Monday, August 23, 2010

A Writer's Retreat in the Woods

We trade stories around the fireplace as darkness swiftly gathers – a group of six women writers in a log cabin far from home.

There is NO electricity in the cabin and NO roads around this starkly beautiful lake atop Mont Tremblant, a well known mountainous resort area in Quebec. We arrived here by boat, meandering our way around the twists and turns of the 32-mile lake.

Yesterday I went swimming in the lake, mindful of the rocks below the surface. They remind me of the obstacles we all face as writers. The rocks were never a problem, I realize, it’s finding the will and ways to get around them.

As logs crackle and shoot up flames, we talk about works in progress, books we read and loved (or hated), even movies. And trade whatever we feel like passing along – tips on storytelling, inside information on agents, publishers and the marketplace or conferences we enjoyed.

Some of us are farther on the novelist’s path – multi-published or recently agented. Others still struggle with their stories and are taking different courses to address their weaknesses in writing. Our different experiences don't seem to matter; there is a spirit of camaraderie and sharing here, a feeling of wanting each other's success.

“Congratulations on finishing!” one woman says, referring to the novel I finally sent off to an interested publisher after months of revisions. “It’s a great accomplishment.”

Yes, I suppose it is. In the writer’s organization to which we all belong (Romance Writers of America), only 15% of members actually complete their novels and send them off to reputable agents or publishers. When they do this, they achieve “professional” status in the organization’s ranks and can network with others with similar skills and knowledge. It's great to now be part of such a dedicated group.

Writing can be a solitary occupation but here in this cabin, as we share our triumphs and challenges, I no longer feel alone. And as I look around the room, the glow on the other women’s faces tells me they feel the same way.