signs up for a meal (usually shared with another retreater). Fearless leader configures a schedule for those who are to clean-up. What a gift to only have to prepare one meal for all those days – and since we’re only responsible for one meal, we really focus on feeding each other yummy, healthy, brain food. And of course, there’s always dessert!
5. Share. In the evenings, we have an open mic session. There are so many of us, we limit time to three minutes of reading from our work-in-progress. Hearing positive feedback as well as listening to your work read out loud is extremely helpful. We also have a White Elephant book exchange on one of the nights, which can get pretty cutthroat depending on what’s up for grabs.
6. Bring wine. Okay, obviously this isn’t mandatory. I’m just saying, we’re a group who enjoys a glass or two. We don’t like to talk about the retreat where we ran out, aka The Drought of 2015. All I can say about that is – Never. Again.
Finally, once all your planning is finished, pack things like sweats and old t-shirts and fuzzy socks. Get comfortable. Then write out your own personal goals for the span of the retreat. At the last retreat I wrote a total of 15,000 words! Some of them I actually kept!
If done right, a well-planned retreat can refresh you and your writing. If you’ve been needing some dedicated time to get some words on the page, I highly recommend making one happen. Good luck and write on!
Time to Relax and Write
The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski
Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.
But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.
She needs to get rid of him, and fast.
Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s...trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.
Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.
Christina Mandelski loves to bring the characters in her head to life on the page. When she isn’t writing, she spends time with her family, working as a substitute teacher, eating (sweets, usually), traveling and reading (preferably under an umbrella at the beach). Chris lives with her husband and two daughters in Houston. Her most recent novel is The First Kiss Hypothesis, which is out now from Entangled: Crush. You can visit her at www.christinamandelski.com.