Have you ever found money in a winter coat pocket?

A beautiful rock or seashell?

Maybe a restaurant or boutique tucked away from the main shopping center?

What about people?  Have you ever discovered a treasure trove of people living right next door?

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the first Canadian River Valley Writer’s Workshop hosted by the Canadian Arts Alliance, and Texas High Plains Writers (THPW) – I think the oldest continuous writers group in the country. We will be 100 years old in 2020! This workshop weekend was, for me, like finding  buried treasure. I even kept a diary, kind of.

Day 1 – Departure
Car loaded. Lauren Blakely “Wanderlust” audio narration w/Richard Armitage plugged in. Despite the hair destroying wind, sunrise looks to be a keeper. I’ll try to get you a shot when I stop for gas.

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

I was a little nervous. The list of writing articles, workshops, blogs, podcasts and live chats is long and not always worth the hours spent. Was this about to be another waste of time and money?

The event started out grand! The B&B accommodations at Kim’s Cottage on Main Street – brick paved main street –  were perfectly writerly.  Entering the little store front glass door you get the feeling that “yeah, the creative juice is here.”

Day 1, Arrival


Sunrise pic was a bust, but my B&B suite is ADORBS!! Ran into the keynote speakers/instructors as I pulled in! More about them later. Great start!

Image may contain: indoor


An arts alliance in a small Texas town 90 miles from the “city”?  Absolutely! We were treated to after hours access to the art collection at The Citadelle.

This old Canadian landmark was built in 1910 as the First Baptist Church. In 1977, the Abraham family purchased the building and converted it into their family residence. After 30 years of serving as their home, the Abrahams have now donated the mansion, the art, and the gardens as a public art museum, known as The Citadelle Art Foundation, to help share their blessings with generations to come.

Day 1, Break before Critique

There’s a bookshelf in the front room of my B& B wonder if I’m allowed to sneak in a copy of “Eden’s Fall”?

Soooo, much covered in the seasons. Some things I knew. But the things I didn’t filled a notebook!

Critique of the first 20K of #WintersThaw in about an hour. I kinda want to throw up. LOL I think I heard one writer has been asked to read part of her 20K submission. Doubt gremlins creep in when that happens.

Canadian is a lovely little town. Main Street is paved with bricks. Antique stores and an Old Fashioned ice cream parlor are right up the street. The Citadel…more about that on the blog…will host our dinner tonight. Along with an impressive art collection the exhibit on display is Western Art Bookcovers. Looking forward to seeing those.

Although the group is small, it is eclectic and interesting. Remember the last scene in Castaway? It was filmed in this county…pssst, one of the residents of the big house is attending the workshop!

I’m trying not to eavesdrop on the critique going on now. Tex Thompson is patient and kind so my nerves are easing. I really want to jump in and share ALL the things on marketing I’ve absorbed. Better get some success before I start spewing my “knowledge”.

Note from Day 2 – OH OH! As part of the workshop package, we were given the opportunity to have our first 20K critiqued! I think I mentioned this yesterday afternoon. KICKED ASS!! As with any GOOD critique, there were suggestions for improvement. I mean really, who buys the “this is fabulous don’t change a thing”? The cherries – yep plural – on the sundae, the premise and plot got a thumbs up AND the really really really shitty-mean-unhelpful critique/slash&burn oh look at me aren’t I the most sarcastic funny writer guru ever got told to “suck it!” (not to her face, because WE are not rude, mean, shitty & sarcastic – not all at once anyway)

Our dinner on the first night was held in the public museum and the exhibit serendipitously  – because several of the workshop attendees write western themed books – was Western Book Covers.  Remember these?? The artists were often unrecognized and unappreciated for the skills needed to produce so many of these covers at the height of their popularity.

photo by Natalie Cline Bright


Day 2,

Good morning Sunshines! Surprisingly I did get a good night’s sleep last night, even with all the new ideas and tips and connections firing in my brain!

We learned about how sleep affects writing – you will want to come back for full blog post**  Sunday…ok, Monday. I KNOW me and regaling y’all with my new found knowledge just ain’t gonna happen after the drive home Sunday afternoon

I’m sitting her at the dining table of Kim’s B&B ob Main Street “patiently” waiting for Brown Bag Roasters to open up across the street! We have 1/2 off coupons!!

I can tell by the clouds it’s gonna be another BLUSTERY day. It’s still pretty cool and soothing to watch them drift across the golden-pink morning sky.

Keep our little corner of the world in your prayers and especially some of our attendees. The fire sirens sounded three times yesterday. We saw news reports that several roads were closed including I-40. Had I needed to get home I would have had to take a CIRCULAR route to get there.

Good news though, as I’ve spent 24 hours here, I have the inspiration for my 2017 NaNo novel. The location was always vague – an “anywhere” kind of place. The city and surrounding area with farms, and rolling pastures is kinda perfect and face the fire dangers that planted the story seeds back in November.

Image result for texas wildfires 2018

From CNN, 2107 Wildfire in Gray County

The second night we were treated to a lovely dinner in the Conejo Art Gallery. Most of us read excerpts from WIPs. And you know what – ALL of it was good! Romance, cowboys, mobsters, fantasy, futuristic and one insanely good parkour scene from curent THPW President Mike Akins, I admit I wasn’t sure would be followable, but he did it!

Image may contain: 7 people, people sitting and table

photo courtesy Conejo Art Gallery, Peyton Aufill artist/photographer

You might think the treasure find was discovering so many talented writers in my backyard. And that is correct, but it was in the hour or so spent together – with wine for some of us – that the true gifts were revealed. Honest, funny, inspiring people excited about the craft, their lives, the future and being part of an encouraging supportive community.

Day 3, The Morning After…

Rule #1 – Fandoms are like Fight Club

Rule #2 – Do not have the second glass of wine or you forget Rule #1!

So the evening went something like this –

Too nervous to really eat much, I knew- KNEW not to drink yet <<< important fact here.

Bolstered by the bravery and TALENT of the my fellow writers I read the opening of Smoke – 2017 NaNo project. The Earth didn’t swallow me whole or anything! WHEW!

Time for wine! Time for conversation. Q&A’s flew around the tables. Did you change the names enough to protect the guilty? Did you base those characters on real people? Is whorey a word? (yes, yes it is)

Oh, there another glass of wine! (here we go…)

The million dollar question, “How did you start writing with partners?”

Deer in headlights. Invocations of the Almighty. (probably blasphemy if we’re being honest) “Oh dear God you won’t believe me.”

Apparently my “prayers” were heard. HE and I had a nice chat when I got back to my cozy room at Kim’s Cottage. Were it not for that fan community, and fan fiction, and cheesy soap-opera beginnings – I would not be RIGHT here RIGHT now. So I am grateful for the embarrassing moments and stumbles and awful beginnings. I’m grateful for the writers and readers and partners that came from those early days.

We don’t learn from the wins. We don’t grow without struggle. We don’t discover our courage without knowing fear.

So, we compiled “Winter’s Thaw” on Monday after the Workshop and this weekend have begun the read through and revision. MAJOR plot hiccup managed on the first chat! YAY! It’s exciting to see it’s not something a monkey could do with a typewriter!

I went to the workshop hoping to get some insight on craft or marketing. I left with friends. Courage. An embarrassing moment  – because wine. And excitement about this writer thing!

Where have you found unexpected treasures?


** I’m going to save the topic of sleep, brain waves and creativity by Kathleen Baldwin for another day.  Hint: Speak kindly to yourself – it matters more than you know.