Friday, May 14, 2010

Breckenridge writing retreat

Aspen trunks in Breckenridge, Colorado
Copyright (c) 2010 Wendee Holtcamp

I'm back from my 5 days at the Writing Away Retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado. I met some very cool writers, and ate some amazingly rich food, and got some great feedback on my book. Didn't come back with a book contract, but I guess that was a bit much to hope for aye? Breck sits at 9,600 feet elevation so climbing the stairs would get me out of breath! I shared a room with writer Kathleen Lourde, and spent several hours talking with the very cool Cheryl Reifsnyder, a writer who has a Ph.D. in biology and is also a Christian. She is very excited about my book and I so enjoyed talking with her - much of it in the huge B&B's hot tub outside! We also went on a hike. I think it's funny that Doug (my boyfriend) lived in Colorado for a decade, and in Breckenridge for 5 years. He was a snowboard instructor there. Plus, that was the place where I first went skiing, right before I first began this very blog in 2005.

Some of my favorite moments from the retreat:

* The drive out to the retreat with Jeff Dugan, Pat Holland Conner and Lee Ann Ward was full of anticipation and the excitement and getting to know one another

* Getting one-on-one feedback from the staff, which included two book editors, an agent, and an author - all of it very positive and quite helpful.

* Talking in the hot tub for hours on a couple different occasions with Cheryl, and the hike we took behind the cabin up in the woods. Oh did I mention the rumor she tried to kill me in the hot tub? Tee hee. No really, what I did learn is that flying to 9600 feet elevation, having two glasses of red wine, and staying in the hot tub for 2 hours is not a great idea. I got out, walked through 20 degree cold weather into the cabin, and then got very dizzy... had to lie down on the couch and have people feed me ice chips.

* Although I honestly did not get a lot of writing done, and almost felt a bit overwhelmed by everything... I felt a bit frustrated by the situation I am in with my book, while simultaneously getting highly positive feedback from major publishing houses, kind of makes me want to tear my hair out. Or someone else's... but I will trust that things will happen when it's time.

* I enjoyed sitting in front of the fire downstairs, chilling, and pretending to write... looking at my chapters and pondering life.

* Editors Tim and Kevin gave me some very helpful advice, including a list of publishing houses/imprints that my book proposal was not yet sent to.

* I enjoyed a few good conversations with Cicily Janus in the kitchen as she cooked amazing food!

* Playing pool on the last night with Matt, Jeff, Lee Ann, and Dewin

* Walking to town with Jimmy Beasley, and looking for a mama fox and her 5 kits. We didn't see her but other people from the retreat did. I'm so bummed!

* I so loved talking with the new people I met, and especially enjoyed fun conversations with Terry Banker, Jeff, Lauren Johnson, Kathleen, Dewin Anguas Barnette (she has an awesome blog and amazing photos!) and of course Cheryl!!

Oh but there is so much more to write but I'm out of time. Next blog post, I hope to tell the amazing story of how I got a new (well new to me) and awesome Honda Accord from the world's most generous couple! But I will have to leave that to next time. I have been busy researching vegetarianism and meat production for an article due in a couple weeks, planning to possibly join an NSF Cruise to the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea (which may not happen but I'm keeping my fingers crossed - and have a proposal due Monday), starting up one of my Online Magazine Writing Courses, and Advanced Writing Workshops both tomorrow, and spending a little time with my kiddos and my boyfriend Doug who just got back from 2 and a half months offshore! And, as always, trying to drum up some new work. I'm feeling very positive and hoping to keep the good vibes going!

A corner view of the huge cabin we stayed in. It's actually a B&B but for the retreat it is rented out just for us. Lots of nooks and crannies to write in. It had three stories, a huge kitchen, a game room, several individual rooms with private bathrooms, a huge dining room, a big den with a couch upstairs and one downstairs, several patios outside, and an outdoor hot tub!
Another side view of the cabin and surrounding forest.
A bench just outside the cabin. Notice the snow still on the ground. In fact we had a big snowstorm the night we arrived! I didn't even think to go outside and catch flakes on my tongue like I normally do. I guess I've seen so much snow in the past two years, it's not as new and exciting anymore.
Several writers gathered at the kitchen table chatting up a storm. Clockwise from left, this is Jeannie Leighton, Matt Sautter, Lee Ann Ward, Cheryl Reifsnyder and I think that is Dewin with her back turned.
I think this photo is funny because it looks like we locked Terry outside!
A photo Terry took of me the first evening I think.
Cicily Janus, the conference organizer (and author of the soon-to-be-released book, The New Face of Jazz) in the kitchen, cooking something yummy!
A better view of the kitchen itself. You can see Kathleen on the far left, Lauren, and Cicily.
The Bubba Gump shrimp company in Breckenridge. Who knew? Eating shrimp is not the best thing for the environment though, due to the enormous amount of bycatch from wild-caught shrimp, and due to poor practices used for farmed shrimp. Check out
Another shot of the aspens.
I love this shot, how the watermelon and coconut cake are in focus, with Sorche Fairbank (literary agent) and Kevin Doughten (editor at Penguin Viking) in the background.
From left - Dewin, Lee Ann, Jeannie, Terry and Sorche at supper on Monday, Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Writing Away!

The view from where I'm at.
Another view of the mountains.
A fellow science writer friend I met on the trip - Cheryl Reifsnyder, on a hike behind our cabin.

Having a good time so far, about halfway through the retreat now. I'm in Breckenridge, Colorado at the Writing Away Retreat with about 15 other book authors or prospective authors plus four who give us feedback on our manuscripts: editor Kevin Doughten from Penguin Viking (who edited the paperback edition of Michael Dowd's Thank God for Evolution), Tim O'Connell from Knopf, author Linda Rorbrough, and agent Sorche Fairbank. But now it's time to get in the hot tub, so I'll update more later!