Friday, May 27, 2016

Retreating from the Writer's Retreat



As I have learned, When Words Count Writer's Retreat has a sweepstakes at the end of every year to generate free visits for writers from the beginning of January all the way to the end of May. I was one of those people who won.

Coming to the retreat, I was blessed with stunning views of mountain ranges and winding back roads, a covered bridge and farms. All of this pleasant to look at. Arriving was just as beautiful. From the mountains in the distance to the little pond just beyond the house it gave a promise of peace and possible productivity in writing.
My room is the top left corner. Hi room, I'm home for the next few days.

I admit, when I had first won, I thought it was a scam, and in doing research I have not been the only one to think so. It's not a normal thing to hear about some random retreat in Vermont and also to win a 3 night stay at a country type house in the shadow of the Green Mountains in said retreat. It is real, however, I can attest to it. I haven't been abducted or found in the midst of a Steven King novel. So there is some bonus in the views of epicness.

I have to say, the food is delish. Not the farm to plate type meals that are advertised on the website. Nope, the food is bought, not harvested and butchered here like I had hoped. Let's face it, I know enough about farms and food to know the difference between fresh meat and market meat. The chef was really good at his craft and even though the meals were very far from what I had hoped they were posh and exquisite. The chef was only here at night, so the rest of the meals were just fancy home cooked stuff that I could have easily made at home. After all that fancy, healthy food, I could really go for a cheese burger.


The view was beautiful, the food was tasty, but the house... well, it was decorated quite lovely but between the sagging ceiling, weak and bending porch, and the creaky shaky floors, I had a feeling it had to be haunted and quite possibly fall down around me at the moment a strong breeze kicked in.
Still alive and kicking so there is that. The house needs some upkeep and possible reconstruction. In my personal, unprofessional opinion.
Nope, that's not a weird camera angle, that ceiling really is bending in the middle.

Then there is writing time. Between finishing lunch around 1pm and before cocktails the house is empty of anyone except writers. It's a good time to settle down and write to your heart's content. This is the time when no one will bug you about anything. It's the blissful time of the day.

After 5-6pm, that's when the introvert can expect an anxiety attack. This is the time the proprietor comes in. His aura (if you believe in that sort of thing) is of a pushy sales man. He's good at talking, not so much at listening. At least from my experience. His focus seems to be on getting writers, especially new writers, to work with him and his crew. (It was just him since we didn't meet anyone else that I know of.) Work on what, you ask? Well, to get a traditional book deal. Here's the catch.  His 'traditional' book deal is with an indy-publisher in NY, Chicago or LA. So I'm not seeing the traditional because it has nothing to do with the big five.
Prince does not trust you or your publishers.

On day two of the visit, after we have dinner, we retire in the living room and are expected to read a few pages. I did and was already in the know that the proprietor wasn't a fantasy fan, so his critique was lacking in helpful feedback.  He could only think of one thing, just one thing. As much as I would like to think it is because my writing is wonderful, I have my doubts and it just doesn't give me confidence in his coaching abilities.

He may be better at coaching contemporary fiction or non-fiction but in the terms of Speculative fiction, horror, thrillers and mysteries, I think the writers should steer clear. Don't trust a sales man to coach when any writer's group, especially something like Agent Query Connect could give you much more helpful input.

To be honest, I hate leaving such scathing words, but I feel like people need a warning of what to expect. I had no idea it would be an 'interview' with the guy who runs the place. All I wanted to do was write and perhaps get some useful feedback. Now, I'll just run back to my own house and enjoy some quiet time in the middle of the night and write away when all is asleep.

What do you guys think? Have you been to any other writer's retreat? What did you pay? What was it like? I could really use some input on where I should go next.