The retreat that pushed me forward

Attending my first in-person writing retreat after the pandemic was like a dream. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators had been forced to hold virtual events for the past two years. This year we were back. A few weeks ago, twenty-five writers, editors, and agents met in the San Jacinto Mountains face to face.

We slept in tiny cabins at Tahquitz Pines Conference Center in Idyllwild, California. Our meetings were held at a lodge nestled in the tall trees. The weather was perfect for hiking, 70s in the daytime, 50s at night. Meals were served in a cafeteria. Staying there evoked memories of childhood summer camp.

During four magical days, I fellowshipped with other writers. Real people like me who sit in front of a computer and type out stories. A few still wore masks, a lingering reminder of the past two years. At first, it felt awkward sitting and talking to people, but as days passed, it seemed like COVID never happened.

The days leading up to the retreat, I was terrified. I was bringing a brand-new story to my critique sessions, raw in its first draft. During Zoom critiques, I could turn off my camera if I didn’t want anyone to see my reactions.  Now I sat at a round table under the gaze of six other writers and an editor. Nowhere to hide. Then I noticed everyone else seemed a little nervous, too. We were all eager to share our work yet afraid it was not enough.

Once we started, it grew easier. We became invested in each other’s characters. We celebrated beautiful imagery and clever dialogue. We discussed how the story could be improved.

Outside the four critique sessions, we had time to stretch our socialization legs. Some worked on revisions in the lodge. Others hiked the forest around us. A few rested in their cabins.

We ate together. We shared. We laughed.

We highlighted. We questioned. We encouraged.

And when our days were completed, I drove back down the mountain to my normal life. Not alone revising my story for the tenth time, but part of a supportive group that lifts me up above the silent negativity that slays books before they’re written.

That’s how a retreat can push you forward.

Author: jrizzotto0808

I live in Riverside, California, where I’m an hour away from the beach and the mountains. My YA fantasy novel The College of the Crones, won an Honorable Mention Award at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Southern California 2017 Spring Retreat. My Harley stories have been published in Cold Noon Travel Diaries, Courtship of Winds, Blacktop Passages, Fresh Ink, and The Handlebar Star. When I'm not hitting the keys on my computer, you can find me camping at the beach with my husband, Frank, or kicking up dust on back roads in our Jeep.

3 thoughts on “The retreat that pushed me forward”

  1. Jodi this is a wonderful piece of work that will encourage other writers! Please send it to me with a pic if you have one, for this Fresh Ink?! This is going to be my last issue, I’m stepping down.

    Thx, Assunta

    Like

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