My literary agency does this awesome thing every year (to my knowledge, they are the only agency that does this): an annual retreat for all of their author clients. For about 3 days, we all get to hang out together in a hotel in a scenic but reasonably priced location and talk shop, ask questions, share our successes and commiserate on our struggles.
This year’s retreat – my first – was in Burlington, Vermont. As you can see in this view from the hotel window, it is gorgeous! (Though I really can’t tell you much more about Burlington than that, because our schedule was so packed with info sessions, Q and As, and socializing with my agent siblings, which I wouldn’t have missed for anything!)
Writing is by its very nature a solitary endeavor, and in that solitude it can be easy to lose perspective. This is what makes in-person events like conferences, conventions, and writers retreats invaluable. My agency represents clients in a wide range of genres – seriously, everyone from children’s picture book illustrators and comic book artists to authors of everything from Middle Grade to Mysteries, Noir and Erotica. They also represent authors at all stages of their careers, from haven’t-sold-a-book-yet to multi New York Times bestsellers. What touched my heart in this diverse array of creators, was that no matter what our medium, no matter how new or established we are in our careers, we all go through the exact same highs and lows of the creative process: the euphoria of the new idea, the crushing self-doubt, the overwhelming conviction that everything we create sucks and we are the worst writer/artist/illustrator ever and should just stop trying, and the fear that even if we made something good once we won’t be able to do it again. It was so reassuring to hear everyone speak so candidly about their own struggles, and heartening to know that – whether you write literary fiction or romance or fantasy or children’s picture books – we’re all riding the same mental/emotional roller coaster. Perhaps there is something universal about creativity, in all its myriad forms.
But the best part of Camp BGL was truly the new friendships. I was so inspired by all the authors I met – seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a group where everyone was so talented, so enthusiastic, so warm, and just such interesting people (seriously, one of the author/illustrators there has been living on a replica 18th century tall ship to research her graphic novel, another was traversing the country on a motor scooter with only the possessions she could carry, the founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement was there, there were authors of exquisitely tender and hot M/M romance, an anthology of transgender speculative fiction, and an adorable picture books about sloths…and I just felt like the luckiest duck to get to hang out with so many fascinating folks!
I returned home fired up to go forth and write all the things! And I’m trying to sustain that momentum now that I’ve returned to “real life” – the day job, the house work, the next round of deadlines. But that’s why experiences like this are so necessary in an author’s life – they sustain us….until next time.
p.s Meeting so many incredibly talented artists (illustrators, comics, graphic novels etc…) as well as authors at the retreat made me realize that I really miss drawing. This was something I used to love to do as a child and young teenager, and then I stopped…because some persnickety little voice in my head told me I’d never be good enough. The night I came back from retreat I broke out my sketching pencil. Since I’m loving the adult coloring book trend going on right now, I decided I’d draw some ELIXIR themed adult coloring book pages to use in reader giveaways. What do you think? Readers, is this something you’d enjoy receiving? Check out the first drawing below!
And as always feel free to drop a line in the comments! What would your ideal creative camp be like?