In August of 2015, Natalie Parker sent me and my two critique partners an email letting us know she still had three slots open for the inaugural Mapcap Retreat, The Anatomy of a Story hosted by Courtney C. Stevens. At the time, I was a public librarian supporting a family of four while my husband worked on his Ph.D.
Actually, I’m still a public librarian supporting a family of four while my husband works on this Ph.D.
The point is that I was (and am) BROKE, and I worried that going on a retreat like this was selfish. Heaven forbid a wife and mother and good Midwestern woman be selfish. But my husband is a wonderful human being, and when I talked to him about it, he was all for my going.
So I went.
And it was freaking fantastic.
I can’t stress that last point strongly enough. Yes, I had critique partners. Yes, I had had the chance to meet and interact with other writers in the Kansas City area. But going to a retreat and spending extensive time working around and with others who get you and what you’re trying to do? That’s priceless.
Half a year later, I attended another Madcap Retreat, The Aspiring Writers Workshop. This was a much larger retreat than the first, and featured an incredible faculty line-up: Renee Ahdieh, Dhonielle Clayton, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Henning, Justina Ireland, Myra McEntire, Julie Murphy, Natalie C. Parker, Carrie Ryan, Victoria Schwab, Courtney C. Stevens, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff.
No, seriously, look at that line-up. That actually happened.
Again, what I learned that week made me a better writer. (Y’all, Tessa Gratton’s session on world-building will change your life.) But while the curriculum was incredible, it was that sense of community that truly made the experience worthwhile.
I have writing friends all over the country now. No, wait, all over the world. (I’m looking at you, Meyrnah.) I’m using the word friends here. I’ve read for them, and they have read for me, and there are few things more intimate than exchanging your work with others. These people? I freaking love these people.
And then there is the not inconsiderable fact that I have found mentors at these retreats. I can’t even tell you how grateful I am to Natalie, Tessa, Myra, and Carrie for all the ways they have taken the time to help me navigate the world of publishing which is so new and inscrutable to me.
I have an agent now. I have a ridiculously fantastic dream agent now. And I know of at least two other retreat-goers who have agents now. For my own part, I don’t think that would have happened if I had not gone on those retreats.
So what I’m saying here is that if you find yourself with an opportunity to go on a retreat (shout out for Madcap Retreats!) DO IT.