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The Hands Down, No Doubt, Flat Out Best Writers’ Retreat Ever » Jolana Malkston
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Apr 292015

If you haven’t yet heard about Mid-Michigan RWA’s Retreat From Harsh Reality, you’re obviously not a member of Mid-Michigan RWA, or you’ve been stranded on an uncharted desert island for thirty years, or—perish the thought—you haven’t read the April 2014 Serious Whimsy blog post It’s Time to Retreat From Harsh Reality. If it’s the latter, tsk-tsk, for shame. It’s on the Recent Posts List. Redeem yourself by reading it now and then come right back here.

If you had to depart to read the 2014 Retreat post, welcome back and join this blog post in progress. Just kidding. I waited for you.

04-29-15 Blog Post 2

2015 marked Retreat’s 30th Anniversary, and we celebrated in style at the gorgeous Bay Pointe Inn on Gun Lake in Shelbyville, Michigan. For this milestone anniversary we needed a milestone guest author and speaker, and we got one. Our very special guest for 2015 was none other than Rita Clay Estrada, Romance Writers of America’s® founding mother! The Rita, who started RWA® under her own roof! The Rita that The Rita Award® is named for! W00t to the nth degree!!!

04-29-15 Blog Post

At the Friday night Meet and Greet in the Inn’s Boathouse we got together with old friends and made new ones—including Rita—while we feasted on delectable hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks, adult beverages, and mini-sized desserts. And we talked, and talked, and talked about everything. Children. Grandchildren. Husbands. Significant others. Day jobs. Writing. Mostly about writing. We wisely steered clear of politics.

On Saturday morning, we devoured the contents of a hearty and delicious buffet breakfast, and then it was on to the Fireside Room for the main event—the talk given by Rita Clay Estrada. Did I mention that she is RWA’s® founding mother?

Rita did not disappoint. She held us in thrall with her fascinating story of how Romance Writers of America® came to be. She recounted the early struggles she and a small group of romance writers endured with publishers, editors, and literary agents who were rude to them and too shortsighted to appreciate the appeal and profitability of romance novels, and she told of both past and recent legal battles with publishing houses. When publishing houses finally saw the light, they dictated a strict formula for the extent of sensuality in romance novels: two kisses and a grope. ::snicker, snort:: We all had a hearty laugh over that. She described RWA’s® first conference, held in her home with the attending writers sleeping on the floor in their own sleeping bags on the floors of every room in her house.

Rita attributes RWA’s® success to women’s long history of helping one another and working together in communities. As a professional writers’ association, RWA® is unique in this respect. At our national conference and in our local chapters, RWA® members support one another and cheer each other on. Published authors help unpublished authors to improve their writing and mentor them on the road to publishing success. No other writers’ organization does this, and no other writers’ organization has as many members—over 10,000 strong at last count—and RWA® also has members in foreign countries.

She broke our hearts when she revealed that many early romance writers didn’t have a happily ever after of their own. Not all the husbands of married writers were pleased by their wives’ publishing success. In some cases, marriages ended in divorce. In other cases, writers suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands, and some writers paid the ultimate price for pursuing their dreams despite their husbands’ disapproval—their husbands murdered them.

Rita chronicled the progress made by romance writers through the years. She also described how romance is the only literary genre that can merge with other genres to create new subgenres, such as romantic suspense, science fiction and paranormal romance, historical romance, western romance, and so on.

Rita’s talk was poignant, amusing, encouraging and inspiring. She energized us all.

On Saturday night in the Boathouse, the champagne (and sparkling grape juice) flowed and helped to wash down the delectable anniversary cake. The slice I inhaled immediately attached itself to my hips and thighs. Undaunted, a little later on I shamelessly scored a plate of hors d’oeuvres that were leftover from Friday night’s Meet and Greet. I had lots of company doing so. Thank goodness for the Lazarus Connection. I may have burned up some of those calories laughing while they performed their hilarious song parodies. They had Rita in stitches too. They wrote a song parody just for her. She took videos of their performance.

We also celebrated a first sale, a Rita Award® nomination, and a Golden Heart® nomination, and bestowed the 2014 Angel Award for Service to fellow MMRWA Member and Retreat Chairwoman, Annie O’Rourke. It was a big and glorious night all around.

As I began writing this post, it was Sunday morning, and Retreat was winding down. After another huge buffet breakfast that will undoubtedly compromise our bathroom scales when we return home, we took our commemorative group photo with our special guest. Afterward, several of us lined up to have our pictures taken with Rita. Belatedly, I suggested charging five dollars a pop for a photo with Rita to raise money for our local chapter. Too belatedly. Drat. A potentially lucrative opportunity lost.

After the photo shoot, we gathered in small groups in the Inn’s Fireside Room socializing and networking. A few, like me, were seated in corners in smaller groups, silent and writing. We were participating in the Retreat’s first write-in.

What, you may ask, is a write-in? In some ways a write-in is sort of like a sit-in, except you write instead of protest and you sit on chairs instead of the floor. It lasts for two hours instead of until the police come and drag you off to jail, and you score a considerable word count instead of a criminal record.

After a brief chapter business meeting—at seven minutes it was one of the shortest on record—we said our goodbyes. I was having such a wonderful time I didn’t want to leave, but Retreat 2015 was over, and there was always next year. ;;sigh:: If only a year was shorter than 365 days.

  8 Responses to “The Hands Down, No Doubt, Flat Out Best Writers’ Retreat Ever”

  1. It was an amazing retreat. So glad so many of us were there to celebrate 30 years of Retreat form Harsh Reality. I always wish we could afford to do another one in the fall, but then maybe it wouldn’t be as special. We are so fortunate.

  2. Great post, Jolana. It’s such a wonderful time to get together and absorb the energy then come home feeling rejuvenated.

  3. It was a wonderful time! Congrats to all!

  4. I’ve been keeping my eye on this retreat for a couple of years and I think next year will be my year to attend. I live in Ontario, so it will be a nice adventure. Great wrap up post!

  5. It was such fun, Jolana! I enjoyed every minute of being with writers as you did! But one small change: the first meeting to form RWA was held in Houston and many slept at my home. The actual first conference was held in the Woodlands Country Club and we had over 500 attendees…a record we never expected because we really only thought we’d have about 150 to 200 not counting the editors…my, how things have changed!

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