As Barbara told you last week, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at her lovely cottage on Sharbot Lake last week, along with other writer friends for a writers retreat.
A writers retreat is usually thought of as someplace the author can go to get away from their daily bustle (husband (or wife) children, job, household chores) to get some serious work done on their work-in-progress. Aside from the chores (always the chores) I don’t really have anything I need to get away from. And as you know if you know my writing schedule, I don’t seem to have trouble getting work done.
But a retreat, I found, can perform another valuable role, and that’s simply to put you in the mind-space to come up with something new.
Mornings were set aside for our writing time. Barbara always writes her first draft in long hand (unbelievable!) so she goes down to the sunny dock. As I need a computer, I also need a table and chair or, as I use at home, a stand-up surface, and a lot of shade, so I stayed on the upper deck.
The afternoons were set aside for reading, swimming, and talking. The first afternoon, we settled down at the dock in our bathing suits with towels, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and of course books.
First topic of conversation was what everyone was reading.
Robin Harlick was reading The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brien, part of the Master and Commander series. Not a series I’ve ever had any interest in.
But, as it happened, my work for the retreat was the proposal for the fourth Lighthouse Library series by Eva Gates. The book is set at Halloween and it opens when they are decorating the library suitably. You know the stuff: cobwebs, tombstones that say RIP, plastic spiders. And a ghost story to go along with it all.
As Robin talked about the book, I knew exactly what I needed to make the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library Halloween exhibit something special.
The Flying Dutchman. A ghostly ship, doomed to wander the seas forever. In the form of a model ship for the display, and a ghost story to recount.
Perfect! It seems like a small thing, but in writing it’s often the small things that cause a book to rise above the ordinary. And I never would have thought about it if not for being at Barbara’s retreat with time to think and talk with bookie friends and write.