Monday, November 16, 2009
Bradford Woods Retreat!
I went to the INRWA chapter's annual retreat this past weekend at Bradford Woods near Martinsville, IN. I learned a lot, got to know a lot of great people; some I'd already met and some who were brand new.
I arrived at 4pm on Friday, armed with my computer and a pumpkin pie for the pitch-in. I was very impressed with the facility, which is an old manor house that was restored and turned into a retreat facility which is affiliated with IU. The grounds were beautiful: about 2500 acres with a lake and camping and other buildings including a barn with an area for therapeutic horseback riding for the handicapped. I don't consider myself handicapped, but I did get a bit of a workout having to climb these stairs whenever I went to my room. My knees actually feel better than they have in a long time as a result.
I ended up sharing a room with Melanie, another newbie to the chapter. This is my bed, which was quite a departure from my queen-sized bed at home! There's my trusty fan, which Melanie didn't mind, otherwise, I doubt I would have slept a wink. As it was I didn't do too badly considering that huge black bag there is full of my pillows. I must have my pillows wherever I go, which explains why I'm always so exhausted when I go somewhere that I can't take them! I know . . . I'm such a wuss!
The pitch in dinner was delicious, and afterward we had a fire in the living room area and plenty of opportunities to chat. I learned so much from talking with the other members, some published and some not, but all with something to contribute to the discussions.
I will admit to being nervous. I'd only been to two chapter meetings prior to this event, but an email from Melanie, who had only joined the month before, made me decide to attend when she said she was looking forward to getting to know everyone at the retreat. Me, I'm just a big chicken who has this phobia about being in a crowd of strangers. I'm not a party animal, nor do I mingle well. I have a tendency to sit back and observe, but this was difficult for me because I felt like I had to participate more than that. Not that anyone was anything but friendly and supportive, it's just a shyness thing with me.
After a slight panic attack following the Friday evening dinner, I was able to join in the group by the fire and talk without too much trouble, particularly when Judie Aitken, one of the members who emailed me last year and encouraged me to join, was there and made a point of asking me a few questions. She got me started talking about my books and my publishing experience which was very helpful to me. Of course, it didn't hurt that she'd read Slave and loved it!
Saturday morning we had breakfast and a great grammar workshop presented by Leshia, who is on the left in this photo.
It was very fun and informative and I went back upstairs to my desk in the living room and got cracking on Renegade, putting what I'd learned to use.
After a terrific lunch, I went for a walk on the grounds. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera with me (what was I THINKING???) so I don't have a picture of the lake or the woods I hiked through. After my walk, I took most of these pictures during our free time, and since most of the ladies were off doing their own thing, these rooms look a little deserted!
This is the dining room. The food was prepared in the manor's kitchen and was wonderful. Best of all was the fact that we didn't have to cook it!
The living room area. That's Melanie on the couch with her computer and Kathy over by the window.
This is the porch where we had our goodie table. The Cat Master was good and only ate one piece of fudge and one small brownie from the stash, but there was more chocolate in that one building than you would believe. Seems I'm not the only writer who craves chocolate!
We supposed to bring along a scene we had written where love between the hero and heroine is revealed and read them aloud on Saturday night, and the group would comment and critique your work. I read one from Fugitive, and was fortunate enough to go second because I was so nervous, I'd have had a stroke if I'd had to wait much longer. As it was, I got pretty choked up on the last two lines--and I hope you'll all feel the same way when you read it!
After that, I went up to bed and read for a while. Emma Wildes is in our chapter, and I'd bought her book off of the used book table, so that's what I was reading when Melanie came upstairs. We wound up talking until 1:30 before we finally went to sleep. She had never read any of her work to anyone before and was pretty nervous, too. During the short chapter meeting on Sunday morning, she won a scholarship to the Golden Heart awards, which helps pay her entry fee, so you may be hearing more from her in the future!
All in all, I had a great time and it was definitely worth doing. I would encourage any of you fledgling writers out there to join your local chapters and get to know the members. It's already been a big help to me in so many ways. I made some good contacts, learned a bit of grammar, got over some shyness, learned how to fix the em dash function on my Microsoft Word (thanks to Emma). That alone was worth the price!