Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Retreat Part 1: Ode to Amateurs

INTERN is back, misty-eyed and kumbaya-ish, from a weekend spent prancing around in nature with pen and journal in hand at an authentic Writer's Retreat. Everyone in the office is peering up over their desks and asking, "What happened at this Writer's Retreat that spawned such obvious paroxysms of hypomanic delight in you, oh normally sleepy intern?"

To which INTERN answers:

a) the lake was really, really pretty!
b) there was unlimited coffee all day!


c) it was full of pure-hearted, earnest, book-loving, whimsical shirt-wearing 50-somethings who really like to read and write but don't seem to care about ever getting published themselves, and actually seemed to consider it a distraction on the odd occasion when someone asked a publishing-related question to an instructor.


So many people smirk at the mention of W.R's that INTERN went into this, her first one, half-expecting to find a mythical tribe of egotistical ring-wraiths, each one with a precious Fictionalized Memoir in a fancy leather folder under its bony arm. But it wasn't like that at all. By some fluke—actually, INTERN suspects it's because this W.R. had no application process and therefore wasn't prestigious enough to attract any manuscript-bearing ring-wraiths—there were only 24 middle-aged, unpublished writing enthusiasts (and one INTERN), and they drank a lot of wine and devoured the instructors' tidbits, for better or for worse, like Kettle Corn.

Maybe it shouldn't have come as such a revelation, but it was: these are the people who buy books, who buy books for their kids, and buy books for their aging parents, and go to book-signings and readings, and sign up for Author Tracker, and join book clubs, and support their local libraries, and who will probably eventually arrange for books to be given out at their funerals or shot into space with their cremated remains. They have—all of them—get ready for it—REAL JOBS. They work—no, seriously—seriously—REAL JOBS—in part so they can afford to buy books (and oddly pristine raingear). For real.

All of this which is probably obvious to everyone else (and problematic in many ways) blew INTERN's mind.


INTERN has a lot more to say about this Writing Retreat, which had its own bulbous dark side, but felt a great need to say the good stuff first, because it doesn't get said enough: amateur writers are really nice people, and they have the incredible gift of caring more about writing than about getting published. Ten thousands huzzahs. A hundred thousand! A million!


INTERN has a lot more to say about this Writing Retreat, but in the meantime enjoy this fun preview quiz:

During her first W.R, INTERN contracted which of the following:

a) Swine Flu
b) Morbid obesity
c) Giardia


  1. C) Giardia

    Because the other two don't make nearly as much sense as that one does.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I NEED to go on a writer's retreat. Just like that one.

    My guess is you contracted morbid obesity since most writers have huge butts from long hours sitting in front of a computer. It scares me that that'll happen to me some day. I keep checking my butt in the mirror and so far, so good.

  3. I had to Google "giardia"... and immediately saw something about the risk of infection in lakes. Dang, sorry. That must suck.

    On the bright side, the disease is apparently nicknamed "beaver fever" because the infection is especially a concern for people swimming in artificial lakes formed by beaver dams.

    Beaver fever. Can you believe that you have to scroll down to Google entry #7 to find something perverted for this phrase? The first 6 entries are actually all about your health. And #7 is the Urban Dictionary.

  4. C) Giardia, as the INTERN was amongst the old and the pure. The shock to normal life must have caused the diarrhea.

  5. Giardia... you drank the lake water!

    Haste yee back ;-)

  6. Oh dear - I know a is still a little scary and b would require lots of diet and exercise to be rid of, but from what I've heard I really, really hope it wasn't c. Considering you were near a lake that may have been home to beavers I'm not too optimistic. Get well soon!

  7. Was it (d) Morbid Swine Giardia?

    I have a sneaking suspicion that it was (c) Giardia, which I had to go look up, which sounds yucky. Get well soon!

    And yay for people who love books without bitterness!

  8. All hail the unpublished writers!

    Glad you had fun!

    Wild guess...ehm...c?

  9. Do I win a prize if I answer correctly? I say Giardia.

  10. C? Drinking out of a mountain stream?

  11. Aside from drinking directly out of a stream, I've heard you can contract Giardia from drinking filtered water in more rural areas, too. The micro-organisms are, well, micro, and sometimes they slip through filters.

    Get well soon!

  12. I vote for swine flu. Not that I wish you serious illness, but you'd get a lot of mileage out of that story...

  13. I think the smirkers may be confusing MFA programs with WR's. Wraiths are common in the former.

  14. Um, one doesn't contract morbid obesity, so it's not that. Giardia, lake water--too obvious. Swine flu, it is. Especially since you snuck in "bulbous dark side"--suggesting alcoholic overindulgence, suggesting animal behavior, suggesting someone acting like a pig, suggesting the symbolically loaded swine flu.
    Super wonderful blog.
    Kilo Lima 13

  15. Writers retreats sound fantastic. I am jealous.

    And also, my answer is...c. Which must suck, by the way, and no matter which one you got, hope you feel better. :D

  16. Unlimited Coffee??? Made from the water in this "heavenly" retreat? Giardia, sorry about that. Get well soon, love your blog!

  17. I just had to pop in and say how much I've been enjoying this blog (yeah, I lurk. Shoot me). Anywho, I laughed ut loud, and then got warm and fuzzy all over at the thought of how much fun you had (and then wondered perhaps if you might be the slightest bit tipsy on whatever meds they gave you for whatever icky you might have contracted). Feel better soon; I can hardly wait to see the snarky side of the WR!