Do-It-Yourself...Writing Retreat, That Is (Penny Rader)
I wasn't able to attend the Romance Writers of America national conference last week in Anaheim, but I sure wish I could’ve been there.

So…I poked around the internet for tips on creating my own writing retreat and thought I’d share a few tidbits.  I hope you’ll click on the links and read the full posts.

Create Your Own Mini-Writing Retreat by Kathryn Haueisen Cashen
  • Rethink your definition of a retreat.
  • Commit to yourself.
  • Create a portable writing kit.
  • Set a goal for each retreat.
  • Start small.
  • Take a bigger leap.
  • Get creative.

The DIY Writer’s Retreat by Jason Theodor
  • Book vacation time.
  • Find a remote place to stay.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Stock good, simple food.
  • Organized files.
  • Comfortable writing space.
  • Physical space/mental space.
  • Natural sleep.
  • Obligation-free companionship.
  • Accountability.
  • Momentum.

DIY Writing Retreat by Kelli Russell Agodon

Notes from the author:
  • Do the longer assignments earlier in the day.
  • If you need to generate material to do a poem (say a word list, images from childhood, etc.) do this BEFORE you get there.
  • Have assignments for the end of the day that have more structure so when your brain conks out, you still have something to draw from.

...keep an open mind. We each brought new exercises, some we'd never tried before. We did not know if they would work or what would happen. Some exercises produced fantastic first drafts for all of us that we will continue to work on, others fell flat. We did not base our success on what we had written, but on the fact that we had tried something new and were all there together.

How to Create Your Own Writing Retreat by Midge Raymond
  • Just do it.
  • Gather your fellow writers together
  • Clear the decks.
  • Create your space.
  • Stay offline.
  • Give yourself guidelines.
  • Afterward, assess the pros and cons, the highs and lows
  • Schedule retreats often
Retreat Between the Pages with Elizabeth Ayres

Elizabeth Ayres, author, writing teacher, and founder of the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing has paved the way for writers to take a retreat from everyday life with her book Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers . For the price of the book and a cup of coffee, a writer can use Writing the Wave as a weekly retreat to stimulate creativity and learn, or re-learn, the fundamentals of writing.

Taking a Personal DIY Writer’s Retreat by Joan Whetzel
…the personal writer’s retreat is centered on writing, either concentrated working on writing in progress, concentrating on improving current writing skills, or adding new skills or techniques to the writer’s tool box. It can be combined with a personal retreat, where the writer recharges his or her batteries, either by sleeping more, taking naps, going to a restful location, exploring other creative outlets, eating better, exercising, or even taking a partial or complete break from writing – whatever it takes to refill the writer’s creative juices so he or she can get back to the business of writing with a fresh – or refreshed – perspective.

Are you inspired? Going to plan your own writing retreat? If you need a book or two with writing prompts to get you going, I've listed several of my favorites in a post I wrote a couple years ago, Need a Jump Start?  

If memory serves, WARA has another retreat planned for early October.

If you’ve already planned your writing retreats, please share what worked and what didn’t.

My Top Five Writing Influences (Melissa Robbins)

5.  Men in Uniform – Stop giggling.  It’s not what you think.  Okay, maybe a little, but I get so inspired when I read stories of the brave men and women who fought during WW2.  My Wren story came about when I read about wireless WAAFs in Scotland.  This dashing fellow is Sid, an amazing Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, who was an ace and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.  His ‘wolves’ were some of the best pilots in the war.  He crashed into the sea in 1943 soon after achieving the rank of Wing Commander.  Sid wasn’t married that I found, but I wonder if he had a girlfriend.  Was he ever in love with a pretty nurse or WAAF?  It’s those ‘what ifs’ that writers love so much. 

  4.  Bookstores – When I was a kid, my parents, avid readers, always took me to this amazing used bookstore called The Book Alcove.  The shelves were so chaotic, it was like a maze.  I LOVED it!  If you Google “Book Alcove” and Maryland, you’ll find a youtube video of the store and you will see what I mean.  Just imagine what it would be like as a child in that store.  Walking through a bookstore inspires me.  It's a shame so many stores are closing.  I see all those books and wonder if my book will ever grace those shelves.  I immediately want to rush home and work on my story. 

3.  Books – Reading as always inspired me to write.  After reading Treasure Island, I became obsessed with pirates.  In junior high school, I started, but never finished, a time travel pirate YA.  A critique partner thinks I should go back to it.  Who can resist a handsome young blond pirate?  What is it with me and blond heroes?!  I also wanted to write a sequel to Treasure Island where Long John Silver returns and drags Jim, a 20 something guy, back to the island for more treasure and adventure.  Of course, I’m  Annie, the granddaughter/niece/daughter of Captain Flint is Jim’s love interest, not that he could handle the fine American lady who hides pistols under her petticoats when she isn’t sneaking around in breeches and carrying a sabre.

In high school, I started reading Agatha Christie and my love for mysteries was born.  I created a Scottish whodunit with ghosts and a family curse.  Didn’t finish that one either.  :0( 

2.  My grandfather – Comer aka Papa Steve was an awesome man and I adored having him as my grandfather.  The grandkids enjoyed his silliness and loved it when his mischievousness got him ‘in trouble’ with my grandmother.  I imagine my love and obsession with WW2 and the 30’s and 40’s is from listening to his stories.  Papa Steve didn’t have to fight in the war.  He was so good at his job in a furniture factory that the government wanted him to stay, but Comer enlisted in the Army infantry anyway.  He fought in Italy for over a year before getting injured by shrapnel in the neck and sent home.  It’s funny to me how much Papa Steve, a blue-eyed, naughty, motorcycle riding, southern blond with a preference for brunettes is like my character, Jack.  (Not that my grandmother would have EVER rode his motorcycle.)  My grandfather even sent my grandmother coded messages using bible references.  My Jack would be impressed.

1.  My critique partners – As previously mentioned above, I wrote stories since childhood, but I never told anyone I was writing.  It was a secret passion of mine I kept hidden from the rest of the world.  I don’t think my parents even knew.  I became a MUCH better writer when I started showing my work to fellow writers who encouraged and helped me perfect the craft.

Getting to Know You…and Me (Penny Rader)

This month we’re discussing our writing inspiration.  People inspire me.  I’m curious about what makes them tick, who they are inside, why they do what they do.

We’ve been moving from a house we lived in for over 20 years.  I’ve spent a lot of time going through all the cr--, uh, stuff we’ve accumulated because I don’t want to drag anything to the new place that I don’t think I’ll need in the future.  The other day I came across some newsletter pages I’d saved during my stint as WARA’s newsletter editor.  The RWA chapter Couer de Louisinae’s Tete-a-Tete newsletter had member profiles they called Quickies. (The pages I kept were from 1993 & 1994.)   I thought it’d be great fun…as well as writing fodder…to use them in a blog post.

My hope is that if I share a bit of myself with you, then you’ll do the same in Comments section.  Feel free to pick and choose what you want to share...but please do share.

I AM a wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, office worker bee, romance writer. Not necessarily in that order.
I LOVE reading, movies, Pinterest, laughing, crocheting, long baths, chocolate, holding babies.
I HATE bullies and mean people.
I FAIL miserably at housekeeping, drinking enough water, not procrastinating, dancing.
I RESIST writing, washing dishes, having my picture taken.
I DREAM OF unlimited time to read and nap, a home lined with bookshelves & window seats.
I BUY books, movies, pretties.
I COLLECT books, snow globes, Santas, yarn.
I DRINK Dr. Pepper, tea, coffee (as long as it’s doctored with lots of chocolate, cream & sweetener).
I CRAVE acceptance, peace, chocolate.
I HAVE many blessings: family, roof over my head, car to drive, air conditioning, a job.
I NEVER learned how to stand up for myself.
I’VE LEARNED time passes too quickly.
I TRY to be a positive example.
I MISS my Grandpa Simon, my granddaughter, Lexi.
I LIKE time to myself, watching the bunnies, birds, squirrels in my backyard.
I FEAR not being good enough.
I CANNOT RESIST smiling at babies.
I EAT cheeseburgers, ice cream, fruit, chocolate.
I REGRET I never had a picture taken of me holding Lexi.
I CHERISH my family.
I DEPLORE injustice, the heat.

Your turn. :D

From Now Until the End of Time

Patricia Davids here.
No mention of the people and things that have shaped and inspired me as a writer would be complete without mentioning Dave. My own true love. My husband has been gone a year now. It doesn't seem possible. It isn't fair. It isn't right, but it is. I still miss him every day and every night.
Fifteen years ago, when I first told him I wanted to write a novel, he said, "I think you'd be good at that." His off-hand acceptance of my until-that-moment-secret-dream was just like him. He didn't believe in hoopla. He firmly believed that if I set my mind to do something, I could do it. He had faith in me. What an awesome gift that is.

He read my first ever chapter and said, "This is good." I was ecstatic. He read my second chapter and said, "Well, this is filler." I was crushed, but he was right. There was more to writing a book than I realized. His honest comment sent me on a search for information and education. That led me to WARA.

I never finished that first book. It was too bad to save. Dave never forgave me for that. He liked that first chapter and he wanted to know how the story ended. He never read a single one of my books. Oh, he tried once, but he preferred stories with vampires, assassins, blood and gore, but he proudly told people that his wife was a romance writer. I can remember how surprised and proud I was when I overheard him bragging on me to his out-of-state cousin.

It wasn't all love and kisses. He didn't like the way deadlines stressed me. He thought editors who made me do rewrites were jerks. More than once he offered to call them and tell them what he thought. I unplugged the phone. He tolerated but didn't like it when I went to conferences or out-of-town book signings. Yet he understood how much I wanted to succeed. Every now and then, he'd walk past me when I was sitting in my office playing freecell or surfing, he'd scowl at me and say, "Shouldn't you be writing?"

Yes, Dear, I should be writing. I'm going to get back to it right after I post this blog. I love you, honey. From now until the end of time.

Dreams CAN Come True

What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing and why?
Easy question.  Without a doubt the biggest influence in my writing has been my kids.  

Writing has been my dream for many years now and while it's something that I am doing for myself, I'm also doing it for my kids.  We all have dreams.  Many of us give up on some of those dreams along the way.  I've been tempted, and have hit several slow spots along the way, but every now and then I think about the message my finally reaching my dream and succeeding will send to my kids.  That thought gives me that little extra push I need on those days I don't want to open my document or when I feel like I can't do it.  

I started writing when my oldest son started high school and I had a silly thought that I'd be sold by the time he graduated.  That didn't happen.  So I made a new goal for when my second son graduated high school.  It didn't happen again so I continued that though process with my daughter.  Granted, I got a little lost somewhere along the way there, and not surprisingly, it didn't happen again.   I have one child left at home and 5 years before he graduates high school.  Not that graduation has to be my deadline, but I'd like to think this time it CAN happen.  

Some day, I'll be able to call my kids and tell them I sold a book.  I did it.  I reached my dream and they can too.   What better dream can a mother have than to show her kids with a little perseverance, dreams really can come true.  

So that's my biggest influence, what's yours?

Behind Every Author . . . by J Vincent

When I first read the topic for this month--who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing--I immediately saw and heard a scene from White Christmas where Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen break into song with “Sisters.”  I also thought “Winter time and blessedly cold in light of the recent run of too many 100+ degree days!

One of the definitions of influence I found online is in part: To move by power, physical or moral; to affect by gentle action; to exert an influence upon; to modify, bias, or sway; to move; to persuade; to induce.  Across the last thirty-five years my sister, Vera, has influenced my writing in many ways.

While I’m certain that all my reading, study, and interaction with other writers have altered my writing--be it how or what I write, or the depth and quality, my sister is the one who started me down the road, has kept me on the path and cheered me on through failure and success.  One summer long ago Vera loaned me over 200 Regency romances when I was bed-fast for a time.  I read them all in a month and was certain I could do better than some of those authors.  Through my early years as an author that was the limit of her participation.  I am nine years older and was married while she was still a child.  She is of genius level intelligence and got her PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at Berkley while I was majoring in hands on child-rearing and other domestic tasks.  We didn’t really know each other; we didn’t have much in common.  Or so we thought.

Then in 2000 I retired from teaching and Vera began urging me to turn back to writing.  She more than urged.  She informed me that was giving me a free ride to a Romantic Times Convention in Houston that fall and, by the way, she added, she had entered me in a writing contest.  The directions and rules were attached to the email.  To be honest, I was not suitably thankful for some time.  But I found it difficult to turn my back on a challenge and finally worked my way into writing what was necessary for the contest--a ten page ending to a short synopsis of a story which could be put into any time period.  Doing this did, as I suspect she planned, whet my appetite for writing..  I took first place in the contest and came home ready to write a new book!  The trip started my relationship with Vera toward a deep friendship.

Since that weekend Vera has purchased research books, cheered me on, cajoled me, prodded me, did whatever was necessary to keep me writing.  She’s the one who suggested I find an even more dangerous villain when my bad guy got himself killed in chapter five in the first book of what would became the Honour series.  She also recommended I use Andre, Baron de la Croix (who was a child in my 1980 published Bond of Honour) for the series.  It is solely through her years’ long efforts (drip, drip, drip onto a stone until it wears down policy) that I indie published Honour’s Debt this spring in both print (available from my website) and as an ebook. 

Vera has always challenged me to be the best I can be and my writing is much better for all her encouragement as well as practical advice.  I look forward to reading who or what challenged or helped my fellow WARA writers along the road to publication.


Who or what has been the biggest influence on my writing?  Hmmmm.  This is a tough one.  I guess the answer would have to be everyone.  My folks encouraged me from the moment I expressed interest.  I can always rely on my husband or children for positive reinforcement.  I've had a writing pen-pal/friend for years.  WARA members are always there to give me a high five or a hug.  But, in all honesty, it's probably my critique partners who have had the most influence on me.  Two of the three women are multi-published and I'm sure the other one isn't far behind them.

These three ladies push, prod and are more than willing to give me a kick in seat of my pants when I need it.  They tell me what works and what doesn't in my manuscript.  Their success makes me want to do better.  Do more. I want to be like them when I grow up. 

We've been together for years and even though we have different lives and writing styles, we all work well together.  I love these girls and respect them and their opinions.  Together we plot, plan, create and have fun along the way.  We've shared the highs and lows of our lives and writing careers.  They've seen me at my worst and at my best and yet they stick around and for that I will be forever grateful.   

Pat, Deborah and Rox, thanks for always being there for me. 


Pat Davids here.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in my writing career?

That is our blog topic for the month of July and it's an important question. It forces us to take an in-depth look at the people and events that shape our writing.

Nearly all writers were, or still are, avid readers. I'm no exception. Books have been shaping how I think and how I see the world since my parents first read me a bedtime story. When I was young, I loved to read stories by Louis L'Amore. Cowboys, Indians, gunfights, the heroine in distress saved by the gunslinger turned hero, what more does an teenage heart need?

 When I was a little older, I discovered Andre Norton and worlds beyond our own where human explorers battled or befriended alien creatures in the far reaches of space. I learned to look at the stars in the night sky in a whole new light and I was filled with wonder at what might actually exist out there. As I will forever remain a diehard fan of the orginal Star Trek and Stargate SG 1, that sense of wonder and curiosity has never left me.

It was in the 1974 that I first read a historical romance that blew my mind. The book was The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodwiss. What a hero! What a HEROINE! What GREAT LOVE SCENES!!!
I was hooked on romances from that day forward. I read Regencies, I read about knights in shining armor and stories about desert Sheiks. I read and read and read until one day, I put down the book I had been reading and realized that I wanted to do that, too.

I wanted to tell stories about cowboys, knights, space travelers, cops, soldiers and whoever else. But most of all, I wanted to tell about the women who made a gunslinger, a disinhereted knight or a desert Sheik into a hero to die for. In the end, it is all about LOVE.

So there you have it. Books and the love of books have been the biggest influence on my writing career. From the pages penned by others evolved a dream that I would one day join their very special fellowship. To writers everywhere, I say ladies and gentlemen take a bow. You have no idea how far your words will travel or how many dreams they may inspire.

Now its your turn to tell me about authors who have inspired you.