Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Many Crime Writers Does It Take...

Have you ever wondered how many women crime writers does it take to break into a house?

Last weekend, I found out the answer: six.

More on that in a bit.

We arrived in Confluence last Friday afternoon. I’d pretty much given up on any idea of outdoor activities, since the morning had dawned gloomy, dreary, and rainy. But by the time I pulled up in front of the rental house, blue skies were winning the battle against the clouds.

Two minutes after I arrived, Colette Garmer and fellow Working Stiff Martha Reed pulled in behind me. We lugged our gear inside, and I gave them the tour of That Dam Yough House. Bedrooms were divvied up. And Colette settled in while Martha and I headed out for a bike ride. The mountain air was brisk and clear. The breeze made any thoughts of maintaining a decent hairstyle a waste of time and effort. There’s a sense of freedom in giving up the battle to look good.

Once we returned from our ride, we made a grocery list, called and ordered a couple of pizzas, and then Martha and I jumped in my car to do some food shopping. By the time we made it back, the others had arrived. The kitchen counter was laden with goodies. The refrigerator stuffed.

We gathered around the table to share our first meal of the weekend. We also shared a “conference call” with our absentee president Tamara Girardi, who was home with her newborn son. Ah, speaker phones. Technology does come in handy sometimes.

Friday evening, we gathered in the living room for a group critique session. No tears were shed. In fact, I find it amazing how much talent we had in that house.

Somewhere in the course of the evening, I broke out the chocolate wine. Yes, you read that right. Chocolate wine. Think Yoo-hoo on steroids.

At one point I had an idea that was nothing short of genius, if I do say so myself. Chocolate wine in coffee. Don’t laugh. If you haven’t tried it, you really must. It’s like mocha with a kick.

Saturday morning was the start of the workshops. As the presenter, you’d think I didn’t learn anything. But the fact is going over the material in preparation to share it reminded me of some key points I’d forgotten.

And it was extremely gratifying to see my “sisters’” eyes light up when they had an a-ha moment.

We didn’t just “work,” although there was plenty of that. We took walks. I took everyone on a pair of driving tours to the dam and around the town I consider my second home.

Last year, when we were there during the flood, it was hard to show off the place. This year, the weather was perfect and, with the autumn colors in full bloom, Confluence had on her best party dress.

Saturday evening, we walked the short distance to the River’s Edge CafĂ© for dinner. Everyone had mellowed nicely by then. Discussion varied from a report on this summer’s manuscript boot camp to “what made you become a writer?” On the walk home, the stars sparkled overhead. Good thing I know my way around, because Confluence doesn’t have street lights. Thankfully, they don’t have much in the way of traffic either.

But when we returned to the house, we made a startling discovery. The keys we had didn’t include one for the front door. Nor did they include one for the deadbolt on the back door, which someone who shall remain nameless (Colette) had latched. No one answered at the phone numbers we had. And Mary Sutton needed to use the facilities.

Which brings me back to the question about how many women crime writers does it take to break into a house?

Mary and her urgent needs motivated us to take action rather than simply wait for the landlords to pick up their phone messages. One plan involved hoisting petite Jennifer Little-Fleck up to the second floor where Martha had left her bedroom window open. Meanwhile, Colette searched the perimeter and found a first-floor window that hadn’t been locked. However, the screen on the outside of it presented something of an obstacle. Martha managed to pry it loose, but couldn’t quite get it all the way out. I jumped in and figured out how to release it from its bindings. Then Martha gave Jennifer a leg up while someone (Colette, I think) held the wooden blind out of the way. Jennifer slid right in and opened the door for us. Lee Ann Dawson was involved in the break-in, too. So that makes six.

And since the weather wasn’t providing any challenges, we now had our annual story to tell to the folks back home.

Sunday morning’s workshop on Social Networking turned into a group discussion with those in the know helping those who wanted to know. We sat down to lunch before saying our good-byes. I think I can truthfully say a good time was had by all. If there were any complaints, I didn’t hear them. 


Joyce said...

Sounds like a great time! I'm sorry I missed it!

Annette said...

Joyce, the general consensus is that they want to go back next year, so maybe you can join us then.

Jenna said...

That sounds lovely. Wish I could have been there. I've never been to a writers retreat. (Although I have broken into my own house. It also involved a window screen and an unlatched window. And a 5-year-old who had somehow slammed his door in a hissy fit, thus managing to lock himself into his room and get the door stuck so we couldn't open it from the hallway. We had to get him out through the window instead. And promptly changed out all the door handles.)

Annette said...

Jenna, I somehow think it would be easier to slide a 5-year-old out of a window than to shove an adult through one. I'm so grateful that it wasn't ME being boosted inside. I'd have needed a chiropractor.

Mary Sutton said...

It was a great weekend. Now that I have purged the short story from my brain, I am eager to dive into the novel feedback!

Annette said...

And I gather you read mine since you noticed my comment about adverbs. ;-)

Ramona said...

Chocolate wine in coffee?!? I must try this, pronto.

Annette is an excitement magnet. That is the only explanation.

Annette said...

Ah, Ramona, didn't you have an event cancelled earlier this year due to flooding? And weren't you also in attendance at our retreat during the Great Flood? If there's anyone who's an excitement magnet, it's you, darlin'.

Colette Garmer said...

While reading Annette's story about our retreat and B&E Training, I have warm fuzzy feelings still from being involved in this event.

I learned so much from Annette's presentation as well as how much this group of women truly is a sisterhood. I have been tightly woven in another critique group from years ago when the right mix of people belonged. It's rare when this happens. Almost feels like lightening hitting twice in the same spot.

With this special group of women and men (yes, we have mister's in crime too) I again feel the comaraderie I once experienced before. All I can say is when it happens for you that you feel connected as a group, don't take that for granted. It can awaken the writing in your that was buried deep and give you a new sense of purpose.

Thanks Annette for introducing That Dam Yough House to a lucky group of writers that weekend.

Hopefully, what happened in Confluence won't stay in Confluence, but end up on someone's printed page.

Patg said...

What part of PA is 'Damn Yough House' in? Looks like several lake areas up in NE PA where I grew up.
Chocolate wine in coffee, thanks Ramona, otherwise I couldn't imagine.

Annette said...

Pat, it's That DAM Yough House (no "n") because it's in Confluence PA at the base of the Youghiogheny Dam. It's southern Pennsylvania, near the Maryland border.

Annette said...

Colette, it was my pleasure. And it does my heart good to know I've been able to share a bit of what I've felt being in this group.

Melissa Sugar said...

Sounds like a fun time. I have not been to a writer's retreat, but I am trying to get there. My husband thinks of it as going away for fun and an opportunity to get away from the kids. I think I will invent an addiction and send myself to rehab, via a writer's retreat. It won't be a complete lie. Writing is an addicition.

Annette said...

Sounds like a good plan to me, Melissa!