Saturday, June 21, 2014

My First Writing Retreat!

Today I have some wonderfully exciting news to share.  Nothing publication-related (I wish!) but it’s probably one of the next best pieces of news…I’m officially registered to go to my first Highlights Writing Workshop this August!!  I have been hearing about these workshops since I first joined SCBWI and have always dreamed of being able to go to one.  The Highlights Foundation supports children’s writing in many ways beyond the Highlights magazine that generations of children know and love from pediatrician waiting rooms.  From what I’ve heard, they have amazing farmland and forests in Northeastern Pennsylvania with private cabins in the woods, yummy food, and lots of quiet time for writing.  Many writers go there on retreat throughout the year just to get some uninterrupted time away from the constant thoughts of bills, cleaning, text messages, dinner prep, day jobs, and everything else that doesn’t include their latest writing project. I just wrote about how we need to calm the self-talk that constantly flows through our minds, and these retreats will hopefully do just that for me.

  My particular workshop lasts for 5 days and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of having 5 days where I don’t have to worry about anything but writing.  I know 5 days is really just a drop in the bucket, but at the same time I don’t know if I’ve ever spent 5 days focused on just one task.  Probably the closest I’ve ever come was when I was writing my generals during grad school (a time that I’ve mostly blocked from my memory), but even that was only a 48 hour period.  Given that those two days were some of the most stressful in my life, I’m crossing my fingers for a very different experience this time. Actually, I can already guarantee that this retreat will be nothing like that.  Not only do I LOVE hearing and talking about writing, which is something I can’t really say about my generals topic, but I guess there are going to be chefs making large quantities of awesome food at this retreat.  Uh-oh. I already warned my husband that I’ll likely come back a few pounds heavier.

However, that isn’t the true reason why I’m going.  (*new mantra*: It’s more than the food. It’s more than the food.)  No, I’m actually this excited because I’ll be attending a workshop on revision run by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. They are both highly respected editors who have worked in children’s publishing for a long time, and Harold literally wrote the book on children’s publishing—“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.”  This workshop on revision couldn’t come at a better time for me since I’m currently trying to revise my rough draft and I’m not sure how well I’m doing.  What a blessing to have two experienced editors tell me all the tricks of the trade, meet other serious writers who can help with critiques, and have the editors read my work themselves.

Originally, I had debated waiting until next year when I would be “ready,” but then I decided that was just a fancy way of saying that I was scared to go.  In fact, I can even give you the super fancy psychology term for what I was doing: self-handicapping.  I was purposely hurting my chances of success (by saying that I didn’t want to go this year) because then I’d have an excuse if I ultimately failed.  I could always just say, “Oh, it’s not really my fault that I don’t know how to revise. I wasn’t able to go to that workshop.” So instead, I’m going to go and really try to give it my all.  I can’t wait to write more about it in future posts.

But seriously, can we talk more about this food? God, I’m going to be in trouble.


  1. I'm so excited to go too. It's also going to be my first time. Can't wait to meet you!

  2. Oh good--we can be newbies together! I don't want summer to be over, but part of me keeps wishing it was already August so the retreat would be here. :) What do you write?

  3. I just returned from a retreat there. You'll have a terrific time!

  4. Mary, I just looked at your blog post about it and loved the photos. It made me excited all over again!