Snapshots of Smoky: Writing Retreat 2016

As is my wont, I’ve spent a good portion of the off-season travelling. This latest jaunt was to Tennessee, for the Smoky Writers Retreat: 2016 Edition.

Logline: Words. Food. Booze.

One-line summary: Twenty-ish writers in a cabin in the mountains write a lot.

Thirty-word synopsis: Twenty-ish writers rent a cabin for a week. Quiet writing hours are strictly enforced. Afterwards—socializing and talking shop. Amazing food abounds, and our public bar is truly impressive.


I went last year and had a fabulous time. It’s the ultimate workaholic’s holiday, because we’re writing for ~7 hours a day (and God help you if you disrupt the quiet). We break into small groups and share 10-minute segments of what we wrote that day. Then,the socializing with writer-friends I don’t get to see that often, the learning that inevitably arises from such conversations, and those moments when business and fun blur into each other.

I locked down a cover artist and composer for Six Stories while I was there. And stumbled into an anthology. And met with editing clients.

Now, I could wax eloquent about the week, but that wouldn’t really capture it. So from here, I’d like to offer snapshots of Smoky.

Oddest Sight

All of Pigeon Forge, TN. Take your pick from Biblical Dinner Theatre, the Family Comedy Barn, Lumberjack Dinner Theatre, Hillbilly Mini-Golf, or the ubiquitous Dolly Parton billboards.

Unexpected Awesomeness:

Visiting the Titanic Museum on our break day. Despite a horrid, chintzy exterior, it is shockingly well done. Sensitive, clever interpretation, excellent design, and smatterings of museum theatre.


Best Melding of Work and Play:

Composing tunes with Starla Huchton at 2:00 am with the help of a recorder and piano app.

Favourite Food:

Sticky toffee pudding. Proper sticky toffee pudding. Need I say more?

Favourite Beer:

The Cuvée Special Reserve Ale that I brought down from Nicklebrook Brewing Co, but the local Yee-Haw Dunkel was surprisingly good, if peculiarly named.

Favourite Daily Ritual:

I love the readings. It was so wonderful to hear what other people had gotten up to during the day. Plus, while these people are all my friends, I’m not super familiar with all their writing. I loved seeing the awesomeness they produce. Traditional reading hour drinks were also lovely. 😉

Moment of Squee

For most of the week, I was writing buddies with audio-producer extraordinaire Bryan Lincoln. We colonized the basement media room, and typed away quite companionably in our writing cave. Since we were the only two on that floor, we sometimes broke the rules and talked.

So I learned a lot about audio dramas—amazing. But even more amazing—he congratulated me on the grant for Six Stories, saying, “I see what you’re up to on Facebook, and I really root for you guys.”

Coming from a) a friend, and b) someone whose work I really respect and admire, it meant a lot.

Moment of Unadulterated Joy

Lauren Harris came up for a few days! Sure, I saw her two weeks ago, but that doesn’t matter. I greeted her with a flying tackle hug, we broke out the booze, and then all was well.


New Obsession

Christiana Ellis introduced me to Over the Garden Wall. It’s a complete animated miniseries, and we binge-watched that sucker in two nights. Oh, it was exactly my humour: very clever and self-aware, with generous dollops of absurdity.

Also, I’d never properly hung out with Christiana—I knew she was awesome, but it was nice to experience her awesomeness for myself. 😉

Moment of Disaster

On the last day—at our parting pancake breakfast—my glasses broke. I have a very old pair at home, and lots of contact lenses at work, but that’s not super helpful right now.

(And yes, I’m mostly blind without them.)

Because of the way the arms attach, I’m pretty sure I need a new pair. Emails have been sent, and for now, I’m keeping things together with duct tape and prayer.

Favourite Lines

I wrote four short stories this week. My favourite centred on a magical glassmaker and a young boy. Here’s a sneak excerpt:

 Day after day, night after night, she hunches over her worktable. She buys her love with quaint little scenes. She tells herself that she is an artist, but she knows that this is not the case. Her globes are spun not from glass, but desperation.

Perhaps for this reason, her beloved’s interest wanes. Bright-polished globes sit in their paper wrapping for months. New worlds receive barely a glance. She sits amid the glass and the baubles, and she wonders how it has come to this. And then—always, always—she bends over her work again, and tries to do better.

Super raw, super rough, but with a good edit and polish, I think I should be pleased with it.

Whither hence?

There’s so much I’m not touching on. The late night conversations, the delight in looking across the table and seeing so many amazing people. The superb meals, the tiny, quiet moments. But I am so happy, doing what I love with people I love.


Tomorrow, I return home. I print out the novel I wrote last month.

And I continue on: bending over my work again, and trying to do better.



What I’m Listening To This Week

The only drag was that I missed Easter. But I listened to this on the drive back to VA. This piece is spring to me: …the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

That’s how I feel, these days. After a long, long time, the winter is finally past.





Posted on March 28, 2016, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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