How lucky am I to be able to run away from my everyday world for a month every winter, drive with my convertible top down to the land of sunshine and fresh strawberries to write all day and far into the night, no one to interrupt or insist on chores or dinner at seven. 2020 is my twelfth year for this annual writing retreat.
In 2009 friends offered me their sailboat in the Palmetto marina for a month. My routine was up with the sun, walk to the harbormaster’s for free newspaper and coffee, write below as long as I could sit upright with the bunk cushions propping up my back, bike to grocery (or liquor store or library), nap at pool, G and T on the deck at sunset, more writing until I fell asleep and crawled into my sleeping bag in the fore bunk. Three years in the sailboat, three years dog-sitting for a Bradenton friend with a magical turquoise house and blooming jungle garden, two years in Tampa at my niece Kari’s condo overlooking blue blue Tampa Bay and the Gandy bridge, one abbreviated year when our Portland friend Stan died unexpectedly and I went home early and heartbroken, two years in Naples with those distracting but gorgeous white beaches and too many art festivals.
So here I am in Cape Coral this year, a second floor condo across from a popular bar with outdoor Bingo on Monday nights, and a thrift store bike that rides like a dream. I fly up to Publix for fresh shrimp and stop at Paisano’s Italian Market for olives or Pecorino.
The list of who I need to thank is endless. Lake Union for publishing Catcher, Caught and selling the heck out of it still, the Pen Faulkner Foundation for choosing it for their Writers in Schools program, my generous and patient husband who enjoys his month without me as much as I enjoy the retreat, my grands who grow taller and smarter every day I’m away, my philosopher son who compares writing schedules, my money manager son who checks in regularly to be sure I’m healthy and safe, my daughter the doc who sends me videos of Eli and Selah and wears every colorful thing I bring back to her, my daughter-in-law who reads my books avidly, my son-in-law the doc for his sense of humor that keeps me humble. I’d thank Professor Skarda if she were still with us, she’s my inspiration, the reason I edit and edit and work so hard to get it right but eloquently, and my mother, 93 and still gardening and painting and reading, for her insistence that you keep at it, fill the frame, and paint it again.
Authors thank their agents, their editors, their readers, their critique groups, the list is long for artists. We may be admired, but we are not valued enough in the crush of achieve and acquire in today’s world. I hear often that there are less than 300 writers in the world who live off their royalties (that includes journalists), and that 95 percent of authors don’t sell more than 500 copies of a book. I’m ahead of the curve on that one, but it’s not an easy thing to know that most of the working people I meet earn more in a month than most writers earn in a year.
And I would be remiss not to thank my readers. Who buy the books, recommend them to their friends and book clubs, write the reviews, and come to my presentations. I know it’s more than the dollars, it’s an investment of time. Just like my Florida writing retreat.