I’m out of town this week at this writers’ retreat: www. Weymouthcenter.org RGB was talking about synchronicity this week – here’s one for you.
I’ve been to this retreat once before – it’s a fantastic thing. Any North Carolina writer who applies for the Artist in Residence program can spend up to two weeks a year at Weymouth. (Sorry, no photos – there’s only dial up, here! Which means much, much more writing gets done, of course…)
I got sucked into this wonderful program by the Raleigh mystery writers (I should say goddesses or divas!) I hang with: Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Diane Chamberlain, Katy Munger, Kathy Trocheck and Diane Chamberlain. We’re more a regular lunch group than a critique group, but when we go on retreat, which we’re starting to do frequently, we convene at night to brainstorm on any problem that any one of us is having (and of course, compare page counts).
Weymouth is an amazing place – a 9000 sq. foot house on 1200 acres (including several formal gardens and a 9-hole golf course) that’s really three houses melded together. It was a “Yankee Pleasure Plantation” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the fox hunting lodge of coal magnate James Boyd. James Boyd’s grandson James rebelled against the family business to become, what else? – a novelist. Boyd wrote historical novels and his editor was the great Maxwell Perkins (“Editor of Genius”), and in the 1920’s and 30’s Weymouth was a Southern party venue for the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Thomas Wolfe. That literary aura pervades the house, especially the library, with all its photos and portraits of the writers who have stayed at the house.
It’s a fantastic place to write – pages just fly. And for me it’s particularly great to be here because I’m presently writing another haunted house story – two professors take a group of psychically gifted students into a house with a history of poltergeist manifestations. And Weymouth is the model of the house I’m using, so here I am, inside my own novel.
The synchronicity I mentioned before is that the other mystery writers scheduled a Weymouth retreat months ago, and we came down to the house on the very day that my characters were moving into THEIR haunted house.
I’m telling you, writing is a little scary.
More than a little scary, in this case. My pages are going well, but I am writing about a haunting, after all, and every time I turn around there’s knocking on the walls (the pipes in the kitchen), weird manifestations (a team of horses trotting by with a buggy on the road outside) and rooms that are just literally too creepy to go into after dark. Last night I had to go all the way back upstairs, across the upstairs hall and around to the front stairs to get to a room I wanted to go to because I was too freaked out to cross the Great Room in the dark.
It’s good, though – I wake up with whole scenes in my head. And given my deadline (talk about scary) it’s being lifesaving to have this turbocharged atmosphere to work in.
I’m lucky – unlike authors with children and day jobs, I don’t have that much to have to escape from in my regular life – I write full time and theoretically I can do just as much or more at home as I could on retreat, because I have all my books and files and library all around me. But this whole experience has sold me on the writers’ retreat thing. There’s nothing like committing to nothing but writing for a certain number of days. The work you get done is exponential, and your subconscious gets loaded up with all kinds of new images that will undoubtedly work their way into some other story.
But if you don’t hear from me next week, you’ll know why.
The house got me.