Sunday, August 05, 2012

SOLA's 2012 Writers' Retreat



This past weekend our local RWA chapter, SOLA, held its annual writers' retreat at a wonderful old plantation house down in Plaquemines Parish. Steve and I volunteered to give a workshop we entitled "Secrets from the Bestseller List," which was basically an examination of certain characteristics all bestselling books (even the most godawfully written ones) have in common, and what writers can learn from them.



This was SOLA's first time at Woodland, built in the 1830s and the only plantation house south of New Orleans still standing on the west bank of the Mississippi. The hotel is advertised as "rustic," which makes it sound considerably rougher than it is. The old house has been plumbed and wired with electricity (it wasn't when the present owners bought it back in 1997!), and while I wouldn't call the accommodation slick, it's more than comfortable. And in terms of ambiance, it is simply unbeatable. The sense of staying in an old home, as opposed to a hotel, is very real. Guests have the run of the entire plantation house, which consists of the central hall...



a large conference room....



and nine original bedrooms.



The house is considerably larger than it looks from the outside, probably because the 14 foot ceilings fool the eye and distort the perspective. The office, kitchen and restaurant are in what was once an old nineteenth century church...



And I am not exaggerating when I say the chef is world class. Steve and I stayed an extra night by ourselves and enjoyed a six course meal so exquisite we've decided it would be worth making the drive down to Woodland some evening simply for the restaurant.

If you think the plantation looks vaguely familiar, that's because a print for the old house is on the label of Southern Comfort bottles. Sunday morning, before we left, Steve and I went for a walk toward the nearby river, and came upon this sign...

18 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Oh wow, looks gorgeous. It's been so long since I've had a retreat, been able to just put worries and everyday life aside for a while. I hope you all had fun.

Liz said...

Just wondering if there was air conditioning... Seriously, I don't know how you live in such a hot climate! I'm guessing that the ambience of the old house was wonderful for getting the feel of a bygone age. Am loving the St. Cyr mysteries as narrated by Davina Porter. Any chance that she'll add more of them to her repertoire?

cs harris said...

Charles, Steve and I both had a wonderful time.

Liz, the plantation house was so air conditioned I went around in a sweater, and wore a sweatshirt to bed! And yes, I think because the house was so little altered, that time-slip was very real. As for the audio books, I've just learned that they will be doing WHAT DARKNESS BRINGS, and the really nice part is that they are also going to go back and do the first five books, starting with WHAT ANGELS FEAR and WHEN GODS DIE.

Jan Power said...

How romantic! I would dearly loved to have heard your presentation.

And what great news about the audio books. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

YEAH!!!! I can't wait for all of them to be out in audio. It'll be great to hear them all in that lovely British accent. Congrats! Sabena

cs harris said...

Jan, this one was a lot of fun pulling together.

Sabena, I understand they're doing the first two books, and then will do 3-5. I assume they're get Porter to do them all, although I don't know for certain.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah....guess what I just happened across on Amazon? What Darkness brings is available for advance order. No cover pic yet, but whooooo hooooo, that means it is getting closer. One of the reviews called it a novel of "Georgian intrigue"....Regency, Georgian - they were close. I'm just so excited to be able to order it. I can't wait. A cover pic would be fun to see in the next little while (yes, I know, I'm a pain). Sabena

cs harris said...

Sabena, I didn't know that; thanks. I asked my editor last week if I could release the cover yet, and she rather testily answered, "No, not for a long time yet!" I will never understand why they drag their feet the way they do.

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