Almost exactly a year ago, I applied for a scholarship for the Writing Excuses Retreat. It wasn’t the first time I’d applied and I had zero expectation of actually winning it. But guess what? I did!
So last September I boarded the Liberty of the Seas and spent a week learning, playing, networking, gaming, and just all around having an AWESOME time. Some of the highlights:
Meeting Pat Rothfuss. That guys is so freaking cool. I about died when I found out he’d be a guest speaker during our day in Houston before leaving on the cruise. Honestly, tears sprang to my eyes. I was that happy. I made sure to go up to him after his class and ask him a question–any question–just so I could talk to him. But then I walked by the table he was eating at a few minutes later and he waved me and my roommate over to sit with him and a few others. I sat right next to him for the next couple hours and just basked in his gloriousness. Seriously a highlight of my life.
Touring NASA with Mary Robinette. Any tour is made better by stories of pee in space, so Mary Robinette really shined here, haha. I just followed her around like a puppy all day asking a million questions. She was kind enough to answer them all, including “what about periods in space?!” (Answer: exactly the same as on Earth! The blood moves through a wicking mechanism, not gravity, so it’s just business as usual.)
Going to office hours with the instructors. Every morning they had a handful of the instructors up in the Olive or Twist lounge and you could go put your name down to talk to any of them one-on-one. I shied away from this the first few days, but when I finally got up the guts to give it a try, I couldn’t stop! They all had such useful things to say! Although my favorite moment might have been asking Matt Drake for details on slitting someone’s throat. It’s just such a unique way to start a morning with a guy you’ve never met.
Giving a reading. One of classes early in the week was from Mary Robinette about how to give an effective reading, and then later in the week we had a chance to try it out and read a portion of our work for our fellow attendees. It was awesome. It was so fun to do something so out of my comfort zone and just have lots of people cheering me on.
Trying a role-playing game for the first time! Okay, there were like a billion games to play in the evenings if you wanted. I’m not big into games AT ALL but I really wanted to try an RPG. I mentioned this to Dan at dinner the night I sat by him (they assigned you to a different table every night so you’d get to sit by the instructors) and he told me to come to a Star Trek game he was having the next night. I convinced a couple other women to come with me who also had never played an RPG and we joined with a few guys who had played LOTS of RPGs and we just had the best time. Dan made sure everyone had fun and felt included, and we stayed up way too late saving a planet from bad guys.
The classes were awesome and they struck a pretty good balance between programming and downtime. The staff went above and beyond to make sure everyone felt truly safe and included. There were favorite hangout spots to head to if you wanted company–a bar in the evenings, the game room down in the conference room, the Olive or Twist lounge. They had a live recording session of a few episodes of the podcast (I ask a question in the Q and A one! I’m famous!). There were games all week long to level-up your writing and make friends and hit a higher word count. There was a karaoke night and costume parties and shore excursions. All of it was awesome. I feel like I found my people!
I loved every bit of it. Hopefully I can go again someday!