Taking Off the Ruby Slippers

Map of Texas highlighting Brewster County
Image via Wikipedia

As I’ve no doubt made abundantly clear, I spent last week at the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Retreat in Alpine, Texas.

The seat of Brewster County, Alpine, population 5905, lies at an altitude of 4485 feet.

My altitude, during the retreat, was about double that of Alpine’s.

I was enrolled in Karleen Koen‘s Writing the Novel: The Basics class. Karleen, author of four historical novels, is an inspiring teacher. I won’t attempt to replicate her class here—couldn’t anyway, if I tried, because I have neither her expertise, her experience, nor her personality, all of which are necessary for the full effect.

I don’t have any little bells, either. There must be bells.

I will simply say that Karleen kept us writing and loving it for five days straight. She reminded us that to make art, we must play. And play we did.

On the last day, however, she reminded us of something decidedly un-playful: On arriving home, she said, we would fall into depression. And we must quickly find our way back to writing.

That was not news to me.

Long ago, I learned that retreats are like Disneyland—great to visit, but impossible to homestead.

After every one, I come home, embrace my family, babble about the glories writing, and the next morning wake to discover that, in addition to rapturous fervor, I’ve brought back a suitcase filled with a week’s worth of dirty laundry. And awaiting me are grocery shopping and cooking and all the responsibilities I’d set aside while I was away being an artiste.

Just a glimpse of the Crockpot is enough to take the oomph right out of me.

Oh, Auntie Em, I want to say, there’s no place like Oz, and with three clicks of the ruby slippers, I’m back there in a flash.

So it goes, and so it has gone.

I spent yesterday on laundry detail, surfing to fill in gaps made by wash, rinse, spin, and dry.

Today I turned on Netflix and watched an old PBS Mystery: P. D. James’ The Black Tower. All six episodes. With sound and video badly out of sync. Then I started episode one of Devices and Desires.

But things are looking up. Last night I went to critique group.

In the morning, if all goes as planned, I’ll swim for a half hour, then head for a coffee-shop office and transfer words from brain to hard drive.

If things don’t go as planned, I’ll save the swimming for later.

Climbing out of post-retreat depression is a delicate activity. Too much vitality too early in the process could prove a shock to the system.

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Karleen Koen is the author of four historical novels. Her latest is Before Versailles.