“Retreat!” The command conjures images of troops scurrying away from an onslaught of bullets, bayonets, and cannonballs. Smoke lifts from the battlefield and casualties lay dead and dying.
Last week I felt like a tired soldier– exhausted, bloody and bruised. Truly, the metaphor is a little dramatic but when I arrived at VCFA for the weekend Alumni Mini Residency, I was stressed, and tired, and well… sad. Not only have I been a geographical single parent since January (my husband is deployed with the US Navy) but six weeks ago, I sent my other love, my YA manuscript, out into the world of literary agents and it has been met with an ear-splitting silence. (BTW: No response as a decline is neither courteous nor professional but that has already been hashed and rehashed. Argh.)
Throughout the weekend, the energy and love of friends helped me shed my sadness. I gave and got plenty of hugs, took copious notes at lectures and workshop, and spent way too much money on dinners. Then came the retreat.
Four days of relaxation and writing at an 1828 farmhouse in Sheffield, Massachusetts. A day in the life? We all woke at our own pace. We flipped open laptops and got to work– some writing, some revising, some emailing, some reading. The work was punctuated with laughter, conversation, and questions: “So in the subjunctive…” or “How would a thirteen year old say…” or “Hey, the stuff I wrote yesterday isn’t half bad!” Writer’s bliss.
Because we all pitched in on meals and clean-up, the place felt like home even though it looked like a high-scale B&B. When things got particularly hot and humid, and the fans weren’t doing their job, we went swimming or took guilt-free naps. (Naps, by the way, are crucial to the creative process. More on this later.)
Coming home, I realized that my shoulders had dropped about four inches of tension. I was happy, relaxed and rejuvenated– ready to face another round of agent submissions and to welcome my children home from sleep-away camp.