Tag Archives: writing groups

How to plan a one-day writing retreat

sunsetIt’s almost summer and another year has gone by where our ‘small but writey’ group has not taken a proper writing retreat—something we have traditionally looked forward to almost as much as Dyment’s buttertarts.

Retreats have been one of the ways we’ve tried to stay motivated, inspired, and productive. But as many of you know, the days get busy and each of us struggle with squeezing writing time into an already packed life.

This often makes the idea of a retreat seem impossible. But it’s not! The Restless Writers are trying something new this summer—we’re planning our inaugural ONE-DAY retreat.

 

Check this out. You can do it too.

1. Start small

Consider the following three elements: time, space, strategy. Start there and leave everything else behind. I mean, everything. Netflix included.

2. Rethink your definition of a retreat

Of course we’d love to spend a month or more at a private villa overlooking the ocean while we write, but with families and jobs we’ll be settling on someone’s backyard. For the price of a potluck, we’re carving out an entire day to devote to writing.

3. Make it official

We’ve put it in writing. We have a most official agenda for the day, planned meal times, and a couple activities to keep us energized, like a short hike and a game of bocce ball.

4. Make a commitment

Set a goal for what you’d like to accomplish and craft it prior to the retreat. Commit to yourself and honor your time.

5. Be flexible and creative

We happen to be starting with the backyard format, but there are other options to explore such as the obvious coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores. But how about a picnic table at a community park? A cool hotel lobby? An empty room at the YMCA? A friend’s empty RV? How about your own car parked at the waterfront?

So, get your portable writing kits prepared and be ready to take advantage of mini retreat opportunities. Gift yourself a chunk of time! It’s not only an investment in your work but in yourself as a writer.

Writing groups everywhere!

Unite. Inspire. Dream.

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Retreats and conferences

We are never ever breaking up, like ever

Warning: this IMG_20141220_202552is a fluffy post.

As we reflect on the past year, it’s been one of discovery, friendship, and productivity for the Restless Writers. We’ve made friends with inner nuttiness, embraced angels, found love, and drum-roll please… completed manuscripts, short manuscripts and long manuscripts–twenty five months in the making.

Our final meeting of 2014 has been described as epic. Best. Meeting. Ever. And it had nothing to do with the bite-size gingerbread arranged perfectly in its own gingerbread bowl. It was about us, as writers, and what we have accomplished and shared over many months and many bottles of–you guessed it–Prosecco.

We’ve been on this journey together for more than a few years now and it keeps getting better. Like some secret society, we’ve solidified this journey; we’re officially etched in glass and we are never ever breaking up, like ever.

Here’s what we look forward to in the new year:

  • One of us will have a new YA novel on submission.
  • One of us will be querying for the first time.
  • One of us will be getting our shit together.
  • One of us will be making space for creativity.glasses

You know who you are.

Look out 2015. Here we come with stories in hand!

BJas

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Filed under Blogging, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

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 Restless Writers Regroup

We Restless Writers gave ourselves a long-overdue collective bitch slap at our last meeting. We had become negligent in our pages and, more often than not, we were holding meetings at a pub rather than our houses. This was very conducive to discussing the state of our butts, jobs and marriages, but our writing? Not so much.

In addition to laying down some serious ground rules (heads up, Wordbitches: we’re timing ourselves now!), we discussed what exactly each of us is hoping to accomplish at our monthly meetings. This is what we came up with:

Maria:
Our short story maven and resident smarty pants. Maria is an excellent editor and enjoys brainstorming elements of other people’s work to make them better. She’s hoping to turn one of her many amazing short stories into a novel, but is happy to act as sounding board/coach/motivator until she finds her writing groove.

Beckie:
BJas continues to kick some serious query ass on her completed YA novel and has also started a new project. This is particularly exciting for me (Lori) because when I met Beckie, she was already revising her YA novel. Being involved in her process during these early stages has been very fun and inspiring.

Lori:
I, too, am in a querying hell phase, so it’s great to have fellow writers with whom I can commiserate/celebrate. I’ve embarked on a new project for children and having Beckie’s experience in the genre is proving invaluable. Between her savviness and Maria’s editing prowess, I may just get something on the shelves.

We also decided that a writing retreat is in order this summer – the objectives of which can be summed up thusly: B&B; laptops; and wine.

LD

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Writing resources

Let us write! Let us write! Let us write! (sung in a falalalala kind of way)

Holiday meetings are the best.

Our writing group held its final meeting for the year and oh what fun it was! There were pretty gifts and sprinkled cupcakes—and heck, even prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. And PAGES; yes, we managed to consume treats, whilst still making time for each of our critiques.

We worked through 2 queries (1 rated PG-13; 1 rated G), 1 red carpet synopsis, 1 alien picture book manuscript, and 1 sleep-inducing essay (or not) for the insomniacs among us. We were also fortunate to receive personal feedback from LD’s 6 year-old son, aka the Simon Cowell of children’s literature, who we lured a critique from with Lindt chocolate Kinder eggs.

All in all, it was a productive meeting, with ‘minutes’ to boot, albeit recorded on a yellow sticky note (the jumbo kind—with lines). It was a terrific meeting, stuffed full of encouragement and advice (and a party dress exchange?) as we journey the road together to that paranormal place called publication.

And so, for the record, here are the sparkly business bits.

Restless Writers commitments for 2011:

  • LD: to tweak her query & synopsis for sending to agents in January
  • LD: to do a proposed table of contents for her humour non-fiction project
  • LD: to submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul
  • MM: to revise her sleep essay for submission to the Globe & Mail
  • MM: to clear her plate of indexes (for good, this time)
  • BJ: to revise her picture book and send the baby to agents
  • BJ: to continue querying her middle-grade fiction

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all! May you have the time, the wine, and the gusto to write your pants off this season.

BJas

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Motivation

Fries with a side of fries

Or, What happens when we try to follow the rules

Ever wanted to listen in on a Restless Writers’ meeting? Here’s a peek at our minutes from last Tuesday’s session. Because we’re all orderly & $#!T

fries with a side of friesRestless Writers, Nov. 16/10 (Birthday Edition)
Minutes

1) Call to order
• L and B pronounced the Tin Cup parking lot to be inaccessible and the entrances ill-designed.
     • Action: L to submit letter requesting management to make a frickin’ driveway on Upper Middle.
• L and B seconded M’s decision to choose fries with a side of fries for dinner. L harassed the waitress into recommending the steak sandwich. B made an initially healthy-dinner choice not so much by adding crispy chicken.
• B drew attention to the fact that she had 900 followers on Twitter, and four full manuscripts in the hands of agents. L and M were suitably impressed.
     • Tangent: B explained her smart writer-focused Twitter strategy; L agreed that unfollowing people who unfollow you is imperative; M agreed to start “tweeting dangerously.”

2) Banff writing retreat
• Potential dates in February and April were vetoed due to pre-existing vacation plans.
• Motion put forward by L to plan to hold the retreat pre- or post-Stampede in July 2011. Decision pending approval by the Wordbitches.
     • Tangent: L told us that Calgary was the STD capital of Canada. B and L are followed by Jann Arden, and both noted this with a “squee.” L hates Rush, so L and M are officially in a fight. To resolve the tension, all agreed that Blue Rodeo’s “Try” is awesome.

3) RW blog posts
• B is posting later this week
     • Action: B to approach Denise Jaden, author of LOSING FAITH and fellow SiWC attendee, about an interview for a post
• M thought posting the minutes from one of the meetings would be hilarious, and could be categorized as a diablogue. L and B rolled their eyes, but agreed.
     • Tangent: B led a discussion about what the group should do for New Year’s Eve. B wants to put on a fancy dress and go dancing. M wants to wear her Nine West platforms. L has a baby-sitter and has found her razor. Motion by B to hear Freedom Train at Geraldo’s in LaSalle Park. Decision pending band’s schedule and ability to find a date (affectionately nicknamed “Juan Carlos”) for M.

4) Planning for the next 6-month horizon
• B asked if we should “like, bring stuff?” to the next meeting. Hilarity and self-pity ensued.
• B stated for the record that we suck. L and M glumly agreed.
     • Actions:
          • B to bring most recent iteration of her non-fiction proposal and a query letter, and invest in a smartphone.
          • L will continue to make excuses for not querying agents, but will then actually start querying early next week. L will also share her hippie school parenting article.
          • M will edit her sleep essay and submit pages before next meeting, as long as indexing doesn’t get in the way.

Next meeting scheduled for Dec 16.
Meeting adjourned at 7:05 p.m.
Hugs.

Maria

Amendment, Nov. 18/10: It’s Banff that’s the STD capital of Canada (thanks Lori!). Apologies to all pure-as-the-driven-snow Calgarians.

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Filed under Diablogue, Group meetings, Trials and Tribulations