Sunday, March 25, 2012

My First Critique Partner Retreat

Robin, Ilima, Emily, Taryn and me at a restaurant in Emily's YA novel.
All the other lovely ladies in my critique group have posted about our retreat last Thursday-Sunday, so I thought I'd finally jump on the bandwagon.

It's funny...before the retreat we made a giant list of things we hoped to do together. These things included pedicures, a night out at the movies, yoga (by certified Robin), guitar singing 'n' playing by yours truly, hot tubbing, and a hike in the mountains. I think we were all a bit worried that maybe the friends we briefly met one year ago, and have since stayed in constant online contact with, weren't really like us. No one in their right mind would want to write most of the time, after all.

So, although we didn't get to cross off so many items on our giant to-do list, it was so refreshing to see that we are all bona fide writer geeks. We did, for good measure, watch one movie (Like Crazy) at Emily's house in not-so-sunny California, and I managed to pluck everyone's eyebrows, but other than that we wrote, wrote, wrote, all sitting in Emily's cozy family room. We did pause and chat from time to time (we are human!), and we shared excerpts from what we were working on.

Writing 'n' waiting for cinnamon rolls
The second night, Emily asked us if we wanted to watch another movie. We all looked up from our laptops and notebooks and shrugged, as if to say, "Movies? Who needs movies when the story I'm writing is so much cooler!" The next morning we woke up, staked out places at the kitchen table (as we waited for Emily's cinnamon rolls to finish baking), and again, delved deep into our story worlds.

It was AWESOME being with people who totally get this madness that is writing. As James Owen so perfectly put it at LTUE, "I had found my tribe."

Let me tell you some things about my awesome crit partners...

Taryn & Emily
EMILY, our lovely hostess, is Martha Stewart's doubleganger. She does everything crafty and homemaking. Her home is picture-worthy from every angle, and is stuffed with quaint hand soaps, handmade quilts, and fresh eggs from her own chickens (okay, her house isn't stuffed with eggs, but you get the point). Emily also bakes delicious food from scratch, and when she asked what I'd like for lunch, and I said peanut butter and jelly, a sad look crossed her face. Emily has a master's degree in literature, and she loves to dig up the themes and deeper meanings in our stories (and as you can imagine, her stories revel in them). AND Emily is super a dry way. I'm infamously gullible, and I often can't tell when Emily is pulling my leg. She said she'd have to make a sarcastic-face emoticon to help me with our future email correspondence.

Baby Joseph & Robin
ROBIN has been my friend for forever. We started our writing journey together over two years ago. Robin is  very smart and, like Emily, is talented in a bazillion areas. She's a rock climber, yoga instructor, piano teacher, mother of four, and a speed-reader (at least, according to my standards). She usually reads two to three books a week. Robin brought her sweet four-month-old baby, Joseph, to the retreat. He is super cute and LOVES to talk. (I'm sure his gooing and gaaing definitely mean something to him.) Robin has started writing her third book, which is amazing to me, considering I'm still polishing up my first. Robin, you are my hero! Can you move back to Utah and be my neighbor again. Pleeeeease?!!

ILIMA is my Utah CP buddy. She is yet another multi-talented wonder in our group (hmm...I'm starting to realize how uncool I am). Ilima homeschools her children, volunteers a ton of time to her church, sews, hosts a monthly book club, and is currently writing her fourth book (a dystopian we're all freaking out about because it ROCKS). Ilima is from Hawaii, and that place and culture are a strong influence in all her stories. I always appreciate Ilima's honesty...she has a special way of giving helpful criticism without the sting. My favorite Ilima moment of the retreat: when I was plucking her eyebrows, I said, "Wow, you're not even crying." She replied, "I'm crying on the inside. I feel like Bella when she is turning into a vampire."

TARYN is the youngest, but most brilliant and experienced writer in our group. At nineteen, she already has an agent and several finished books under her belt. It's no secret that we all live vicariously through her, and I'm not just talking about all-things-writing. Whenever Taryn is going through boy drama (good or bad), we want the nitty gritty. She's learning to wrap us around her finger and divulge the details SLOOOOWLY through several coy emails. It's torture! I didn't realize how laid back Taryn was until this retreat. But she's so speedy with writing! She drafted her agented novel in two weeks and finished revisions in three days. Insane. Taryn is also a competitive swimmer and has placed in nationals. When she wants something, she goes for it and gets it.

I miss you already, ladies, but am looking forward to seeing you again at WIFYR this year! XOXOXO


  1. Yes, yes, yes, I'd move back to Utah and be your neighbor in a heartbeat. Miss it SO much. Now to convince Stan that he really does like Utah *sigh*
    Counting the days to WIFYR. It feels like forever, until I look at my WIP, then I wish I had a little more time!

  2. Wow Katie. This was awesome. Thanks for being so nice about my Martha-esque abilities and not saying anything about my ugly children:)

    I loved having you guys and would do it again tomorrow. I loved that we actually got some writing in.

    I miss you all and can't wait to see you again!

  3. Aww. What a nice post.

    And thanks for the reminder of you pretending to be Breaking Dawn Bella. I still laugh every time I think of it. I need a video of it, seriously.

    We are all so adorable, I must say. Miss you guys!

  4. You're so sweet, Katie :) It's been lovely being on this journey with you all!