In the spring of 2012, I took a leave of absence from work and travelled down to California for a two-week residency at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony followed by a writing conference in the San Francisco area. While the conference didn't quite live up to expectations, the retreat was a very bright spot in my writing career. Isolated from the distractions of everyday life -- no phone or TV and limited WiFi connection -- I immersed myself in the book and came away with a better understanding of my characters and the setting.
In three short weeks, I will start another leave of absence from the office. This time, I've been accepted back at Dorland for a one-week residency, and I have chosen to return following the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I'm switching the script and attending the conference first, including two master classes on craft, before immersing myself in the writing. My aim is to take what I learn at the conference (one master class on editing and one master class on character development) and apply it to the manuscript in quiet reflection. It will be an added bonus if an agent requests to see my manuscript at the conference, and I'll use my retreat time to ensure my work is ready.
Since I am returning to Southern California in the fall this year, when gloomy weather settles on Victoria, I'm also looking forward to enjoying a few days of pure relaxation in the sun in between the end of the conference and the start of the retreat. I remember how inspired I was by the landscape in 2012. Sunsets and crashing waves and arid arroyos.
The people inspire me, too. They are not only laid back, our claim to fame on the West Coast of Canada, but they are happy and friendly. For me, it's the perfect mixture of the East Coast friendliness I grew up with and the laid back chill of the West Coast, where I've chosen to make my home. There's an ease about life in Southern California. After a day or two, I melt into it. I'll need that after the hustle of SiWC, where everyone is pitching their books and we're all building on each others' energy.
Ideally, I'll achieve balance on this leave of absence. Just enough excitement and fresh ideas to stoke the creative fire combined with the right amount of open skies and mental space to find clarity in the writing.
A writer's journey