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2014_Spring_Retreat_LargeI’ve been having the craziest month and it is my own fault. I probably shouldn’t have planned to travel for spring break, negotiate financial aid with colleges, plan a major church event and publish two titles in one month. My bad.

I did it all (not without some wear and tear) and I am here now, with four wonderful writing friends, loads of delicious food, chocolate and wine. In fact, I’m enjoying a nice Cabernet/Shiraz blend as I’m writing this.

I do have a serious goal for the weekend: to brainstorm new stories. I can write in short sessions, which is what I can mostly manage at home, but the extra time on retreat is helpful for characterization and plotting.

What is everyone else doing this weekend?


Posted in Writing | Tagged | 4 Replies

Last week, I blogged about going on a writers’ retreat with friends. We rented a house in the Finger Lakes and piled in with our usual supplies: plenty of wine, coffee and chocolate. We worked, we hiked, we drank wine, we talked and we laughed.

Does it sound idyllic? In many ways it was, but this time I also tackled the biggest challenge I’ve ever brought to a retreat: to finish the book I had to take several years’ break from due to my husband’s stroke and whose ending was still giving me fits.

So my inner writing demons were out in full force, telling me I’d never figure out all the plot snarls. I’ve learned to treat those demons like old friends. I don’t fight them; I just tell them to sit down and relax while I work.

It also helps to switch methods. When I couldn’t write scenes, I brainstormed in a composition notebook, using my favorite blue Pilot G2 gel pen. I went for frequent walks or paced the deck overlooking the lake. Once in a while, I played the piano. After each break, I went back to the story and each time, like a gift, answers came.

So the retreat ended up being like having a beautifully decorated and perfectly equipped delivery room for a difficult birth. With my writing friends as doulas!

Anyway, I’m so glad the story is finally coming together.
Thanks for your support, Riskies and friends!


P.S. I’m running the following giveaway at Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Incorrigible Lady Catherine by Elena Greene

The Incorrigible Lady Catherine

by Elena Greene

Giveaway ends May 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


I’m writing from a house on Cayuga Lake, where I’m on a writers’ retreat with some friends. Here’s a picture of this morning’s sunrise.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful these retreats have been for me. Given that I’m a stroke caregiver and a mother of teenagers, having great stretches of time to write is a luxury I hardly know what to do with!

Which actually presents something of a challenge. There’s a part of me that says pedal to the metal, make sure you write X pages, X thousand words, etc… Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with having goals, but too much pressure can make me choke.

So I take these retreats as something akin to a romantic getaway with my muse. A leisurely approach works best. A while back, I spoke to composer Carlos Sanchez Gutierrez, who composed Ex Machina a piece first performed by my local orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic. I asked him how he dealt with creative blocks. He replied that when he’s blocked, he takes a nap.

So although my goal is to finish the balloonist story, I’m resolved to mix work and relaxation as needed, trusting that will actually help to make it happen.

Wish me luck!


It’s been a mild winter, weather-wise, but a rough one for my psyche. I won’t go into the details, but some stressors I’ve been dealing with should ease up in the next month or so, and I’ll have more time to write and do other fun things.

Seeing my crocuses looking this gorgeous (with my Ice Follies narcissi not far behind) helps me feel hopeful! Also being able to paint my toenails and wear sandals again.

I’m also looking forward to a retreat my writing buddies and I are planning for next month. As in past years, we’ve rented a house near Taughannock Falls on Cayuga Lake, where we always do a lot of writing, interspersed with walks through the park or kayaking on the lake. In the evenings, it’s romantic historical films, wine and chocolate. I can’t wait!

Below are pictures I took last year of the falls and of a patch of wildflowers we admired on one of our walks. Later, I discovered that this plant is called bloodroot, for its red sap which was used as a dye by Native American artists. We also see trilliums, trout lilies, Dutchman’s breeches and many other wildflowers during our spring retreats.

Anyone else into flowers, wild or otherwise? What are you looking forward to this spring?


Posted in Writing | Tagged | 4 Replies

I’ve been busy preparing for a writers’ retreat this weekend, preparing leftover meals for the family, baking my go-to oatmeal cookies (taking half, leaving half with the family to keep them in charity with me), getting a new laptop to replace the one that died a few years ago (my multi-draft writing takes a toll on technology), and generally getting psyched.

My friends and I have been doing these retreats for years and our formula is pretty fool-proof: a house on Cayuga Lake, laptops, notes, food, wine and chocolate. We write a lot during the day and in the evenings, we chat and watch romantic films.

I always come out with fresh ideas and often a big jump in the wordcount for my mess-in-progress. However, I learned during the earlier retreats that success doesn’t come from pushing too hard. It’s a good idea to think about goals beforehand, but once there, I just trust the process and let myself enjoy it.  I won’t check wordcount or the clock, or check if I’m on track.  I just enjoy my friends, the lake and the story, wherever it goes.  If I get stuck and the writing ceases to be fun, I switch gears. I go for a walk, I paddle on the lake, I meditate. If one of my friends isn’t busy, we may brainstorm. Or I might even take a nap! I go with the flow and something always works.

Friends of mine are going to the New England Chapter conference this weekend. I hope they have a wonderful, inspiring time.  It’s a conference I’ve enjoyed in the past but right now, getting my balloonist story finished is top priority.  As with retreats, I think it’s good to have goals for a conference. It’s also good to totally forget about them and be open to surprises.
Do you have anything fun and/or productive planned for this weekend?  How do you get yourself psyched for success?
Posted in Writing | Tagged | 4 Replies
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