The Five C’s of the Washington Romance Writers’ Retreat

by Stacy Woodson
published in Community


I just returned from 32nd Washington Romance Writers’ Retreat. In the Company of Writers was the title of the event.  In the company of family was more like it.

I don’t know what it is about writers. Maybe at our core we just have the same dreams, the same goals, the same struggles. But it always feels effortless to connect. People are warm, gracious, and welcoming. And the Washington Romance Writers’ retreat was no different.

As I packed my bags for Westminster Maryland, I wondered how a writers’ retreat compared to a writers’ conference.  I never attended a retreat before. The schedule showed workshops, agent/ editor panels, and pitch opportunities, just like a conference. So what was the difference?

At the WRW retreat the difference was the vibe– friendly people, relaxed atmosphere. Here are the five things the retreat helps atendees accomplish:

1) Build a Community

The newcomer orientation from author Lisa Dyson and the inspirational send off from author Angele McQuade were great bookends for a conference that valued community. Even the keynote speakers, who often seem absent from conference events, participated in the retreat-related activities. No pretentious nametags distinguished between the pre-published and published. If I weren’t already a member of the chapter, I would have joined in order to see these amazing people again.

2) Hone Your Craft

Classes and on-the-spot critiques were available.  Craft lessons taught by NYT bestselling author Sarah McLean, and sessions by former Harlequin Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey focused on ways we could improve our writing. The American Author Panel offered great feedback as well. Attendees had an opportunity to submit the first pages of their WIP (up to 250 words) for an anonymous read in front of an agent/ editor panel. On the spot critiques were provided. I learned a lot not only from the feedback on my submission, but also from feedback on the pages of others. Some participants even received submission requests.

3) Focus on Your Career

Small town contemporaries are waning, romantic suspense is on an upswing, paranormal is on a down swing, and dark heroes are popular. Sales statistics were bandied about. One interesting factoid that was shared: if a reader likes an author’s first book and it is part of a series, they are 65% more likely to buy the second book, and 80% more likely to buy the third.

4) Work in Comfort

Everything conference participants needed was at the facility: meals, rooms, events were all covered in the conference fee.  There was even a refrigerator in the room. If you are thinking about attending next year, register early if you want a single room. The facility is small, and the conference fills it completely. Only a few single rooms are available.  If you register late, the conference organizer will pair you with a roommate.  Have a friend who wants to attend too?  The conference organizer will make sure you are assigned the same room. Interested in slipping away for a massage or morning yoga?  Both are offered. And the morning Yoga is free.

5) Engage in a Little Craziness

What is a romance retreat without a little ‘crazy’? Saturday night participants dressed up in their favorite twenties regalia, formed teams, and played romance jeopardy.  The questions weren’t all literary in nature. Anything related to the twenties was fair game. People sang, they paraded, and danced to get points. And the only rule was that the game was not fair. First time conference-goers were encouraged to participate too. Thinking about attending? Dust off that old bridesmaid’s dress, ladies. Next year’s CRAZY theme has already been announced: Weddings.

Have you attended a writers’ retreat? What was the most memorable experience for you?

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Stacy Woodson is an Army Special Operations veteran and mother of two. She writes suspense and loves a good conspiracy. On the weekends, you can find her in a local coffee shop plotting her next story.

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