Writers’ Retreat



Last Saturday, January 26, 2019, a writing friend opened her home, like she does a couple times a year, for a group of writing friends to spend the day writing in a place where we can write in quiet and without interruption.

We began the day with a devotion and a writing exercise to get our creative juices flowing. Then we separated into different rooms–different spaces to spend a couple hours writing. Lunch time we came together to eat and fellowship with one another, then we did another writing exercise to stir up our creativity again, followed by a few more hours of writing before saying our goodbyes.

I really appreciate the ladies who came up with the writing exercises and the instructions they gave us because those exercises really did get kick-start my creativity,  and gave me material for one of my upcoming novels as the second writing exercise was supposed to be written from one of our character’s perspectives. Since I am just about finished with my current WIP, I chose to write from the perspective of a character from an upcoming novel, and I thought the exercise lent itself very well to that particular character and story line.

The first writing exercise required us to pull a paper bag from a box, but NOT look inside. Instead, we were to put our hand in and feel what was in the bag. Then we were to write about either the experience of placing our hand into a bag without the knowledge of what it held. Or we could use just our sense of touch or other senses to try to determine what the bag held and write about what we thought was in the bag. After fifteen minutes, we could take turns reading what we wrote and sharing what was in our bags, to see how what we wrote applied (or didn’t apply) to what the bag held. (The picture at the top of this post is of the hostess’s kitten playing with one of the bags from this exercise. She made us all smile.)

It turned out that each bag held three items. I had determined one of my items quite accurately, one I guessed fairly closely, and one I had no idea. However, the rest of the group enjoyed what I had written.

The second writing exercise required us to draw an index card from two arrays of index cards–one labeled “Truth” and the other labeled “Dare”. Then we were to read what was on the other side of each card and write about the situation on the “Truth” card from our character’s perspective. Then we were to write whether or not our character would take the “Dare” on the “Dare” card and explain or show why the character would or would not take the dare based on that character’s perspective.

I enjoyed both exercises, but I think I actually enjoyed the second one a little more than the first one because I was able to really get into one of my character’s heads and now I have two very possible scenes for one of my upcoming novels.

During our free writing time, I would have loved to have had some time to work on my WIP. However, I first needed to write a Flash Fiction story for a contest I wanted to enter, so that ended up being the only writing project I was able to do because it was difficult to write what I wanted to write and fit it into the limited 500 word count. However, another writer friend encouraged me through it, and before the day was done, I had completed the story within the word count and am happy with it. (There will be a future post here on my blog, after I hear the contest results).

Poetry and a Friend’s New Blog

Today I decided to share a poem because I want to post either a poem, flash fiction story or short story, written by me, here each Friday. However, a good friend of mine just started a new blog that is just so cute, I have to share. So, after you read my poem, I encourage you to visit my friend’s new blog by clicking the title in this post. She’s a gnome who’s lost her home and is in search of a new one. Find out what happened and what will happen next.

What is Love
by Kelly F. Barr

Love is acceptance.
Love is everything found
in First Corinthians thirteen —
patient, kind, always protects,
always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres.

Love is sacrificial;
putting others ahead of ourselves,
serving and helping others.
As the song says, “What the world
needs now is love.
It’s the only thing
that there’s just too little of.”

Let’s stop spreading hate
and spewing unkind words.
Let’s stop judging others
without giving them a chance
and making self-centered demands.
Let’s lend each other a helping hand
and together take a stand
to spread love throughout our lands.


Now, go visit Raewyn’s blog Gnome Gnotes and let her know what you think. Encourage her to keep writing.


A Productive Writing Activity and a Great Writing Resource

If you are a writer, do you have a tribe? I do. I actually have a few and each of them is important to me. So, what do I mean by a tribe? Well, there are the two writing groups that I am a member of – one national and that tribe is almost all online and is useful for contests, helpful advice and tips, and some good critiquing; the other group is local and it’s great for connecting with other writers and learning new aspects of the writing craft on a monthly basis. Then there’s the critique group that meets every other Tuesday and that’s where I get lots of good feedback on my writing. But the tribe closest to my heart is a small group that I kind of grew on my own. I just shared with a couple of friends that I was writing and they asked questions and were very interested in writing as well. As we talked, we decided it would be a great idea to form our own group similar to C.S. Lewis’s Inklings group, and so we did. We meet once a week to just write, although we often share ideas, brainstorm together or ask each other’s opinions of something we’ve written.

The most fun thing that we do, though, is, we pull an all-nighter once or twice a year. That means we get together on a Friday evening and spend the entire night writing or doing writing related things. This past Friday night we did that and I prepared and scheduled four blog posts and revised and edited four chapters of my WIP, pretty much starting one of those chapters all over. I wrote over 1,000 new words on my WIP.

Now, for a great writing resource: if you do not subscribe to Writer’s Digest Magazine, I highly recommend it. I recently received my February 2017 issue and there are some great articles on ways to “Get Organized, Be Productive”. There are a couple of fascinating articles about some really good authors and so much more.

I have written the following quotes on index cards to post in my writing area to encourage and inspire me, and they came from the February 2017 Writer’s Digest Magazine’s articles:

“The job of the writer is to ignite a fictional daydream in the brain of the reader and then step away and become invisible so the story becomes the reader’s own. You don’t want them to even know you are in the room.” — Archer Mayor

“I have multiple goals to achieve in each paragraph. Sometimes it’s clarity, sometimes humor, content or giving the reader nuts-and-bolts information to take away.” (You can add or change any of these to fit your genre.) “I am trying to write the best-written __________ book the reader has read all year long.” (Fill in the blank with your genre.)                                                                                        — Archer Mayor

“There is no bad writing. There’s only writing that needs more revision. When staring at the incoherent shambles of an early draft, wanting to pour gasoline on my laptop and set it afire, I tell myself this and get back to revising.”    — Eric Scott Fischl

Good stuff, right? Every issue is packed with stuff like this!

Bonus Post: Meet Another Writing Friend

Yes, this is another Bonus Post. As you know, I ordinarily only write one post a day five days a week, Monday through Friday. However, once in a while, when I deem it necessary, I add a bonus post and write a second post on one of the days.

Today I want you to meet another one of my writing friends. I like to help my friends boost their blogs and gain more recognition from the worldwide blogosphere. My friend Melinda is a talented writer who writes a lot of Sci-Fi, as well as some other things. She has been posting on a blog for a couple of years here. This summer, she’s doing a cool new blog where she posts a story a week about a vampire in Baltimore, Maryland, and she said she’d never write a vampire story. You can read these fascinating stories here. She also created a Facebook page for her main character in the vampire stories, Niles Gule, which I think is really cool because she even has a photo which is really bizarre because he looks a lot like a guy I know.   😛

Now, I will warn you, none of her writing is Christian and you will encounter some language you may find offensive and, of course, in the Niles Gule stories, some blood and guts. But Melinda weaves some good tales, creates fascinating worlds and characters that grab your attention and make you like them and care about them pretty much from the moment you meet them.

Coffee Shop Chat

Coffee Shop Chat

My friend Laura at Caffeinated Fiction found this neat little idea on Tessa’s blog and encouraged me to participate, so I decided I will participate here every other week on a Monday, since I already have specific things I post each day.  So now Mondays will be one Monday I post something about writing or my personal writing journey and the next Monday I will post a Coffee Shop Chat. I hope some of you will joins us in the Coffee Shop Chats as well. (I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’ll be drinking tea).

What’s a Coffee Shop Chat? 

There are a ton of writers out there in Blog-Land, and sometimes it’s just hard to connect. We are so focused on writing our next blogpost/ working/ schooling/ dealing with family stuff – we forget how much fun it can be to just sit and talk! 

Coffee Shop Chats are one way you can connect with other writers, readers, bloggers, whoever! It’s a time to just share, laugh and drink a cup of coffee or tea (or two.) You can share exciting events from the week, the latest book that’s inspired you, a great movie you’d like to recommend, or even share prayer requests. All the things you would share if we were sitting in a coffee shop together, spending an hour away from the cares of the world. 

You can post whatever, whenever you like! Don’t forget to add your ‘link-up’ to the bottom of the original post on my friend Tessa’s blog (listed above). That way we can all find one another and can respond to one another’s blog posts. Click here to go directly to her blog and scroll down to see the Guidelines section and the How to Post section, once you’re ready to participate! Don’t forget to comment on another blogger’s posts first (mine counts!)and to answer and include CONVO STARTERS!

Ready? Ok, let’s get together!

Music I’ve Enjoyed:

I am a HUGE Toby Mac fan and I LOVE his latest album, “This is Not a Test”.

Why do I love Toby Mac and his music? Because Toby is the real deal. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He donates to charities, reaches out to communities, spreads God’s word through his music and in his concerts and helps other Christian artists reach their goals.  And there are many times that something that is said in our Sunday school class or  our Pastor’s sermons that brings a Toby Mac song to my mind because it applies.

What I did this week:

I started school with my youngest son. We are homeschoolers and we finished our 2015-2016 school year at the end of April and had off the months of May and June and the week of the 4th of July, and because we like extra time off at the Christmas holiday time, we start school while summer is still going on. This week we had one day of Physical Education and Science and three days of History, Math and English Literature.

Here’s what we are reading:

We are studying the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder for history.

We are studying The Chronicles of Narnia for English Literature.

My son is doing lapbooks on these books. He is artistically inclined and loves doing lapbooking and notebooking.

I had to laugh the first day we started these books this week. I read from Little House in the Big Woods first and my son said, “This is a good book.” Then I sent him to complete two math sheets.

After math, I read from The Magician’s Nephew and when I stopped, my son said, “No, you can’t stop. You have to read more!” Yes, my son could read these books on his own, but one thing my boys and I enjoy is for me to read some of the main subject books out loud to them.

The two convo starters I will answer are from Tessa’s Christ is Write blog:

  1. Do you write more during the summer or take a break?

I write more during the summer because I have more time for writing.

2. Do you prefer summer or fall?

I prefer fall. Here in Pennsylvania, we get quite a lot of temperatures in the upper 80s to mid 90s that are accompanied by high humidity making the temperature feel ten degrees or more than the thermometer reports. I much prefer the comfortable temperatures of fall.

Now here are some Convo Starters for You:

  1. What’s your favorite book of all time?
  2. What’s your favorite hot beverage and your favorite cold beverage?
  3. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
  4. If you could have lunch with any author (alive or passed), who would it be and why?
  5. What is your favorite childhood memory related to reading or writing?


Flash Fiction Bonus

Hi Everyone,  I don’t normally post two posts in one day, but my good friend, Laura of Caffeinated Fiction has a birthday today, and she even announced her age, brave woman!

In connection with her age, she issued a challenge I couldn’t pass up.  She is 42 years old today and challenged her blog readers and writing friends to write a Flash Fiction Story with 42 words or less, and stipulated that it must contain the word “birthday”.  (I love the idea!)

Well, anyone who knows me, knows that I cannot pass up a writing challenge, so here is my 42 word birthday flash fiction story for Laura:

Another foster home. Her tenth birthday. She had no expectations.

“Dinner!” New foster mom called.

Foster mom cleared the table and returned from the kitchen.

“Surprise!” Foster Mom carried a cake with candles. Foster Dad pulled a gift from under the table.

A Thursday Tribute

I have never done this before, but I really feel like I need to do this.  I want to pay tribute to two people who mean a lot to me because of their support and/or contributions to my writing life.

First of all, my husband.  I just have to say how much I appreciate the way that he shows his support for my writing.  How does he do this?

He never complains about my attending all of the monthly LCW (Lancaster Christian Writers) meetings that I want to attend, which is all of them, (smile).  In reality, I usually end up having to miss one or two because of family things that come up that take priority.  He also never complains when I find a free or inexpensive one-day writing event that I want to attend, and he doesn’t mind when I leave two, sometimes three evenings a week for two or three hours to get together with other writers for critique group or to write, brainstorm and encourage each other along our writing paths.  He doesn’t complain that I spend so much time writing and participating in writing related things and yet am still not adding to the family income.  He understands that it is a long process.  I am blessed to have a husband who quietly supports me and I greatly appreciate him.

The second person I want to pay tribute to is a fellow writer who has become a very dear friend and is moving to the other side of the country, Laura Zimmerman.  I met her at LCW but our bond of friendship began when she and I both attended a one day writing workshop in the private home of a complete stranger.  We were surrounded by strangers, and I think, because we recognized each other’s faces and knew we were both part of LCW, we both felt more comfortable and we sat together for the workshop and had some time to talk a bit and start to really get to know each other.

Then when I started the weekly writing group for those of us homeschool moms who often struggle with finding time to write without interruptions in our own homes, Laura soon became a regular part of that writing group, Scribes Oasis.  She has rarely missed a night of Scribes.  Laura also encouraged me in my ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) membership, as I was debating renewing my membership.  You see, ACFW is a national organization, and though we have a local chapter, most of the best resources of ACFW happen online, and for the first entire year, I didn’t really get involved in that online community.  Again, lack of time, as family takes priority.  Laura encouraged me because she was involved in a couple of the things that the online ACFW community offered.  So, I renewed my membership and have jumped into getting involved with both feet, and I’m loving it!

Through all of these wonderful writing groups, Laura has also encouraged me in my writing.  She has offered me great advice on my writing.  She has gotten excited about stories I have written or am writing.  She has helped me talk through some issues that came up in my writing that I wasn’t sure how to improve or write well.  Laura is a little bit ahead of me in the writing world, as this year, she obtained an agent and she has submitted three story proposals to this agent already.  He has already gone over the first one and told her what she needed to do to edit the story and improve it, and she literally pulled her story apart and put it back together again, and she believes it is better than the original.  It broke my heart to see her go through that, but her positive attitude through the whole thing and the happiness she shared about the finished edited product was quite an inspiration to me.  Also, the fact that she is a homeschool mom who still homeschools three children and still finds time to crank out stories, and now, devotionals and articles, amazes and inspires me and makes me believe that I can obtain those things too.  I just need to keep working.

So, when Laura leaves after Memorial Day weekend, I will miss her so much, but I am so thankful for today’s technology which will help us to be able to remain close friends who will still be able to encourage and help each other in our writing.  Thanks Laura for your friendship and your encouragement and support in my writing.  I know God has good things in store for you and your family wherever He leads you.

How about you?  Who is a big support and encouragement to you in your writing journey?

My Writing Life

Okay, so I am working on an historical romance story that takes place in the old west.  I have ideas for at least two more books, possibly three, to create a series.

I’m part of several writing groups that offer critiques or are strictly critique groups.  Also, a couple of weeks ago I attended a writers’ conference where I had two appointments for one-on-one conferences with published authors to get input on part of my story.  Of course, I have things I need to work on and am very grateful for the two writers who were kind enough to give me advice.

Being a visual learner, one of the writers, my friend, Mike Dellosso, gave me some great advice that he worded in a way that created a picture in my mind, which I know I will not forget and will be able to apply to my writing.  You see, I am struggling with setting the scenes because I’ve been told not to write too much description.  Therefore I had swung to the opposite extreme and wasn’t writing enough description.  Mike told me to put myself in my character’s shoes and use my five senses and describe what my character is seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. as he walks down the street in that old, dusty western town.  He also gave me some examples which made this advice come alive for me.

A few days after that, I shared a piece of this same story with the critique group I recently joined.  I was extremely nervous and afraid of what might happen in this group.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were many positive things said (One lady really likes my main character) and they also offered some great advice.

Therefore, on Thursday night when I met with my weekly writers’ group, I was feeling overwhelmed about how to go about sorting through all of the advice and applying the needed changes to my story.  I just didn’t know where to begin.  My friend, Laura, who just finished edits on her first novel had great words to help me.  She suggested that I get rid of any advice that I didn’t believe was helpful, which I had already done.  Then she said to go through the ones who offered the least amount of changes and work toward the one who offered the greatest amount of changes.  She said that by the time I get to the one with the greatest amount of changes, I probably will be surprised to find that I’ve already taken care of many of those changes from things the others suggested.  Ahh, thank you, Laura, you gave me a workable plan that I can handle.

I am so thankful to have met and made connections with writers who have gone before me who are willing to help me on my journey.  As writers, we spend a lot of time alone working on our craft, but we need each other.  We need the help and encouragement of others and then we need to pass that on to those who come behind us.

How about you?  Who’s been helping you on your writing journey?


Sneak Peak at April

My friend, Sue, of Sue’s Nook, has informed me that April is National Poetry Month and she has challenged me to write more poetry during the month of April.  I told her that I haven’t written much poetry in years, and that I’ve never written poetry unless I was inspired or creating my own greeting card (that is, until last Thursday’s blog post).

I was discussing this with my oldest son who then suggested that I read more poetry, which I have not done in years.  That got me to thinking about the fact that I am completely unfamiliar with modern poets and their poetry, aside from Sue’s.

Therefore, just before writing this post, I spent about an hour reading some poetry by Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, John Ashberry (whose poetry I didn’t really care for), and Wendell Berry.  I am intrigued and will continue to explore modern poets and poetry over the next few days of March, and I will try to create some good poetry to share here on my blog during the month of April.

Sue also shared the following information and links with me:

Writer’s Digest will have daily prompts during the month of April  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-april-pad-challenge-guidelines

A link that lists the different poetry forms and types:


The link to National Poetry Writing Month:


How about you?  Are you up for trying to write some poetry in April?  If you do, leave a comment with a link in the comments below, so I and those who visit here can read your poetry in April too!

The 7/7/7 Challenge

7-7-7 challenge

Writing friend, Eve Messenger, tagged me for this fun 7/7/7 challenge.  I told a couple of writing friends about it already, and they can’t wait to participate too.

So, here are the rules (they’re really quite simple):

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress.
  • Scroll down to line #7.
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post.
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

My Little Morsel

He reached the bottom of the stairs, turned to enter the dining room and collided with a pretty, young lady.


“Uh, excuse me, Miss.”  Johnny could feel the heat creeping into his face but he couldn’t take his eyes off of the pretty face in front of him.  She had a narrow nose that turned up just a bit at the end, brown eyes with golden flecks and full lips.  A couple of strawberry blonde curls had escaped her hair knot and were framing her attractive face.

“Be more careful turning corners around here,” she said.

“Well, I see you’ve met the mistress of the house, Johnny.”


Laura L. Zimmerman

Donna L. H. Smith

Lisa Betz

Jill Printzenhoff

(I apologize but four is all I can come up with.  I know quite a few other writers, but many are already published and established and don’t do these kinds of posts or other writers I know don’t have blogs yet.)