Sometimes you just need to retreat. As in heading to a wonderful, rejuvenating writer’s retreat! Last weekend I went to Chicago for the Windy City RWA Retreat. I am not a member of the RWA (Romance Writers of America), but I had to go because one of my favorite writers was the featured speaker.
I packed up my bags and journeyed from Michigan to Illinois. There I learned about reclaiming the magic of writing when the words don’t flow easily, and I honed my writing voice, which is as unique as a speaking voice, in a master class. Both workshops were taught by a woman who became one of my favorite authors many years ago when I began reading her women’s fiction books. They’re filled with lush descriptions, fascinating characters, and lots of food. What’s not to love about books like that?
Barbara O’Neal is the writer who I went to see. If you read romances you may know her as Barbara Samuel or Lark O’Neal if you enjoy new adult books. And if you’re a writer, I highly recommend her books The Care and Feeding of The Girls in The Basement and Celebration Book (A Writer’s Guide to Joy). They are some of the brightest gems in my rather massive collection of books about writing.
Whenever I read one of Barbara’s books I am inspired to be a better writer. I was very excited about taking the classes and having the chance to meet her at the retreat. So excited, in fact, that the experience brought out a teen fangirl side of me that hasn’t made an appearance since I got to go backstage to meet my favorite band when I was a teenager. Yes, there was squeeing and selfie taking involved. And yes, my forty-something self is rolling her eyes and asking, “Really??? You had to do that?”. Despite my awkward geekiness, Barbara was gracious and lovely. The insights on writing and publishing that she shared during the master class still has my mind buzzing. To quote my fangirl self: She was awesome!
Barbara and me
As you can tell, seeing Barbara was definitely a highlight of the retreat for me, but there’s more. For the first time I was able to meet, in person, several other authors who write for Gemma Halliday Publishing. It was so much fun to chat with my publishing “sisters” and give them a real hug, instead of a virtual one. As a writer, I tend to lead a pretty solitary life. Many of my social interactions are done online. It was a very welcome change to talk with the GHP authors, and many other writers, face-to-face.
Clockwise from top left: Nicole Leiren, Barbara Valentin, Wendy Byrne, and me
The past year brought many struggles to my writing life. The theme for this retreat was “Nourishing the Writer’s Soul”. It lived up to the expectations. Thanks to Windy City RWA for hosting the event. It certainly did wonders for my writer’s soul!