Upcoming Writer’s Retreat

Last spring when Vermont Studios Center wrote to say they were awarding me a Writer’s Grant to come to Johnson, VT for a month-long writer’s retreat, I hopped around my kitchen yelling for joy like a rabbit who’d won the Carrot Sweepstakes. February, 2011, the month I would go, was far enough away to feel like a trip to Never-Never Land.picture of Johnson, VT in winter

Now it’s only three weeks until I load up Big Blue (an aging but faithful mini-van left over from carpool days) for the trek North. Very far north, practically in Canada.

I hope Big Blue’s tires can handle the snow and ice. But I also hope there’s lots of snow so I can cross-country ski. After I’ve done my writing for the day, of course. Or at night, when the moon is full and I’d only be sleeping anyway.

Two days ago I created a packing list and ever since have been frantic. You might think this has something to do with the anxiety created by contemplating a whole month of doing nothing but writing, facing off, just me and my first draft. Heavens, no. Don’t be silly.

I intend to have my whole manuscript—all 1,057 pages—pasted into large artist’s sketch books, an idea offered by Allan Hunter, author and memoir professor extraordinaire, before I go. This creates a lot of white space around each page so one can write notes, additions, suggestions without feeling constrained. I think of the resulting pile of black-covered books as my block of Carrera marble, the raw material from which I shall carve out my first book.

It’s a great idea. I just have to make sure that I’ve got the most recent version of a chapter printed out to paste in and that, since I’ve gotten great feedback on sections of or whole chapters over the years from my writers’ groups, that those are collated and incorporated as well.

I admit I get a little hyper when I think of this seemingly endless and painstaking task. But if I don’t paste the pages into the black books, what’s my ordering system? A wheel barrel?

What I Hope to Accomplish

My goal for the retreat is to figure out what this first book is really about. You might have guessed, from the length of the first draft, that I’ve had conflicting ideas about this rather basic concept. In fact, I think there are three different books I could write from this truck-load of pages.

I’ve taken a break from writing since November 10 when I wrote the final sentence and gleefully typed  at the bottom of the page, “THE END.” I’ve been hoping that I’d gain much-needed distance from the book so that my editing eyes, come February 1, will be fresh and laser-precise.

Picture all my fingers crossed.

If any of you out there have words of advice to offer, please comment below. Meantime, I’ll go back to dashing from task to task as if I were actually packing.