I'd heard a LOT of stuff about the Rainfoest Writers Retreat over the last couple of years. People I know went - some multiple times - and always appeared to have had a blast. So this year - even though there was an initial hiccup with registration because stuff didn't go through to where it was supposed to go through when it was supposed to go through there but it all got sorted out in the end -
The experience began with carpooling down with Colleen Anderson, who drove down from Vancouver, Canada, and picked me up on the way. We left about noon on Wednesday the 19th, and took the "scenic" route - down Whidbey Island, and then (after one false stab in the wrong direction) picking up the Port Townsend ferry and hopping over to the Olympic Peninsula, and then skirting it down the edge of the Hood Canal until we could veer off inland via Aberdeen into the wilds towards Quinault and the Rainforest Resort on the lake. Seeing as it was the first pilgrimage here for both of us it was just a question of finding out where we were going by following our headlights - and as it turned out COlleen had a map in the car of every other place in the region, from British Columbia to Oregon, except the area where we were headed, which was kinda interesting - and we had pritned-out directions which were arguably not entirely clear on the matter. It was full dark by the time we hit the last stretch - following the sign that told us that the resort was 17 miles away - it was possibly the longest darkest 17 miles ever, and it was starting to drizzle, and worse, there were hints of fog which we emphatically didn't want to deal with just then. But all's well that ends well, and we eventually fetched up at the correct place - found our room keys taped to the locked door of the front office - went back to the rooms and dumped our stuff there - and then went down to the reaturant and lounge which is the nerve center fo the whole place and where lots of other attendees were already ensconced. Our registration packages were waiting, and so was the opportunity to sit down and EAT something at last (and both of us were hungry by this stage). So we sat down and had supper and yakked with people we knew and met people we didn't, and at some point during the rest of the night I actually sat down and began writing.
Okay, here's the thing. For a lot of folks with day jobs where writing time is stolen from their days an hour at a time, this is unutterable luxury - this place, where they could go and sit down and crack open a laptop and just WRITE to their hearts content. I of course do have something of that option back here at home, because writing IS my dayjob, as it were - but for me it was a different thing, it was a sense of being in a community of people from my own tribe, people who were dedicated and passionate about their writing, people who did not (as I let myself be, sometimes, at home) allow themselves to be distracted by extraneous things. They were here to write. Some had noise-cancelling earphones on, and concentrated fiercely on what was on their screen. In an atmosphere of such an intense focus, and helped by the fact that Internet is spotty here and cellphone signal practically non-existent, it was easy to dive into it all and gratefully feel the sea of words close over my head. I can breathe this rarefied air, the rainbow mist of words, all these multiple voices whispering into the air, rising like smoke into the light fixtures, clinging to windows like pale invisible winged things with big eyes and Chesire-cat smiles on their faces. I had Technical Issues in that I kinda lost some of the first night's haul due to a hitch with the Equipment (and also, the fact that I could have sworn that I had copied files which I wanted with me into a special folder on a thumb drive which I had brought with me - except that the folder was there, but the files were not - so I basically just started writing from where I THOUGHT I had left off the novel I had come here to work on, and decided to worry about knitting together the separate bits later when I got back home to where the missing files were.
There's a competition going on where anyone who wishes to goes off and writes their day's wordage onto a whiteboard in the main cabin. By Thursday moring, I was in the four figures.
Thusday was the first full day of the retreat, and I wrote. In between I visited the world's largest spruce tree, which lives just off this resort, a 1000-year-old behemoth which is unutterably gorgeous and reminded me a little of my beloved redwoods - I saw an eagle fishing on the lake - I went out for a walk and had a friend take some new "author pics" with me in my fur-lined cape which just seemed to be such a natural prop to bring to this beautiful area - and then the most unutterably gorgeous sunset happened so I went out to take some amazing shots of that - and then we had a group dinner, and it turned out that we had all collectively produced 80,000+ words ON THAT FIRST DAY.
Well, there was no stopping me after that.
Friday I wrote some more novel, and then University BOoks from Seattle set up their book sale table with a huge selection of books by attendees, other books, books on writing, all like that. We mingled and talked books at the evening event over drinks, and it is sometimes just WRONG to feel so purely content, isn't it? TO be at home in a world of one's own choosing? How do I justify this or explain it to people who might never have experienced it...? And then, after this get-together, I got mugged altogether unexpectedly by a short story that came out of nowhere. It was soemthing I'd started before but never got very far with, for whatever reason, but the squib of it was on the laptop that I had brought (and I had brought along the laptop as well as the new tablet which was to make its baptism-by-fire debut as a writing machine at this retreat, and did a yeoman job at this - next time, maybe, I can leave the laptop at home altogether...) and so I worked on that for the rest of the night and just after breakfast the next day, and found myself with a completed story which is by no means perfect (yet) but which has very good bones and which will go off to a suitable market as soon as I have smoothed off the rough edges.
Saturday was colder and cloudier, and there were even flurries of snow in the morning as I crossed the parking lot for breakfast. I finished off the short story after breakfast, in the lounge, staring out over the misty lake, and then went back to the novel and worked at it steadily for the reat of the day (punctuated by socialising, lunch, writing discussions, all that). By the end of the day I was pretty much done - I knew I would probably not be hauling out the writing tech again, and by this stage my word count was in the five figures, one of only five or siz people at the retreat to get there. I was nowhere near the winning word count, but then I had never expected to be, and even what I had astonished me and made me pretty happy. I may not even KEEP all the words that I put down on screen during these heady days, but I WROTE them, and thought them, and dreamed them, and they are part of the edifice that I am building whether they show in the final product or not.
We had an adventure that night because the heating cut out in the entire motel wing (where I was staying). The resort owner came out and poked at the electricals but could not figure it out, and so extra blankets were handed out (they were piled in heaps in the lounge area for people to pick up if they thought they would need them) which made the whole place seem rather like a strange place of refuge rather than a resort hosting a writing retreat. The power company came to fix stuff later, though - quite a bit later - at 2 AM actually, I know, becsuse they were fixing a transformer just outside my window and they woke me from a doze buried under three blankets and a quilted bedspread - but the heating kicked back on and all was well.
Turned out I wrote a couple of pages on Sunday morning, too. This place rolls like that. But the rest of the SUnday morning, post breakfast and all that, was pretty much devoted to closing up shop and the farewells - and by noon Colleen and I were on our way back home, this time via the much more straightforward route of the I5. You can read about our homecoming adventures in the previous entry.
Summary: would I go again? Hell, yeah. I had a great time. I wrote up a storm, socialised with friends old and new, laughed a lot, ate well, walked in the woods, and was generally silly-grin happy about everything for the duration. And now... home again... and I have to pick up my words again, the precious ones I brought home with me, and wresle them into place. And then forge on ahead. Is this book going to have Rainforest Retreat in its acknowledgments...? You bet.
Home again, anyway.
Work to do.
Thanks, Rainforest Retreat. You were wonderful.