Justine: Writer’s Retreat, A Newbie’s Guide, Part 1

eight ladies writing, justine covington, writer's retreat, writing retreat

Vintage Arizona postcard designed by USA Souvenir and sold on Zazzle.com.

Well, I’m on the precipice of my first writer’s retreat, and not only is it my first, but I’m hosting.

Nancy has done several writer’s retreats and I’ve talked to other writers who’ve done the same. The take-away is a great weekend of sharing, brainstorming, writing, relaxing, and indulging in every writer’s Magic Three: wine, chocolate, and coffee. Not necessarily in that order.

Although I’ve never attended a writer’s retreat before, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I should do and provide for my guests this weekend, which I’ll outline here.

Next week, I’ll revisit my plans and let you know what worked and what didn’t, so you can plan a stellar writer’s retreat of your own.

Food and Beverage

I’m covering this first, because if everyone is hungry, no one has fun. As everyone else is flying to my house in sunny Phoenix (expected temps this weekend: highs in the mid-to-upper 70s/lows in the mid-40s with 0% chance of rain – or clouds, for that matter), I offered to provide all food and drink for the weekend. Some of the ladies are coming from quite a distance – Michille and Nancy from Maryland, Jeanne and Kat from Ohio, Kay and Elizabeth from California, and the longest-distance traveler, Jilly, from London.

I’ve planned easy, crock-pot style dinners that can be made in advance and eaten or heated up at everyone’s leisure, so if someone is going like gangbusters on a new chapter or story idea, they don’t have to break to eat. It’ll be there waiting for them. Same goes for lunches – lots of sandwich or salad options that folks can get out of the fridge or cabinet as they please. For breakfast, it’s the usual morning fare with eggs, pancakes, quiches, and cereal/fruit/yogurt as options (I love making breakfast).

Water/beverages will be stocked in coolers so there’s lots of room in the fridge for snacks and stuff.

Naturally, I have to ensure I’m well stocked on the Magic Three.

  • Chocolate: Done. Regular, dark, flavor-filled, and M&Ms for Kat. I love truffles and will be picking up some of those, but not until we’re closer to the weekend.
  • Coffee: I have a Keurig (I know, it’s junk to you purists), but it allows for excellent variety of tea and coffee. Nancy is bringing something with blueberries in it (can’t wait to try!) and I stocked up on some regular/flavored coffees today. I already have plenty of decaf options and a several different teas.
  • Wine: The Eight Ladies drink dry reds, sweet whites, and everything in between. Alcohol is sold at our local Costco, so I’ll be stopping by to pick up some bottles (large ones!).

Sleeping Arrangements

I’m fortunate to have a five-bedroom home, so there is plenty of room for everyone. Some of the girls will have to share a bedroom (and I’m letting them decide who they want to bunk with), but everyone will have their own bed (or air mattress).

I wanted very much for everyone to have a room they could go into and shut the door, rather than sleeping on the couch in the family room, so the folks who want to sleep have a place to sleep, and the folks who want to stay up and talk story can do so without keeping anyone up.

Work Areas

I’ve planned out a few areas in the house and back yard where the girls can work or congregate, including desk areas if someone really needs a desk. I’m usually a desk worker, so I need a table at least. If there’s another Eight Lady who works in the same fashion, she’ll be all set. There are two desks in my sons’ rooms and one in my office. The dining room is also available, as is the kitchen and the table and bar area on the patio.

If conversation and brainstorming is more the mode, there’s plenty of places to do that, as well, including the living room, family room, or on the patio. Our backyard is quite large, so the girls can drag the patio chairs wherever they’re most comfortable.

Including Those Who Couldn’t Make It

Michaeline is the only member of the Eight Ladies who is unable to attend. She lives in Japan, which is quite a haul, but we’ve figured out a way to include her, as well. She and I practiced with Skype last weekend and got it working successfully, so we’ll be able to do some brainstorming sessions with her in the evenings Phoenix time. We’re all very excited about that, as most of us have never even heard her voice! (Fingers crossed she can come to RWA Nationals someday!)


This was more of a group effort than me really doing anything, other than offering to pick up Kat and Jilly at the airport, as they arrived early, and helping the others coordinate shuttle services to get them to/from the airport. Still, we all worked together to try to group arrival and departure times so we didn’t have eight shuttle cars coming to the house an hour apart.

What Else?

My family. Before giving the green light to the Eight Ladies on this, I had to clear it with my husband and mother-in-law. They’re taking care of the boys at her house this coming weekend, so there won’t be any kids/husbands for us to work around, toys to trip over, or lots of yelling (both the boys yelling and me yelling at them). I’m extremely grateful to my hubby and MIL for taking the boys on and allowing the Eight Ladies to congregate for a weekend.

SO! I have lasagna to prepare, shopping to do, a house to clean, mattresses to inflate, and wine and truffles to purchase. Easy Peasy. I hope.

Is there anything you’ve learned having hosted or attended a writer’s retreat at someone’s home? If so, please share.

Don’t forget to check back next week as I review how the weekend went, what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been done better.

9 thoughts on “Justine: Writer’s Retreat, A Newbie’s Guide, Part 1

  1. I’ve never attended one this big before–just me and another writer cloistering ouselves in a hotel room for a weekend. And I’ve definitely never attempted to host one–my hat is off to you!

  2. I’ve never done a writers retreat either. I hope to get lots of writing done and look forward to chatting about writing with people who get it since it is such an isolated occupation. Thanks Justine, for going to all this effort.

  3. This is a first for me, too, and I’m really excited. We got so much good stuff from one evening at RWA last summer, sharing a pizza and just bouncing ideas around, I can’t wait to see what we do in a whole weekend!

    Huge thanks to you, Justine, for proposing the retreat and volunteering to host us all – and thanks to your family for letting us take over your home.

  4. (-: This is so exciting! I wish I could be there — not just because I’d love to meet all of you in person, but there is the fact that it’s snowy and freezing here in the great White North of Hokkaido. I’m tempted swim over, LOL.

    But, I’ll be able to enjoy the cyber warmth via Skype. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

  5. I am incredibly impressed Justine – and ready to live vicariously when I hear all about it next week. Have a brilliant time!

  6. Pingback: Michaeline: Summer Camp at Home – Eight Ladies Writing

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