Hello, everyone. Not only did I manage to survive a week without falling off the boat, but the 2016 Writing Excuses retreat went better than I could have hoped. There's a lot to unpack here, and since I don't want to ramble on too much, I'll try to sum it up.
First and foremost: everyone there was awesome. There's something very special about being among an entire group of fellow writers. I'm too used to having to explain how my mind works when someone brings up a situation and I talk about how something strange could happen, so being around people who not only understood that but built on it was kind of amazing. The people there who weren't writers - supportive spouses, mostly - were also very cool, and I could tell they were used to the eccentricity that comes with living with a writer. ^_^
I got to talk to all of the hosts, though some of them only a little, but they were all great people and easy to talk to. (I also didn't go full fanboy on anyone, which I consider a minor accomplishment.) Furthermore, I came back with a list of new books to read, two of which are books the hosts have written, so I can get more familiar with their work and read some new stuff from other people I'd never heard of.
The hosts recorded a bunch of podcast episodes while on the cruise, and I went to all of them. It was very encouraging, as some of the episodes covered working with an ensemble cast, and STARWIND is all about its ensemble. I listened to them and felt like I'd been doing everything right.
My critique time with a published author went better than I could have hoped. She read the first three pages of STARWIND and, to my utter and complete surprise, really enjoyed it and didn't suggest anything for me to fix. We went over the entire plot and she liked where it was going. She said she could tell I'd been writing for a while, and generally gave me a lot of good feedback and encouraged me to query it when it's ready. This completely floored me, as I went in there nervous as hell, ready to have my work torn apart. But it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
At night, my bed was decorated with three different instances of towel origami.
An agent gave a seminar on how to pitch your novel, and had us give our pitches at the end. I gave my pitch from this tweet, and he said it started great, but got too general toward the end. He recommended I make it more specific, and I can do that. He also loved my comparison titles (Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Amazing Race), so I'll definitely query him when that time comes.
I was incredibly nervous about the whole pitch thing, and managed to get through it without screwing up, but I was shaking so bad I tripped myself when I was nearly back to my chair. Nobody I talked to seemed to remember that, though. O_o
There were some minor disappointments - two out of the three excursions I went on weren't great due to various circumstances ("Rainbow Reef" was anything but rainbow-ish, and it's hard to have a yacht race with winds at 4-5 MPH), and I still don't do well among large groups of people at parties or similar situations. And some of the desserts were way too small. But all the writing-based stuff - everything that really mattered? That was excellent.
Taking this trip was one of the best decisions I've made since I moved to Washington. I would highly recommend it for anyone who's looking for an amazing writing workshop and a pretty damn fancy vacation. Signups for next year start in January, I believe, and they're going to the Mediterranean.
Next week: IWSG: This Month's Work.
PS: If anyone I met on the cruise finds this, hello! Leave me a link for your blog or Twitter (I don't do Facebook) if you wish. ^_^