What avid reader hasn’t dreamed of being locked inside a library or bookstore overnight? In all honesty, the chances of that happening to more than a few of us (not counting librarians or bookstore owners/employees) is rather slim, but can we get all the benefits of such confinement, with all the comforts of home (or home away from home?) This may be worth investigating.
Ask a random selection of writers about their opinions on and experiences with writing retreats, and you’ll get a wide variety of answers, from “not for me, thanks,” to “what? Is there one starting? What do you know? I’m packing right now.” Readers’ retreats, though, are those a thing? If not, maybe they should be. While some writers’ gatherings do have reader tracks (the late, great RT might be a good example here) who among us wouldn’t jump at the chance to pack up our TBR piles, charge our e-readers, and hunker down for a few days of nothing but reading, consuming seasonally appropriate beverages (adult or otherwise, as you will) and optional cat or other pet nearby, for petting and companionship.
Though romance readers are a varied bunch, all ages, ethnicities, genders, walks of life, etc, there’s one thing we all have in common (besides the love of romance fiction) – the chance to read, uninterrupted, is a rare and precious thing. The interruptions may come from real life challenges with jobs, families, communities, or what-have-you, or they may be our beloved parents, darling children, cherished partners, jobs we love, or even writing of our own. Let’s face it, life demands a lot out of us, and reading is a great way to refill our energies. Take a break, live a few other lives for a while, learn and gain strength from the characters we meet along the way, and then come back at life, swinging.
This week’s topic had been a tricky one, eluding me as we settle into our new home, and plan for more changes in the not too distant future. Not the least of those concerns is getting back on the fiction writing horse, and, surprising absolutely no-one, putting story out requires putting story in, first. If only there were some way I could grab a few days away from other responsibilities, with a big bag of books, and no interruptions. Cue a change in the scheduling of a family event, which brings an opportunity for me to spend the better part of a week, housesitting, my only company of the four-legged, feline, variety, in a home that does not have internet service.
While this may cause cries of alarm from many, including myself, the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Yes! Reading and writing retreat!” Immediately, I started mentally flipping through my To Be Read lists, including my To Be Finally Read, and To Be Re-read lists. What books did I want to bring on this impromptu retreat? Old favorites? New releases? A healthy mix of both? Books I’ve always been meaning to read, the ones I thought I’d get to someday, the hot off the presses titles getting all the internet buzz? (Not that I’d be able to participate in said buzz, without a connection, but I can take copious pen and paper notes.) Do I want a smorgasbord of different subgenres and author voices, or do I want to hone my focus to a single author, series, setting, character type?
There’s the question of what to pack, book-wise. Paperback? Hardcover? E-reader, obviously, because that means I can have literally hundreds of books on hand at one time. Sure, that could be the only thing I packed (though impractical for bathtub reading) and I’d never run out, but there is a certain satisfaction in spreading out physical books on bed or floor, and deciding what the reading order should be, or if I want to read as the spirit moves. In the end, there will likely be a mix of library books, owned books, and electronic versions of both, that make the cut.
The books are only one part of a reading retreat. There are the practical things to consider; where will this retreat take place? Where, in that venue, do I want to do said reading? Will there be refreshments? Do I want human companionship at any point in this venture? (Spoiler alert: I am an extrovert. I will pounce on the writer friend whom I will be meeting for lunch, with all the fervor of a starving hyena, but a few leisurely walks in the woods, while discussing favorite books, authors, tropes, etc, would be equally delightful.) What sort of dance is appropriate to convey the joy that comes with knowing there will be absolutely zero comments about the cover art, and/or romance genre as a whole? I am sure I will figure that one out.
The basics are pretty easy: something to read (bunch of books, e-reader, maybe some magazines,) something to lounge upon while doing said reading (couch, comfy chair, bed, floor next to cat, bathtub, would not turn a hammock away if one were to appear,) something to eat/drink while reading (fully stocked fridge will do nicely, thanks) and all the time in the world, to devote to devouring as many books as I want, at the pace that I want. Isn’t that the dream?
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What does your ideal reading retreat look like? Where would you go, if you could go anywhere, and do nothing but read for a week? What would you read? Would you want company, or is being alone with your books the whole point? Pull up a chair in our comment section and tell us all about it. Go wild. There’s room for everybody at this table.