Writers Workshops, Retreats and Residencies
Dorian threatened to keep me from my mini vacation but thankfully, he didn’t do as much damage around my home as he did to others. My heart goes out to those on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach and especially the Bahamas.
With only the inconvenience of power outages at home, my husband waved me off and I hurriedly packed my bags for my very first writers retreat in the most exotic– Murfreesboro, North Carolina.
I met my friend and fellow Pamlico Writer’s Group member, Adrienne Dunning in Greenville and she graciously agreed to drive. I was exceedingly grateful after having traversed the perilous traffic of Greenville after a hurricane when all of Beaufort County is shut down due to the power outages, oh my God, people are crazy! I stopped at Walmart to purchase a bottle of wine and debated opening it in the parking lot. I didn’t think that would go over very well and I still wasn’t sure how to get to Adrienne’s apartment, so I left the wine corked and after looping around several times managed to find her quite easily, right where she said she’d be.
Adrienne, having attended Chowan college (now Chowan University) took me to see the beautiful campus. We arrived at the Murfree-Williams House after a quick view of the town. While not exactly exotic, the small town is a lovely homage to Mayberry with its retro Main Street, brick sidewalks and historic homes.
We were greeted by our hostess, Ruth Akright, the owner of the lovely rehabilitated 1801 home. The luxury of being among the first group of writers to enjoy the hospitality of Ruth and the Murfree-Williams house this weekend was a treasure I’m not sure I can put into words.
Ruth opened her property to a group of writers who wished a venue to write, learn and fellowship with other writers. Quiet by accident, all of the attendees happened to be romance writers. This weekend, our small group, two from the Pamlico Writer’s Group member, Adrienne Dunning and myself, Michelle White from Chesapeake, Virginia and her daughter, Samantha Keel, we were also joined by presenters Sonja McGiboney, a children’s author from Smithfield, Virginia, and Trudy Gibbons, a poet and song writer from Murfreesboro.
We started Friday evening with a light supper and a talk by Sonja. Sonja started her journey as an author with her camera and her dog. After taking too many pictures of her beloved pit-bull pup, Jazzy, she put together a book for niece and nephew for Christmas. They loved it and wanted more. Enjoying the process, Sonja wrote seven books about Jazzy’s adventures.
Sonja’s experience going into schools and libraries and sharing her stories allowed her to interact with parents and children and she discovered that is what she enjoys. She has plans for a middle grade book and hopes to someday write for Scholastics.
Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful, a cool breeze, the blessing after the curse of the hurricane. Ruth treated us all to a luscious breakfast of muffins, pecan bread, mixed fruit, juice and coffee. Trudy Gibson joined us after breakfast and treated us to the story of her journey as a poet and song writer. Trudy and Sonja graced with a lovely rendition of the song she wrote, and Sonja’s father-in-law penned the notes for, they brought us all to tears with the beauty. A renowned poet, Trudy’s “Heart and Soul, a collection of short stories, poems and songs,” was a labor of love, compiled and published with the help of 1984 graduating class of Chowan College where Trudy was a secretary in the graphics department.
Needing to stretch our legs, we took off on a walking tour of Murfreesboro’s historical homes. Our residence, the 1801 Murfree-Williams House also had a neighboring law office, known as the Williams-Smith Law Office. Ruth led us down the brick sidewalk to the tiny house print shop. We followed the walk around the oldest commercial building in North Carolina, a lovely little house/tin shop, blacksmith shop, we wandered around to the gingerbread house. We circled around back to our house when the bells on the church start ringing. With a lawnmower going and the trill of the church bells, the lovely and quite innocent looking children’s author, suggested this would be a great time to murder someone, no one would hear them scream. Ya know, just because someone looks sweet and innocent, don’t let down your guard. I think she may have missed her calling.
We made our way up to Main Street to the infamous Walter’s Grill. The grill is full of character and could even be a character itself. A definite greasy spoon, the rich home cooking is a local favorite. Our next presenter, Duane Cotton author of Driven and known for his work on ABC’s Extreme Make Over: Home Edition.
After laughing our way through lunch, we made our way back to the house where we spent the next three hours talking about Duane’s journey to writing and publishing his book, as well as how we could relate his journey to success to our own journey.
Another guest for supper, and an early evening, I retired to my room to write and think about what I’d learned. When you attend a writers’ event, whether it’s a conference or workshop or retreat, it can be a bit overwhelming. Letting the information stew and digest helps to make it more useful.
Sunday morning breakfast brought guest, free-lance illustrator Ron Neale shared his knowledge of being and commercial graphic designer, illustrator and his new job as graphic designer for NASA, talk about the coolest job ever.
Ron, a dear friend of our hostess, Ruth, was the master carpenter who’d helped resurrect the Murfree-Williams House.
Ron shared his marketing and design expertise as discussion across the table escalated. My greatest problem, like many indie authors, is promoting and marketing. Adrienne and Samantha both confronted me with my own words, and what they made me realize, is I’m not a romance author. I am a suspense author with strong romantic elements!
I am a suspense author!
On the way home, Adrienne and I discussed the retreat, and both agreed this was something we would like to do again. Maybe next time, we can host our own writers’ weekend.
If you are interested in renting the Murfree-Williams House for a writers workshop, retreat or residency, or just for a vacation, you can contact Ruth Akright for rates and availability at 757-477-2795 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org