I belong to a writer's group, specifically for LDS women, called ANWA (American Night Writers Association). Every summer they host a writers retreat-- a place to get away, socialize with other writers and of course, write.
I had such a great time last year and was a little worried about my high expectations going into this year's retreat. I was not disappointed!! If I could find one word to describe my experience it would be Charity, the pure love of Christ. Rarely have I been with a group of people and felt so unconditionally loved and accepted.
The moment I stepped foot in the cabin, I was welcomed and genuinely felt that my ANWA sisters were glad to see me. Many remembered me from last year's retreat. I always marvel how 30 women from all walks of life and with all different personalities--outgoing, shy, reserved, bubbly, witty, etc.--can come together and be so unified. Truly I felt like I was among family. I felt valued, important and loved.
Sometimes when I speak, I have difficulty recalling the words that I want to use (I blame depleted brain cells from childbirth) and feel like I trip over myself. Many times, I'm self-conscious about it. But here at the retreat, I never felt judged or critiqued-- just accepted. It's a wonderful feeling.
We stayed at a beautiful cabin in Prescott, Arizona. The weather was beautiful and temperatures mild. I chose to do most of my writing outdoors. We also had wonderful classes given by fellow ANWA members, devotionals and get to know you games. I participated in a critique group where I received great feedback about my writing and ideas on how I can increase my skills as an author. It was great to hear what other authors do to stay motivated and positive. If I had a question about word count, query letters or any aspect of writing, all I had to do was walk into the other room and ask.
One woman said that when part of her story is bothering her, she takes a nap, and usually wakes up with a solution. A part of my story didn't fit right and it bothered me so I took her advice. When I woke up, I realized that I had to cut a sub-plot out of my story because it was taking over the main plot. Holy Cow! That's like 15,000 + words deleted from my story. But now I feel at peace, even though I have a bunch of revising to do.
The thing I loved was the positive atmosphere there at the retreat. People were supportive, caring and kind. Several times sisters would tell us things and then say, "I've never told anyone that before." I believe it was because we all felt the trust and bond of sisterhood. We could be ourselves and trust each other and know that no matter what, we were loved.
Here are some pictures...
This is my bedroom. The walls were completely made up of windows, making for a spectacular view.
Here is the kitchen. We took turns preparing and cleaning up from meals. The saying is so true, "Many hands make light work".
Here is our wonderful snack bar. Everyone brought a treat to share. We had an abundance of chocolate-- a must for any writer.
This is the balcony/deck. I spent most of my time out here.
Here is a view of the pines from the balcony. Beautiful. We could observe animals like squirrels and birds.
Here I am in my favorite writing area. Out on the balcony, feeling the gentle breeze and smelling the pine scented air.
Another view of the pines.
Here's a shot of all my ANWA sisters. Love them!
This is a silly pose. We are all performing our "name actions" from a game we played.
Not only did I walk out of the retreat with greater motivation and skills as an author, but with an increase of self confidence as a person. I was spiritually uplifted. Coming home from retreat, I felt like a better wife, mother and friend. It was a blessing in my life to attend the ANWA retreat and I am grateful to a Heavenly Father who filled my needs through these wonderful sisters.