I drove down the long gravel driveway to the Weymouth mansion Thursday afternoon with a prayer of gratitude on my lips. Coming here is like flipping a switch from the world of laundry and grocery shopping and doctors’ appointments and phone calls to the world of writing and nature and friends. Sarah Shaber was the first person I saw when I climbed the stairs to the writers’ section of the house, and she said she’d felt a lump in her throat as she came up the driveway. Clearly, I wasn’t alone in my joy and gratitude. I knew I wouldn’t be.
We’re all gathered here now (in the photo, L to R, that’s me, Margaret Maron, Katy Munger, Sarah Shaber, Alexandra Sokoloff and Mary Kay Andrews. We’re missing–in more ways than one–Bren Witchger, who couldn’t join us this time). The Weymouth Mansion opens its doors to serious writers who have a North Carolina connection. In our case, we’re all published and we all understand the trials and tribulations of the business and the writing process. It costs us nothing to stay here for up to two weeks each year, though most of us make donations to help with utilities and maintenance. Our rooms are small, but the mansion is huge and we each carve out our personal space in which to write. Our needs this week are simple: M & M peanuts, two games (Balderdash and Taboo), the ability to check our email, and our works-in-progress. We brainstorm with one another and take solo, meditative walks around the beautiful grounds, but for the most part, we work and it’s fantastic to suddenly realize you’ve written twelve pages almost effortlessly.
Today was a little different. We actually put on make-up this morning and dressed in something other than sweats, because a writer and photographer were coming from Our State Magazine to do an article on us. Someone at Our State had heard about our twice-yearly retreats and asked if they could spend half a day with us. I asked the writer, Anne Webb, to snap this shot of us on the stairs with my camera as we posed for the “real” photographer, Natalie Ross. It was fun to share our morning with Anne and Natalie, and we’re all looking forward to May, when the article will appear in Our State. Of course, their visit wreaked havoc on our writing schedule, but it didn’t matter. When I was wandering outside after their visit, I stumbled across Natalie (in the Witches’ Garden) who asked if I’d like a Native American spiritual card reading. I jumped at the chance–knowing I’d have her read the cards for my character rather than myself (see my blog post on Tarot for writers). We found a sunny spot and sat down on a bed of pine needles. Natalie pulled out her deck of special cards, and in about five minutes, I had an unexected twist for my storyline. The whole thing was kind of woo-woo and wonderful.
So now, the wine is being poured as we all catch up on our writing and ponder where to go for dinner. (One of us who shall remain nameless is munching M&Ms; not me. I’ve already had my fill for the day). After dinner, we’ll play Taboo, since we wore out Balderdash last night (Anyone know what a prickmadam is? We do now!) Alex won’t play–she is the real workhorse of the group, rarely taking a break, and she eats healthy food all the time, but we love her anyway!
I’ll check in with another post later in the week. Till then, enjoy whatever you’re reading, knowing that some of your favorite authors are here, spinning new tales for you!