I’m in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, in a wooded vacation house with three friends, winding up a writing retreat. Great experience. It is amazing how much a person can get done with lots of quiet and no interruptions.

It made me think of another writing retreat that took place in 1816, the year without a summer. That year Percy Bysshe Shelley, his 18 year old mistress, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley) and her step-sister, Claire Clairmont, joined Lord Byron (by whom Claire was pregnant), and his physician and friend, John William Polidori, at Lake Geneva, Switzerland, for a holiday. The weather, however, was cold and rainy and the party was forced indoors for days at a time, reading ghost stories and discussing galvanism and the possibility of reanimating the dead. Byron issued a challenge. They should each write a ghost story.

Shelley wrote “A Fragment of a Ghost Story.” Byron abandoned his story but his friend Polidori used it to inspire his short story, “The Vampyre.” And, of course, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.

It seems to me this is how writing retreats go. Some people are inspired and very productive (Mary and Polidori) and some make some progress (Shelley) and some get distracted and amuse themselves in other ways (Byron—perhaps amusing himself with Claire).

I fall in the Shelley category. Although I have made good progress on my revisions, I’m not quite through with them.

Have you gone on a working retreat? Writing Retreat or some other kind? How productive was it?

I do have writing news, though. The cover of my October Undone, The Liberation of Miss Finch, is here! And on Aug 23 (tomorrow), Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy should be appearing in bookstores. Check my website tomorrow for more information.