Writing Retreat: Getting Away for a Few Days

This past weekend, I had the opportunity, thanks to some friends and the indulgence of an ever-suffering husband, to get away for a few days for a local writing retreat. I spent the weekend making some additional revisions to Small Town Ghosts and preparing a synopsis for the agents who requested to see my manuscript. Intense may be the best word to describe this retreat: we were four of the most focused writers you have ever seen. Between Jennifer M. Eaton and myself, I think we wrote almost 20,000 words.

Nockamixon Cabin

Nockamixon State Park

That’s not to say that it was ALL work. I roasted hot dogs over an open fire FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. Yes, I know, some of you are thinking, what kind of sheltered life did this girl lead? I grew up in South Philly. Wildlife was what you found in an empty lot.

We had a beautiful night Saturday with meteors and a full moon. And SMORES! Yummy!

Full moon over the woods

Moon over Nockamixon




Smores over an open fire







Sunday morning, we were up early for some more writing. I made my world-famous Challah french toast, using my mom’s homemade vanilla

Challah French Toast

Challah French Toast with homemade vanilla


If you’re a writer and you have the opportunity to take a few days to get away to write, do it!  Although I’d love to go away to Ireland or the Lake District or Cornwall for an international retreat, it doesn’t take a lot of money to plan a small, local retreat. We normally head to a state park where we can rent a cabin or stay at the hostel. Bring some food (casseroles and crock pot meals are perfect), some coffee, and wine and you are set. We normally use the spreadsheet function in Google Drive to plan and divvy up needed items.

It truly is amazing how much work you can get done when you are two or three days of dedicated writing time.  To close, I’ll leave you with a short excerpt from Small Town Ghosts, where Sam brings Aaron to her house for the first time:

Aaron reached the door and began climbing to the landing, where the light through a round rose window played kaleidoscope on the stairs. Up another two flights until they reached the third floor, which was taken solely by Sam’s bedroom.

A canopy bed, draped in deep purples, dominated the center of the room. Sam turned on the window air conditioner then flopped down on her comforter. “So, what do you think?”

Bookshelves lined one wall while an armoire took up another. Dried roses hung from a peg over a long table covered with glass jars and other trinkets, and band posters decorated the rest of the available wall space.

“It’s so very you,” he said, squinting, his attention caught by something on her night stand. “Is that a…a hand?”

Sam rolled over and picked it up. “This? Yeah, it’s a mummified hand my dad bought me a few years ago. Pretty cool, huh? Genuine too.”

“Right, cool.” Great, she thinks mummified hands are cool.

“Come on, I’ll show you some other stuff I’ve collected.”

They spent the next hour looking at some of varied souvenirs she brought back from her travels, including a shard of a terra cotta pot from a dig that made Aaron think of sun-baked lands and wandering nomads.


Lines on the Pines and Liberty States Writers’ conference news

“The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity…”

A. Edward Newton

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of working a table at the Lines on the Pines book and art festival in Hammonton, NJ, trying to sell our anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. If you’re not familiar with the name Hammonton, then perhaps the words Jersey Devil might ring a bell, because yeah, we were in Pine Barrens country. We sold and autographed several copies of the book but what was really amazing was the array of goods available – everything from books, to art, to jewelry, to handmade crafts. The arts are alive and well in South Jersey! It was a great day and here are some pictures:

Amy Hollinger, editor, and Jennifer M. Eaton with some of her work

Amy Hollinger, editor, and Jennifer M. Eaton with some of her work

Jeff Markowitz and Ilene Schneider with their books!

Jeff Markowitz and Ilene Schneider with their books!

Jon Gibbs selling his books, including his latest, Barnum's Revenge!

Jon Gibbs selling his books, including his latest, Barnum’s Revenge!

Marie Gilbert, anthology co-editor

Marie Gilbert, anthology co-editor

Then just this past weekend, I was able to attend the Liberty States Writers’ conference with co-conspirator Amy Hollinger, where I attended several workshops, met with the great agents, and again was able to hang out with friends, old and new. It was a fabulous experience. Jonathan Maberry gave the lunchtime keynote speech and once again, I was inspired to hear him talk. He’s very much a man of positive energy and you can feel that emanating from him.

After the workshops, I attended the book fair where I spent too much money and bought even more books (my to-read stack is growing exponentially), including Poison Study by Maria Snyder, Dark Music by E.F. Watkins, and Barnum’s Revenge by the above-pictured Jon Gibbs. I also met the wonderfully cool K.A. Mitchell who was a complete doll.

After the book fair was a pizza party (at this point, a glass of red wine was called for!) and some music and dancing. All in all, I had a productive, fun, amazing weekend. I will definitely be returning next year!