A group of writer friends and I went to “The Elms” for a weekend retreat. They were having winter specials, and the rooms, though small, were very inexpensive. The Elms is a hundred year old hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. It has at least two ghosts that we heard about, and was a favorite haunt of Al Capone during prohibition days.
We got together Friday night as everyone arrived and visited, drank and talked writing. Although we didn’t get to bed until after 1, I was up at 7 the next morning. We had access to the conference room, and after meeting for a buffet breakfast, there were soon as many as ten laptops humming away. Now get this, all except one person were female and yet there wasn’t any talking, just writing.
What an awesome experience! It was a chance to really get some pages done, energized by fellow writers. By 1 we were all hungry so we went to the historic downtown area and walked around, absorbing the atmosphere, visiting with local merchants, tasting wine and eating lunch. (Did I mention we like to drink?) The weather was chilly, but not so cold that I couldn’t go out and take some pictures of the pavilion, river, old stone bridge and a wonderful old church. Talk about setting material! It’s almost a guarantee some of this will appear in my next book.
We wrote again in the afternoon, interrupted only by the occasional comment or request for the correct word to use. We didn’t stop until well after 7 that evening. We even ordered pizza in so we didn’t have to be interrupted. We didn’t vacate the conference room until after 11, moving to the library lounge where we continued talking writing and sipping an evening cocktail. Sunday morning after the breakfast buffet, some of us who didn’t have far to travel were again ensconced in the library lounge (with the bar closed this time) writing away until almost noon.
Writing is usually a solitary affair and most of us sit, holed up, in our computer room pecking away as we try to envision the setting, characters and action. Taking a writing retreat puts you in a different environment, but with a specific purpose, and the results are sometimes amazing. In addition, I have enough background material from visiting with staff at “The Elms” to write at least one short story, probably with a ghost in it!!
Oh, yeah, the ghosts. I suppose you want to hear about them. One of the ghosts is a gambler from prohibition days. Not sure why he died. Another is a chambermaid. Now, the newspaper reports that no one ever died in the two fires that swept through the Elms at different times, but apparently she did. One of my friends asked why someone wouldn’t have realized she had disappeared. I said perhaps she was an immigrant and didn’t have family in the area, perhaps she was an illegal alien, or even (and this is the one I like) perhaps she was a time traveler, and didn’t really belong at the Elms! Ah, the inspiration found when visiting a different locale!
If you have a chance to get away with a few friends, DO IT! Don’t have organized activities like a conference or workshop. Plan on writing and sharing. “Retreat” definitely doesn’t mean fall back. It means forge ahead with inspiration, good fellowship and creativity. Oh, and wine. Don’t forget the wine!
Check out some great short stories at http://authorbobbierussell.tripod.com. Originally written for the Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day “shorts” they are great reading any time of year.