Twice a year, a group of us kidlit writers head out to the woods, about half-way between Austin and Houston. For three solid days we write, critique, inspire and read. Okay there’s some silliness and wine and a lot of snack food that sneaks in there. A lot of it, actually! (Full disclosure, we ran out of wine last summer, so I guess this time, everyone made sure to compensate.)
But here’s the important thing: 18 women converge in one enormous, ramshackle hunting lodge with crazy amounts of insane taxidermy. (Think tiny deer arranged in a rowboat with flowers. Mounted heads with smiles.) We range in age from 20s to 50s. We write YA, MG, and picture books. Most of us are multi-published. Some of us are not yet published. Some are in between. All of us are dedicated to our craft. All of us are committed to bringing stories to the world.
We cook meals. We respect dietary needs without making a big deal of it. (“Gluten-free folks, those paler muffins are for you!”) We support and amplify and encourage each other’s careers in ways big and small. We laugh. We write. We dream. We get a little raucous in the evenings. Okay maybe a lot. We celebrate HUGELY our successes.
And as my friend Lynne Kelly pointed out after this past weekend’s retreat, there are no fights. No posturing. No table-flipping and honestly, no cliques or sub-grouping or secret whispers. NONE. Seriously, none. We would make a really boring reality show.
Because we started with a smaller core group and because we’ve been doing this for awhile now, sometimes I forget the true, kick-ass wonder of this. How much I appreciate these retreats, especially after a difficult, transitional year like this past one where—in ways both good and bad—almost nothing turned out the way I expected. But none of that mattered this past weekend. Only the work and the company and the inspiration of fierce, brilliant women who are my tribe, my people, my collective creative force.
And the occasional misguided squirrel crashing into the window.