One of the things I love about the Writing Excuses Retreat is that the stratification between guest and host is not severe. There is some separation, but the hosts do an excellent job making us feel like we are all writers on the same journey; some are just further along the path than others.
I have found that I get the most out of these retreats by volunteering. It makes me feel like a more active participant, and in some small way, I feel like I’m giving back to this community that has already given me so much.
This year and last, I volunteered to help with Office Hours, which is just a time in the morning when some of the hosts go to a designated area and give one-on-one advice to people in 15 minute chunks. For anyone taking advantage of these times, it is invaluable, and it can be a real highlight of the entire trip. Volunteers help set up the space and manage the sign-up sheet, basically just doing their best to make sure that chaos doesn’t overtake the space.
This morning, thanks to the time change and the earlier start time, we only had one host available to offer their advice. One host and a shorted time meant only 3 time slots available, and they filled up fast, leaving a small number of writers looking to talk to somebody. I wound up sitting with someone and talking with them for 15 minutes about my experiences working with a small publisher, and some of the things I’ve learned over the last decade in the querying trenches. I wasn’t trying to pretend to be something I’m not. Regardless, it felt really good to give something back, and my conversation partner told me that I really helped her find some direction with the book she’s trying to publish.
I’m somewhere on the path. I have a long ways to go, but I’m not at the beginning anymore. I’ve made some progress, and I can share that progress with others. I’m happy to do so! With humility, though I have to admit I am quite proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.
This time on the cruise, I’ve been motivated to look at where I am on the path. I’m surrounded by other writers. Many, if not most, want what I have, which is a published novel. I’m not asking questions about how to write the story as much as what to do with it once it’s done.
Speaking of my book, I’ve made a conscious effort to talk about my book on this trip, but not shill it. This is a wonderful, welcoming community, and they’re happy to celebrate my success with me. With that in mind, I feel like it would be wrong to push my book here. There is a subtle difference, and this isn’t the time or place for certain types of self-promotion, and I feel like I’ve done a decent job of it.
It is Saturday. The end of the cruise and the retreat is in sight, and I’m sad to see it go. Time becomes elastic in this kind of environment, and sometimes the only way a person knows what day it is is by reading it off the tile in the elevators, changed nightly. This time, I can feel the end approaching, and I wish I had more time to write and relax. I’ve done a bad job at both this trip.
If you ever get a chance to go on one of these retreats, I highly recommend it! Wherever you are on your writer’s journey, you will find something here that helps you see the way more clearly.