Writing Retreat Tension

There’s a tension at the writing retreat between wanting to write all the time, wanting to catch up on much-needed rest and sleep, and wanting to talk intensely to the other writers, who are often having a very interesting craft and/or publishing conversation.

Pictured here is Alex, who clearly should’ve gone to bed, but didn’t want to be left out of the after-dinner conversation on the porch. He conveniently woke up when we got to the really good bit. 🙂


Yesterday was a productive day overall; I didn’t have any Zoom teaching to do, so could stay in writing mode most of the day. Wrote in the morning and read Alex’s script to give feedback, then had screenwriting class, where I got good, if confusing, feedback on my screenplay. I have about 73 pages right now, and while the next step is clearly to write one missing scene, it’s unclear whether the best option after that is to:

a) try to trim down to one long episode

b) break it into two 45-minute or so episodes

c) break it in to two episodes but REVERSE the order, so the second episode is one long flashback giving background!

Gah. I will need to ponder that in a serious way. I was so flustered after that critique, and feeling a bit overwhelmed, that I put on my suit and walked down to the ocean and spent 30 minutes letting the waves pound into me and knock me down.

BEST THERAPY. I take all my problems to the ocean, and it reminds me that I am small and insignificant and none of them actually matter, and I feel so much better. I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll figure out a way to live next to a warm ocean later in my life, especially because Kevin is not a warm climate person, but it is surely tempting. I will have to content myself with walking in forests, which is also therapeutic, but in a less belligerent way.

(The ocean and I have a little bit of an S/M relationship, I think. I love it so much…)


Morning so far — read a little more of _Gamechanger_, of which more shortly, checked e-mail and dealt with some time-sensitive business, and drafted another scene in the YA fantasy. Now break for tea, and then I’m going to take a stab at adding that missing scene to the SF screenplay, introducing the father-in-law earlier, which is going to be a huge help.

Then last Zoom teaching for the semester, my SF lit. class and my creative writing class, and then I expect to be thoroughly exhausted with brain work. We have planned a group outing to Ke’e Beach for late afternoon, and there will likely be snorkeling. Alas, I do not have a waterproof camera, so I cannot take gorgeous fish photos for you, so you will just have to imagine them.


Here’s a bit of the scene I wrote this morning, middle-grade fantasy. Ever wonder how unicorns give birth?


The unicorn mama looked sweaty, and she was moving a lot – laying down, rolling, standing up again. John explained, “She’s trying to get the foal into position for delivery, but she’s having trouble.”

*If only we had carwein…*

“I know, Tarth, but we’ll have to manage without. I’m still having no luck getting the seeds to germinate.” John was sitting down on the ground, moving slowly; Shanthi offered an arm for him to lean on, which he took gratefully. Soon he’d managed to get himself seated cross-legged, and Shanthi plopped down beside him, glad for the chance to sit.

She’d taken her hand off Tarth, and the cold immediately started seeping into her bones, but before it could start to hurt, Tarth was beside her again, pressing flesh to flesh, and she was warm. John frowned. “If you were staying longer, we’d get you properly dressed, but Tarth will just have to take care of you for now.”

“What’s carwein?” Shanthi asked.

“It’s a spice that unicorns love to chomp, and it makes delivery much easier for the mama. But it’s almost entirely extinct now; it grows in just a few remote places, and we’re trying to save what samples we can to try to learn how to propagate it in greenhouses. If we figure that out, I’ll turn over all my lettuce coldframes to carwein, and life will get a lot better for these lovelies. In the meantime, though –

The mare whinnied, sounding unhappy, and Tarth whinnied a soothing response.

“Showtime,” John muttered. He was taking a bright red piece of yarn out of his pocket, tying a knot in it. Then he laced it between his fingers and started manipulating the yarn – oh, it was cat’s cradle! Shanthi had played that with her cousins. He didn’t seem to want a partner, though – his fingers moved deftly through various figures, moving faster and faster, and there was a strange, tight feeling to the air, almost electric. Shanthi could feel the hair on her arms moving, which felt super-weird. Not bad, just weird.

The mare was lying down now, and Tarth said, *He’s coming!*

And then John was pulling his fingers taut, twisting them, unknotting the cat’s cradle in one smooth motion, and at the same moment, the foal emerged, front legs first, one slightly in front of the other. Then the nose, the head – and Shanthi was relieved to see there was no horn there; she’d been wondering how the poor mama could possibly give birth to something with a big sharp horn. But it was just a softly rounded nub on the foal’s forhead, and soon the body and back legs were out too.

*Good. A good delivery. Thank you, John. I must meet my son now.*

Tarth trotted off towards the new mother and foal, leaving Shanthi feeling bereft. She’d been thinking of him as *her* unicorn – but of course, he wasn’t. He had his own family, and she didn’t belong here. The land seemed to agree, because now the snow on the ground had turned to icy water seeping into her skirt and underwear; Shanthi scrambled to her feet, hugging herself tightly.

John frowned. “I’d like to talk more, but we really have to get you home now. I have just enough power, I think, and after that, I’m going to be out of juice for days. I’m sorry, Shanthi. I’ll try to get in touch as soon as I can. Be patient, please.”

Shanthi nodded, shivering. Her teeth were starting to chatter, a very odd sensation, and her toes were stinging with the cold.

John gave one last twist of his fingers, and then Shanthi was falling again, into warmth and sunshine and flowers. She landed in the same doorway she’d taken shelter in, what felt like a lifetime ago.

She was home.



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