June 11

Getting ready for a writer’s retreat in McCall, Idaho

Cabin in McCall
Cabin in McCall. Photo taken from the rental site.

The Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writers of America is having their annual Writer’s retreat this month.  This will be my third time attending.

We will be going to the same cabin in McCall we went to last year. As you can probably tell from the photo we are in a pretty remote location during retreat. We can’t get internet there, which is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because, though everyone has a computer with them, our typical online distractions, like facebook, are no longer available to us in McCall. But, you can bet that you will require a vital piece of information for your story and you can’t get online to research the topic.

During our four-day stay, we engage in several power hours a day. The power hours are simple things.  A timer is set and we write for an hour. No editing. No researching.  No plotting. Just writing. It’s a great exercise and you really learn how much writing you can get done in a short amount of time, especially if you find someone to compete with–word count wise. They are also probably the most structured thing about retreat.

For those who want to do more than huddle among the blue screens of a computer, or empty two or three pens into a notebook, they’ll find plenty.  A member or two did enough walking during last years retreat to have walked an entire marathon. Several members go into town to enjoy the farmer’s market, old-fashioned chocolate shop, the beach and so much more. My first year, we saw plenty of deer from the cabin window.  Last year we saw a fox moving through the tall grass and wild flowers. I can only imagine what we will see this year.

Once we’ve exhausted our writing for the day, we find things to do. Someone brought cards and hard candy and several of us played twenty-one. We bring books to read. We play games that allow us to get to know each other better or have long conversations. I’ve never been bored.

With this being my third year going to retreat I have a pretty decent idea of what I need to take with me. I’ll be bringing clothes I can layer, because the weather at McCall can vary. The usual stuff you would expect.  And writing supplies. This year that probably means a hardcopy of the two stories I’m working on, along with my computer, a notebook, pens, etc. I’ll bring a throw with me to cover my shoulders for when  my body seems to have a different temperature than everyone else in the cabin. A small pillow to sit on for the hard surfaces, a surge protector because you can never have too many of those. Plus, I’ll bring a special treat. There is always an overabundance of desserts there.  Alcohol is also readily available. Those who know me well would probably gape at the fact that I had a glass of some kind of alcohol every night.

As social and collaborative as the retreat can be, the cabin was usually pretty quiet, which allowed people to sleep in, nap or write until their fingers and pencils were stubs, which I have personal experience in each.  It’s also highly productive and relaxing. I believe I managed to write nearly 20,000 words at retreat alone, and I know I was not in the minority on that. Why would I not look forward to retreat?