This retreat is always such a "treat". Since March, when I stayed the extra Thursday night for the first time, I've decided to stay the three nights whenever I can. It makes a huge difference having that additional day to write uninterrupted, and it doesn't feel as rushed. It's hard to get much writing done on the first day because I'm trying to get settled in, and I'm tired from the drive. So, it's nice to get two whole days of writing time in.
This time I was scrambling trying to complete my picture book manuscript so I could send it to the SCBWI Fall conference for the manuscript critique. But I was really stuck. This is why writers need conferences, workshops, and retreats like Green Gulch—you get to connect with other writers. YA novelist Lisa Schulman (her new book, League of Strays, is coming out in fall 2012 from Amulet Books/Harry N. Abrams) was in the room next to mine. She read my manuscript and offered many great insights, and ideas which got me unstuck enough to complete the manuscript, at least to the point where I could send it off for the manuscript critique.
Lisa also read Cixi, The Dragon Empress, and came up with really good ideas to use in book readings and school visits, such as having a "secret box", like the emperor of China, in which I can have kids put their names, then draw out the "emperor" at the end of the event, and playing "telephone" with the kids (if the group is small) as a precursor to a talk about the effects of spreading rumors. Thank you, Lisa, and keep the ideas coming! If anyone else has great ideas for school visits, please post them here. I'd love to hear about them.
As usual, we had a collection of wonderful writers, both frequent attendees of Green Gulch and new ones. We were a particularly chatty group, and there were many informal social gatherings in the atrium living room. The meals, usually stellar, was disappointing at times (some dishes were way too salty), but as always, I'm appreciative anytime someone else gets to cook.
I set out copies of Cixi, The Dragon Empress, and postcards and flyers for the Oct. 8 book launch in Corte Madera. Everyone took a postcard, and quite a few said they would come, so I'm hoping we will get a good turnout at our big event.
The rest of the time I worked on my Sacajawea manuscript. I checked in with home every night on Skype. Love Skype! So, I don't have to trudge in the dark anymore to the spooky phone booth tucked behind the Green Gulch Farm office. Brian juggled all the soccer schedules like a champ. He's such a wonderful, supportive husband when it comes to giving me my writing time. But he's a terrible first reader. Ah well...that's what writing friends are for.