Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Consider a “DO-IT-YOURSELF” Writers' Retreat! Eileen Meyer talks about hanging out with your tribe, fueling inspiration and gettin’ things done!

by Eileen R. Meyer

Are you looking for:
·       An opportunity to hang out with a small group of fellow writers?
·       A chance to sharpen your focus and get work done with minimal distractions?
·       A place where kidlit topics populate the agenda?
·       A way to keep costs reined in?

Friend Julie Phend writing outside on the patio.
Then maybe you should consider participating in a WRITERS’ RETREAT ...

One that you could even put together YOURSELF!

As they say at Nike – “Just do it!”
And so a small group of us did!  Here’s our story . . .

Earlier this year, two friends from my writing tribe (who live in different parts of the country) came to visit me in Florida for a DO-IT-YOURSELF WRITERS’ RETREAT!

Backtracking -- a few years ago, my husband and I bought a home in north Florida near the ocean. It’s a beautiful location and provides the perfect getaway for friends and family, BUT you don’t need an ocean hideway. You can host a writing retreat ANYWHERE –at a friend’s cabin in the woods, a relative’s place that they are willing to share, or any location that offers space for a few people, plus a temporary retreat from the outside world. When I offered to host the retreat, long-time pals and fellow kidlit writers, Dana Easley and Julie Phend jumped at the opportunity to leave chilly climates for a springtime getaway. So we put our plans in motion.

Our objectives:
·       Each writer would bring an existing project that needed attention.
·       Weather-permitting, we hoped to get daily exercise to break up extended periods of sitting (or standing) and writing each day.
·       Our schedule would include focused morning and afternoon writing sessions.
·       We ate simple breakfast and lunch meals at home to maximize our writing time. Everyone pitched in with kitchen chores.
·       We read an inspirational message before each meal and discussed what we thought about it. Mealtime also gave us an opportunity to discuss stumbling blocks and get feedback before our next writing session. Sometimes we provided a speedy critique on a short piece if someone needed immediate feedback before they could write on.
·       Most evenings we ventured into town and had a nice casual dinner. It was good to get out of the house and nice to have someone else make our dinner.
·       Evenings were reserved for critiques or Q&A time. Each writer had 30-45 min to get input on a topic of their choice.
·       And of course, we wanted to enjoy our time together as friends, laugh and have FUN!

By the end of our retreat we hoped that each writer would feel she had accomplished much more than she would have at home. We each planned to make significant progress without the constraints of our typical daily schedule. We also wanted to leave the retreat on a “writing high” – eager to resume our regular lives, yet pumped up with a lot of energy to keep moving forward on our projects.

As the retreat host, I tried to provide a framework for success:

Each writer had her own room and desk for writing. (There were other spots for work, as well.)

I put together four special messages (excerpts from writing guides or inspirational blog posts) for each day of the retreat.

We started each day with a walk on the beach. One morning we made a point to get out extra early to watch the sun rise above the ocean – that was a fabulous way to begin the day. 

It felt good to stretch our legs and get some exercise; we usually spent an hour walking and talking.

Dana Easley working on her novel in the family room
after a morning of writing in her guest room.

For morning and afternoon writing sessions – we mixed it up. Sometimes, we each moved to a new spot inside or outside. Changing our setting helped us feel refreshed and energized.
Julie Phend editing her work in a new spot.
What else did we do?

Left to right: Dana, Eileen, Julie dining out.
A few nights we ate in, other nights we headed out for dinner. 

Shell and sea glass hunting.

We usually went back to the beach for another walk after dinner. Most days we averaged well over 15,000 steps, sometimes almost 20,000! 

Hunting for shells and bits of shiny sea glass gave our minds a much needed break – and also provided time to ruminate about a pesky plot or character problem. 


Here is what each of us had to say about this experience:

“I came to the retreat having just re-worked the plot of my novel-in-progress. I hoped to get feedback on the changes and a jump-start on writing the needed revisions. Both goals were accomplished--and more! It was the ideal setting:  dedicated time to think and write without distractions, coupled with supportive colleagues who already know my work. One night we even brainstormed ideas for selling and marketing a prior novel, which I have passed on to my agent. We worked hard and had fun doing it! I appreciated this retreat so much and came home filled with new vigor and determination.”   -- Julie Phend

“I came to the retreat with two goals in mind: to overcome creative lethargy that had set in over manuscript revisions requested by my agent and to spend some time brainstorming in the company of writing colleagues. The retreat was exactly what I needed. Both the time dedicated to concentrated writing and the camaraderie of fellow writers kickstarted my creative process and got me back on track with my manuscript. The inspirational messages and conversation recharged my writer batteries and gave me the push I needed to complete my revisions the following week and to develop a strategy for prioritizing writing going forward.” – Dana Easley

“I looked forward to spending time with dear friends and working on poems for a collection I hope to complete this year. I continued to make progress, and found it helpful to discuss the project with fellow writers and get instant feedback that shaped the direction of the picture book. The retreat was a big success – by the end of our time together, I felt a greater sense of enthusiasm for the project, my work benefited from instant feedback, and time spent with my friends was a needed break from the typical solitary life of daily writing!” – Eileen Meyer

Hands-down, our writers’ retreat was a GREAT experience!

So maybe it’s time to think about setting up your own “DO-IT-YOURSELF” Writers’ Retreat!

I’ll close with a favorite writing and friendship quote . . .

Stay tuned – fellow GROG Blogger Chris Mihaley will post an article about her experience creating a do-it-yourself writing retreat in the coming weeks. It's always nice to have another perspective and additional ideas regarding how to set this up. Hopefully, both of our experiences will inspire you to carve out some special time for your writing soon!


  1. Eileen, this sounds like a successful gathering, thanks in part to your good organizing and planning. My group of 5 gathered at Highlights Foundation -- I just got home on Monday and I'm looking forward to sharing more about our retreat. Thanks for the post!

    1. Great, Christy! I hope that your get-away at Highlights provided you with the right environment to move forward on projects. How could it not - their location is gorgeous! YAY!

  2. great ideas to inspire others! thanks for sharing them. We did one last week (Christy will write about it) and I have a friend that hosts a 3-day retreat every year at her house. Lots gets done at these.

    1. Agreed, Sue! We all need to "run away from home" sometimes to get a project across the finish line! Glad you had your own writing retreat.

  3. What a marvelous idea. Sounds like your home is an ideal location! Tha nks for sharing.

    1. Come visit me Carmela! Inspiration all around :) We had fun with our own writing retreat.

  4. You've got it made with a home by the beach! Sounds awesome!

    1. Thanks, Tina. It's a good spot for writing and inspiration without too many interruptions. Being near the ocean is a real treat. (Just want the hurricanes to stay away!)