Writing Conferences: Mind-blowing Fun

A spirit guide at Mt. Madonna Retreat Center.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a monkey in a cage. (Is this guy holding a banana or giving the thumbs up?) I have so much going on in my life that sometimes I need to run around and scream and throw fruit and all my toys and pound on the glass. Fling poo, perhaps.

And then the opportunity comes up to attend a weekend in peaceful surroundings with other like-minded souls: A writing retreat dedicated to getting ME, the writer, out of my life and into my project for three blissful days. I heard, I signed up, I went.

The Writer Path retreat was led by Jordan Rosenfeld, author of The Writer’s Guide to Persistence and Make a Scene, and Martha Alderson, aka The Plot Whisperer, and oh, my. Mind officially blown.

Two intelligent, articulate women showing the key to successful scenes and plots? Oh. My. A weekend of peaceful writing/plotting/thinking, along with yoga, vegetarian meals and a beautiful temple space for meditation, redwoods and hillsides for hikes, and other writers/authors making progress on their paths, sharing their struggles and triumphs. It was outstanding.

The last writing conference I went to was the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, in about 2000, before I had published any of my longer works, and I was really struggling with my edge Catholic story, Tongues of Angels. I was able to show the opening chapter to Michael Cunningham and chat with Jane Smiley about my story, and they were both so encouraging that I was able to keep going on my path to publication. It was an excellent experience.

Jordan Rosenfeld (L) and Martha Alderson (R) under the classic plot line that changes everything.

But I don’t often spend the money (these are always pricey — note that it was 15 years ago since the last one) or take the needed time to write unobstructed. As we speak, my living room is awash in boxes and trash bags from moving our belongings out of our vacation cabin because we rented it out long-term. I can’t even see the floor in one room and the dining table is only a memory under a pile of paper. My husband is away on a business trip which means I am single-parenting this week, and I have major deadlines.

How does one create the sense of retreat in the midst of a battle zone? I’m not sure it’s possible. But I won’t let that good momentum, that energy and sense of direction go to waste. I’m getting organized today, right now, to move forward and put these new ideas and skills into practice.

It’s time to get serious about the next step in my work. It’s time to make the leap. Get ready. Here I go.