Note: This is the third of three parts. Scroll down to the June 10 entry to read the first post and to July 2 for the second.
We set the writing retreat date for June 5, and we stuck to it even though Giselle and Gina couldn’t be with us.
I was on a deadline for several client projects that day, and fearing that our writing retreat might not actually involve quiet writing time, I decided to work at home until the early afternoon on projects, and then I headed to West Chesterfield, determined to give myself at least a few hours to work on Seeking the Sun, whether my friends were writing or not.
I arrived at Stevie’s cozy, relaxing cabin on the river, with its adjacent tree farm and vegetable gardens, about 2 p.m. I was so pleased there was no cell service or wifi. It felt like a mini-vacation from life’s fast pace, driven by technology and deadlines.
The gals were gathered around the dining table, eating from an assortment of goodies that included olives, goat and cheddar cheeses, gluten-free crackers and the platter loaded with sliced turkey; Stevie had roasted a turkey for us for the occasion.
Only Kina Luna was writing, hard at work and quiet on the sofa in the corner. We chatted. We ate.
“Have you guys actually been writing?” I asked. Indeed they had, and around 2:30, we all found a corner to write in, and the home got uncharacteristically quiet.
Kina Luna was plugging through a work project that was creative in nature. Stevie, Mariesh and Claire were writing undisclosed works, and Joni – who is more of an artist than a writer – changed her clothes and declared she was going to paint.
Kina Luna and I inhabited the living room, lost in our own thoughts. Mariesh went outside to a creative hut nestled on the shore of the river (called a Swedish “hytta,” Mariesh mistook it for a hot tub).
Stevie, Claire and Joni headed into the den. There was some chatter from that room as Joni talked about her blank canvas.
We all had blank canvases.
I realized right away that my mind wasn’t ready to just start writing. I had been away from the manuscript for over a month, and it seemed unfamiliar to me. It felt unorganized to just start writing. Instead, I started reading from the beginning, making subtle – and not so subtle – edits, and familiarizing myself with my characters and plot.
At turns, I had the thought that it was quite good; then I would hit a section that wasn’t well developed, and I’d rail over my difficulties as a fiction author. “Why can’t I just make things up??” I asked myself.
I got only about half way through the draft – to about page 30 of the still 62 pages – and it was already 5 p.m. My friends finished the pieces they were working on, and everyone began to mill about in the living room, talking about what activity was next.
I ignored them for a time, continuing to read, but then the joy of simply being with them and joining them on a country walk became too appealing to tune out.
Changing into my hiking boots, I caught a glimpse of Joni’s painting, which I had heard the others remarking on. It was absolutely beautiful. A stunning landscape of a pond with evergreens and big poofy clouds hanging over the water. It was a work you would buy in a shop.
Then we walked for over an hour—without Kina Luna, who continued to work – and we talked endlessly and had an adventure that could also find itself in my book. A disgruntled resident took offense to the fact that we were walking five across on the dirt road that led us from Chesterfield to Cummington – until we noticed her vehicle and moved over single file to the right side.
It is, in fact, not an exaggeration to say she accosted us. She even videotaped us in her fury. She left us alone when we let her know we were jotting down her license plate number.
We laughed about that incident all night. We called the lady The Lady for lack of a more clever nickname.
Back at Stevie’s, we drank wine, played a card game, ate some dinner. We talked about how I would write this blog series, and they brainstormed their “true names.” And when it got late, we wondered aloud if anyone wanted to read what they had written. Since my friends had so eagerly served as guinea pig readers for Divine Renovations, I did not offer to read from my book.
Mariesh reluctantly read what she had written that afternoon. It was a chapter from a book she has long had in mind to write and has been writing in sections.
She read it beautifully, and it was flawless in its pacing and strong detail and character development. We were all impressed and encouraged Mariesh to keep up with the writing of this book.
We all decided to spend the night at Stevie’s, and we talked – and laughed uproariously – late into the night. We are now planning our next retreat because, as it turns out, the women who don’t read together can write together.