A Wicked Excellent Retreat

by Julie, still basking in the glow of hard work, good food, and wonderful friends

A WICKED EXCELLENT RETREATSix years ago Jessie, Barb, Edith and Liz had newly minted contracts, and decided to get together for a weekend to figure out what that meant. The next year Sherry had a contract, and she and I were invited to join the weekend retreat. That weekend the Wickeds were born. We got the blog up a few weeks later, in time for Liz’s release, followed shortly by Edith and Barb.

My contract came through shortly thereafter, and the six of us have been gathering for this 48 hour retreat ever since. Some years have been mostly about writing. This year the focus was on the business of being a Wicked. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t laughter, great food, lots of wine, and fabulous conversations. There was all of that, and more. But five years into this community that we all cherish, we had conversations about how to continue to build, celebrate our successes, support one another through deadlines, and navigate the twists of turns of life.

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We are six very different women, with different points of view. We don’t always agree, but we do always listen to one another. Over these six years we’ve become friends, certainly. We’ve also come to respect one another enormously, respect our paths, and offer advice when asked for it.

This year we helped each other plot, met up with Lea Wait (who’s new book Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd comes out tomorrow!), talked about an editorial calendar for the blog, had a conversation about the book business that lasted the better part of a morning, shared new skills with each other, created some new work flow for the blog, and wrote down releases and deadlines through 2019. My mind is whirring, but I’m excited about the conversations, and rejuvenated by spending time with my friends. I know you will all love these new ideas, which we’ll be rolling out this summer.

One personal note–as I mentioned earlier, I did not have a contract when I joined the blog. I will forever be grateful to these women for inviting me on board, lifting me up along my journey, and becoming dear friends. We’ve been figuring out the best way to be Wickeds along the way, and are so grateful to you, dear readers, for coming along with us.

Readers, do you go on retreat with friends? Tell us about it in the comments!

Wickeds, what did I miss in my recap?

The Detective’s Daughter Goes on Retreat

Edith here. Our Accomplice, Kim Gray,who usually writes the Detective’s Daughter posts, can’t be here today, so I’m jumping in to share her virtual report of going on a writers’ retreat.

Kim, Annette Dashofy, Martha Reed, and I were invited by Ramona DeFelice Long to go on a week-long retreat at Clare House, a convent retreat house in Pennsylavania. None of us had any problem with jumping at the opportunity. I’d gone with Ramona and Kim last year and loved it. After we returned last week, Kim put up a few pictures and commentary on her Facebook page, so I’m drawing it together in a blog post for her!

The gathering spot for the animals’ breakfast.


Time for reflection.


Our doorbell.


The front entrance of my home away from home.


A good spot to sit and think.


My companion on my walks these past seven days.


A great place to relax and write.


(Edith: The “Hermitages” referenced in the sign are five tiny cottages also on the grounds that one can rent. I haven’t been inside, but the web site says they are 17′ x 17′ and have all the essentials, including a mini-kitchen. Wow.)


Our last dinner table set.


Edith: And a couple of mine, this one just before Ramona, Kim, and Martha set out to explore the Amish farmers’ market. It wasn’t all work!


And my “office” in the room designated as the chapel.

Edith's desk

We all had a highly productive week interspersed by laughter, wine, meals, and of course, storytelling. And we Wickeds look forward to having Kim back next month with another tale of the Detective’s Daughter.

Readers: Where do you go to recharge, to think, to reflect, to get away from your usual setting?





More Thoughts on Retreats

Susannah/Sadie here, just trying to keep cool…

A few weeks ago the Wickeds posted about the annual retreat they take to the Maine coast. Today I thought I’d post some tips about how to plan your own retreat. Whether you’re a writer, a scrapbooker, a knitter, or have some other craft or hobby you want to have some uninterrupted time to work on with other like-minded folks, a retreat can be a great way to get away from (most of) the responsibilities of daily life and really focus.

I’ll use a writing retreat as an example for the rest of this post, but this basic template will work for most other types.

First you need to decide whom you want to ask to go on your retreat with you. Think very carefully about your roster. You will be in close quarters with these people for several days. Make sure you choose a team of people who don’t have habits you can’t live with, and whom you can trust to pull their weight with shared chores, and whom you can trust to leave you alone when you are working. Don’t bring a diva along with you, anyone who needs to be the center of attention, or you’ll spend the whole weekend focusing on or distracted by her instead of your work. In a similar vein, make sure the people you ask are at more or less your level of skill and expertise. You don’t want a rank beginner, or you may end up doing more teaching than writing. The group I go with has been together for several years and we know each other well in and outside of the writing world. Although, we’re never really out of the writing world.

Next, you need to decide on a venue. I’m blessed in that one of my retreat partners owns a large, beautiful ski home on a mountain in Vermont that she is generous enough to open up to 8-10 of us twice a year. There are 4.5 baths and 5 bedrooms, good Wi-Fi, and, oh, a hot tub. If someone in your group has a second home somewhere, that might be just the place. If that’s not an option, depending on your budget, you may wish to rent a cottage somewhere, or even go to a hotel for a weekend. Obviously, the size of your venue dictates the size of the group you can take. Make sure everyone understands what kind of shared expenses there will be.

I highly recommend having a focus for your retreat. With my group, we set aside several hours (in two blocks) to work on plots and characterizations. We have a designated time where everyone sits around the big table, and we brainstorm a plot for each attendee. You would be amazed at how complete a story can be hammered out by 10 women in a half hour to 45 minutes. This ensures that everyone gets equal time, is giving as well as receiving, and comes away energized and ready to get to work. Bear in mind that we’ve been working together for a while now. The more times you retreat with the same group, the more efficient the process becomes.

Decide how you will handle meals, snacks, and cleanup. For our Vermont weekends, we potluck it, although we do a little advance planning so we don’t end up with 8 slow cookers full of chili. Anyone who’s crunched for time or not much of a cook can bring wine or offer to do the dishes. Oh, and we consider wine our eleventh member of the retreat.

Depending on where you hold your retreat, you may want to set aside a couple of hours to make a field trip into town. Where we go in Vermont (Manchester), there are both an amazing independent bookstore (Northshire Bookstore) and a yarn shop (Yarns For Your Soul). Do set a time limit so you don’t spend your retreat shopping instead of writing.

Finally, decide on some personal goals for the weekend. Perhaps you have a new project and you want to complete several chapters. Or you’re nearly finished with your first draft and you want to bring that puppy home. Or you have a word count target. Be fairly aggressive with your goal setting. The energy that comes from the group may surprise you. Take advantage of it and get as much, or more, done than you ever thought possible.

Oh, and do something nice for your hostess. Bring her a gift, and don’t leave her with a dirty house to clean after you’ve gone.

Do you go on retreat? Would you like to? It’s not that difficult to organize one!

The Wickeds Retreat to Maine – Again!

IMG_20150614_110459_990The Wickeds adjourned to Old Orchard Beach again for three days of powow – schmoozing, discussing the publishing industry and the blog, and ignoring each other to churn out word count. This is the fourth Wicked Cozy retreat for some of us, the third for others. Here’s how the weekend shaped up!

Edith: I didn’t have a super productive word count weekend, but I made steady progress on the book and mapped out a number of future scenes. I loved hanging with the other Wickeds, though. And our wide-ranging discussions of how to  manage our blog, where to take our careers, and OOBeachnew trends in the industry were really valuable. Liz and I squeezed in a long walk on the beach, too, and used part of it to talk through our plots. So many thanks to Jessie for hosting us year after year.

IMG_4076IMG_4043Barb: Excuse the gushing, but our annual retreat has become one of the highlights of my year. Jessie pointed out how much things have changed since that first one. There were only four of us, for one thing, and the big problem on all our minds was–can I complete a commercial-quality, novel-length piece of fiction on a deadline? Since then we’ve all learned so much about writing and about this crazy business. It never ceases to amaze me how we’re all writing in the same genre and the same length, but our processes are so different, and yet we all support one another. I was proofing, not writing, but got plenty of that done, plus help with the plot for my forthcoming holiday novella, the next writing task on my plate.

IMG_4065Julie: I do not take these five women for granted, at all. They are my cheerleaders, my teachers, my shoulders to cry on, and my kicks in the ass when needed. I had a good word count weekend–book #2 is due July 15, so I am in the home stretch. But I also had naps, talked through launch strategies, and helped brainstorm a few ideas. I also ate well, drank a lot of coffee, and laughed. A lot. We are all in different places in our careers, but all there for one another. Plus, the location is great, and the host could write a book.

IMG_4071Sherry: The weekend started on Thursday night doing a panel with the Wickeds (we missed you Jessie) and Ray Daniel at the New England Mobile Book Fair, dinner after (we have a funny story about following the wrong car — thankfully they didn’t call the police on us), a night at Barb’s house, and then on to Jessie’s lovely home in Old Orchard Beach. I got help with plot ideas for my proposal. I started reading Plot Perfect by Paula Munier. But the best part was staying up until 2 am two nights in a row, talking about everything. And the food — it was delicious! I always cry when it’s over — maybe I’m overly emotional from lack of sleep or maybe it’s the large number of carbohydrates that I consumed — no it’s just that I love these women and live too far away.


Edith’s fish enchiladas – yum!

IMG_4091Jessie: The weather was utterly delightful which meant we spent a great deal of time gathered around the patio table talking. I’m not entirely sure the neighbors will ever recover if they overheard any of our conversations, especially those concerning plotting.  Most people within IMG_4066earshot would have thought us completely nuts.  But that’s one of the benefits the retreat bestows, the gift of complete understanding. I hope all of our blog  readers have places and groups where they feel as connected and as understood.


Is Liz showing us her latest dance moves?

Liz: Just for the record, I don’t dance! But I did, like everyone else, have a fabulous time. This retreat really rejuvenates me every year – the food, the writing, but especially, the friendship. Love all of these ladies so much.

Readers, do you have people with whom you like to close the door on the world and just get away for awhile? Do you have creative work you find a way to carve out time to pursue?

Fun with a Purpose

Today begins the Wickeds’ Third Annual Writing Retreat! We are all delighted to be attending and each have some things we hope to accomplish over the weekend. All of us are enthusiastic goal setters or are trying to be and a writing retreat is perfect time to challenge ourselves and each other. So Wickeds, what do you have planned for our time together?

 Jessie: I am planning to write 10,000 new words. And I am looking forward to talking about the business of writing with all of you in the evenings.

beach house bunkhouseSherry: Just for the record I wanted to do an Opening Lines post today because I’m not good at setting goals. These women are trying to make me a goal setter — go figure. Here goes: my goals include writing some words, drinking some wine, laughing until my cheeks hurt, and climbing down from the bunk bed without breaking my neck.

Julie: Oh Sherry, I should be a good woman and say I’ll take the top bunk again, but . . .My goals are to relax (which hasn’t happened in a while), add at least 5000 words (though I have high hopes for more), sleep, nap, and celebrate being around these wicked cozy dames.

Sherry: I told you last year, I’d take it this year, Julie!



  1. Write
  2. Imbibe adult beverages
  3. Discuss book marketing
  4. Imbibe adult beverages
  5. Solve problems of publishing industry
  6. Imbibe adult beverages
  7. Solve problems of known universe


Repeat 1 through 7.


Repeat 1 through 6. Leaving in the afternoon, so any remaining problems of known universe will unfortunately have to stay unsolved.

Edith: We should make Liz take the top bunk – she’s the youngest in the group! My scarvesgoals are: 1) to write a bunch of new words on my historical, or maybe plot out the fourth Local Foods mystery. And 2) to eat, talk, and drink with my best writing buds. We do have an actual agenda this time beyond writing (and drinking). It includes a group photo shoot, scarf decoration and tying lessons, setting up the blog calendar, talking book marketing, and more. We might be stuffing goody bags for Malice Domestic. We might be walking on the beach. We’ll surely be exchanging tips and advice and experience six ways round.

Liz: Mine are pretty simple – finish Icing on the Corpse!