Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Survived the Confluence Writers Retreat!

By Martha Reed

I belong to the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and I’m starting to think we have some funky mojo going when it comes to scheduling our events and running into freakish weather.

Last January, during our Hallie Ephron Workshop, a surprise blizzard blew into Pittsburgh exactly one hour before the event was scheduled to begin. An ice storm blasted Western Pennsylvania the day of our Holiday Luncheon this year and just last weekend – after months and months of planning – our Writers Retreat featuring special guest teacher and moderator Ramona Long was situated in Confluence, PA, which if you’ve been watching the news was Ground Zero for the snowmelt flooding on the Yachagheny river on Saturday.

(Of course, if you’re really clever, you’re wondering why a group of reasonably intelligent writers overlooked the meaning behind the word Confluence but we’ll let that one pass.)

What can I tell you? I know I was the last person driving into Confluence on Saturday morning at 8:15 AM before the roads were closed. Some folks expressed a little dismay at my decision but I knew my Sibling crew was still at the Retreat house and there was no way I was going to let them have all the fun without me!

After being reassured the house was safe, we soldiered on with our writing discussions and workshop sessions although I have to admit it was a little tough to focus on the discussion at hand when I could see the water rising in the yard outside – and I mean see it rise in front of my eyes, not just notice that the river was creeping in. There was a square white No Hunting sign posted on a tree on the opposite side of the river and as I worked to develop an effective pitch for my new novel the sign disappeared underwater. It gave me pause for thought. The Retreat house was situated between an active freight line and the river and whenever a train went by - and it went by often - the engineer would point at us and laugh. I wasn’t reassured by his gesture.

But all in all, there was a surprising sense of camaraderie and lots of delicious food, and Ramona led the discussions brilliantly and exercised tough love when necessary and I think we call came out of the weekend feeling invigorated and exhausted all at the same time. The true test of success will be when we schedule our next Retreat – I’m betting that everyone at the Retreat this past weekend will be the first ones to sign on again.

We stopped in Ohiopyle (Guess what that word means!) on our way home to observe the usually reasonable Falls. On Sunday it sounded like Niagara. Have a listen, and try to imagine living next to that much live water for 48 hours. It was awe-some and inspiring and I can’t wait to do it again.



Annette said...

Okay, spelling lesson. It's Youghiogheny River although it's pronounced Yawk-a-gen-y.

Hubby always tells me when an event goes off without a hitch, you have nothing much to talk about afterwards. But when stuff goes wrong, you will talk about it for years to come. This retreat will be burned into our brains for decades.

And my word verification for today is unchill. Which is exactly what the snow did and got us into that mess.

Martha Reed said...

Morning, Annette!

I swear I looked it up! I know I was pronouncing it right because everyone calls it the Yawk like when they say the Mon you know you're talking to a native.

And one of my favorite mottos is Today's crisis is tomorrow's funny story. This last weekend is going to last me a good long while.

Madame President, where are we going next?

Annette said...

Tornado Alley.

Joyce Tremel said...

Oh, goodie! I love tornadoes!

PatRemick said...

Thanks for a good laugh this morning, Martha! Your retreat gang is one dedicated, persistent or stubborn group of writers! LOL. If you could survive that weekend without running, screaming, from a rapidly rising river, I'd say publishing should be a cakewalk for your crew!

Annette said...

Pat, there really wasn't anywhere TO run. We were a captive audience.

Did you all see the pictures I posted of the retreat/adventure over at my blog yesterday?

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like an adventurous retreat! Glad you all managed to enjoy it despite the rising waters.

Martha Reed said...

Yes, please check Annette's blog especially the pictures of the back yard. That's what still gives me chills!

I also loved the fact the paramedics evacuated the folks living UPHILL FROM US.

Martha Reed said...

PS. Doesn't anyone want to guess what Ohiopyle means? C'mon! You're all writers!

Jenna said...

You can come to Nashville! We've always got tornadoes!

Sounds like a great time was had by all, including the train driver. Good post, Martha!

Lindsay said...

Did you ever think about meeting in the Spring. Course then you've got flooding. Hold it, you had flooding.
It sounds like you had a great time and learning experience. Potential disasters aside.
I cheated. Went to wikipedia for the definition of Ohiopyle- Ohiopyle" (Ohio-pile) is thought to have been derived from the American Indian word ohiopehhla which means white frothy water.

Patg said...

What are you talking about?????? Surrounded by tons of water--uh, I guess I mean gallons--what's the big deal?
Humph! Ya'all might want to take a look at the pictures on my website of my house.
Flooding? Wonderful--up I go. Drought, now there's a problem. Bump, bump, bump.

Annette said...

But, Pat, I bet YOUR water isn't brown and angry and rushing by at high rates of speed carrying large trees along with it.

Ramona said...

You do realize that, in terms of drama, it's all downhill from here? I wonder how many short stories or humorous scenes will come out of the weekend? Personally, the next time I see a policeman leaning against his patrol car, I will probably die laughing.

I am using my day off to do yard clean up. I just uncovered dozens of crocuses, all happily blooming in the sunshine. Unbelievable that just two days ago, I was mesmerized by a raging river. It was definitely an unforgettable weekend.

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Ramona.

If I know this group (and I do) I am probably going to pay for the "his unit" description for the rest of my life!

It's all in good fun and I know a lot of terrific information came out of our weekend. Thank you for moderating and teaching and being such a good sport under very trying circumstances! (Don't forget the ladybugs, too).

Annette said...

Who could possibly forget the ladybugs. I just vacuumed a dozen out of my bedroom windows and it felt like nothing compared to the THOUSANDS we encountered at the retreat.

Ramona said...

Annette, I had a ladybug crawl out of my Skin So Soft gift basket!

Thank you for that, and to all of you for being so welcoming. I was shocked to learn that some of you were meeting one another for the first time! If the retreaters are an indicator of what the Pittsburgh chapter is like, you all are very fortunate to have such warm and generous sisters.

Oh, yeah, Martha, no way am I dropping the unit jokes anytime soon. :-)

Annette said...

Ramona, it's hard to say whether that ladybug crawled in there at the retreat or at my house, as I have quite a few of the little beasties here, too. I just hope it didn't eat any of the chocolate I stashed in there with the Skin So Soft!

Gina said...

I am so bummed out about having to leave the retreat early@!#@

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I've heard the author Alex Haley found water so inspirational, he was taking 5 to 6 showers each day while he was writing Roots.

With all that water, you show be inspired for a lifetime.

Patg said...

Annette, don't bet on that brown stuff thing.
Fast running as the Columbia is, it gets yucky sometimes. I can't believe the number of people who will swim in it. And logs (from trees) and the telephone pole kind do float down occasionally. That's how we get all those great stumps to sit on our decks.
Oh, in 1996 we had big ice chunks flow down, and ice completely freeze around our moorage.
Needless to say, no inspiration from water here.