Spring Writer’s Retreat

The four of us drove to a cottage in a town not far from where the Mississippi and Illinois rivers join for a weekend writer’s retreat. What an awesome setting and a great time we had! There was much laughter and writing as we worked together on our individual projects.

As a mother of younger children (who I love dearly, mind you), these retreats not only give me time to think (and to go to the bathroom alone!), but for precious uninterrupted writing time. It is great to get in the groove and be able to stay there for a long stretch without having to answer a homeschooling question or change a dirty diaper or stir the Crockpot. It is also good for the family to experience life without mom for a while and then appreciate me more when I get home (who doesn’t want that?!). It’s a win, win!

There’s something about getting together with likeminded writers and spending a weekend together. We always bring way too much food, and stuff the refrigerator with enough food to feed a small town. And we share jokes and stories from our families and talk about books we’ve read or are reading now.

Other Benefits

Going on retreat also gives me time to think through a novel in progress, or what direction another project needs to go, or about a character’s background or a host of other things that need serious quiet thinking. And the time away energizes me to keep going and to figure out goals for the next conference or retreat.

Getting away from regular routine living is always refreshing and can help creativity flourish. It’s also a great way to ask each other questions and get input on wherever we are on our books. We seem to feed off each other which inspires us to get more work done.

Other Retreat Possibilities

Maybe a whole weekend away is not in your future or possible economically. But there are other ways to go on ‘retreat’—many of them free or for just a few dollars. Perhaps a trip to the local library for a peaceful work atmosphere would satisfy, or reading a book in a quiet café or jazz bar can rejuvenate your spirit. Being outdoors in nature is always a good bet. Just sitting in the sunshine with a book works for me. Another idea is to visit a park depending on the weather to people watch or read a book. Do something you enjoy for a few hours either alone or with a friend without feeling guilty. It’s important to fill ourselves up, especially as women or mothers who might have little ones who constantly need us.

What works for you? How do you ‘retreat’ from life for a while? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you and get new ideas.

Michelle

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The Year Spring Dawned Slowly

It was 2014 and winter drug on like a leftover pot of company stew. Except that the winter wasn’t better with each subsequent serving. Snow after snow, storm after storm, and the coldest temperatures we had endured in a couple of decades.

Most years spring weather precedes the date on the calendar. No so in the year twenty fourteen.

The first day of spring came with hope and expectation and a batch of snow and ice followed a few days later. And again a few days after that. And the cold stayed. We would have a tiny tease of a beautiful day. Then the reality of the unending winter returned.

Then one day the air smelled differently. Not much, but significantly. It did not hold the hint of winter, but instead of promise, of warmth, or new life. It was not evident yet, but we all hoped in unison.

The trees budded slowly. The red buds hid their color. The apple blossoms didn’t, even they could not be sure. But the buds began to appear, one by one.

As I write this, I still put my fleece jacket on in the morning and haven’t scheduled our first picnic yet, but I am on the lookout for color.

Some things in life are slow to leave like this winter: challenges, hardships, strain, writer’s block. And some things are slow to come like this spring: release, breakthrough, answers to prayer, ideas and story lines.

But eventually the seasons of hardship melt away and the season of peacefulness dawns. Even if it happens slowly, it will happen. Even if it is hard to believe, it happens.

“He changes times and seasons …” Daniel 2:21

Patricia Meyers

A novel for pre-teen girls

A novel for pre-teen girls

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Still the Winter of Discontent

Someone forgot to tell the clouds it is spring. We awoke this morning to an inch of snow on the grass. Not on the concrete or asphalt of the streets, mind you, just the grass. The children are not going to miss a day of school and commuters will not be delayed because of the crystalized white stuff, but in terms of morale it is a terrible reminder that winter is not finished with us yet. “Now is the winter of our discontent.” says Richard III in the opening line of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. Boy, did he have that right. Maybe Richard was talking about his discontent over his brother Edward gaining the crown. Or maybe he was in anguish over being a lame hunchback in comparison to his “Sun” King brother but no matter. We borrow his words for today.

Winter has many allegories but discontent is the center of them all. For instance, winter of life refers to being aged; nuclear winter refers to the time after a cataclysmic nuclear event which throws our planet into a perpetual winter resulting in the death of all living things; winter is a time of life and death struggle against the elements in which all living things fight to live. Only the heartiest or the smartest win this battle. Cozied up in our houses with forced central heating, fireplaces and snuggly sweaters we look out at winter and wait for spring while outside creatures of the wild, both large and small battle the cold to stay alive. Winter can also be a symbol of being frozen in place. Artists and writers are the most commonly referenced for this type of creative lock-up but people from all walks of life can experience a winter of the soul.

Life guarantees nothing save a winter of the soul experience. Add that to Benjamin Franklin’s quote, please. “The only things certain in life are death and taxes“, and if you live long enough, a winter of the soul experience.  Thank-you.  Feel free to use that line anytime but make sure you reference properly.

Now that we have had our little break from seriousness, I would like to end on an encouraging note. By now you have identified either a past winter of the soul experience or have been reminded of an ongoing winter of the soul circumstance. First, I am sorry for your pain and the cold wind that blows over bare soil covering your loss. Second, pick up your beverage of choice from the fridge, coffee pot or microwave and go to the window. Look out. What do you see? Is there a fine layer of snow on the grass?   Are there clouds frowning from the sky? Is the sun struggling to add a cheery light over the brown and gray landscape? Now reach beyond what you see and listen. Do you hear the chirp of a bird, the bark of a dog or the snore of your cat dozing on a pillow like I do? Okay, maybe not the cat or the dog, but let’s focus on the bird.

When you hear a bird sing it means winter will not win. Spring will come. I believe death is not the end and one day the Son will appear and make all things new. This discontent I feel is because there was never supposed to be winter in any form, whether it be of the soul or covering the ground with snow.  We wait in this intemperate state for our Redeemer King to end our winter of discontent and begin the eternal spring.

 

Susan

In The Kitchen Again Soups, Stews and Casseroles (Kindle Edition)

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Writer’s Retreat

Last year our little writer’s group decided we would shoot for taking two retreats a year where we really focus on writing. Our third retreat is this weekend and my excite-o-meter is set on SILLY. Because I am silly-excited. :)

We have had two retreats that have proven that really focusing three hour blocks of time on writing is like a sprint: you cover some distance in a short amount of time. So going into this weekend, I know I will make some headway on my projects.

Yes, that is plural. I tried to make it so I would only focus on one, but God keeps stirring me with this second project. Yes, I am blaming God. :) So I will give at least one of the three hour blocks to this second project and see what comes.

There is nothing like spending focused time on your goal or dream or heart-wish. And that is exactly what we will be doing. We have been planning for it as we have worked over the past months so that we are all in a place to sprint. I can’t wait to see what is accomplished.

Plus we laugh a lot. Seriously. A.L.O.T. If laughter is good medicine, we are in for some healing time.

We leave tomorrow at noon and return Sunday. Then I treated myself to an extra day off work on Monday so I could continue the focus and downtime.

How about you? Do you have a goal or heart-wish that has been stirring inside you? Can you set aside a weekend or a day or a block of time to focus on it and see where it takes you?

Do it! It is so worth it: fulfilling, satisfying, and exciting all at the same time.

The Bible tells us “He gives us the desires of our heart.” Those desires might just be coming from Him. Give them some time. Award them some of your focused energy. You might be in for quite a treat!

Blessings!

Pat

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Changing Goals

It’s a good thing I’m my own boss.  Sometimes I don’t know what I want to accomplish, other times there’s more to do than I can realistically get to.  I am forever changing what project I’m working on, which for some could be a hazard, but for others a benefit.

This month I was going to work on the edits for my memoir and get that done.  But recently in my email inbox I received a reminder for a novel contest deadline with a mid-March deadline.  I decided I would try to get a synopsis (yikes), the first chapter properly formatted, and a headshot of myself prepared for this contest.  No problem.  Right?

I decided this with only about two weeks before the deadline and it is now looming.  Last week I worked out a rough draft of the synopsis that looks pretty good.  And then I worked on the first chapter, deleting the boring parts.  Yes, unfortunately I had a few of those. As soon as I get this done and off my ever changing to-do list, it’s back to the memoir edits and the usual monthly book reviews.  This week I had three reviews due, to squeeze in around the contest work.

Luckily, I have the freedom to make these changes and don’t have anyone breathing down my neck to get projects done.  Which makes it good and bad for me.  I love the freedom to choose most of my own deadlines, but it’s also nice to sometimes get them from others, to keep me on track.

The writing life is full of these give and takes, and choices to make.  And that’s why I love it.  As long as I’m making progress—I can’t write a novel without sitting down and writing—I know I’m working toward my goals.

And if by chance I get past the first round of the contest, or even if I don’t, it has been good practice working on a novel synopsis, editing, and following specific rules.  It will be great to get feedback from someone who hasn’t lived and breathed this novel for the last several years and to get other eyes on it who can give suggestions for improvement.

I don’t know any other job I could do that is this much fun and this much work at the same time.  But I’m thankful to do it and try to give it my best.

Michelle

 

 

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Treason–A Book Review

Here’s a book some of you may enjoy.  Happy reading!

Treason

By Don Brown

© 2005 Zondervan Publishers

Zack Brewer, JAG officer for the US Navy, is one of the best naval prosecutors currently stationed in San Diego.  His next case involves the rape of Ensign Marianne Landrieu.  Brewer wins the case and then is offered a chance of a lifetime by Landrieu’s uncle, Louisiana Senator Roberson Fowler.  Senator Fowler offers Brewer a sure win on the congressional Democratic ticket due to a retiring member.  Brewer is stunned and flattered.  In the back of his mind, he wonders what the catch is.  He doesn’t know what to say but asks for time to think it over, as it would mean leaving the Navy.  His dream is to be salt and light in the political arena and this seems a perfect fit.  The offer comes while he’s on vacation, but then Brewer is immediately called back to work on a case of upmost importance. The safety of America is at stake and he’s given a case to prosecute radical Muslims who’ve infiltrated the Navy as chaplains who have recruited underlings to commit sabotage and murder followed by self martyrdom.  He’ll be pitted up against a powerful author and attorney who hasn’t lost a case yet.  Does Brewer have a chance?  He teams up with formidable rival attorney Colcernian to fight the case that may break or make his future political plans.  A great story that keeps the pages moving, but some of the military jargon and acronyms bog it down at times.  Readers who enjoy espionage, suspense and military stories will find this a great read.

Michelle

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Keep On Keeping On

Today the School Crossing guard waved at me. It was a magic moment.

Why on earth, you might ask would a wave be magic?

Well, I would answer, it goes like this. For the last twelve years the same man has been at the school crossing that I drive by almost every day. He is there come rain, shine, sleet, snow or the occasional tornado. The man is never late and never seems to take vacations. He is good with the kids and appears conscientious in every way. He is so well regarded that he was profiled in our local newspaper. The one thing he seems not to be is friendly.

How, you may be wondering, can you say the poor man is not very friendly when he works with children?

I’ll tell you how. He never smiles. I mean never. Not when the kids have their cute Halloween costumes on and give him candy (Yes, I’ve watched), not when they walk arm in arm in their little plaid uniforms singing at the top of their lungs on the way to school. Not even when it’s “Bring your pet to school day” and the smallest girl on the block brings a basket of kittens. The man is impervious to cute.

But there’s more. He also doesn’t wave. For twelve years, I have waved at the guard every time my car passed by him. Yes, he is focused on his job, but really, when no kids are in sight would it have killed him to give his wrist a little exercise?  He would look me RIGHT IN THE EYE and then look away.

Imagine my elation, then, when today he looked at me and waved. Not heartily, maybe even a little reluctantly, but nevertheless, his wrist moved back and forth. It was a glorious moment. It was confirmation that no matter how remote the possibility seems, persistence pays off. Persistence and patience.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? As I drove away basking in the warmth of the crossing guard’s wave, I realized, once again, the value of tenacity.  Writing is a life lesson in being ignored. It might take years of hard work before you are published. Being ignored when you offer your best work will most surely be frustrating. People might turn their backs on your best effort.

If, however, you keep trying even though your efforts seem futile. If you keep submitting even though the agents/editors/publishers look away no matter how clever your work is. If you don’t lose your enthusiasm and keep plugging along, even while being ignored, your day will come. Your crossing guard will wave. And it will be a magic moment.

Bev.

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