The first two times I attended this retreat, it was held at the historic Hilltop Hotel in Harper’s Ferry WV — a hotel that had been built in sections over decades and left me feeling that I needed to carry breadcrumbs to drop along the way to find my path back! The view from the hotel’s patio and various rooms was spectacular and inspirational – it overlooked the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and you could, if you wanted, sit and listen to the trains as they passed through the mountain tunnels and across the bridge below.
A couple of years ago, the hotel was closed and the retreat had to find a new location. This year’s was held in Westminster MD
Throughout the weekend, workshops were interspersed with lots of side conversations and social events and wonderful speakers. Cathy Maxwell moderated an interesting panel discussion by the editors and agents present and was the ‘closer’, too. Jane Porter spoke several times and I enjoyed her talk “Ten Keys to Success and Survival”. Diane Gaston spoke about writing historical romances. Kathleen Seidel and Pamela Regis (two academic heavy-hitters!) did an interactive workshop that had us planning, drafting or revising our works-in-progress. I have never been a write-on-demand writer and usually find this type of workshop unappealing, but by the time they finished, I had a Christmas novella planned out! Woohooo!
There are two retreat events that have legendary status — Friday evening’s American Title and Saturday’s Romance Jeopardy game! American Title features editors and/or agents who listen to ‘cold reads’ – first pages read from anonymous writers and then comment on them. It’s like watching American Idol live! The comments can be positive or negative (though they did all seem to try not to be too negative!) but they are candid and real. At least one was requested on spot!
Romance Jeopardy (aka The Game Is Not Fair!) is played by teams, sometimes dressed in thematic costumes, that includes lots of confusion, yelling, whining, sometimes singing, and possibly alcohol consumption! It’s played like the real Jeopardy game but all the questions focus on romance novels or authors. The funniest thing is when the question refers to a WRW member author who is playing the game…and who gets the question WRONG! Diane Gaston did that this year – LOL! And this year, the theme was Scottish and each team did it in their own fashion. My favorite was this one:
When the judges came around to count teams to make sure they had the acceptable number of members, this team had one too many. When they were told this, they explained that the sheep was not a person so they didn’t count! Since the game is not fair, the sheep was allowed to remain on the team!
I have to say – I came home feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to write. The Christmas novella idea is almost fleshed out in a synopsis that I plan to finish ASAP. I met up with friends, made some news ones and can’t wait for 2014′s retreat.
Gotta say – it’s events like this one that make me glad to be a writer!
So, how about you? Do you like attending events like conferences or retreats? Are you comfortable in large groups or do you prefer small ones? Interactive workshops or ones where you just take notes? Readers – do you attend signings or other author events? Post a comment and I’ll share some of the books I brought home with some of those who do!
Terri is working on her next MacLerie Clan historical romance and awaiting the release of her HQN anthology HIGHLANDERS, which arrives in digital formats in June! Visit her website for lots more info and some exciting news!