Writing retreats…they beckon some of us and frighten others. Each is unique and the decision to retreat or not to retreat is deeply personal.
My own retreat experience, until last year, was limited. Hamstrung for years by my introverted nature, I participated only in gatherings with my critique group. Every other year or so, we would get together for a long weekend to write and discuss story ideas and plot issues. In 2015, I stepped outside my box and attended a retreat in Ireland.
There were several factors that were key in my retreat selection. With limited funds, I considered only retreats that were small in number that would feel comfortable, would have workshops with real benefits for me, and that would be worth the expense. Ireland Writer Tours fit perfectly.
The group was limited to twelve participants, a manageable number for my social level. I’ve grown from the introvert I once was but still prefer smaller groups. An added bonus was that I knew others who were going. The instructors were fellow members of RMFW and it was soon evident that others I knew were attending.
As well, I was well acquainted with the teaching skills of both instructors (Heather Webb and Susan Spann). Their strategy of learning the needs of each participant and tailoring their topics to fit our needs appealed to me. I knew this wouldn’t be a cookie-cutter retreat full of classes that would target only beginning craft or general technique.
Finally, this retreat was special. It was in Ireland, a place on my travel list, and it included workshop days and touring days, all for a very reasonable price. Sure, there was airfare but I would have the chance to see Ireland as well as experience a writing retreat. I could add on extra days to see more of the country and non-writer traveling partners could be included. Hotel and many of the meals were included. Dollar for dollar, compared to other retreats I had looked at, this was a great value.
In fact, Fiona Claire, owner of the tour company that offers the retreat, planned the tour exactly to offer the experience I was looking for. Claire, a writer herself, attended a writers’ conference in the U.S. and was realized the literary festivals then offered in Ireland seemed solely seminar-based versus having the unique combination of learning, energy, interaction, and fun she experienced at the conference. Upon investigating other options, she noted, “…most international writers’ retreats are about writing only. You sit. You write. Someone talks. And then in the afternoon, you’re free to toodle around Dublin or Santorini or Florence on your own. The next morning, you get up and do the same thing all over again. No change of scenery. No one shows you anything about the place you’re visiting except maybe where the bathrooms are.”
Claire decided to combine the best aspects of U.S. writing conferences with her tour business. “I decided to start my own writers’ conferences here in the country I love and know quite well. But these would be different. They’d include fun and tours, along with all the usual writers’ conference stuff.” But she went one step further. “Putting together an international writers’ conference involves a huge amount of work, and, unless maybe you’re someone like Cheryl Strayed, they are not profit-making ventures. They’re also nasty-expensive for participants, averaging between $2,500 to $3,000 U.S. dollars, and up, plus airfare. I wanted to put together something a writer without a trust fund could afford, but would also offer great value.”
The result was Ireland Writer Tours. Her goal was to combine tour sights that were favorites with travelers who’ve booked with her before with workshops and editing offered by authors whose work she enjoys and who also happen to be dynamite teachers. “My dream is that these retreats/conferences/tours (they’re actually all three combined) will be a huge boost for all the participating writers. I want them to leave Ireland feeling like they’re not only better writers, but they’ve also just had the best time of their lives.”
I returned home feeling she had accomplished just that.
My trip began with extra days in Dublin, seeing big-city sites, museums, and getting a feel for the country. Then, I travelled to Galway for the retreats itself. Our touring days were filled with medieval abbeys, ancient stone circles, castles, and magical forests. We saw ancient burial mounds, the famous Cliffs of Moher, and visited the Aran Islands. There were pony-cart rides, pubs with thatched roofs, and dinner at a haunted castle. In between, there were days packed with writing workshops tailored to meet our special needs, feedback on our manuscripts, and one-on-one interaction. We spent time writing alone and socializing with fellow writers. Projects were jump-started and friendships cemented.
For me, the experience was rewarding and unforgettable…so much so that I accepted an offer to return in June of 2016 as an instructor and encouraged fellow Denver author Janet Lane to do the same. We’re hoping some of our fellow Colorado writers and those reading today’s blog will join us. We’d also love to have you spread the word to others who might be interested as well as to share and tweet about the opportunity. If you’ve thought about retreating, I encourage you to take a deeper look at Ireland Writer Tours.
Though many of you already know the two of us, here’s a bit more about us and our retreats.
Pamela Nowak is an award-winning author whose novels straddle the fence between historical fiction and romance with modern issues woven into the stories. Her extensive experience with small press and self-publishing, as well as teaching credits, means she comes to this retreat ready to share loads of knowledge about not only the craft of writing, but also how to open doors to publication. Pam was the 2010 RMFW Writer of the Year. Her 2008 release, CHANCES, was named one of the “101 Best Romances of the Past Ten Years” by Booklist, and her 2015 release, ESCAPING YESTERDAY, has received critical acclaim. Pam’s co-instructor is Kate Brauning, author of young adult fiction and a senior editor at Entangled Publishing. Pam and Kate will teach on Choosing Your Path: Craft, Career, & Publishing June 5-11, 2016. Registration for this session closes April 1.
Janet Lane is an editor and a multi-published, Amazon bestselling author. Her novels have been traditionally and independently published in the medieval romance and contemporary women's fiction genres. She graduated with honors from the University of Colorado, where she completed the creative writing program. Her workshops cover all aspects of the writing craft, as well as practical strategies for self-promotion for both traditional and independently published authors. She is a contest judge and staff blogger for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a national writer’s group. Her novels, TABOR’S TRINKET and TRAITOR’S MOON have received numerous national and international awards. Janet’s co-instructor is Dianne Salerni, fantasy and YA historical author. They will teach on Character, Conflict & Stakes: How to Grab the Reader and Never Let Go, August 21-28. Registration for their session closes in June.
More information about the tours can be found on the tour website: www.irelandwritertours.com.