Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writer for a Weekend

 During MLK weekend (1/13-1/15/12) I was fortunate enough to attend a Novel Revision Retreat facilitated by Darcy Pattsion at the beautiful Camp Allen.  I had heard about the retreat from Vonna Carter over a year ago. I saw her highlighted shrunken manuscript and was blown away. So when Darcy came back to Texas, I jumped at the chance to attend.

The group minus Linda Leschak, who I stole this picture from.

I had HIGH expectations for this retreat. I expected to come home with a completely revised version of my new YA ms and I expected my life as a writer to be forever changed. Well, of course those expectations were ridiculous. Only one of them was met.

I still have a lot of work to do on my revision.

For the retreat we sent in a complete draft of our manuscripts and were placed in groups of 4. I read my group members' novels along with 2 required craft books and showed up to Camp Allen ready to revise. I was lucky enough to be placed in a group with Linda Leschak, Melissa Buron, and Bettina Restrepo. Their stories are wonderful and their feedback was invaluable.

Throughout the retreat we used Darcy's workbook, Novel Metamorphosis, to dive into our stories and begin our revision. The shrunken manuscript technique is incredibly useful and what this retreat is known for. But I felt the most valuable part of the retreat was to spend an entire weekend thinking about nothing except writing my book and having three writers who had read my story available to bounce ideas off of.

The retreat was intense. If you're looking for a writerly vacation, this is not it. We started early and worked late, breaking only for food (mmmm blackberry cobbler and ice cream), coffee, and the occasional glass of wine. Darcy's jam-packed workshop coupled with Camp Allen's rustic and peaceful setting made it easy to focus only on the writing.

I left for the retreat as a girl who writes books. It was a secret ambition, this dream that is too big to say out loud. I didn't talk to my co-workers and non-writing friends about my writing very much. When I left work early on Friday for the retreat, I was coy about where I was going, making jokes about going to summer camp.

But once I arrived at Camp Allen, I was no longer Alyson-the-financial-aid-advisor, Alyson-the-former-teacher, Alyson-the-wife, Alyson-the-daughter, or Alyson-the-sister. I wasn't Alyson-whose-leaves-need-to-be-raked, or Alyson-who-really-needs-to-start-excercising. I was Alyson-the-writer.

I was a writer for an entire weekend. I took myself and my craft seriously and the other writers did so as well. It's a weird thing we do, sitting alone in a room with our imaginary characters. Spending time with other people who do the same thing was incredibly validating.

It's been almost a month since I've left Camp Allen, but the feeling has remained. I'm not a girl who dabbles or plays or scribbles. I'm a writer and my stories are worth telling.


  1. Alright, now I've got to go to this retreat! What an amazing experience!

  2. It WAS fantastic! I feel exactly the same way Alyson- I'm really much more focused now on both my manuscript I took to the conference and writing in general. Wish I could do that every month! :-)

    And yes, HDE, you MUST go next time!

    1. Yes, I wish I could do something like that once a month too! And yes, Heather needs to do it next time!