@ a Very Nice Retreat

Main Building on Schreiner University campus, by Billy Hathorn, licensed under CC BY-SA-3.0

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.” ~ Anon.

I’m staying in a Very Nice Dorm on the campus of Schreiner University in Kerrville for the Writers’ League of TexasSummer Retreat. My job is to write. No classes, just write.

Here is what I’ve accomplished since arriving Sunday afternoon.

(I believe I’ve mentioned I sometimes have a little trouble walking? Like from parking lots to buildings? If I didn’t, I would be bopping all over campus and  wouldn’t have anything to put in this post.)



Saw doe wandering around dorms

Didn’t know where camera was so didn’t stop for picture of doe

Hauled provisions into the dorm

Noticed it was as hot as . . . I thought it would be

Drove to cafeteria; parked in nearby lot (very nearby)

Walked from lot to cafeteria; on the way, noticed my back was out

Considered possibility of walking to orientation

Skipped orientation

Said to myself, “I should not have retreated this summer.”

Drove into town for more provisions

Couldn’t make room key work

Threw two sets of keys down onto the walk as hard as I could, set my tote down carefully because it had breakable stuff in it, and swore I would go home the next morning to my husband, who does everything for me, and my cats, who don’t

Made room key work

Crashed in room

Monday, before leaving room

Got out of bed

Noticed my back was still out

Loaded totes for day of writing at Junkin Worship Center

Lost my room key

Found my room key

Lost my car key

Found my car key

Divested totes

(Do I really need my Kindle? No. Do I really need my camera? No. Do I really need eight pens? No. Do I really need three bottles of orange juice and a bunch of breakfast bars? Only if I want to stay upright. )

Lost my room key.

Found my room key.

Lost and found several other things.

Monday, after leaving room

Drove to WLT office; parked in nearest lot

Walked to office; took emergency contact info to director because I missed orientation

Lost my room key

Walked back to car

Became traditionally hungry for the first time in over three years

Considered walking to cafeteria

Drove into town to Burger King

Considered possibility of legally adopting my massage therapist

Lost my handicap parking permit

Parked in regular space at Burger King, no big deal

Bought Whopper, Coke, and Hershey shake; didn’t want Hershey shake but was unhappy about parking permit

Found my room key in my pocket

Put Hershey shake in freezer at dorm

Was still hungry

Ate remaining half of Whopper

Found my handicap parking permit

Flopped on couch, revised a few lines of manuscript

Regretted eating remaining half of Whopper

Fell asleep

Skipped buffet

Said if this walking thing keeps up, I will spend the whole week in my room writing, because that’s what I came to do, and the room is Very Nice, and the A/C works beautifully

Tuesday before leaving room:

Got out of bed

Noticed my back was better

Didn’t lose anything

Tuesday after leaving room

Drove to mid-campus and parked in lot across from Moody Science Building

Walked to Junkin Worship Center Quiet Writing Room

Collapsed onto couch

Found my handicap parking permit in tote bag

Emailed director re giving her permit numbers so she could testify for me in court, or of my calling campus security

Emailed husband for numbers on license plate because I remember only letters

Decided paying $500 – $750 in fine plus court costs a small price for not walking back to parking lot

WLT rep came from across room and walked permit to car, bless her heart, and I mean that most sincerely

And here I am.

Please note that none of the adventures listed here has anything at all to do with the Writers’ League of Texas. The director offered to have me golf-carted (that’s what they do) where I needed to go, but I can drive and park just about anywhere. My problem is getting from parking lots to doors, so I declined.  The League and the Retreat are doing just fine. It’s all me, me, me.

I’m going to stay in the Junkin Center drinking orange juice and eating breakfast bars (horrid but convenient) till it closes and later try to make it to the dining hall.

When I started chemo, I vowed I would not excuse any of my shortcomings on chemo brain or chemo body or anything else related to it.

I might un-vow that. There’s probably some truth in it, and it’s much better than blaming everything on age.

Now, PLEASE don’t pity me or say you’re sorry about my trials and tribulations.

Because, folks, it’s all material.


Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, by Hot Furnace, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Via Wikipedia

Okay. I’ve caught my breath. Now I have to stop this and do the writing I came here to do.

This is a photo of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in Kerrville, Texas. Round, two stories. I used to come here for library conferences. The interior is beautiful.

W Is for the W-Words: #atozchallenge



Buyer’s remorse. And not even five hours have elapsed since the purchase. It happens every time. Why do I do this to myself? (W-Word: Why)

News of the Writers‘ League of Texas’ annual summer retreat arrived via email this afternoon, and I pounced–checked the calendar to confirm it doesn’t fall on an infusion week, asked my husband to confirm what I’d already confirmed, filled out the online form, and clicked Register.  [W-Word: Writers’]

Some people think it over before clicking Register, especially when clicking Register requires an outpouring of funds.

If I made a list, it would look like this:

Don’t Go to the WLT Summer Retreat in Kerrville – Reasons

  1. Time away from home – six days
  2. The retreat is in July and I already miss David
  3. Indulgence-induced guilt
  4. I shouldn’t have to drive 100 miles to write what I could write staying at home
  5. Can write at home without paying registration fees plus gasoline and wear-and-tear on the car
  6. More guilt
  7. I miss David

Go to the WLT Summer Retreat in Kerrville – Reasons

  1. I want to [W-Word: Want]

And then there’s the year I came home with a two-hundred-word timed writing that three years later turned into a 4,000-word short story, and a year after that appeared in a crime fiction anthology–the Murder on Wheels pictured in the sidebar to the right.

Plus the new Summer Writing Retreat–Write Away, where all you do is write

Plus the creative energy generated by people writing together

Plus memories of retreats in Alpine in 2011 and 2014.

Regarding buyer’s remorse: it doesn’t last.



Adventure in the Far West

Mural outside Los Jalapenos, Alpine, TX. By Kathy Waller.
Mural outside Los Jalapenos, Alpine, TX. By Kathy Waller.

A week in beautiful Alpine, Texas, to attend the Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Institute held unparalleled adventure for Gale and me.

It started with getting lost about twenty miles from home and ended with finding a dead banana at the bottom of my Austin Mystery Writers tote bag.

In between lay

  • being rear-ended at a red light;
  • missing a turn but arriving at our destination anyway;
  • finding the motel room severely deficient in electrical outlets;

    Outlet under bed. By Kathy Waller.
    Outlet under bed. By Kathy Waller.
  • wallowing on the floor, trying to plug an extension cord into an outlet installed behind of the leg of a bed attached to the floor “for your safety”;
  • abandoning my camera in the Museum of the Big Bend;
  • being informed that the hood of the car I’d just driven for seven hours through the Texas Hill Country and the Trans-Pecos, and into the Chihuahuan Desert, wasn’t properly latched;
  • finding the hood up again two days later;
  • recovering my camera;
  • losing my cash;
  • knocking the back off my mobile phone;
  • scattering my purse, my camera, a take-out box of Creamy Bolognese over penne pasta, and myself all over the sidewalk in front of La Trattoria;
  • wallowing on the floor wielding a broom and a flashlight, scraping my cash from under the far side of the bed;
  • abandoning my purse in the cafeteria;
  • recovering my purse;

    Porch of Hotel Limpia, Fort David, TX. By Kathy Waller.
    Porch of Hotel Limpia, Fort Davis, TX. By Kathy Waller.
  • leaving Alpine, missing another turn, and winding up in Marathon;
  • watching Gale lean out the window to ask a man where we could get petroleo;
  • being told petroleo was in Alpine (26 miles) or in Fort Stockton (58 miles), but not in Marathon;
  • on advice of residents (“There’s nothing out there”), giving up impromptu plans to swing through Del Rio;
  • retracing our steps to Alpine for petroleo;
  • on second attempt, not missing the turn;
  • arriving at home without further incident worth mentioning.

I will mention that

  • Karleen Koen’s class was up to her usual standard: As I’ve written before, she’s honest about what she can
    Karleen Koen's novels plus other incentives on classroom floor. By Kathy Waller.
    Karleen Koen’s novels plus other incentives on classroom floor. By Kathy Waller.

    and cannot do for her students, but she shows them ways to increase their own creativity;

  • the reading at the Alpine Public Library allowed student writers to share pieces written in the various classes, including a Sudan native’s account of learning to speak English, which was a scream;
  • evenings out with friends at El Paisano (Marfa), the Reata (Alpine), La Trattoria (Alpine), the Stone Village Market, and the Hotel Limpia’s Blue Mountain Bistro (Fort Davis) were fun;
  • having the Cowboy Plate at the Bread and Breakfast is a fine way to start the day;
  • the highway up to the McDonald Observatory is neither as winding nor as precipitous as I’d remembered;
  • thanks to recent rains, the Davis Mountains were green and, as always, very grand;
  • cool mornings and evenings felt wonderful (and hot days felt like something else but weren’t as bad as Austin’s);
  • we’re sorry our limited time didn’t allow us to visit Big Bend National Park;

    Inside view of Bread and Breakfast's front window. By Kathy Waller.
    Inside view of Bread and Breakfast’s front window. By Kathy Waller.
  • a mobile phone will work perfectly if the back is held on with a rubber band, and, when presented with said phone, a husband will laugh and reattached the back without a rubber band;
  • I was not responsible for the rear-ending;
  • Simple Green will probably remove dead banana muck from inside the Austin Mystery Writers tote bag; it will also probably remove the remnants of Creamy Bolognese from the outside of a camera case.
  • A package of Oreos lifts the spirits immeasurably.

Gale has just published a post on the Austin Mystery Writers blog about the Writers Retreat. She focused on what we learned in class.

But I prefer to focus on extracurricular activities. There’s an education to be had in them, too. Especially the part about the Oreos.



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Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
Big Bend National Park--Image via Wikipedia


Drove for seven hours, arrived only fifteen minutes before orientation, no time to change out of scruffy clothes before meeting instructor and classmates.

Dragged suitcases plus kitchen sink into a cabin at a 1950s-style motor court.

Foraged for food.

Prepared to fall into bed asap.

Picked up a novel, had to know how it ended, found out.

Turned out lights at 1:24 a.m.

Sat in class for five hours, writing, writing, writing.

Crashed in cabin, foraged again, crashed again.

Started on homework.

Homework. Honestly.

Who goes on retreat to do homework?

It’s been a pretty good two days.

Day 8: Connecting

My high school English teacher read the Day 7 post, the one in which I wrote that she told students we had important and relevant things to say.

That is the problem with blogging. At some point, you make a remark, a perfectly innocent remark, and the person you remarked about happens across it and reads it and calls you on it. Especially if you link the post to Facebook, and that person is one of your friends.

Anyway, said English teacher (who taught me in grades 8, 10, 11, and 12, so you see what we were both up against) asked whether she really said relevant and important, or whether she said, “Hush up and write.”

I admit it. “Hush up and write” was more her style.

And I really went overboard with relevant. I don’t think anyone I knew said relevant. It was one of those television words, ubiquitous and meaningless. The curriculum wasn’t relevant. School wasn’t relevant.

Relevant isn’t complete in itself. It needs something more. Relevant to what? And in whose opinion?

The 60s didn’t get to my part of Texas until late. And being as contrary then as I am now, I rebelled against the rebellion.

According to my husband, people should never send e-mails they wouldn’t want Ted Koppel to read on the air. David is correct. That goes for Facebook and blogs and all media, I’m sure.

Although I agree with his policy, however, I don’t follow it. Anyone who has read this blog knows that.

My one hope is that any potential employer who googles me and reads my work understands self-deprecating humor.

In other words, I’m neither as dumb nor as ditsy as I portray myself. Fiction is fiction and fact is fact, and in between there is irony.

If hired, I will be on time, work through breaks and lunch and do overtime, meet deadlines, take a personal interest in my work, and play well with others. I will spell correctly and use the serial comma. And I will not write about you on my blog.

I’ve been thinking about starting every post with that paragraph. Especially the post about my hereditary tendency to burn toast.

Although I write about my flaws, or pseudo-flaws, I am a private person. I want to choose what I tell and when and to whom. I don’t appreciate Facebook’s rabid desire to help me extend my social circle. I really really don’t appreciate Facebook’s sharing my information and not telling me, or making it difficult for me to lock down information I don’t want to share with people I don’t know.

There are days when I would like to close the account completely–as if that were possible, given FB’s determination not to delete it–but I’m in too deep. Closing out of FB would be like disconnecting both the telephone and the television. I don’t use either appliance very often, but giving them up would put me completely out of the loop.

No more pictures of Kenna wearing her little pink hat and grinning.

No more surprise messages from students I haven’t seen in years.

I’ve had the good fortune to “connect” with two women I first knew when they students. They were back-to-back winners of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, Young Adult Division. One has signed a book contract with a publisher. The other recently signed with an agent.

When their books come out, I’ll be jumping up and down.

I hope the high school from which they graduated will honor them by inviting them back to speak to current students. I hope the elementary and middle schools do the same.

I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.

Let me say that again.

I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.

Not for the writers’ sake, but for the sake of children who need to see that telling stories is important, that publishing a book is an event to be celebrated, that kids who once sat in those same classrooms grew  up to be writers.

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NaNoWriMo, MRI, TBF, and WLT

I’ve spent the past week writing and rewriting a post about attending the Texas Book Festival. No matter how many times I revised it, it sounded dull and complaining. Actually, it sounded worse than complaining, but if I use the word I have in mind, I would be crossing a line drawn in the sand years ago by both my grandmother and Emily Post, a Rubicon of sorts, and then who knows what might happen to my personal lexicon. It’s a slippery slope.

Suffice it to say the day was HOT and we got the last space in the parking garage, on the eighth level, and then found the elevator out of order. On the plus side, I visited with Sisters in Crime members Russ Hall and Sylvia Dickey Smith and got an autographed copy of Sylvia’s latest novel, A War of Her Own. On the minus side, Russ and Sylvia thought it was just as HOT as I did. They’d been inside that tent for two days as opposed to my two minutes. After taking a couple of pictures, I suggested that David get the car and pick me up. He did. He reported he climbed fourteen flights of eight steps each. I thanked him and turned the AC up to gale force. We ended at the Magnolia, where David got his omelet.

It still sounds like complaining.

Never mind.

I’ve signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–which begins November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight on November 30. Write-ins are planned all over the Austin area at coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. The Writers’ League of Texas will hold a lock-down (or maybe a lock-in) one night from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. I’ll go to write-ins but not the lock-down. I get claustrophobic thinking about being locked down, even metaphorically. It sounds too much like getting an MRI. It also sounds a lot like graduate school. Been there, done that.

Modified Rapture! I just checked the WLT Facebook page to find the date of the lock-down and instead found the sentence I wrote last Sunday at the TBF. On my way out, I picked up a prompt at the Writers’ League table, sat on the curb and wrote the rest of the sentence, then tossed it into the fishbowl. And voila! There it appears, among the Top 10. It’s #8. The honor is not on a par with publication of a book, of course, but it’ll do quite nicely for the time being.

To prepare for November 1, I’m reading  No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel, by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. He offers many valuable suggestions for surviving the month. One, however, should be excised before the book goes into another printing, namely the section headed “Eating Your Way to 50,000 Words,” which includes the sentence, “Allowing yourself loads of restaurant meals, sugary treats, and exotic beverages is the best way to keep your spirits high during the exhausting mental acrobatic routines you’ll be pulling off next month as you write.”

Restaurant meals and exotic beverages might work, but if I want to keep my spirits high, I’ll stay away from sugar. Last week is proof. Again. After a period of abstinence from white stuff, I ate a slice of bread, and in five days I was tripping down the primrose path arm-in-arm with a jar of red plum jam. It was not coincidence that the day after my rendezvous with said jam jar, I decided I should make a bonfire of all my pages, destroy my files, and give up writing altogether.

Lacking the energy to do all that, I took the pledge one more time, ate meat and green stuff, and the next day was back at the laptop.

My advice to anyone trying to do anything in thirty days: stay off the sugar and most of its relatives.

I have decades of experience in this area. With every paper I wrote in grad school, I put on five pounds and then spent several weeks taking it off. Sometimes losing it took longer. I carried Lord Tennyson around for months.

To Mr. Baty’s credit, the photo on the back cover of his book suggests that he’s never had a problem with sugar. If he were told of its poisonous properties, he might add a footnote saying readers should consult their medical professionals before eating their way to 50,000 words.

It’s after 2:00 a.m., and I swore Saturday morning that I would be in bed before midnight. I need to end this post but can’t figure out how to do that. Possibly because the post has no point. Probably because it’s after 2:00 a.m.

So I shall simply declare this is the end.



O frabjous day!

The prodigal laptop has returned.

The new hard drive is in place. Printer drivers, camera software, and antivirus program have been installed.

MS Word is being a bit passive-aggressive in refusing to open a couple of documents I wanted to transfer from the flash drive. Open Office stopped downloading for no apparent reason, but–

My laptop is back. On my lap.

I hate to say this, considering that David went to so much trouble figuring out how to back up the old hard drive, but I sort of like the laptop in its current state of pristinity.*

One column of icons runs down the left side of the desktop. Dozens of old icons have vanished: the files I threw there so I could postpone deciding where to store them; the files I threw there because I was afraid I’d forget where I’d stored them; the files I threw there because I intended to move them to the recycle bin in just a few minutes.

The desktop is so clean and neat. It’s like I tidied it up myself.

And the Documents folder is empty: a clean, white box that affords room to breathe.

At a Writers’ League of Texas meeting last year, author Cynthia Leitich Smith said she composes a first draft quickly, then prints it out and writes all over the hard copy. Then she disposes of the print-out, deletes the file, and begins a second draft from scratch.

I thought that was the bravest thing I’d ever heard, so brave it bordered on crazy.

But now I think I know how she must feel: an Incredible Lightness of Being. No old draft plucking at her clothing, pulling her down.

Of course, I don’t really know how she feels, because I haven’t disposed of anything. It’s all on the external hard drive, waiting to be reloaded.

We think.

And as I told David, if it isn’t there, so what? Most of what I care about is somewhere–on a flash drive or attached to an e-mail I sent myself–and what isn’t somewhere probably wasn’t worth saving.

Anyway, I had saved so many drafts of the novel under so many different names that I often became confused about which I was supposed to be working on. Now I have the crummy rough draft and the less crummy third (fourth? fifth? sixth?) revised beginning. That’s enough for anyone.

I talk big at 11:45 p.m. CST.

In the morning, things might not look so rosy. I might be repenting that attitude all over the place.

But I’ll think about that tomorrow.

For tomorrow is another day.


I know pristinity isn’t a word. But it should be. Once upon a time, chortle wasn’t a word either. If I’m going to get into the OED, I can’t spend all my time kowtowing to dictionary.com.