Sep 27 2018

That retreat…


Actually, I got back from the writing retreat with Laurie J. Marks over a week ago.  I just neglected to blog about it… this being due to my going right back into hunker-down-and-flail mode on Book 5, and basically ignoring all else.

But it was, in fact, a lovely time!  I don’t often  get to hang with Laurie for extended periods, so that alone made it a treat.

There were some negatives, however, one being: Far too short!  It was Friday through Monday, which sounds like four days, but when you really work it out comes down to two days.  One spends the first day getting there, setting up and settling in, and the last day packing up, moving out, and getting home.

But still, well worth the trip.  I’d show you some photos, but alas: my phone’s ancient battery refused to hold a charge, and shut the phone down any time I tried to do anything. I managed to take exactly one photo.

Fortunately, Laurie’s phone was just fine, and I’ve shamelessly nabbed her photos from Facebook:

Very very small.

The Hermit’s Hut, as they call it, is not accessible by any vehicles except back-country 4×4’s, which neither of us had.  Luckily, a member of the staff was on hand to shuttle our gear up the hill; but on the way back down, we were on our own.


All this. Down a hill. Except where the road went up for a bit. Then it was up a hill.

This was a fairly heavy load, but at least we were going down (mostly).  What was more difficult was hauling water up the hill, which we fortunately only needed to do once.

The hut was not really primitive as such; it would more accurately be called basic.

Interior, seen from the couch where Laurie mostly worked.

It was comfortable, and had both a screened porch and a screened pavilion, which I immediately claimed as my workspace!  Because I so love to be outdoors when I work.

My one and only successful photo.

The woods around were crisscrossed with multiple trails, both long and short, both climbing and ambling.  They invited thoughtful wandering, and in one case exhausting bushwhacking when we lost track of the trail markers.  It was an adventure.

I tended to be in front, as possessor of the trail map.  I was constantly running into  cobwebs and flailing at them, which at least spared Laurie the trouble!   They were replaced overnight, to be broken again the next day.

On our final day, what must have been one supremely frustrated spider constructed a massive web across the main access road as we were descending — his last chance to get us, and he made it good.

We successfully avoided becoming a meal or possibly a banquet for the entire spider-neighborhood.

Luckily I spotted it before running into it, and we sidled around.  Far too excellent a construction to break out of spite!  This thing must have been four feet wide, and was anchored right across the entire road.  You have to respect that.

But the critical question: was it a productive retreat?


I’m really tied to the keyboard.   At a keyboard, I think and it appears on the screen as if by magic.  I’m hardly aware of typing at all.

But it would be very useful for me to be able to write prose by hand, and I thought this might be a good opportunity to give it a solid, serious try.

Not very successful.   Prose written by hand just doesn’t look real to me.  I could make no good progress…

However, I’ve always been able to write analyses of the work in progress by hand, and spent some time bouncing ideas off myself, and reading the  manuscript print-out I brought along and noting what needed attention.  And then I worked on a poem; and when that stalled, on a different poem.

And then I worked on some song lyrics, which I’ve always written by hand.  And then I remember a song I wrote ages ago which I cannot stand to sing because the bridge was just awful.  The verses are gorgeous!  The melody is lovely!  The bridge is dreadful, clunky bad in pretty much every way —

Ah, but now I am much older and wiser, and I decided I could write a better bridge, one that did not actively suck all the beauty out of the song.  So, I worked on that for a bit, and discovered that I’d completely forgotten all the lyrics of the entire song except for the chorus.  I spent some time painstakingly recovering all the verses except for one line.  And that was enough to start figuring what went wrong on that bridge.

What went wrong became very quickly evident: I had tried to cram an entire novel’s worth of story into a four-line bridge.  Yeah.  That never works.

And yet, back when I was primarily trying to be a songwriter, that’s the error I made over and over — trying to put too much into one song.  I am, apparently, really a novelist.

Still, I do think I can rescue Hannah’s Song, now that I see the problem.  Songs are moments — forget the plotlines, the complications, and anything like a message.  Think awareness, now-ness, more like mindfulness meditation.

I think I can work with that.