Scattered Scenes from Arrival Day at the Writing Retreat

It turns out that packing several thick books next to blocks of chocolate will result in airport security wanting to hand search my bag. Then they will wipe down the chocolate to see if they are as advertised rather than being blocks of something explosive instead. The guy doing the search was pleasant. He took one look at my Planet Mercenary book and asked if there was a gaming convention happening. Apparently cases full of minis have been going through security today.

The pass through security was made extra interesting by the fact that my anxious 16yo started texting me just as I was dismantling my kit to pass through the scanning machines. She was worried about her math test and because of her anxiety, if I don’t answer promptly, she tends to ratchet up in intensity. So while my phone was going through the x-ray, I could hear it chiming. Then I had to decide if texting on my phone while waiting for my bag to be hand searched would make me look suspicious. I texted anyway and the staff didn’t react at all. Being middle-aged, white, blonde, female, and non-threatening almost certainly contributed to their unconcern.

The security check and reassurance of teenager both wrapped at about the same time. I told her she had my permission to completely bomb her math test. She answered:
“THANK YOU. I didn’t know I needed permission to get answers wrong until you said that. I’m still gonna do my best, but now I have permission to fail. Wow, I’m weird.”
I answered that I’m the same kind of weird, so we can hang out together in solidarity. It was a fun exchange.

I checked back an hour later. She didn’t bomb the test.


The location for this retreat is lovely. I’ve not been to Phoenix before, so it was fascinating to see saguaro cacti growing along side the freeways like trees. We even have one here in the garden of the house where we are staying. The whole place feels familiar and welcoming to me. The architecture is south-west spanish influenced, just like my home town in California. The plants are similar to my home town as well (except for the saguaro). But the air is dry the way that Utah air is dry. I like all of it. I’ve even found what I think will be my preferred writing nook.

We’ll see if it is as lovely in the heat of the day as it was at sunset. In my room I discovered that my hosts went above and beyond to make me feel welcome.

They quested to locate and purchase some Rose Lemonade, which can’t have been easy and was a true kindness considering they must have had dozens of other preparatory tasks to do.


Here at the retreat meals are social times. We gather to eat and talk. I’ve begun to learn names. I suppose I should have prepared for the “what are you working on” questions. It is so hard to not frame my answers as apologies. Apologizing for not working on a novel like so many of the others. Instead I practiced my professional skills and spoke positively about the writing work I’ve been doing on Planet Mercenary. After the fact I realized that I can also speak about the writing I do on Kickstarter updates and customer support emails. These are genres of writing that take every bit as much forethought and effort as any other form of writing that I’ve done.

I’m quite tired this evening, so I’ll likely turn in early. Tomorrow I’ll venture forth and write more words.

1 thought on “Scattered Scenes from Arrival Day at the Writing Retreat”

  1. Hah.
    I returned to Auckland from Melbourne once with a $5 lump from the end of a roll of rock candy from the shop there.

    Suddenly the customs guys get very polite.
    “Has your bag been out of your hands”
    “Uh well yeah, it got handed in at Melbourne customs about 4 hours ago” (was just after this:

    Anyway, they open my bag up, and pull it out, and the lady behind me goes “Oh, you went there too”.
    Everyone relaxes, off we go.

    Turns out rock candy is opaque on the machine 🙂

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