I’m writing this from a beautiful house in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee. I am here with 20 friends for the third annual Smokey Writers retreat, a week-long gathering where we can focus exclusively on creative writing. This is my first time at Smokey Writers; others are comfortable veterans. For seven hours a day over the next week, we will work on our various projects, share at night what we’ve written during the day, eat, drink, and enjoy our surroundings and each others’ company. I can’t describe how happy I am to be here (I know, ironic for a writer.)
The house is 7,000 square feet, sleeps 22 people, has multiple hot tubs, video and pinball games, foosball and pool tables, and balconies off the dining room and every bedroom. During dinner tonight, a raccoon wandered up to the glass doors off the dining room and checked us out. No sign of bears yet, though I’m told they’re just coming out of hibernation. I’m also told they can’t climb, and my bedroom is on the fourth floor, so it’s all good.
I arrived in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Friday. A “pre-treat” was planned for yesterday, and the airfare was $150 less if I flew here on Friday. That night, only three of us were here. Little by little, people arrived yesterday. Everyone is here now. These are some of the best people I know, writers I’ve met at Balticon and other conventions. In real life, we come from academia, accounting, business services, museums, non-fiction publishing, and yes, insurance. One or two are fortunate enough to make their livings writing. All are dedicated to putting words in original and interesting orders.
The house was not available until 4 pm today, so today was all about moving in, getting comfortable with our surroundings, getting acquainted or re-acquainted, and basically settling in. Tomorrow morning at 9 am, the work starts. I am looking forward to a week that will be mentally and emotionally exhausting, exhilarating, filled with laughter, friendship, good food and drink, and immersion in creativity. There are at least four writers here whose books you can find at any Barnes & Noble. Do I feel a little bit like a pretender? You betcha. I also feel enormously privileged and flattered to be invited, and I’m determined to make the most of this precious week.
I hope to blog every day of the retreat. Tomorrow, I will have progress to report. The photo above is a shot of the house from the woods behind it. As the week goes on, perhaps I’ll post some others. In the mean time, I am very blessed to be in this house, with these people, in this place. I can’t wait to get started.