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?

Intensity

Edith north of Boston, finally enjoying a little break from one of the hottest, driest summers on record. And talking about an intense summer brings me to today’s topic: intensity.

I am known among people close to me for being rather intense. I tend to do things whole hog, full steam ahead, not proceeding with half measures. When I walk, I use the briskest pace I can. When I’m working, it absorbs me and I am both productive and efficient (well, usually). I love good food and wine and most of the time end up consuming
too much of both. There’s a down side to having this kind of personality, too – if someone wrongs me, I never, ever forget it.

Some would chalk it up to being a double Scorpio: my sun sign is in the coMychartnstellation Scorpio, and my ascendant (or rising sign) is, too, because the sun at the moment it rose above the Eastern horizon was also in Scorpio. And Scorpios can be pretty intense (I just
learned Hillary Clinton is a double Scorpio exactly the same way I am…).

Regardless of cause, that’s who I am. So when I went on a writers’ retreat last week with three author buddies, guess what kind of retreat it was for me? Yup, intense. I gathered with Ramona DeFelice Long, KB Inglee, and Wicked

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Clare House

Accomplice Kim Gray at Clare House, a convent retreat house in Pennsylvania. We each had writing projects to work on, and we mostly ignored each other all day and worked, having the house to ourselves.

And it was fabulous. I wrote over 11,000 words. I started writing Country Store Mystery

Mydesk

My office for the week

number four, getting over five thousand words down. Then I switched gears and wrote a proposal, start to finish, for a new series, including the first two chapters. I had to keep my head down and charge ahead to get that much done, and I did, mornings, afternoons, and even part of one evening. I never work like that at home, usually devoting only the morning to my creative writing or revising and doing author business in the afternoons.

Sometimes when I fixed a bit of lunch to eat at the picnic table on the deck, one or more of the others would join me, and that was fine. But I always ate and then went right back upstairs. I even declined to go out to lunch with the rest on the penultimate day – because I had to finish the proposal before I left early the next morning. And finish I did.

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Kim Gray, Ramona DeFelice Long, and Kb Inglee

It wasn’t all work. We gathered for wine and dinner every night and talked – a lot. Some of it was brainstorming about our work, but some was just chewing the fat. And those women have a lot of stories in them, no surprise! (Sorry, what’s said at the retreat stays at the retreat…) Everyone else had a drive of an hour or less, and mine was seven or eight. But I’d go back in a New York minute. I love an intense immersion like that.

What about you? Does intensity suit you or do you prefer a more relaxed pace, more steady progress? Have you had intense times away from your usual routine that suited you?

Wicked Wednesday–Retreat, and Not Just From the Heat

Jessie Crockett authorJessie Crockett was our wicked awesome hostess for the Old Orchard Beach Wicked Cozy Retreat.

Sherry: A weekend can’t get much better! Who wouldn’t want to stay here — in Jessie’s wicked cozy bunkhouse?! Julie graciously agreed to take the top bunk. The weekend was all about writing, working on our blog, a Twitter lesson for me, and catching up with the wonderful women of the Wicked Cozy Authors. And yes, I cried when I left.

beach house bunkhouseJulie: It was a great weekend, though getting down from the top bunk was a bit of a challenge! But conversations about writing, plotting, Scrivener, social media, life, love, mysteries, and reading combined with good food and a couple of naps? I couldn’t have asked for a better 48 hours.

Jessie Crockett, Sherry Harris, Barbara RossBarb: Sigh. What can I say? We wrote a lot, we laughed a lot, we ate a lot, we drank a lot of wine. But more than that, we supported each other on this journey. Writing and the business of writing are so complex and largely invisible to the individual author. In both activities I often feel like the blind man trying to figure out what the elephant looks like by touching one part of it. Support–whether it’s believing while writing a first draft that you will find your story, or putting yourself and your art out there to be judged, or figuring out the labyrinth that is publishing and promotion–is so essential.

One thing I do miss from my corporate life is being on a team. So I’ve taken on board Julie’s mantra that not every one of us has to be good at everything (except the writing of course, we all have to be good at that). It is such a relief.

Liz MugaveroLiz: These retreats are one of my favorite annual events. Being in the company of such amazing writers and friends does wonders for my soul, not to mention my writing. The camaraderie, the support, the ocean – and of course, the food – combined gives me the energy to keep going and to realize I’m not in this alone.

My favorite activity of the weekend was the one where we talked about strengths – our own and each other’s. I’m not always great at talking about myself. In fact, I managed to postpone the discussion for a couple of hours before Jessie caught on to me and steered us back on course. But it was a great exercise and really showcased our strengths and, as Barb said, our ability to be a great team. I’m so thrilled to be part of this group.

Edith: What a supportive group I have found my way into! As I described the retreat to my son, we spent time ignoring each other and working madly on our word counts, or, in my case, on polishing my completed manuscript. And then we joined up to talk about craft, promotion, how-to’s, why-to’s, where-to’s, who-to’s, and more! I sort of wished I was in the middle of a new project, because this kind of atmosphere fosters that kind of creativity, but my looming deadline drove me to do revisions, instead.

patio tableHaving the beach nearby for a mind-clearing brisk walk was wonderful, and I even took a plunge in the Atlantic, which was amazingly warm for Maine at any time, not to mention barely June. We ate well, too. Asian noodles with grilled shrimp and chicken and home-grown salad greens, plus Julie’s Asian cabbage slaw. Amazingly rich baked breakfasts. Lots of fruit, some tasty local pizza, and the now-traditional opening night cheese fondue ála Jessie. It’s hard to be back home, but this team and these friendships will endure for a long time to come.

Jessie:I’ve been looking forward to the retreat for months. We planned it back in the winter when it didn’t seem possible that anyone would ever want to swim again. But before I knew it, May had arrived, the other Wickeds were parking their cars at the beach house and unpacking laptops. And Edith and I both managed to enjoy a swim.

The energy of the group and the peer pressure of people you admire being productive is  extremely motivating. You don’t want to be the one leaving your desk to stare into the refrigerator, searching for your second plot point in the box of leftover cake!

I felt like everyone got what they needed from the time together, whether that was a high word count, carefully revising what was already written or deliberate thinking about goals and dreams.

I feel so grateful to be a part of this group and to spend time with other people who truly understand the joys and frustrations of writing. If you are a writer and are finding yourself in need of a jump start, a retreat of your own may be just what you need! But be sure to bring along some friends; it makes all the difference.