The Retreat: Annotated

What made the Muses’ Colorado retreat so great for me? Well, everything the ladies wrote about all week: Good friends, limited contact to the outside world, writing goals, shop talk, plenty of s’mores, and PLENTY of coffee/wine (depending on the hour). But I wanted to give a detailed play-by-play0, because dissecting a case study has always helped me understand on a deeper level.
0Feel free to read the footnotes if you want some extra insight. If you’re not interested, skip them. I mean, it’s not like I worked hard on them for you. Jerk.
Friday. 5am. I rolled out of bed, braved the early airport masses, and hopped on the plane by 7am. With a coffee in hand, I spent the plane ride writing and critiquing.1

1 Talia rocks. That is all.  

Friday 10am. Hello, Denver. This was not an airport for the weak-hearted. After a 58 mile walk and a train ride, I trucked it toward Baggage Claim 9.2 And there we were, The YA Muses, together again. We hopped in our borrowed Jeep3 and aimed toward Estes Park – our home for the following two nights.4

2 Logistics were critical: We’d all arranged our flights to come in around the same time. Donna, offered to pick us up and selected a pre-determined, easy-to-find meeting spot. These little things go a long way. Believe me – I’ve been to other retreats where the stress of the details nearly did me in.

3 Plenty of space for us and the bags, though we were warned that coming back home we better not have any food leftover…or I was going to have to ride on the roof rack. I hate being the rookie in the group.

4 I so wish this could’ve been a longer retreat. But this is what worked into everyone’s crazy, busy schedules.

Friday. 11am. On the drive, Donna outlined a plan for the afternoon: straight to the cabin, make/eat sandwiches, write, fun, write, eat, critique… but we could adjust that as necessary.5 We loved the itinerary so we headed up the mountain and got to the good stuff.6

5 The sign of a great cruise director: A schedule – with flexibility.    

6 a.k.a talking about writing, books, and all that stuff your average spouse/friend/coworker understands very little about. Be warned: these conversations can consume DAYS if you let them, but (as Katy said) car rides/meals/hikes are great times to dive in.

Friday. 12:30pm. The views at the cabin were breathtaking. The air was clear. If we stopped chatting, there was only silence.7 Starving, we tore into the lunch spread: all the fixin’s for sammies…yep, even hummus.8 Stuffed, we corralled for Writing Time. We verbalized our goals, set a timer, plugged into our iCaves (a.k.a music), and set to work.

7Ok, mostly silence. Every so often there’d be an Elk bugling, which sounds very much like a high-pitched-dino-squeal out of JURASSIC PARK. And, take my word, Donna did a fantastic demo so we’d know what to be listening for.

8Or whatever them veggie-tar-ians eat…actually, this is a good point. Our cruise director provided options that could accommodate the group without being overly complex. After all, food is merely writing fuel.

Friday. 4:30pm. The timer went off. As we finished our goals (or came within spittin’ distance), we congregated on the porch for more talk and opportunities to hear Elk.9 Eventually, we piled into the Jeep and Donna took us on an ole’ fashioned safari.10, 11  

9This is one of those rewards Donna spoke of.

10In which we witnessed (in no particular order of importance): A coyote, deer, a tetherball court, some kinky Elk rituals, and Bret laughing so hard he almost peed his pants.

11Can’t tell you how important it was to get out of the house for a little bit.

Friday. 7pm. We welcomed the personal pizza bar.12 With a roaring fire, we followed the meal with wine, mini-cupcakes, and a read-aloud critique session with our new projects.12.5 By 10:30pm, some of us curled into bed and others stayed up way past our bedtimes watching the stars, talking, or tackling a little more writing.13

12Again with the delicious, all-encompassing meals.

12.5Be jealous. Be very jealous. These ladies are genius.

13Veronica. Is. A. Machine.

Saturday. All Day. We devoured some great homemade pancakes14 and then got to work. The day was gloomy with spots of rain. Perfect writing weather.15 The coffee, tea, and snacks16 kept us productive. By 2:30pm, brains were fried. Back into the Jeep for another safari. On the car-ride to the spectacular Bear Lake, we locked down Blog topics for the next several months.17 After a break in the storm, we hiked to the lake, and then headed home for more (you guessed it) writing time.

14Do you notice a food-trend yet?

15When you’re picking a spot, you want places where you can get out, but not where you have to be out the whole time. Sorry again about Hawaii, Katy.

16Bring lots and lots.

17 There’s some great ones in the queue. Stay tuned.

Saturday. Night. We take Donna out to a nice dinner on the local river.18 Then back to the cabin for more reading, s’mores, wine, laughing, and conversation. We all stayed up way-too-late, not wanting the night to end.

18It was the LEAST we could do for all of her hard cruise directing.

Sunday. Morning. We checked out of the cabin, grabbed breakfast, and hiked to a nice waterfall. We found a local coffee shop and took over their biggest table for a few more hours at the grindstone.  Too soon, we left for the airport19 and made the long trek back to the gate. I touched down around 7pm, tired, though oddly recharged, and totally excited to see my family. It’d only been a weekend, but a jam-packed, productive one.20

19And had a great time rehashing all the jokes and talking about our future plans – including where the next retreat will be!

20And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Can't wait until NEXT time!


Ah, writing in the land of elk and honey. I'm jealous. Especially about the weather. I can't wait for rain to energize my reading/writing.

And I can't wait to read your book ...

Bret, your writing is so energetic in such a great way! I'm exhausted. Time for a retreat.

Ryan - You have NO idea how many times I though about E&H. Hilarious.

PB - Thanks! Sorry to wear you out. I have a tendency to do that to people.

So glad you guys all had fun - sounds like the perfect writing break!

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