Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birds of a Feather

By Martha Reed

Last weekend I took advantage of a Writer’s Retreat sponsored by the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime. The Retreat was held in Confluence, Pennsylvania. This was a bold decision since we were trapped for two days by rising floodwaters the last time we tried to pull this off.

I’m happy to report that all went well. The rental house was a surprise and a delight, the food was homemade, the workshops were insightful. What I want to talk about today though is what happens whenever writers flock together.

I’ve seen a good bit of this the last couple of months. First was Bouchercon in St. Louis, when there were 1,400 of us. That was terrific but it was like partying in a mall. It was so big there was no sense of intimacy – or if there was, it happened privately, behind closed doors.

The Retreat was different. There were only six of us and two were complete newbies. Do you remember the feeling you got the first time you discovered a gaggle of writers and you realized you had finally found your people? This weekend Jennifer said: “I’m so glad to know I’m not crazy. You really do talk about stuff like this.” And all of us wise (older) ones nodded. Yes, yes we do. We talk about imagination. And feelings like anger, betrayal, love, devotion, angst. Sometimes we discuss bizarre ways to murder people. Sometimes we hear voices telling us what to do and when we mention hearing voices the other writers in the room chime in with: “You’re so lucky” instead of calling for the men with the nets.

The sense of community extends beyond monthly meetings or discussion groups. One of our members is going through a rough patch right now. I heard three different women tell her “Don’t forget, we’re sisters. Call me if you need me.” And they meant it.

Writing can be a lonely profession. Silent contemplation is a big part of what we do. I think that’s what makes writers so wise. We tend to think things though. But if you’re feeling a bit adrift right now, try connecting with another writer. Call someone up. Make plans for lunch or a bike ride or share a bottle of wine and look at the stars.

Take a break and enjoy the craft. For once, the edits (and the laundry) can wait.

PS. This is awesome. Birds of a feather flock together:


Joyce Tremel said...

Nice post, Martha. I couldn't imagine writing without the support of other writers. That's what is so great about the writing community--it really is a community. Every writer I've ever met is so giving, so willing to help.

Just look at what happened with Lauren Myracle yesterday when she had to withdraw SHINE from the National Book Awards because they screwed up. Everyone went out and bought her book and sent it soaring up the Amazon list.

Annette said...

It was a wonderful weekend, Martha. I love yunz guys.

Martha Reed said...

And the best part is, when one of us signs with an agent or gets a book deal, we all get to celebrate. Wine and chocolates for everyone!

Liz Milliron said...

It was a great weekend and I am still on a "writer's high" from all the information. A college friend of mine once wrote about "finding her tribe" - a group of people who really understood her passion for endurance sports. I thought she was lucky; I didn't have a tribe. It was just me pecking away in my dining room. But now, I have a tribe!

Annette said...

And I'm happy to be part of your tribe, Mary.

Martha Reed said...

It is a good feeling. I remember the first time I went to Malice Domestic. My sister Joan drove with me and when our other sister asked her about the convention center, Joan said: I opened the door and there were 300 Marthas.

Ramona said...

300 Marthas! What a great comment. (That also sounds like the name of a band.)

I'm glad the group had such a great weekend, felonious acts and all.

Jenna said...

Wow, those birds are awesome. The blog was nice too, but the birds... wow!