Out of Excuses Writing Retreat and Cruise 2016

This year’s Writing Excuses cruise was absolutely incredible. I spent a lot of last year’s cruise overwhelmed and exhausted, so this year I took care to give myself private blocks of writing time every day. The difference was amazing! Recharging myself this way gave me a freedom and energy I didn’t feel last year. Between the insightful lessons (on both writing and life) and the unique feeling of being amongst others like myself, this experience doesn't compare to anything in the world. Here is an overview of the trip’s highlights:

 

Saturday

 

Best part? Meeting up with friends I haven’t seen since a year ago and feeling like not a single day has passed. Other best part? Meeting brand new people and realizing within our first conversation that we aren’t strangers at all. The ship—Oasis of the Seas—is huge and overpowering, but this time I’m ready. I’ve got this.

 

Sunday

 

A day at the Bahamas! We go to an incredibly hot and muggy botanical garden and zoo, where we walk through a rainforest path and see beautiful parrots and lizards and flamingos and some awesomely huge spiders. Then we sit down for some writing time. I’m stuck on something, and it’s frustrating. But I have some great conversations with a couple writers on the way home, and store the ideas I get.

 

Monday

 

We spend today on the ship. We take a great class on outlining, then watch the Writing Excuses cast (Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler) record several episodes of the podcast! No spoilers here, but there is some really great stuff coming out in the next few months. Also, two veteran members of the retreat, Miko and Jessica, get married on the ship today, officiated by Mary herself!

 

Tuesday

 

We are at St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. Trever and I, in the interest of saving cab money, decide to try walking to a beach. Our writing friend Steven comes along. We walk through an industrial district we clearly aren’t supposed to be in, then head down a narrow curvy road without sidewalks. It is intermittently rainy, with lush vegetation all around us. We are rewarded; we walk past a hotel and find a virtually empty beach. We jump right in and swim for a while. There is nothing like swimming in the Caribbean—absolutely no shock value of cold when you get in the water. It’s amazing. Later that night, we have dinner at the same table as Brandon Sanderson. I talk to him about some of the things I’ve been struggling with in my book. He has great answers to my questions.

 

Wednesday

 

We are at St. Maarten. We shop for a little bit, but it is an extremely hot day, and before long, we go back to the ship and swim in the pool. Trever helps me realize I have been trying to start my book in the wrong place. I go back to my room and write 2,800 words. Adding that to my 1,300 of the day before, I have reached 4,100, which is my second-best record in a 24-hour period. I can’t stop smiling.

 

Thursday

 

We watch Dan Wells’ film adaptation of I Am Not a Serial Killer. It is pretty good! Then we take an amazing class about Personal Narrative. We participate in a free-writing exercise, something I have never tried. In the course of this exercise, I have an epiphany about things that have challenged me my entire life, and give me new insight about why I am the way I am. In fact, self-discovery has played an unexpected role this whole week. It’s a big part of what makes this trip a life-changing experience for me. At night, we participate in a cosplay, with the theme of sci fi or fantasy weddings. It is my first ever cosplay. Sandra Tayler gives me a prize for her favorite costume. I have to keep the train of my dress from getting stepped on all night, but it is worth it!

 

Friday

 

Today is jam-packed with classes and Q&A sessions. There is another mindblowing class about world building as related to our own 13-billion-year history, as well as a really cool one on characterization. I’m exhausted by the end of the day. But I am happy the cruise has been such a success this year—I wouldn’t change a single thing. There’s no other vacation I can say that about.