Wednesday, January 19, 2011

5th Annual Winter Writers Retreat

Every Martin Luther King weekend my good friend, author Julie Saffrin, hosts a writers retreat at her cabin in northwestern Minnesota on Dead Lake.  This year four hearty writers made the drive "up north" to work on projects in a variety of genres:

Jannelle Huston - humor writer
Sheri Jacobs - playwright
Julie Saffrin - nonfiction
myself - memoir
Julie's dog, Mick - author in waiting

My focus was to keep working on Michigan & Rookie...Guardians of the Night, the story of Officer Joaquin Guerrero and his K9 Rookie.  Joaquin's intentions in sharing Rookie's story is to bring honor and recognition to all K9 handlers and their partners.  And since Rookie is really the "star" of the book, the idea came to me that I should tell by story by alternating POVs between Joaquin and Rookie.  It sounded like a good idea anyway. 

The first time I sat down to write out a scene in Rookie's POV I managed to come up with three weak sentences and that was it.  Hmmm...  How does a dog think?  What would a dog say?  Maybe I should rethink this grand idea. 

Then again, I shouldn't give up that easy.  After all, we writers are hearty souls that never give up, right?  So I dragged a dozen library books on dogs up to Julie's cabin and took a few notes:

-its estimated dogs can use their noses a thousand to ten thousand times better than humans
-dogs can distinguish between scents to an extraordinary degree
-German shepherds have a high degree of intelligence, if not the highest,
-German shepherds love to work and be active

I studied Rookie's pictures for awhile, talked to Mick for awhile, stared out my window awhile, and tried it again.  Suddenly my 'dog mind' clicked, and away I went, typing out a bunch of scenes from Rookie's POV.  Witty and clever scenes, even.  So maybe, just maybe, this whole dog POV will work after all. 

What do you think, Mick?

That's fine...just don't touch my pillow!

I made some good progress on the manuscript each day.  My favorite part of writing up at Julie's cabin is the fact I can push my work table up against the south windows that face the lake.  It's a great way to spend the day.    

Morning sun out my window

Evening sun out my window.
Julie and Mick out my window

   Of course there are certain requirements for every writers retreat:  coffee, great food, and a little wine to close out the day. I'm just saying.

Sheri's fabulous French salad!

 Julie and I have dueling coffee pots: she likes her coffee strong and dark; I like mine weak, flavored, and equal parts coffee and Half & Half. 

Morning and nighttime necessities
  We had some good laughs (Janelle could be a stand-up comedian, seriously..."off with the foot!"--what a story!), shared some "cries of the heart" with each other, and bonded in that special way that women and writers do.  Proud Mom, Sheri's son Kyle Jacobs, a songwriter in Nashville, just married the love of his life, Miss Kellie Pickler, on New Year's Day in Antigua and the couple is featured in this week's People magazine. Once again, our time was blessed. 


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