Writing in the Rainforest

I just got back from the Rainforest Writer’s Retreat, and after a couple of days of decompression I’d like to share with you some of the things I experienced.

First of all, for those of you who aren’t familiar with where I was or what I was doing, a brief description.  The Rainforest Writer’s Retreat is a five day session of intensive writing.  Nearly 40 writers gather together on the shores of Lake Quinault in western Washington State to write, converse, share, and just enjoy each other’s company.  Most (if not all) work in the genre of speculative fiction – sci-fi, fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, etc. etc.  All are talented beyond belief.  Most are published authors, many award winning, some rather successful.  Every single one is an amazing person.

I went to the event as a junior writer.  I’ve only been writing prolifically for about 18 months, although I started writing as a child and have dabbled ever since.  I was inspired by my friend Andy Romine (There’s a link to his blog over there on the right, if you’re interested) and he also attended the RWR.  When I landed in Seattle he was the only other person I knew that was attending; I believe I’m still the only person there that has never been published.

Now, as you can imagine, it’s a little intimidating walking into a room with nearly forty people that are all more experienced and successful than you.  One of the women I traveled to the retreat with had just won a couple of contests for her writing.  One of the guys there has two novels published, and a third on the way.  There was a Hugo award-winning author there, with her second novel coming out quite soon.  I had butterflies in my stomach as I introduced myself to each of them.

Of course, what I should have expected to happen was exactly what happened: every single person welcomed me with open arms.  Writers are, by profession, often solitary and lost in their own minds.  Get a bunch of people in the same room, with the same interests, and the opportunity to socialize, and they will – in really awesome ways.  Naturally we all spent hours bent over our laptops, hammering on the keys like Shakespeare’s monkeys, but even that time had a real sense of community, and I walked away from the entire experience feeling amazingly happy and creatively charged up.

Things I learned:

1) Writers, no matter how successful, are people.  I had them put on a pedestal before I’d met them, and they were sweet and generous and kind.  They struggle with rejection, celebrate with approval, and even in competition were supportive and encouraging with their competitors.  Suddenly I feel not like an outsider looking in a window, but like someone on a doorstep being invited into the party.  All I have to do is take that step over the threshold.

2) Plot and Story are two different things.  You can have one or the other, or both, but never neither – and the same tale can be told either way and be equally compelling.

3) MICE are important to every story.  I’ll probably chat more about that on the MUG blog (also linked to the right), but in short; there are four basic kinds of stories, and choosing which one is the right way to express a story idea is a creative process in itself.

4) It’s cold and a bit wet in Washington State.  Seriously beautiful, though, and if you’ve got a nice window to separate you from the weather and a view to look at, it’s hard to beat.

If you were with me in RWR Session 2, I’d like to say thank you for being there and helping to make my experience such a fantastic one.  If you weren’t – well, I’d wager that you’re going to hear all about it.  For a long, long time – 360 days, I’d expect.  That, of course, is how long it is until the next one.  :)


  1. So fantastic to hear that you were welcomed with open arms! As an unpublished fiction writer, I feel the same way about joining retreats like this. So what´s this MICE business….

  2. OMG I have so much to share with the MUGsters. Patience, Ms. Ellickson, patience… All will be revealed in time, I promise you. :)

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