I can't say I wasn't nervous. Eight women were coming to my home in Boca Raton, Florida for a two day writing retreat. I was happy they weren't sleeping in my house, but they would be spending seven hour days, and I had to feed them. I had done all the shopping and prepared all the food. I hoped that playing hostess wouldn't get in the way.
This all started when I read a post online at SheWrites that mentioned the Amherst Method of doing critiques. Curious, I googled the method and found Jamie, who lived three hours away in Orlando. We emailed, then decided to talk. She told me it would only take five minutes to explain the method. We hit it off and forty-five minutes later she had talked me into the retreat. Not really knowing her or the method, I was a bit dubious about the whole process.
The participants arrived by nine and a hot and hearty breakfast was waiting. Some ate outside around the pool. The murmuring began quietly, feeling each other out. Within minutes, the getting-to-know-you time was up to speed and I could hear them all the way in the kitchen. We formed a circle of chairs and couches in my living room. The pool outside shimmered an unusual blue as we began to introduce ourselves.
I don't know when it happened, the precise moment, but the air in the room changed. It became warmer, friendly, understanding, charged with a shimmering lightness by the amazing creativity of the group. By then we had done three or four prompts. Hearing the honesty in what each person had written, brought us together as writers, women and human beings.
We wrote of things personal and universal, from describing something in the room to emotional life experiences. Some of the ladies kept their writing to pieces that could be added to their works in progress. Others just let their imaginations fly. I did a bit of both.
I did not love the Amherst method. I found I did not get enough helpful information. I like when suggestions are made, even if I don't agree with them. They give me something to think about, to consider, to perhaps take the writing in a different direction.
On the last day, the mood was palpably sad. We had grown close in the short time we were together and it was difficult to leave each other. Six of us decided to form our own critique group, meeting monthly in each other's homes. As I closed the door, and found myself alone, I thought about the power of the internet. It had provided a way for an ongoing critique group to be birthed from an online post.