Sue the Screenwriter: A Writing Retreat/Staycation on Whidbey Island

Posted in Blogs

August 30, 2017
All photos by the author

One of the most wonderful things about being a writer is being able to write from home, and one of the most challenging things about being a writer is writing from home!

Anyone who works from home knows exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, we love getting up, working in our PJ’s on our own schedule, writing when and where we want, and even with the pressure of a deadline, it’s pleasant to tackle it from your sofa. But the challenge of writing from home is that your house is not always the best environment for working because so many other things often get in the way to challenge your day. Animals that want my love and think lying across my keyboard is the best place to garner it, also, family members and household needs to take care of, kind friends who stop by believing you might need some company, or even the UPS man can be enough to knock off your writing rhythm for the day.

So, with a need to get ahead on my latest word count, I decided to go on a writing retreat for four days with two other writers. One is also my literary agent, Andrea Hurst, and the other my developmental editor on my last book, Cate Perry. We decided we would share the cost of accommodation and be able to support one another through our writing process.

The house we stayed in

As we started to look into places where we might want to stay, it became apparent to all of us that the best idea would be to stay right here and have a staycation on Whidbey Island.

I’d heard about staycations, where you stay and shop locally, your home is close by if you have forgotten anything, but you are officially away from home. As we started looking into different places to rent, we settled on a lovely three-bedroom house in Beverly Beach.

Beverly Beach is a beautiful, quiet neighborhood, and the house was a short walk to the water. We decided to do lunch at home, but eat out together each evening and quickly fell into a rhythm. I loved the luxury of starting my writing day with a beautiful view of the water without the usual need to feed furry people or empty a dishwasher or even make my bed. In fact, I didn’t make my bed for the whole week I was there.

The walk to the beach

One of our first evenings out, we went to Gordon’s in Freeland. Anyone who’s local knows this is a lovely place to eat, and as we sat around the dinner table looking out at the water and the sunset, I asked the other writers why they enjoyed writing retreats.

All of us agreed that being able to pause our daily lives was one of the best benefits of having a writing getaway, taking seriously our commitment to being a writer, and paying to be away from home meant that we took that responsibility seriously. Uninterrupted time to nap, write, or read, and the support we received from one another in the process was also important.

Beverly Beach

It became apparent as the days wore on that we all had different writing schedules. I always liked to get up and do my writing early, looking out at the water as I wrote. This freed up my day for walks, reading or a nap if I needed it. The other ladies tended to like to sleep in and write late morning. No matter what our schedules were, we found it helpful to come together in the afternoon or the evening and share our work, giving each other much-valued feedback. We also enjoyed walks on the beach where we’d talk, and share our lives. The idyllic neighborhood of Beverly Beach is definitely the right environment for all of those pursuits.

The last evening, we went to Prima Bistro in Langley for our dinner.  A lovely place for a meal, and over delectable food, we talked about all the different ways the retreat had benefited us during the week. One of the most lasting was that we felt inspired to go home with new vision for our writing, acquired by the luxury of working through story lines with uninterrupted thoughts. By the end of the retreat, I’d written 6,000 words and the other women with me had written similar numbers. We all felt very invigorated by the experience.

Andrea Hurst and Cate Perry my retreat writing buddies

So, there really is no need to travel off the island if you want to have uninterrupted time to write, and I highly recommend dividing the cost with friends so you can have the support.

I feel so fortunate to live on beautiful Whidbey Island, and every time I take time to do something like this, it reminds me of how wonderful it is to live in this incredible community. I want to thank you all, the readers of my blog, for the support you’ve given me over the five years I have written for this fabulous magazine and for sharing my writer’s journey with me. Have a wonderful fall, and I look forward to seeing you out and about on the island.

Dessert at Gordon’s

Suzanne Kelman is the author of “The Rejected Writers’ Book Club” and “Rejected Writers Take the Stage.” She is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright and was a Nicholl Fellowship Finalist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Kelman was awarded Best Comedy Feature Screenplay at the L.A. International Film Festival, received a Gold Award at the California Film Awards, and received a Van Gogh Award at the Amsterdam Film Festival.

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