AMW Retreat: January 2017

What is it with writers and retreats?

I don’t know, but that doesn’t keep me from retreating.

Last weekend, Austin Mystery Writers withdrew to Lake Buchanan.

AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017.
AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017

The house where we stayed is way out there–waaaaaaaaaaaay out there–and I had trouble finding it. It was one more instance of leaving the address tucked away safely in my email inbox.

img_0481-2When I reached the end of the road–literally–I turned around, retraced the route to the nearest post office and, fingers crossed, asked for directions to the nearest establishment offering free wi-fi. The postmaster directed me to her best guess, then said, “But it’s a bar.” I didn’t care. I can’t stand the smell of beer, but I’d have been glad to buy a six-pack for the privilege of Internet access.

I was on my way out when she said, “Wait. You can use my computer.” When the United States Postal Service declined to connect to gmail, she pulled out her mobile phone, accessed my account, and said, “You should change your password, of course, when you get home.” I wrote down the address, she gave me further directions, and in less than five minutes, I was where I should have been a half-hour before. Or maybe a full hour.*

img_0482In his essay “El Dorado,” Robert Louis Stevenson writes, “Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

I agree. I always travel hopefully and, most of the time, enjoy winding around, wondering whether I’ve passed the point of no return. There comes a time, however, when I’m relieved to finally arrive.

And so ends the obligatory account of my most recent episode of winding around. Now to get on with the retreat.

Come to think of it, there’s not a lot to get on with. We sat outside and watched birds flying and sticks floating; and discussed whether one stick, which stayed in the same place for a long time, wasn’t a stick but instead something that might crawl out of the lake and bite somebody, namely us; and monitored current events by periodically glancing at the television, sound off; and, when the spirit moved, ate.

Evidence of writing. AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017
Evidence of writing. AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017

But most of the time, we wrote. I slapped down over 1900 words in one day. It’s been ages since I did that. Many of them won’t end up in the final version of the story, and those that do will be shifted from page to page before settling. But, to quote novelist Nancy Peacock, in A Broom of One’s Own, “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.”**

I expected to take pictures but was too relaxed/lazy to get out my camera until Sunday. A cold front had come in overnight, and that morning the lake was choppy. I wish my photos had picked up the whitecaps. I also wish they could show the tranquility of our surroundings.

The other photos are wretched, but I include them to prove that on our writing retreat we actually wrote.

So what is it with writers and retreats? Getting away from routine, from everyday-ness and common distractions, refreshing the mind and the soul, opening new vistas, viewing life from new perspectives…

All of the above. None of the above. It doesn’t matter.

To paraphrase Rhett Butler, I don’t give a hoot.


*Small-town postmasters are some of the kindest, most helpful people there are anywhere in the world.

**Read my 4-sentence review of A Broom of One’s Own. The review begins about halfway down the page, below the ********************.