I just came home from the perfect writers retreat. And I’m not just saying that because I co-hosted it. I have read through the evaluations and they would serve to support that assertion. It was the first retreat thrown by our little writers critique group, but if we have anything to say about it, it is only the first. There will be more. Will we do things differently? There will be some tweaks. But no changes. Because everything ran smoothly and our guests really enjoyed what we had to offer.
The Venue. We chose a Bed & Breakfast in Murfreesboro, TN: Carriage Lane Inn. It was wonderful. Absolutely perfect. There were so many cozy writing nooks indoors and out-of-doors. And the atmosphere and decor were perfect to set the mood for creativity. Will we host it here again? I truly hope so. The only thing I’d like to do differently is to reserve the entire venue, expand the retreat to the entire grounds, and make it bigger.
The Timing. The season was great. If anything, we could do it later in September or early in October. It was cool enough to write outside, but even cooler (not too chilly) would be even better. But much later and we run into Fall Breaks. We did run into minor issues, I think, being so close to a major conference (ACFW). We could have planned to be at least one more week away. It still worked out well.
What exactly was available?
Undisturbed writing time. Can I hear an “amen”? If that was all we offered, I think we’d have gotten eager writers signing up. A bed, meals prepared, and a nice spot to write undisturbed. What more could you want? Well, I’ll tell you what more we offered…
Mentor or Critique appointments. In the morning, each guest could have a 20 minute mentor or critique appointment with a published author. They could have a 5 page critique of any pages or a mentor appointment to talk about website, marketing, plotting, character development, really anything they wanted. Everyone said they benefitted from this time.
Workshops. There were two workshop slots (1 hour long each) and three workshops offered in each slot. So, 6 workshops to choose from, but each guest could go to 2. Because there were so few slots for the retreat, each workshop had few attendees, which made them very personable, interactive, and the instructors were able to make them directly applicable to each guest’s novel/career.
Meals. Meals and snacks were prepared and delicious (thank you, Greg!). So, the attendees really just had to show up hungry.
Would we do anything differently?
Perhaps make it longer. We all felt it was a good length. Check in was Saturday morning at 9 am and check out was Sunday morning at 11 am. We all wished it lasted until Sunday evening or even that it officially began Friday evening and lasted until Sunday evening. This is something we might look into the next time around.
A group reading time. One of the guests mentioned in their evaluation that it would have been nice to have a time when all the writers shared a scene from one of their works or from one of their favorite books. That is a great idea! And one we may very well employ next retreat.
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. And even though I was busy, busy, busy with food prep, and appointments, and workshops, and plotting, I still got two kid-free naps in and some much needed undisturbed writing time. Just wonderful! So, if you are in driving distance of Middle Tennessee, keep your eyes open for our retreat next fall.