The Recipe for a Five-Star Writer’s Retreat

Freshman Fifteen author Jenn Marie Thorne lists the essential ingredients for cooking up a world-class writer’s retreat. Take it away, JMT!

During our first(!) ever(!) Freshman Fifteens retreat earlier this month, we figured a lot of stuff out: how to get out of plot holes, how to write with lots of people around, the best parking arrangement for rental cars, every single thing we need to do prior to publication (hahahasigh), and most of all – the perfect recipe for an absolutely delicious authors’ weekend!



For our retreat, the place of choice was Charleston, South Carolina – or, more specifically, the lovely and peaceful Wadmalaw Island, 20 minutes from downtown, courtesy of our hosts-with-the-most, Rick and Charlotte Jones.*










For your retreat, you’ll want to select a location that has just the right balance of quiet and bustle. We found the quiet on this coastal island, surrounded by marshes and forest, and the bustle in Charleston, a lively Southern city with serious foodie and nightlife credentials.









Yes, I’m including food in the ingredients list. What, you make recipes that don’t contain food? Gross. Stop judging me.

We started the retreat with a dinner of paella and dessert of sorbet, courtesy of Chef Rick, who also cooked up a gourmet southern breakfast of shrimp and grits, gluten-free cornbread and baked eggs in marinara sauce for the group. On top of those goodies, we had on hand…ahem…ample snackage to fuel our writing and planning sessions throughout the day.










I cannot stress this enough – it is imperative that you have an embarrassing amount of food on hand for your retreat. Chips, popcorn, donuts, whatever – add in some local delicacies, and you are ready to retreat!










We also hit the town Saturday night for dinner and drinks at the wonderfully delicious and charming Muse! Look how fancy we are. That’s right. We are fancy, fancy people.










Some of our members came bearing gifts. I found this a helpful “binding agent” for the recipe – it definitely bonded us! (Get it?)

Lee arrived with a box full of her favorite YA novels to share with the group. Kelly wove each of us a beautifully colorful bookmark. Stacey gave us each a satchel with homemade perfume in it – amazing! Virginia brought lovely candles printed with old maps of London as a nod to her book. And Chandler’s swag also fit the previous ingredient category: FOOD.










Look how gorgeous they are! They are, in fact, so pretty that I waited a FULL thirty seconds before shoveling these cookies into my mouth. That is impressive.


You’ll want to add an extra special ingredient to make your retreat memorable. The spice that we chose was “creepiness.” Why? Because we’re awesomely brave. That’s why.

















Our locally-sourced creepiness was brought to us by Mike Brown, of Old Charleston Walking Tours, who told us all about Lavinia Fisher, the first female serial killer in America, who haunts not one but several locations in Charleston and followed a couple of us home to give us nightmares.

Tip: If you’re traveling in Charleston – don’t take shortcuts through graveyards in the middle of the night, even if the gate is left open. Especially if the gate is left open. 

Good Company  

This is the most important ingredient. You’re not going to want to skimp on this one. Only the highest quality people can make for a great retreat. And, lucky us, we got to spend our weekend with an amazing group of writers and friends – and we raised a toast to the other wonderful Freshman who weren’t able to make it.



















Note: Also pictured is Jonesey, the dog. He is not a member of our group, but he might be our mascot moving forward. We haven’t decided yet.  

Those are the crucial ingredients. And now – how to cook them:


Combine ingredients. Shake. Enjoy!

Jenn MarieJenn Marie Thorne writes YA fiction from her home in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her dashing husband Rob, her adventurous toddler Oliver, and her eternally put-upon hound Molly.

An NYU drama grad, Jenn still enjoys making a fool of herself on at least a weekly basis, studying classical voice, and traveling the world with her family.

Her debut novel, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, is coming Spring 2015 from Dial/Penguin Random House.

You can find Jenn online: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads 

Posted in Writing, Writing Retreat, Young Adult Tagged , , , ,

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