Tag Archive for: retreat

Retreating In Order to Move Forward

by Sparkle Abbey

To retreat is an act or a process of withdrawing. At least according to our handy Merriam Webster Dictionary app.  However, it has also come to mean a place you go to get away from it all. A place to relax, reflection and recharge.

This past weekend we participated in a different kind of retreat. This was plotting retreat with three other writers – the members of our critique group. We try to do this at least twice a year. It’s especially helpful at the start of a new project.

We started with a great dinner and discussion Friday night and then Saturday morning after breakfast we were ready to go. Each writer gets a two-hour time slot where we all focus on their story. Although we call this a plotting retreat, it’s up to the individual writer how their two-hour session is used. It may be actual plotting, or help with a story problem, or perhaps just brainstorming. There’s a wonderful synergy that happens when we put our five heads together.  It’s intense, it’s productive, and it’s also great fun.

There are several tools that we’ve found work well for us – a big whiteboard, flip charts, markers, reference books, and, of course, plenty of chocolate!

We been doing this for several years and at this past weekend’s retreat we worked on the plot for the 10th book in our Pampered Pets mystery series. We think you’ll enjoy what we’ve cooked up this time!

What about you? Have you ever attended any kind of retreat?

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets–Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). If you want to make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up for updates at sparkleabbey.com.

By the way, beginning today the 5th book in Sparkle Abbey’s mystery series, FIFTY SHADES OF GREYHOUND is on sale for only $1.99 for a limited time in all ebook formats.

A Working Writers’ Retreat

by Sparkle Abbey

What do you think of when you think of a writing retreat? Do you imagine exotic locations? Maybe a mountain escape? Or a beachside resort? Or maybe an isolated lake cabin? We found some wonderful ones listed in this article from The Write Life. All incredible places we’d love to visit, but we’d argue exotic is not necessarily required for a successful retreat.

Writing Retreat Websites

We recently did a weekend plotting retreat with three other writers who are members of our long-time critique group. And it was a bit different than the ones listed in the article.

Our purposely not exotic location was a nearby town. We had adjoining hotel rooms, a breakfast bar, and restaurants in the area that delivered. We know our limitations and just how easy it is to get distracted if we leave the retreat. (We also brought way too many snacks, but that’s another story.)

We had white boards, flip charts, post-it notes, plenty of markers and this time we also brought magazines and poster board. It can be extremely hard to switch off the day job work week mind and move your brain to creative thinking, so we decided to start the retreat with vision boards.

Each writer chose a particular project (story) to focus on for the retreat and with stacks of magazines by our sides, scissors and glue sticks in hand, we dove in. Each of us created a vision board of images related to our stories. For some it was a story not yet started and for others a story in progress. The main idea of this exercise is not to over-think the selections. To pick out images or words you’re drawn to. As you sort through them you may discard some, add others, move pictures and words around. And through the process, you may discover some new things about your story. Things that may have been lurking in the back of your mind.

The next morning we hit the breakfast bar and then we begin the hard work part of the retreat. Each writer (or in our case writing team) gets a two-hour time slot for plotting. We need to add here that some in the group are hardcore plotters and others, well, not so much. So each writer starts their time with setting the boundaries on what kind of help they’d like during their time slot.

We work. We brainstorm and eat snacks. We take notes and often photos of the notes we’ve made on the white board. And then we move on to the next writer’s story. With a break for lunch, we begin again. Brainstorm, notes, snacks, photos. Then dinner is delivered because we don’t want to change from our yoga pants and sweatshirts. And then…repeat.

By Sunday morning we’ve covered a lot of ground and after hitting the breakfast bar for a dose of energy and much needed caffeine, we’re ready for wrap-up. Each writer gets an hour of clarification or additional brainstorming time because sometimes after you’ve slept on that brilliant idea you find that it’s full of holes.

Other writers’ groups do retreats in different ways, but we’ve found this to be a productive and fun way to work out the kinks in a story idea and to support each other. We’ve done this for several years and it works for us. Still..the beach or the mountains would be nice, right? Maybe next time.

Have you attended a retreat and, if so, what type? A writing retreat? Something to do with your job? Or perhaps something creative like a quilting or scrapbooking retreat? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

And for a little creative get-away at home, we’ll draw from all who leave a comment for this great Cats & Dogs adult coloring book.

Doesn’t it look like fun?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often write at ML’s dining room table or at the Starbucks up the street. If they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and, depending on the time of day, either an iced tea or a margarita.

They love to hear from readers and would love to connect with you via their website at: sparkleabbey.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

The latest book in their mystery series is Raiders of the Lost Bark.