At the Oregon Coast for a writing retreat and went for a sunset walk to work out some plot problems. On the walkway, found a downed nest and the baby birds on the ground. 😦

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Plot problems on hold. The nest was in bad shape, missing part of its bottom. Dug through the rental place’s junk drawer and found a face mask and some picture wire. Strung the mask into some branches near where the nest fell and wired the nest into the mask.

With the babies nestled together, the nest was very warm to the touch. And when I put them back in the tree*, they started calling. So I’m hoping the parents hear them and find them. Because the sun is going down.

Good luck, little birds. Back to plotting.

* Not sure what kind of birds they are. Hopefully, they are one of the species where the babies actually leave the nest early and hop around on the ground for a few days before getting the rest of their feathers. In which case they’ll have to jump out of the nest again because I’m an interfering human. Sorry, little birds.

How to Retreat! Retreat!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Expanding a story
Mood: Widening

Last weekend, I went to the Oregon Coast with some writer friends for a beach retreat. (I accidentally typed “treat” and it WAS a treat.) Writing retreats are enormous fun, of course, but I also want the time to be productive. So here are some of my suggestions for a productive writing retreat:

Jessa-beachGo to the beach at a yucky time of year.

At the Oregon Coast, you can be guaranteed gusting rain November through July (and prohibitive prices August through September). So usually the horizontal “moisturizing and exfoliating” is enough to keep us inside at our computers.

Here’s a picture of me, measuring how many words I have yet to add. See, this is why you go to the beach in bad weather. Sunshine DEMANDS a walk on the beach.


Bring the right friends.

It’s best to surround yourself with writers who share similar productivity goals. Friends who constantly tempt you to walk on the beach as the sun sets are counterproductive.

Sadly, it turns out I am that friend. So don’t bring me. Except you have to bring me because I always bring the mint brownies.


Find an inspiring spot.

Not only is the right physical spot important — like this lovely little beach house surrounded by chirping frogs — but the right spot in your mindset and your work in progress.

I try to prepare for a writing retreat by making sure I have the right sort of project and that I clear my “real life” of distractions that might creep into the weekend. Actually, this last weekend, I did a bad job of choosing the project. I’m working on revising, and I found that I did not do as well as when I bring a hot draft to a retreat. I’ll know that for next time.

beach-foam-and-skyNever mind the inspiration, just focus!

Part of my problem with choosing a revision project instead of a hot draft, is that when I’m revising, I tend to stare off into space while I think. When I’m at home, in my little office, there’s not much to look at and I quickly go back to work. But at the beach… I just stared at the waves for hours! I needed to bring my focus closer.

A good writing retreat has a clear focus, whether it’s writing, brainstorming or just refilling the well. Be sure you know what purpose your retreat will serve.

beach-sunsetTrack progress on the retreat days.

Like tracking the sun across the sky… It’s easier for me to stay accountable if I track my progress in three chunks during a retreat day: morning session, afternoon session, evening session. If I only review my progress once at the end of the day, I might find I didn’t do enough, but now it’s too late. If I track in chunks, then a slacker morning session (sun on the beach!) can be rectified in the afternoon, or a slow afternoon (afternoon nap on the sunny beach!) can be made up in the evening (no sun).


As much as I want a writing retreat to be productive, well, it is a retreat. I try to capture some of that glory — and some of that sun — and take it back with me to rainy Portland.

Do you have a favorite getaway that never fails to rejuvenate you? Do you bring back souvenirs? I love to find good rocks.

New adventures

Currently working on: Unpacking
Mood: Sandy

My parents were in town this weekend and the weather was that gorgeous secret of the Pacific Northwest: the sunny week in October. See, right before the rains close in, nature gives us one more week of glorious blue skies and balmy temps. A cruel taunt? A promise? Whichever.

So we headed up to the Olympic Peninsula for a bit of walking, then back down Hwy 101 to the Oregon Coast.

While we walked, I thought about the new story I’m working on, and it seems to me, that our hiking and my story have a lot in common.


1. The stuff

When I start a new idea, I am excited and overwhelmed by all the stuff I might stuff in the story. Secondary love triangle! BB guns! String theory!

Much like my car has five doors for stuffing, I figure my story has many, many openings to be filled. But as you can see, Monster Girl is concerned about where she will fit. So it goes with my story; I have to ask myself — fun though it might be — whether I really need a talking, one-armed octopus.

beginning2. First steps

I love the beginnings of hikes and the beginning chapters of a story. Both are so filled with promise. I feel strong and confident, with plenty of chocolate in my backpack.

The way ahead doesn’t necessarily look easy. There are barriers to be surmounted, but the adventure calls.

lost3. Lost

This part is less fun, but it seems to be true of hikes and stories, at least for me. Okay, I’m not EXACTLY lost, but there comes the moment where I definitely want to sit down, where the way seems a little more hazy and bleak than just a few steps or chapters ago.

This is where hikers and writers are made, I think. To quit? To continue? Walking out into the waves isn’t really an option (not on a Pacific Northwest beach, at least, not without a dry suit!) but I could parallel the shore on a new path.

Or build a boat of driftwood and dreams.

view4. The view

I must continue — somehow — because I know — somewhere — I will come to the point where I can SEE the point. THIS is why I am here.

5. Panting fun

I’ve said before, I love love love The End. Whether writing or hiking, coming to the end (in mostly one piece with relatively few debilitating blisters) is a great feeling of satisfaction. But the satisfaction does seem relative to the exertion. Some of our best hikes (and by best, I mean make the best stories, of course) have been the worst technical hikes. Too long, too wet, too ridiculous, waaaay too much panting. But in The End, totally worth the reliving.

Especially if there’s a little chocolate left.


Do you find a certain pleasure in some kinds of hard work? Got any favorite hikes I should try someday?