Category Archives: Group meetings

Guest Post: An Official Invitation

This guest post comes to you from Anna, an honorary member at our Spring writing retreat.

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One very cold evening this past February, I received an invitation in my inbox: “How would you like two full days of dedicated writing time where the only interruptions would be the songbirds (outside) and some free-flowing vino (inside)?”

Well, I am not really a writer, but I have always enjoyed the sound of songbirds and of course, have never been known to say no to free-flowing vino, inside or out! So of course, I said yes and this past weekend enjoyed a weekend as a guest member of the Restless Writers at the Andrew Logan House in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

What a privilege it was to join this super talented, generous and just plain nice group of women. There was such a feeling of peace and yes, as corny as it sounds, harmony.

In the words of one restless writer, “you decompress the moment you step in the door”.

We left everything behind (except of course for the copious amounts of food, drink and other “writing” supplies) and we focused on the moment.

There was plenty of space – to be alone and to come together. We read, we wrote, we reflected.

We cooked for each other, told each other stories, ate and drank together, encouraged one another and shared awesome “gifts of wisdom”.

Maria madcocktailse us special Algonquin cocktails – they are rye–based and every single one of us despises rye.  Yet we soldiered on, bravely sipping the concoction, pretending we were grownups in another era, before finally accepting defeat and ceremoniously pouring them down the drain. They came with a great Dorothy Parker-style story, so we had to try!

Sharon shared some beautiful lemon cream tulips and wisdom learned from her late Mom, advice she is still learning to perfect, about enjoying the deck liftulipse hands you, whatever it may be.

Beckie gave us special handmade quote books that included William Faulkner’s line, “If a story is in you, it has got to come out,” along with other thoughtful sayings and a few irreverent ones, such as the group’s mantra: write drunk, edit sober (Hemingway).

Andrea’s gift, a gratitude book, promises to start a new tradition, a brave attempt to capture in written form what this special group means to its members.

This past weekend, the birds did sing, the sun did shine, the wine did flow and the creative spirit was released (not to mention the visiting spirits from the graveyard across the street).

As Andrecakea shouted out spontaneously, “I’m happy to be here! Just for the record.”

Well said, Andrea! Thank you Restless Writers. I’ve never had an experience like that before. Even if the best lines in this post are the invitation, I’ll never forget it!

Anna

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Retreats and conferences

‘Tis the season for some woowoo

402978_10151116064776524_1292974204_nWe (Restless Writers) are preparing for our Christmas meeting.

Lori is our host and has promised us the four food groups: booze, cheese, bread, and sugar. No doubt, eggnog and butter tarts will also make an appearance. Lori has promised something else too, something just as magnificent: a tarot or angel card reading. This is the woowoo part of our meeting.

Some of you might know the “woowoo” as an alcoholic beverage consisting of vodka, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice—others might know it as a reference to almost any form of unconventional thought. I think Deepak Chopra would agree that both work. Whatever your new-age pleasure, ’tis the season to indulge: yoga, reiki, meditation, clairvoyance, shamanic journeying, energy healing or whatever it is you do to find balance. Yay to the mind-body-spirit connection.

The woowoo is also for writers, and is absolutely essential to health and well-being. So, in honour of the woowoo this month, I wanted to share the following blessing for writers, by author Lisa Gardner.

At this time of year, I think we can all use an extra blessing. This one is for you.

A Writer’s Blessing

May you always remember the thrill of being swept away by a really good book.

May the words you’re typing on the page be as worthy as the words running through your mind.

May your deadline be behind you.

May a good story lie ahead of you.

And as we go forth,

May you always enjoy the journey to finding those two perfect words. The End.

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

It’s Been a PITCH of a Summer

The Restless Writers have had some challenges this summer.

The pages and word counts have evaporated kinda like sweat. It’s been a summer of renos, indexes, puppies, and house hunting. Our meetings have gone down more like patio parties and opportunities to kvetch about our lives and ‘honey-do’ lists. But there is hope! We have all managed to share new ideas and bring the early workings of new-fangled projects to the table (along with brie and butter tarts).

We have pitches. Four of them.

Creating a pitch can be a bit like peeling back the layers of an onion. We all know a well-crafted pitch begins with a brief sentence that describes the book. So we started there, then followed it with character and situation information. We did this while taking into consideration three key story sparks and of course, the ultimate hook. We managed to come up with a structure that worked for us, while keeping in mind that we were pitching to each other as a writing group and not agents. We were pitching ideas, not complete projects.

And this is how we did it.

THE PERFECT PITCH:

  1. WORKING TITLE
  2. LOGLINE (i.e. one sentence summary)
  3. GENRE (i.e. YA/Women’s Fiction)
  4. WORD COUNT
  5. SIMILAR BOOK TITLES (or similar author’s style)
  6. MAIN CHARACTER (and main character’s goal)
  7. SITUATION
  8. CONFLICT
  9. DISASTER
  10. STORY RESOLUTION

Perhaps this is a template that you too can use while you pitch your new project to your peers. Try it for a few different projects before you settle on one. While it is a bit scary, it’s totally worth it.

Now the real work begins. We are about to begin plot summaries and outlines.

Our pitch of a Summer is setting us up for a fantastic Fall!

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas

Planning a writing retreat, Restless Writers-style

Writing retreat - complete with a dockThe Restless Writers are about to head out for an inspiring, tranquil, meditative, get-your-ass-in-gear writing retreat at a nearby lake-side idyll. What last minute writing ideas and goal-setting are we engaged in tonight? Find out for yourself:

Maria: Okay, the most important question: What should I pack? Is it super-informal? Dress up for dinner? Or casualence?

Beckie: Is that a real word?

Lori: [To Beckie] Casual plus elegance, duh. [To Maria] It’s a B&B. You can walk around in footie pajamas and rollers if you want.

Maria: I need to know how many bras to pack. I’m a planner.

Lori: The important thing to remember is that this retreat is all about writing. We’re all trying to get back into the flow. I know I need my writing mojo back. This day-job thing is killing me!

Beckie: I really need to buckle down, guys. I have projects pulling at me from every direction. I need to focus and just WRITE!

Maria: Same here. Now that I’ve decided which project to focus my energies on, I’ve got to keep the momentum going. Working through the pitch process as a group was really helpful. Now the real work lies ahead…

Lori: Here’s the real question: Is there Wi-Fi?

Beckie: Yes, according to the B&B owners. We are going to love this place. I hear there’s a three-course breakfast.

Lori: Honey, if there aren’t Cheerios in my sock drawer and I get to pee alone, it’ll feel like the frickin’ Taj Mahal.

Sharon: I wish I could come too…

Maria: Yeah, we’ll miss you! Just hang with us on Twitter. We’ll all be tweeting. It’ll be like you’re there in spirit. Maybe you can do a backyard writing retreat at the same time.

Sharon: Yeah, while dodging flying soccer balls and listening to an endless chorus of “mom, watch this!” I can feel the inspiration.

Beckie: Let’s pack running shoes so we can burn some calories while we brainstorm.

Lori: *snorts into her pomegranate juice*

Maria: That’s it. I’m bringing three bras.

Lori: I just hope I can find one that my kid hasn’t used as a slingshot recently.

Beckie: I get the Jacuzzi room. Called it. No erases.

Maria: As long as my room has a working mini-fridge and our stash of sauvignon blanc, we’ll be set.

Beckie: Hmmm… I don’t think there are mini-fridges. But either way, party in Maria’s suite Friday night!

Lori: Sigh… I’ll bring the ear plugs. And the SleepEze.

Want to see if we survive the weekend? Stay tuned…

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Filed under Diablogue, Group meetings, Retreats and conferences

The New Girl

Here I am. Reporting for my first blog post, fresh from my inaugural Restless Writers meeting. The meeting was everything I hoped it would be – a great opportunity to get to know these awesome ladies better and to take in some of their honest feedback on the pages I submitted. While I survived their critiques (this was managed largely through consumption of wine and baked brie), as the newbie to the Restless Writers, I have to admit I am struggling with a dash of self doubt about whether or not I have the writing chops to be a part of this group.

Beckie has an agent—a real agent. And I didn’t even know what an em dash was until  Maria told me. Heck, I thought em dash was spelled “m” dash until I just looked it up online two minutes ago.

The good news in all of this is? I’m fairly sure I am not the first new want-to-be writer to feel this way. In 2010, The Guardian ran a two-part feature where they asked famous writers to share their Ten Rules of Writing Fiction. I was particularly drawn to the cheery wisdom imparted by British novelist and journalist Will Self. Will says:

“You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.”

If this is true, I guess I am well on my way to becoming a writer.

Thank you Restless Writers for the warm welcome. With your mad grammar skills I’ll be mastering the in’s and out’s of em vs. en dashes in no time. And if not, I’ll fake it.

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Motivation, Starting up

Five ways to start your own writing group—or crash one

Yes, this is our writing group...if Meryl Streep were a member.

The Restless Writers are often approached by people looking for a writing group to join. For the most part, these writers want what we’ve got—a kick-ass little troop that is supportive, energetic, thoughtful, caring, and hells-to-the-yeah fun.

Here’s what we tell these would-be Restless Writers about finding or starting a group of their own:

Dear [Would-be Restless Writer]:

The Restless Writers are a group of three women who get together in person on a semi-regular basis to share and critique pages, act as sounding boards for new ideas, kvetch about our husbands, and drink wine. We think we’re a collective hoot. We think we make each other better writers. 

We love meeting people like us who write and live and tear out their hair trying to do both well. However, we’re not really a formal writing group with rules and deadlines and firm meeting dates, which makes us irritating as hell if you’re looking for structure.

Trying to find a writing group can be like online dating, except with a greater chance of hooking up with sociopaths. You want to find people who have good writing skills, creativity, passion, joy, and intuition. Plus great hair and awesome personalities. We were lucky.

Here are five ways to find a writing group you can call your own:

1) Check out http://quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.com/ and subscribe to Brian Henry’s e-newsletter (and sign up for one of his workshops too if you’re in Ontario). You could place a call-out in his newsletter for writing peeps in your area. Note: This worked for us.

2) Make friends with an independent bookstore in your neighbourhood. We’re lucky to have A Different Drummer Books and Bryan Prince Bookseller close by, both with plenty of events throughout the year to enjoy and meet other writers at. Even the big-box booksellers have events.

3) Your local library is a great resource—attend a reading, enter a writing contest, or talk to a librarian to see if they know of a local group.

4) Keep an eye on your community newspaper for announcements about writing events. You may even find an article about a certain Restless Writer who was recently interviewed… (ahem, it’s Beckie! As soon as it’s online we’ll pressure her to post the link.).

5) Talk to people! You’ll never know if your co-worker’s husband’s best friend is a writer who’s also looking for a writing group…unless you ask. Shelve your shyness and mingle!

We wish you the best of luck at finding a super-supportive writing group that helps you be the best writer you can be.

Maria

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Starting up

The time and space to write

Image from Write by the Lake, Taylor’s Wave http://woodsgood.ca/Taylor/

The Restless Writers share something very similar: the burning desire to write. And let’s face it, an equally burning desire to escape the familiar. Announcement: we just booked our first-ever literary adventure—beyond the home office!

The most common problem writers have is not writing. But this fall, we’re giving a gift to ourselves: a writing retreat. Not a conference where our time is allocated to instruction, awkward introductions, and scheduled meals, but private time, where we can connect with our literary vision and avoid the distractions that intrude on a writer’s day.

We all have manuscripts on the go and our characters are screaming at us to spend some time with them. We’ll be answering their call from the comfort and privacy of a Bed and Breakfast on the sunny shores of Lake Huron. That is, until we qualify for the Berton House Writers’ Retreat or perhaps Writing Immersion in Sustainable Tuscany or even La Muse in France. Yeah, dream a little writer’s dream, you get the picture.

While writing demands solitude and focus, it doesn’t have to mean isolation and deprivation (note to self: it can mean 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets). Our upcoming adventure will supply us with an ambience conducive to creativity, plus fellowship and inspiration. Our retreat promises to contribute to a sense of luxury well-being and provide us with the opportunity to learn while propelling us to reach our writing goals—individually and as a critique group.

This is new to us and already we’re bursting with ideas for our upcoming retreat. Here’s a good resource if you’re exploring this idea too, the Writing Retreat Guide: a guide to writers retreat centers and events, for writing groups or your own renewal and exploration. Give it a try, and may the time and space to write be yours for the taking!

Have YOU experienced a writing retreat? Any advice? We’d love to hear about it!

BJas

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Filed under Author events, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas