Last weekend, my friends Kathleen and Therese from Writer Unboxed and I went on our fifth annual writers’ retreat. This time, we invited a couple other friends. Picture five mommy writers descending on a vacation house in the Finger Lakes armed with food, laptops, writing notebooks, wine and chocolate, for a weekend away from family responsibilities. A weekend of self indulgent, blissful companionship and writing.

On these retreats, we aim for the perfect balance of productivity and fun. We ate meals together but the rest of the day we focused on writing activities: brainstorming, plotting, drafting, whatever was appropriate for each individual. My personal goal was to get a good start on the 4th draft of my balloonist story. We also took the occasional break for a thinking walk or (my favorite) paddle. The first evening we ate in (Kathleen made a wickedly good pulled pork, black beans and mango salsa-yum!) and the second night we went to a restaurant at a local winery.

In the evenings we got on our jammies, refilled our wine glasses and watched North & South. After all the raves I’ve heard from people about N&S, I knew I’d enjoy it but was also prepared for a slight letdown. In this case, all the hype could not prepare me for how good it was. We did discuss how, as writers, we could learn from the way the external historical events were intertwined with the romance and the character arcs. But mostly we just swooned over Richard Armitage. (Note to self: must use him someday.)

As to productivity, I came away with about 27 pages, having completed Chapter 1 and getting well into Chapter 2. And I’m very pleased with how the story is coming along.

As to the fun, see for yourselves. This picture was taken Saturday night after our winery trip by Therese (on the right) holding her camera at arm’s length and doing her best to get us all in the picture.

It’s fun to imagine us Riskies having a retreat at some gorgeous English country house. But until we are all pulling in the requisite six digit advances, a retreat like this is very doable. Split enough ways, a house or cottage rental will not break a modest budget. Just add good writing buddies, chocolate and wine and your muse will thank you. I highly recommend it!