Last weekend, I went out of my comfort zone (and my little writing space in a Chicago suburb) and journeyed to The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas for a “Mastering the Middle Grade” workshop. Before I arrived, I knew that The Writing Barn was owned by author and writing teacher Bethany Hegedus, and set on seven and a half wooded acres about 20 minutes from downtown. But what I didn’t know is it’s a place where magic happens.
No, really. I’m not making this up. It might sound cliche but that’s why we have cliches–they’re so often true.
The Writing Barn in Austin, TX
Twelve of us writer people arrived as strangers and left as friends, already planning our retreat reunion. We bared our souls, dug deeply into our works in progress, and learned invaluable lessons about craft from middle grade author Donna Gephart and agent Tina Wexler, our fearless program leaders.
The Thursday evening to Sunday morning retreat consisted of critique sessions for each participant, lectures, free writing time, a visit with authors Nikki Loftin and Kathrine Catmull, walks on the beautiful property, plus delicious food, lots of snacks, and abundant chocolate.
We ended the weekend by painting rocks, each of us choosing a word or phrase to represent our experience. They ranged from “trust your story” to “humor rocks” to “tribe.”
I’ve thought a lot about the word “tribe” and what it means to writers, who spend so much of our time as solitary, sometimes crazy creatures, bent over our keyboards, wracking our brains for just the right word, often doubting ourselves. During the retreat, I not only found a “tribe,” I also was reminded that writing takes courage. Sharing the story that only you can write takes courage.
Stepping back — so hard to do when we all have busy, complicated lives — can make a huge difference in your energy, your perspective, and of course, hopefully, your work.
For more info on upcoming retreats as well as classes and events at The Writing Barn, check the website. More photos from the retreat weekend can be found on The Writing Barn Facebook page.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books/Penguin Random House. Both books are on state award lists. Find Michele at micheleweberhurwitz.com.