Writer’s Retreats

20160507_152434Our Spring Writers’ Retreat – Saturday, May 7 in Morgantown, PA

What is a writers’ retreat? A fancy name for a simple day: writers getting together for inspiration, fellowship, mutual encouragement, and some individual writing time. No fancy retreat centers or speakers needed.

The purpose

  • To encourage each other. Writing can be a challenging and solitary business. We need to spend time with other writers, sharing our successes and struggles, cheering each other on, and trading advice.
  • To learn from each other. Conferences and seminars have their place, but sometimes we can benefit from the expertise or experiences of our fellow writers. A retreat is a safe place for us to teach each other, or to practice speaking in front of others.
  • To solve problems. We can help each other overcome story problems and writing-life problems through brainstorming sessions, sharing our own writing journeys, and prayer.
  • To enjoy some focused writing time away from household distractions.

20160507_124851Suggested Activities

  • Devotions and prayer—to start the day off right.
  • A warm-up creative exercise—to get those juices flowing. These are fun, but keep it short so there is plenty of time for other things.
  • A brainstorming session—with time afterward to apply fresh ideas to your ms. At our first retreat, brainstorming time was voted the most helpful session. Simple brainstorming guidelines:
    • Break into groups of three or four, and allot enough time so each person has fifteen to twenty minutes.
    • The facilitator must keep track of time so everyone gets a chance
    • Ask the writer to give a brief overview of their story before explaining the problem they are seeking help with.
    • Unlike critique time, this is a back and forth discussion between the writer and the others. The writer should guide the discussion, and clarify questions as they arise.
    • As in any brainstorming, the goal is to come up with lots of ideas, so don’t waste time discussing an idea’s merit. Toss your ideas out there and keep going. You never know when an odd-ball idea might trigger a brilliant idea in someone else’s head.
    • Don’t forget to enjoy the process. We’re writers, ideas are what we love most.
  • A brief writing lesson. Someone can share a practical technique or two on some aspect of writing, then give everyone time to apply it to their current ms. I suggest introducing at least two different concepts, such as one setting exercise and one dialogue exercise, to give attendees more opportunity to work on what is most helpful for their current situation.
  • Critique group time. If you include this activity, remind people to bring copies for the group, and set a word limit.
  • A brief business lesson/discussion. For those who want to work on marketing, platform, pitching or similar topics.
  • Sharing time. Don’t forget time to share struggles, praises and prayer requests.
  • Closing prayers. End the day as you began, with the focus on God. And don’t forget to thank him for an amazing day with wonderful fellow writers.

The logistics

  • Pick a date and a host site. A private home is nicest, but a church would work too. Ideally, you want a place with plenty of room so people can spread out and find a private(ish) corner during the individual writing times.
  • Consider providing a power strip, and a card table or TV tray for those using laptops throughout the day.
  • Other things to consider: parking, comfortable chairs, pets, accessibility (stairs)
  • Get volunteers to prepare devotions, lead exercises or facilitate brainstorming sessions. One of the retreat purposes is giving us a chance to teach each other.
  • Keep the food simple. Order sandwiches, pizza, or some other simple lunch, so the hostess doesn’t need to worry about cooking. A green salad to go with lunch, a bowl of chips, and maybe some cookies round out the menu nicely. Ask volunteers to bring snack items. It’s nice to have something for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon break.

For more information, email Donna Smith at dlhswriter@windstream.net

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