Tuesday, November 23, 2010

St. George Island in My Rear View Mirror

The last time I posted here, I wrote of my excitement about the upcoming St. George Island Writers' Retreat. Now here we are, two weeks since the retreat ended, and I'm so focused on the memory that I'm having a hard time moving forward again.

The writers--nine attended--were smart, creative, kind, funny, talented (picture me shaking my head in awe, here)--and some revealed their talents as fabulous cooks, preparing meals to live on in memory.

Adrian Fogelin fed our writers' souls with workshops and exercises that stretched our minds the way her evening floor routine stretched cramped muscles. We listened, we bent our brains in new ways, and then we wrote. After we'd written, we marveled at what came from our minds after their contents had been manipulated and moved around. And we delighted in what different directions each woman around the table had taken each exercise. The heady sense of freedom generated by being able to set our own courses seemed to ignite little embers of worry in many of us, causing us to question the tack we had taken. Many announced to the group before reading their new work aloud, "Well, this isn't any good, but...." Exercising freedom is scary.

But it was good. Even the work that needed editing and rewriting was good. Everything we did led us forward to a greater understanding of what works and what needs to be improved. That's progress.

Over our time together at the beautiful beach view retreat site of Abbeyfeale, friendships were created or reinforced, group jokes were hatched and a support network was formed. As always, I was sad when the retreat came to an end (but could I have lasted another day with five hours of sleep?), but full of happy memories, new skills and inspiration. Some photos have been posted on our Fiction Among Friends Facebook page, and I'll be updating my web pages soon with pictures, feedback and recipes.

I know I can't forever stare into the rear view mirror or I'll stray off course, but a glance now and then reminds me of a wonderful retreat that I'll savor and draw on repeatedly. Thanks, all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Countdown for St. George Island Writers' Retreat

Next Wednesday I'll be jaunting up to the Florida Panhandle, about three and a half hours away, and as I drive north, then west, I'll feel the daily humdrum slough away. One by one I'll tick off the towns along the route; Fanning Springs, Old Town, Cross City....Steinhatchee...Perry......don't forget to veer west there onto 98....enough wilderness and coastline to charm and pull me onward. The highway hugs the coast around Carrabelle; getting close; then it's Eastpoint, and time to turn off the main drag and head out to the Island. After the initial flurry of unloading the car and unpacking totes and coolers of groceries and other supplies for the retreat, I'll be eager for the arrival of our mentor Adrian Fogelin (see thumbnail photo at left) and all the writers who've signed up for this year's adventure.

Ten of us will settle in for four days of workshops and writing. Most of us have a work in progress, so between the workshops we'll hole up to see if we can forge ahead with our projects, or perhaps double back and fix a trouble spot--often after consulting with Adrian.

Our group is diverse, having walked various paths in life -- journalism, small business, homemaking, teaching and other professional careers. The writing we do ranges from general fiction to history to mystery to memoir. Some are struggling to find a beginning to a work, while others are plowing on to end a work or polish a finished draft. Some unabashedly say they are coming hoping to learn how to cultivate self-discipline in their writing. Diversity aside, there is a unity of purpose that unites us. We all want to learn, and we want that shared sense of purpose the retreat promises. Together we'll commiserate over plot snarls and roadblocks, and rejoice over each victory, each landmark passed.

I've been revising the first three chapters of my very rough first attempt at a mystery, trying to whip them into good enough shape to serve as a foundation for the work I want to do next week. I've introduced the characters and am fine-tuning details of the setting. I have a pretty good hunch about what the crime will be and "whodunit".

Will I get it all down on paper? Can I make all of the threads twist into a believable, engaging plot? I'll have to answer that next week, after the retreat. That is, unless you are planning to attend, in which case I'll tell you there. Oh -- you haven't signed up? Get in touch. There's room for one more.