Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Fabulous Time Was Had By All

Yesterday I attended the 4th Annual Maine Chapter of RWA Writers' Retreat. It was an unexpected delight. I suppose by now I should expect to get along so well with fellow writers and realize that considering how much we all have in common there are really no strangers and such conferences, there are only unmet friends. I was a late entry to the retreat and truly knew no one when I arrived. When I left it was quite the opposite.

Author Terry McLaughlin spoke first about first kiss scenes and building the moment. She had several clips from movies to illustrate her point and I must say they did the job well. She talked about creating imagery  for your reader to increase the suspense of that first kiss and how much of an impact that can have on your story. After showing a short clip from  Woody Allen film "Annie Hall" about how NOT to write a kiss scene, "Let's kiss now so we get it over with," she showed great examples from movies like "When Harry Met Sally" and "Baby Boom." Sometimes seeing is better then hearing. I must say Terry definately practices what she preaches as shown from this exerpt from her book "A Small Town Temptation" which can be read here. 

She also spoke about writing love scenes confidently and without blushing. Personally I've always been one to jump right into those types of scenes with both feet. I often end up going back to it though wondering if I've written enough or too much. My mother, being rather old fashioned, questions the need for such scenes at all. Over all I feel that Terry gave a wonderful workshop with a lot of valuable information for me as a writer.

Our next presenter was Author Joyce Lamb.  She was witty and entertaining as she spoke about mixing paranormal with other genres in romance. She drew a handy chart listing different types of romance genres and then listed different types of paranormal elements and showed us that we could mix/match pretty much anything and still make it work. It was a great visual.

I loved her 'recipe' for blending paranormal. Deciding how much to add, if you want paranormal to be your 'main' ingredient or another element and using paranormal elements to enhance your plot. Then she explained different ideas of how to pitch your story with the paranormal elements to an agent or editor. Since figuring out how to explain my story is a challenge for me this was particularly helpful.
You can find more information about Joyce and her books here.

After a delicious lunch we all met back for a brainstorming session which if you've never had the privilege of participating in you've definitely missed out. Those of us who were having difficulties with parts of our current stories in progress told the rest of the room the basics of the story and then everyone threw around ideas to help get those creative juices flowing. It was wonderful to pick all those talented brains and easily one of my favorite moments of the Retreat.

Terry spoke again about using your voice and writing from your point of view, which again was very valuable information. She went so far as to tell us that our 'voice' as a writer is what will make or break us in our career and to never try to write a 'voice' that wasn't our own because it would never be natural and then instead of coming easily, writing would be a chore. We watched a short skit and then were asked to write about the scene in 5 minutes. Some wrote strict dialog, some combined dialog with what they saw and some of us set up the scene first. She said that your first instinct was your 'voice' and to recognize and use it well.

When the official business of the conference was over we all retreated to the lobby of the hotel to chat since they were using the room for a wedding later that evening. Getting to know the other members of the Maine Chapter of RWA as well as visiting with the speakers and other authors who had attended was great fun. By the time we all went out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill we were like old friends. We continued our conversation of great food and were even treated to an impromptu Italian Opera performance by one of  our waiters.

Thank you again to all the wonderful ladies who made this retreat possible.