Writing Conferences: Mind-blowing Fun

May 4, 2015|Posted in: Books, Tongues of Angels, work, writing


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.

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.


  1. e.c.moore@earthlink.net'

    E.C. Moore
    May 4, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    I’m glad you got to spend a weekend focusing on you as a writer, Julia. I have a fantasy about renting a cabin in the mountains for a month to be alone to finish my WIP. Fat chance!

  2. mishka824m@gmail.com'

    Michelle Chouinard
    May 4, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    Detail, darling! I need details!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you had a good time. ๐Ÿ™‚

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