“I Should Be Writing” Retreat 2018

I went to the “I Should Be Writing” Retreat last week: three days and two nights at gorgeous Loon Lake in Maple Ridge, BC.  It’s secluded and quiet as it’s located in the middle of a research forest owned by one of the local unis.

A grab-bag of my reactions and thoughts:

  • Loon Lake is near-ish the top of what the rest of the world calls a “mountain” and what people in BC call “a hill” (It’s only “a mountain” if you’ve never seen the Coastal or Rocky Mountains).
  • Regardless of what you call it, it’s above the snow line, so there were still some patches of snow on the ground. There were a few moments of decidedly chunky rain as well.
  • I might have a death wish, because when I saw the swimming dock from the balcony, I was tempted to jump in. My partner has anticipated that I might feel that way, so gave strict orders: “NO SWIMMING”. We joke (?) sometimes that I should have “LOW IMPULSE CONTROL” tattooed on my forehead (as does a character in Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash)
Swimming dock of the lake, shot from the balcony of my room.
The Swimming Dock at Loon Lake
  • Before I could work up a nice foamy head of oppositional defiance, I remembered that I actually loathe swimming in lakes.
  • I am not really “a nature person.” Probably because everything in nature is trying to kill me. (I wrote a poem about that a few months ago).
Tuesday- dining hall inside
Dining Hall at Loon Lake 
  • The chalets where we slept and the communal dining hall were comfortable, with all mod cons. Food was good, too.
  • Somehow I neglected to bring towels, but the lodge staff were very kind and hooked me up with a towel and washcloth. I’m sure my chalet-mates were very grateful I wasn’t a disgusting stinky beast the whole time.
  • I slept in a sleeping bag for the first time in fifteen years! I was worried about doing it because I’ve been known to have panic attacks when zipped into sleeping bags, esp. the “mummy” style. My friend Garnet gave me a hot tip re: zipper head co-ordination that allowed my feet the freedom I need to keep all my mental marbles where they belong. (Fun fact: I’ve had panic attacks in MRI machines, teensy-tiny bathroom stalls, and because my broken elbow was in a plaster cast and I thought about it just a little bit too much. Apparently it’s not just nature that is trying to kill me, it’s enclosed spaces as well)
  • I didn’t get any “writing” done, but I’m not in “writing” mode (which is to say “drafting chapters”). I’m in “story generation” mode, with the colour-coded index cards, notebook, and fifty-seven open browser tabs reading up on the Plague of Justinian in 541 CE and the cultural beliefs of the Coast Salish peoples. Believe it or not, in the sequel to Blood Rain (working title: Blood Down the Bones) both of those things are germane.  Your mileage may vary, but I need a ten-scene outline on index cards and some character mood boards before I can get any drafting done.
  • I spoke with someone on Sunday about certain ideas I have for the next book, and she said, “That’s gross and creepy. Perfect!” I was so pleased!

 

 

 

 

 

 

COUNTDOWN: Five Reasons I Love Writers’ Manuscript Groups

I’m not much of “a joiner” nor am I a person who loves group activities.  I need a certain amount of “leave-me-alone-to-brood” time.

Nevertheless, I attend two different manuscript groups and I love them. Here’s why . . .

5. No one minds if I attend meetings in my pajamas.

4. Saturday morning cartoons are not what they used to be.

3. Critiques– even unkind ones– are helpful. Hard-to-hear feedback can lead to deeper insight into one’s own work (and save you loads of time when it comes time for the second or third draft).

2. The feedback is immediate.

The number one reason I love writers’ manuscript groups?

1.  Deadlines. Organized structured groups provide deadlines. You know the old saying “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done”?  The person who coined that must have had me in mind. With a deadline, I can move mountains. Without one, I can’t move at all.

NaNoWriMo 2015

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I am taking the plunge. But I will be cheating a bit– I need (let’s say) another 20K words for Blood Rain, and 30K for Downward Dog. So my NaNoWriMo experience won’t be focused on one project. I know it’s against the rule. I don’t care. Do you think I became a writer because I was interested in rules?! (And, yes, the edge of hysteria in the last sentence is part of the NaNoWriMo crazy that hits me every year).

The word count as of this moment (link opens a new tab)

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