writer’s retreats

Writer’s Retreats

I went to a writers retreat hosted by Broad Universe in mid-March. Broad Universe is a networking group for women who write speculative fiction. I’ve been a member for several years. This retreat was held at Starfield Farm in central Massachusetts. There were lots of trees, birds, peace and quiet. I spent four days working on short stories, blog posts and part of a novel.

Everyone cooked in some fashion. I had brought cookies I had made at home. One woman made some delicious Mexican food. Another made scrumptious kugel. I was in gustatory heaven, which made the experience ever more enjoyable. During the evenings we socialized, drank homemade mead and sangria made by two of the women, and enjoyed a brief snowfall.

The isolation and quiet made for easy writing. The house dog (the retreat’s mascot) came to me often for petting (and hoping for table scraps), which was a nice break. I did finish a short story and I wrote two blog posts. The novel is coming along nicely.

I like writers retreats more than conventions now. For one thing, I think I get more for my money. I am not trapped behind a table in the dealer’s room for eight to ten hours at a time. I can rest whenever I want to which is important at my age. And I felt inspired by all the other women around me and by the locale. Writers retreats are well worth the money I spend on them for room and board, which was inexpensive for this one.

If you are a writer and are in the market for a writer’s retreat, here are a few to apply for that I’ve read are worthwhile:

Wellspring House Retreat – Located in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Wellspring is open year round. Rates per week are reasonable and vary depending on season and if you are coming along as an individual or a couple.

Yaddo – This one is an artist’s retreat that welcomes writers. You must apply to be accepted. According to Wikipedia, collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, one Nobel Prize, and more. The name “Yaddo” rhymes with “shadow”.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Retreat – Can you imagine your muse inspiring you in the Rocky Mountains? Then, you’d like this retreat. This retreat spans three nights and often includes agent and author guests. Prices vary up to $399 for a private bedroom for the duration of the retreat. You may also stay for one day for $65 including meals.

Retreats located outside the U. S. that may appeal include the Himalayan Writers Retreat, Luova Retreats in Provence, France, and the women-only A Writer Within in Tuscany.

I may be going on another writers retreat near Cape Cod around Memorial Day weekend. This one is also hosted by Broad Universe. It is a bit more expensive, but that’s okay. It’s five days long and at a beach house. The rate is higher because it’s the beginning of the peak summer season. Once again, we’ll provide our own food and there will be plenty of peace and quiet. One thing I like about these retreats is I tend to see the same people over and over again since this is the New England chapter of Broad Universe, which is very active. I plan on soaking up some rays, walking on the beach, and getting lots of writing done. These retreats are a welcome part of my writing future.


Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats.

Web site: http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethblack


Writer's Retreats – It's Good To Be Busy

It’s good to be busy.

I just returned from a retreat and a networking evening.
Both events took place on the Massachusetts coast. I’ve decided that I prefer
retreats to conventions now. Less unpleasant commitment and much cheaper, if
you work the retreats the right way. The retreat in Hampton, New Hampshre two
weekends ago was free because it was for members of Broad Universe. That’s a
networking group for women who write speculative fiction (and other forms of
fiction). I worked on Full Moon Fever,
my bisexual male werewolves erotic romance novella I’m turning into a novel. I
also worked on Neighbors, a lesbian
short story reprint for a new submission call about sexy neighbors. I’m also
going to submit a new story for that one. I learned of the submission call from
the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. I get lots of use from this group.

The interesting thing about Full Moon Fever is that it employs “The Other” (or
“The Double”), which is an archetype of twins who are really mirror
opposites of each other but aren’t related at all. They are two people who look
very much alike but they compliment each other. Two men in Full Moon Fever are
dead ringers for each other, but they are very much different. One man, when asked
if he’d like to get it on with his look-alike, says “I’ve always wanted to
have sex in the third person.” Two women, who are lovers, are also
look-alikes who are very different. One is quiet while the other is chatty. One
is pensive while the other is boisterous. I have a thing about “The
Other”. There is another set of opposites in a WIP family saga thriller
I’m working on.  These two women are
mirror images of each other. One is dark – dark hair, dark eyes – while the
other is light – blond hair, eyes so pale blue the irises disappear into her
whites. She looks blind but she sees all. I want to explore this archetype much
more. It’s a fascinating one. Are they related or not? Why is the blonde so
interested in the brunette? What’s her secret? Those are some questions driving
the book.

The Broad Universe retreat was the first retreat where I
actually did any writing. LOL My first retreat was the Stanley Hotel Writers
Retreat last October in Estes Park, Colorado. This one is for horror writers. My
husband and I had such a good time last year we’re returning this year. The
Stanley Hotel is where Stephen King stayed, and the hotel in its then rundown
condition spooked him so much it inspired him to write The Shining. I didn’t get a stitch of work done. I went to talks,
meals, hangouts, and even had some marijuana cookies and cream cake balls since
pot is legal in Colorado. I learned I can’t write worth spit when I’m stoned.
All I do is stare into space, drool and giggle. Someone recommended I eat half
a cake ball (or a quarter) the next time and see how I feel. It would be
interesting to write when stoned. I write when tipsy which is fun. Maybe my
writing will end up looking like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. LOL

Here are pictures of North Beach in Hampton, NH which was in
front of the beach house where I did my writing. I walked on the beach each morning. Talk about inspiring!

The networking event is called the Writers Coffee House New England and
this month’s meeting was held an hour away from my home at a bookstore. The
meeting room was packed! I met old friends and made plenty of new ones. This
was a networking meet-and-greet discussion event. Although the majority of
writers wrote horror (including myself and this is New England we’re talking
about – home of the witch trials, Shirley Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft), the
advice applied to any writer. I picked up more tips about how to promote my
upcoming releases. I also learned that if I find a publisher for my family saga
thriller, I should write to the agent at the top of my list and pitch my book
before I sign the contract. Say I need an agent to look over and negotiate the
contract for me. Apparently, it’s easier to find an agent for a book that has
already been accepted. That’s news to me. I need to investigate the best
cozy/mystery/thriller publishers and send the book out, but first I need to
divide it in two. It’s a mega novel and far too large to sell as one book. One
agent who rejected me told me that. He was right. But that’s a fixable problem.
My husband came with me. We ended the evening at dinner at a restaurant with about
15 of the attendees. Then, we headed to a hotel where I had booked a jacuzzi room
for under $100 per night. We spent our time soaking and drinking – he Campari,
me Fra Angelico. Now that’s a weekend get-away!

Next month I attend the When Words Count retreat in the
mountains of Vermont. I won my stay at this one so it costs only for food. I’ve
never been to Vermont. This will be my first time. Maybe I’ll run into Bernie
Sanders. LOL I plan to finish Full Moon
and hand it in to Xcite Books after Xcite publishes my new erotic
romance novel No Restraint. That one
is a corporate and food porn erotica with elements of billionaire erotica. I
plan to write, takes walks on the mountain trails, and relax with some wine
when I’m not writing. We write all day and eat dinner together and chit chat
about our work at night. I’m going to enjoy this.

Finally, in June, my husband and I are attending No-Con. It
was originally Anthocon, a horror convention, but the organizers aren’t able to
do it this year. Two of them moved on. There were four total. They were
nicknamed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sadly, Anthocon is no more. Despite
the lack of convention this year, the regulars wanted to get together anyway,
so No-Con was born. It’s just a gathering where everyone can get together and
hang out. We got a great rate on the hotel, which I have to reserve soon. I get
to see everyone I hung out with last year. No pressure of manning tables,
readings or selling books. Just hang out in the bar, eat, and drink and
schmooze. I can get used to this!

I definitely like these retreats and get-togethers. I want
to make a habit of them. If you can get away to retreats, I highly recommend
them. The networking opportunities are phenomenal and I find them to be less
stressful than conventions. Plus, they’re just fun. Fun is always a good thing.

The Stanley Hotel – My First Writer's Retreat

Elizabeth Black
writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and
dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and
two cats. Visit her
web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

I’m breathing the crisp, thin air of Estes Park, Colorado
right now. I’m attending the Stanley Hotel Writer’s Retreat, my very first
writer’s retreat. This one is for horror, but since it’s my first retreat I
thought I’d report on it. I bought the short story package, and my two stories will be critiqued after the retreat.

The Stanley Hotel is the hotel Stephen King stayed in that
inspired him to write The Shining. He
stayed in room 217, which is supposedly haunted. We’re in room 319, which is
not haunted. I tried to book room 401, which is also haunted, but someone beat
me to it. The Concert Hall and the fourth floor are haunted as well. I went to
the fourth floor and took pictures, but no ghosts. Yet. Here is a shot of the
haunted fourth floor hallway. I fully expected to see two very creepy little
girls hanging out at the end of the hall. Redrum!

We drove from the northeast coast of Massachusetts (any more
east and you’re in the ocean) to Estes Park, Colorado. It took us four days to
get to Denver, where we stayed overnight and took advantage of pot tourism in
the state. We bought edibles since we don’t want to smoke – Cookies and Cream
Cake Bites and sublingual Energizing Tablets, both infused with marijuana. Recreational marijuana is no longer seeds and twigs in a plastic sandwich baggie. I had no idea it was so fancy! The
tablets were okay but those cake bites are amazing. Pure chocolate decadence and a very mellow high. I
discovered something very important – I cannot write when baked. LOL I drool
when baked, and that’s about it. We’re enjoying the mellow in our hotel room
when things are slow, which isn’t often. We also have Jacuzzi jets in the
bathtub, and I’m taking full advantage tonight after all the events for the day
die down.

We saw elk taking their good old time crossing the road on
the way to the hotel. I understand the elk own the roads out here, so who am I
to complain? LOL

The Opening Scaremonies (after all, this is a horror writer’s
retreat) consisted of our Guests Of Honor horror writers and editors you’ve likely
never heard of since you read and write erotic fiction and romance. In case you
have heard of them, they are Trent Zelazny, Jack Ketchum, Josh Malerman, Chris Morey, and
Daniel Knauf. One of next year’s Guests of Honor is Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club. If we can swing it, we’re going. Our host is Dark Regions
Press editor RJ Cavender, and he did a bang-up job putting this behemoth
together. This year’s guests gave a very informative talk about the craft of
writing, editing, playwriting, Hollywood, and their works in general. In two
hours I’m going to a talk by a lake about dialogue and scene construction.
It’ll be given by Daniel Knauf. I do excel at writing dialogue, but I’m always
on the lookout to learn something new. UPDATE: I attended the highly informative lecture by Daniel Knauf, who is one of the writers of the hit TV series The Blacklist. I learned why I’ve been having difficulty working on two short horror stories lately. I don’t know my characters. I’ve done historical research, developed the location, and envisioned most of the plot. I’ve neglected my characters. I won’t be able to work on the story until I know them better. Next step – write character profiles for each character.

I highly recommend you attend as many
planned events as possible even if they cut into your writing time. You will
learn a great deal, and you’ll be in a position to mingle with other writers. You
might even meet someone you’ve admired for years. One of the purposes of a
writer’s retreat is to inspire you to write. This one is doing its job. Not only have I made some fine contacts, Jack Ketchum is interested in being my guest on my radio show The Women Show in early 2016. He’s one of the top horror writers out there. The Girl Next Door was sufficiently upsetting. Based on a true crime, too.

I’ve been asked by darker fiction publisher Rampant Loon
Press to write a new short story based on a small Massachusetts island town
I’ve created for one novel and several short stories. Rampant Loon published
one of those stories – The Oily – and
it has accepted a second one – Unrequited.
Both are horror. I’ve decided to go one better. I’m going to write two new stories. One set in a wooded
location in modern times, and another one set in the same location in
approximately 1830, not long after the Salem witch trials. Salem plays an
important part in my story since it’s not very far away from my island.  I’ve already done all my research including
hiking in the five acre area of woods near my home which provided much
inspiration as well as a nasty twist to my right leg that is still healing.
This wooded area is an abandoned colonial settlement, and you can still see the
ruins. My two horror stories will be very desolate and creepy. I even read some
Stephen King for inspiration, speaking of the Stanley Hotel. I’m using my time
here at the retreat to inspire me to finish at least the modern day story. I need to concentrate on character development before I can begin to write the story, though. I learned that today during a lecture outdoors at a restaurant on a lake where we saw a bald eagle flying around. The eagle even dived into the lake to catch a fish. Knauf talked about getting to know your characters very intimately with important things like what are their dreams? What are they afraid of? Once I write down those notes I can begin writing the stories. There’s no deadline so I’m not in a rush.

There’s nothing like writing undisturbed by children, pets, television, Facebook, Twitter, strange foreign men on Facebook asking me if I’m married, email, the phone ringing, people banging at my door, the upstairs
neighbors screeching at each other, and the latest appliance to stop working in
my apartment. I’m free to be creative here, and I write when I want. I’ve also decided, with the help of discussing the matter with one of the guests, that I need to begin my agent search again. My family saga/thriller novel Secrets and Lies won’t be published in 2016 after all since the publisher is going out of business. I was told about a week ago, and I have my rights back. Lucky for me, the book was never published so I don’t have to worry about trying to sell a reprint. It was recommended to me to begin the agent hunt in earnest and don’t aim for the smaller presses since they can be so unreliable.
Aim high. Good advice.

It’s a long way from home, but
the beautiful Stanley Hotel was well worth the drive. The views of the Rockies
are gorgeous. Although I’m a beach girl at heart, I could see living here
because of the views. I’d have to get used to the altitude – just walking up
and down the stairs gets me winded – but otherwise this is a beautiful location
to write. If you have a chance to go to a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend

Trains As Writers' Garrets

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


I discovered the coolest writers’ getaway – Amtrak,
which is setting up writers’ registries in the U. S.
What a brilliant idea!
Choose a destination – for me it would be Boston to Baltimore and back – and
write during the entire round trip. The Paris Review article I linked to
described the author’s trip:

I am in a little sleeper cabin on a
train to Chicago. Framing the window are two plush seats; between them is a
small table that you can slide up and out. Its top is a chessboard. Next to one
of the chairs is a seat whose top flips up to reveal a toilet, and above that
is a “Folding Sink”—something like a Murphy bed with a spigot. There are little
cups, little towels, a tiny bar of soap. A sliding door pulls closed and locks
with a latch; you can draw the curtains, as I have done, over the two windows
pointing out to the corridor. The room is 3’6” by 6’8”. It is efficient and quaint.
I am ensconced.

I’ve never been on a writers’ retreat. I have set up my own
writers’ garret, though. My first apartment was a delightful little hovel in
Laurel, Maryland. It was one and a half rooms, one bath, living room, kitchen,
and a balcony. I was on the third floor facing a courtyard, the pool and very
tall trees. I’d get home from work and have a glass of wine every night on my
balcony (when it was warm enough) and watch the bats flying around the
courtyard. They came very close to my balcony. I lit the balcony railing with
twinkie lights during the Christmas season. Watching the sun set after work in
this fashion every night was sheer bliss.

My half room was my garret. I had a Brother typewriter. This
lets you know how long ago this was since personal computers had not yet been
invented. I also had plenty of paper, and lots of ideas. I was never published
the whole time I lived in this place although I was a member of a writers’
group. I pounded out fiction on that contraption every night except I didn’t
write on weekends. I imagined myself to be Edgar Allen Poe in his garret on
Amity Street in Baltimore writing his little heart out.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to have A Room Of My Own,
to steal from Virginia Woolf, but I’d never left home to get away and write. I
did apply to Yadoo once but I wasn’t
accepted. I guess my mystery/thriller novel wasn’t highbrow enough. So imagine
my delight to learn of Amtrak’s
plans. These writers’ residences would be either free or inexpensive,
considering how many writers are in a perpetual state of being broke. I plan on
taking a trip once Amtrak gets things settled.

That said, I’m going on my first writers’ retreat in
October. It will be held at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the very same hotel
that inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining”. He stayed in room
217. The movie wasn’t filmed there. It was filmed on a sound stage and
exteriors were of another hotel. Still, the Stanley Hotel is an impressive
place to write. It has it all – atmosphere, ghosts (it’s haunted), nice rooms,
and lots of space to get lost in. This place has “writers apply”
written all over it!

I signed up for the retreat about a month ago, and my
husband and I are turning it into a vacation – our first real, long-term
vacation ever. I will finish or at the very least make a huge dent in a horror
novel I’m currently working on. The organizer of the Stanley Hotel Writers’
Retreat is also hosting a Stanley
Hotel New Year’s Eve Party
, so if you’re game and want a nice getaway where
you can write and celebrate the coming of 2015, go for it. Signup time is short
so be aware of that.

I wondered what other places would make great writers
retreats. Here are a few in the U. S.

Writers Retreat
–  4 days, 3 nights.
Intensive. In upstate New York.

Clarion West
Speculative fiction. Past faculty has included Samuel R. Delany, Octavia
Butler, Chuck Palahniuk, John Crowley, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Connie
Willis, Paul Park, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Ellen Datlow, and Gordon van
Gelder. Wow!

Wellspring House
– In western Massachusetts near the Berkshires. Get lost in the mountains and
forests while you write.

Cape Ann, Massachusetts – Rent a room or house in Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, or
other Cape Ann locations and write your heart out over a summer or winter. This
area is typically New England. Relax on the beaches or shop in the quaint beach
boutiques. And beach chocolate. Did I say beach chocolate? This could be
expensive since you’d come here during the summer tourist season, but some
homes are open for rent during the winter. Still it’s pricey but beautiful. I
know about this place since I live in Rockport. It’s the perfect writer’s
location. Plus you’re near Salem (yes, witch trials Salem) so you could make a
day trip out of that place.

Yadoo – I mentioned this
one earlier. It’s one of the premiere writers’ retreats in the U. S. It’s
located in Saratoga Springs, New York. You need to apply for this one and get
accepted. I suspect competition is fierce.

I’ll update on my Stanley Hotel writer’s retreat when I’m
there in October. My ERWA blog post date falls when I’m in the hotel writing.
I’ll report back how awesome it is. 😉

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