by Liz Adair
Round Tuit Writers, the Northwest Washington chapter of ANWA, hosted a retreat for area LDS women writers at Silver Lake Park, near Bellingham. The twenty attendees came from Moscow, ID, Newberg, OR, and Seattle, Leavenworth, Bellingham, and Sedro Woolley, WA. Anna Arnett also traveled up from Gilbert, AZ, to be a presenter.
MaryLou Bailey, author of four books on games for family, learning, and special occasions, began with an energetic and captivating presentation entitled “Seize the Trout” that invited us all to get started writing. After hearing about all the marvelous games she had written, I put her on the spot and asked her to conduct an impromptu ‘get acquainted game’. She didn’t miss a beat and instantly had us involved in a clever exercise that broke the ice for this group where very few knew more than three people, and some didn’t know anyone.
Our next presenter, Friday morning, was Linda P. Adams, author of the Thy Kingdom Come series. I had asked her to present about using the internet to market your work, and she responded ably, exposing us to the possibilities of web sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. Several non-bloggers were declaring intentions to begin as a result of Linda's class.
Along with lunch, we had a writing exercise where we broke into groups and the sisters were given ten minutes to plot a story from some random facts. One sister who had never tried fiction said she was amazed at how quickly she came to care about the characters in the story she and her group came up with, though we all agreed that middle-aged Alfred, in his distinctive attire, was not a sympathetic character at all.
Anna Arnett won every heart as she taught us about how to scan poetry and then recited some of her favorites and a few of her own compositions. One attendee said she was going to go home and have her homeschool students start learning to memorize poems.
Three people had brought pieces to critique, and since the four who came from Oregon belong to a critique group, they were asked to demonstrate how a critique group should function. We were all impressed with three things: 1) the quality of writing that was offered for critique, 2) the balance, pro and con, of comments made and 3) the effectiveness of a well-run critique group.
After supper we got back to the important stuff: writing. Christine Thackeray, author of The Crayon Messages and Latter-day Truths in Narnia, gave a rousing lesson on the building blocks of a good plot. Her enthusiasm and down-to-earth pointers made each of us vow to follow her formula to become better writers. During one of Christine’s writing exercises, Ann Acton brought down the house when she persuasively wrote about middle-aged Alfred’s tolerable qualities, in spite of his taste in clothing.
We ended the conference Saturday morning with an illuminating writing exercise led by Linda P. Adams. She referred to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Relief Society Conference talk where he spoke of Woman’s innate ability to create. He admonished us to rely on the Spirit as we try to create something that will improve the world around us. In doing so, we’ll also improve the world within us and increase our creative capacity.
As I looked at each of the women there and thought about the things I had heard each share, I felt blessed to be in the presence of such abundant gifts. The willingness to try, the determination to become better, and the sheer enthusiasm of these women energized me so that I smiled all the way home. I miss them already and can’t wait for next year’s retreat.
Wendy Jones blogged about the retreat, too. She's a wonderful photographer. Check out her blog to see her pictures.