ARCs, Spanish Moss, and Read Aloud Circles: What I Learned from the Fourteenery Retreat

13/14ths of the Fourteenery

13/14ths of the Fourteenery

Thirteen* writers. One house. Five days. Infinite awesomeness.

The first ever Fourteenery retreat was a huge success. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. We’d all been emailing for the last year and everyone seemed so cool–how could this hold up in real life? Fortunately, the minute I saw everyone at the airport, it was like the internet come to life in the best way possible. (Major thanks to Natalie for all her organizing!)

So in case you weren’t following us on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr over the last few days, here are fourteen things I learned from the Fourteenery retreat:

14. The Fourteenery can cook
Homemade cinnamon buns, peach-raspberry crumble, and guacamole? Let’s say we didn’t exactly go hungry on this retreat. I’m glad to know that the Fourteenery can eventually open up its own cafe. My contributions were panzanella and chicken shawarma.

Spanish moss, guys,

Spanish moss, guys,

13. Savannah is really pretty
I’d never been to Savannah before and I was struck by how gorgeous it was–lots of beautiful homes and parks, all surrounded by trees draped in Spanish moss.

12. I’m kind of obsessed with my Fourteenery t-shirt
Can I wear this everyday until the next retreat?

11. If you think you’re the only one, you’re probably not
As a group, we’ve been through a lot, both personally and professionally. I really appreciated everyone’s openness and kindness about all sorts of issues, and I think this feeling will translate into everyone’s books and help connect with readers. (This also makes a game of Never Have I Ever particularly fun.)

10. Never trust the wi-fi
We had wi-fi for about twelve hours before it just gave up completely. Maybe it was the house’s way of encouraging me to get work done and not just blog about all the work I was totally going to get done. Thanks to the Sentient Bean for their iced tea and internet access!

9. Cooking shows provide hours of entertainment (and judgment)
Carrots do not count as French fries, guys.

8. Everyone has different ideas about success and career paths and what it means to be a writer
Every night we talked about some aspect of what we wanted from our writing and our careers, and even though there was a lot of crossover between what people said, no two people had the exact same answer. I’m excited to see everyone’s careers develop in various ways and I know we’ll all support each other in that journey, no matter what challenges come along.

7. Seeing ARCs is mega exciting
We got to see and hold copies of Sekret, How to Love, Side Effects May Vary, and Fault Line. It’s so exciting that these books are all bound and ready to connect with their readers.

Coffee and water, my morning writing time fuel

Coffee and water, my morning writing time fuel

6. You’re more likely to be productive when you’re around productive writers
I got so much work done, and I think part of that was because everyone was writing and going over edits. On my own, I’d be way more inclined to get to a tough section and go do laundry/take a nap/dance around the room for a while.

5. When in doubt, refer to Christa’s rules
Christa knows best.

4. I need to get a porch
Morning writing time on the back porch? Hand me my laptop and a cup of coffee, please. (Just watch out for the mosquitoes.)

3. The Banana Candle exists
DO NOT WANT. Thank you, Jenny, for bringing this hilarity/horror into our lives.

2. The Fourteenery bookshelf is going to be so freaking amazing
We read aloud from our respective projects and, holy cow guys, I was blown away. Everyone’s writing is stellar and all the stories were so engaging. We cover a wide variety of topics too–from desegregation in Virginia to creepy Southern gothic swamp tales to assassins and thieves to dragon slaying, there’s a lot of goodness coming.

Throwin' Ovs

Throwin’ Ovs

1. I love the Fourteenery
Okay, technically I already knew this, but the retreat underscored what an awesome group this is. Everyone is so generous and thoughtful and encouraging. These women inspire me as a writer and as a person, and I’m beyond honored to be part of this group. I can’t wait for you guys to get to know all of them, too, as our books are published over the next year or two.

Make sure to check out all the Fourteenery authors and get to love them, too.

*We were missing one particularly awesome member, Corinne Duyvis, who lives in Europe. Next Fourteenery retreat in Amsterdam?

(Thanks to Julie for 3/4 of the above images!)

Advancing on Retreats

Whenever I hear that someone went on a writer’s retreat or stayed at a writing colony, part of me wants to ask “But how did you manage it? Don’t you have to hoard money and vacation days?” Obviously, some retreats are expensive and require a fair amount of time off, but that doesn’t mean all retreats have to be that way. The Writers Alley has some great suggestions about how to create your own awesome, inexpensive retreat.

I like the idea of going somewhere to write. It forces you to focus on your work and means you can’t make excuses like, “I should probably get this load of laundry in,” or “But it’s the perfect time for a nap!”

A couple of things to remember about super cheap “retreats” at, say, a coffee shop or the library:

  • If you’re somewhere that is first and foremost a food service location, make sure to buy something. And if you’re there for a while, buy something else. Don’t be that person who gets a small coffee and takes over a table for five hours.
  • Be aware of where the outlets are. Claim them and don’t let them go.
  • Bring someone with you. That way, if you need to leave your stuff and use the restroom, you don’t have to rely on strangers/hope your stuff doesn’t get stolen/take everything with you.

If going to a coffee shop or the library is part of your usual writing routine, try to mix up the setting. Head somewhere totally new (even if it’s another coffee shop or library). The change of setting might help you focus more or expand your creative outlook.

Also, I really want to check out The Porches (which is pretty close to Charlottesville, VA, one of my favorite places in the world) for a not-super-expensive actual writing retreat. And how cool would it be to write in a treehouse?

This summer, Walt and I have planned a vacation/writing retreat in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I’ll let you know how it goes. (Hopefully productively, with a good dash of relaxation in there, too.)

Have you ever created your own writing retreat?

(H/T Debbie Ohi)(image: adrian, acediscovery)