Last week I had the most awesome experience of attending a writer's retreat. This was not only my first one to ever attend, but it was also my first to organize!
Granted, if I had attended a writer's retreat before hand, I'm sure I would have been a better organizer. As it was, though, I thought things went incredibly well. Here are some of the things to consider when planning your retreat:
1) Location. While we'd all love a writer's retreat to some exotic island, who can really get there for a few days? The furthest anyone had to go for our retreat was four hours, and that's pretty far. But when you live in hill country (like we do), then making the drive to be with other writers is totally worth it. For others, who live surrounded by writers, more than thirty minutes might be too much.
2) Time of year. Even though I picked a touristy town with tons of things to do during the high season, in the dead of winter, the town was also, well, dead. Not to mention freezing. There really wasn't any temptation to leave the comfort of our cozy resort.
3) Number of days. While we'd all love to take two weeks off from everything and just write (sigh), the reality is, most of us are parents with commitments and jobs. Some people are going to prefer a retreat that includes the weekend so they don't have to lose so many business days. The people I organized it with were happy to have an end of the week, so we did a Wednesday through Saturday retreat.
4) Price. This is a clincher for many people. The more economical you can get it, the better. If you have an "in" somewhere, with friends or a vacation club or whatever, use it. I used an extra week available through our timeshare company.
5) Number of people. For me, this was a simple matter of mathematics: how many people could we fit in the condo? We filled every sleeping area comfortably. No one slept on the floor and no one slept in la-z-boys. We all had access to bathrooms and storage for our clothing. This made us happy. Some people might be fine with camping out all over the place. It just depends on your group!
6) Meal plan. Figure this out before the retreat starts. Is everyone on their own for each meal? Will the retreat provide each meal? A combination of both? I handed out meal assignments, and each person was responsible for one meal. Everyone brought their own snacks. On the last meal, we went out to celebrate our hard work. However, we also ended up with lots of food leftover. In the future, I don't think I'll hand out a breakfast assignment, but rather a brunch.
7) Agenda. Is everyone just going to sit and write for hours on end? Will you have time for socializing? Games? Goals? We took the time to set our goals for the week when we arrived. On the last day, we talked about if we'd accomplished our goals. I thought this would help everyone have a focus and feel like the retreat was worth their time. I know it helped me. I also gave out assignments for writing exercises and inspirational thoughts.
8) Payment. Everything worked out quite simply for my writer's retreat, but in the future, if I have to reserve a larger unit and we have more people coming, I plan to require a non-refundable deposit. We did have people drop out at the last minute and while everything went fine this time, if I have more money on the line, I want a guarantee that I'll at least get something.
The end result? We had a great time. I reached my goals. Everyone wants to do it again next year. And I'm always open to more tips for making it better! Share your ideas, if you have some!