Writing on Vacation: More Progress Than in a Month at Home


One son’s family.

Prepare, Escape, Progress


I didn’t believe it would work, but it did.


It was hellish. I’d be gone twelve days on vacation. Blog posts still needed to be written and published. I had endorsements to garner for my nonfiction book on writing. Another publisher required I fill out four work-intensive forms on their system. I had interview questions to answer.

I didn’t write one word on my story the week before we left for the Dominican Republic. That week, as I worked hard to get tasks done in advance, I made myself a promise, one I wasn’t sure I could keep. I told myself I’d have fun writing my story while sipping a virgin lime concoction and lounging on the beach under palms swaying in the Punta Cana breezes.


Once the airplane lifted off a Charlotte, NC runway, my muscles relaxed. I opened my MacBook Air, and I was no longer on the stuffy airplane but in my fictional town, falling in love with my hero and enjoying the cleverness of my heroine.

We arrived in Punta Cana at a resort we enjoy. Just as I remembered, the breezes chased away heat and humidity, the bright sunshine danced on aqua water, and fronds on tall palms provided shade. We spent the rest of the travel day orienting our children and grandchildren to the resort. We’d invited them along for the first six days. Then we lavished our tummies on the endless offerings the main restaurant laid out in numerous buffets. No meals to plan, shop for, or prepare.


I spent time with my family, snorkeling, sailing on a small catamaran with my husband, and building sand castles with the kids. But while they enjoyed the sun at the pool and my husband windsurfed, I crept away to my favorite beach spot, where my fingers translated the images in my mind into words on my MacBook Air.


It was almost heaven. When I needed to mull over a scene, I closed the laptop and looked at water, sand, and palms, instead of the piles of papers from ten different marketing projects on my desk, table, and floor, those annoying stacks that always made me feel anxious. In our room for an hour before breakfast and another before turning out the lights, I inserted all the cool edits that rose in my uncluttered mind during the night or day.

This most enjoyable time away taught me how important vacations or retreats are. Time away from all the tasks that are not writing and from our homes and their problems can unleash creativity. (Our freezer died and the hot water heater started leaking right before we left.)

The place doesn’t have to be ten days on a tropical island. It could be a

         week in a cabin by the river,

                  weekend in a motel with a view,

                           day in a national forest,

                                    housesitting someone’s house, or

                                             camping at a lake.

Writing on vacation can be fun and highly productive. Click to tweet.

When have you been away from home and enjoyed a productive writing session?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door to Candace’s family home. He doesn’t recognize her at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!


Sisterhood of the World Bloggers

Because mine is a how-to blog, writing a blog-hop interview this week is a treat. My nominees, the rules, and their questions follow the interview.

Thank you, Paula Mowery, for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.


Here are Paula’s questions and my answers:

What is something you would count as a “success” from this past year?

Naturally, debut Calculated Risk’s release. But when I launched my weekly how-to blog in 2012, I wondered how long it’d be before I ran out of things I knew how to do. So my 2014 success was celebrating my 100th blog.


Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net







Who has had the biggest influence on your life?

Naturally, Jesus. Unfortunately, also the Enemy, the devil, with his relentless temptations. But through Christ’s victorious influence, I know Him and have eternal life.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Naturally, stoves are hot. But in 1981, I protested to John that I was too much older than he to marry. When he was eight, I could’ve been his babysitter. He said, “Look at it this way, when you’re eighty, I’ll be seventy-two.” Our age gap is actuarially sound. We should die about the same time. 

If you could have a week to retreat, where would you go and what would you do?

photoNaturally, heaven. But my sister and brother-in-law and John and I have already scheduled a winter retreat in the Dominion Republic. I’ll sit under a palm tree on the beach and read instead of write books. And celebrate my sister’s birthday.


Looking back on this year, what are five things you are especially thankful for?

Naturally, my five senses. Equally, my five grandchildren who keep me young and laughing.

What is one lesson you feel you learned this past year?

Naturally, book promotion is overwhelming. More importantly, God is the Great Orchestrator.

If there were no limits, what is one goal you would like to achieve this year?

Naturally, to win the Christy Award. No limits? I’d like to finish this next book within six months.

What is one Bible verse that is special to you and why?

Naturally, Proverbs 21:19 (below). But staying positive, Galatians 6:9. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. One thing I do well is persevering.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not?

Naturally, lose 10 pounds if I did. But I don’t make resolutions. For fifty-two weeks, I send weekly goals to my accountability partners. That’s enough.

512px-David_and_GoliathDo you set goals for yourself in your spiritual life? Give an example.

Naturally. This year I worked on inner giants that hinder my faith walk. Nagging is one. That’s why I mentioned Proverbs 21:19 above. Better to live in a desert than with a … nagging wife.

Paula, thank you for this opportunity to join in and introduce interesting and helpful bloggers to others.

My nominees:

Valerie Comer, Kristen Blankenship, Jane Thompson, Joanne Sher

The rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
  3. Answer the 10 questions you’ve been sent.
  4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

Their questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What was the topic of the blog you wrote that had the greatest impact on your readers and why?
  3. What is your process from getting a blog idea to announcing your just submitted post?
  4. What is something you’d like to learn how to do to improve your blog this year?
  5. What kinds of blogs do you enjoy reading?
  6. What are three words that best describe who you are?
  7. What book did you most enjoy reading last year and why?
  8. What is a non-blogging goal you’d like to accomplish this year?
  9. When you’re not blogging, what do you enjoy doing?
  10. What was a spiritual lesson you learned in the past year?

7 Tips to Create an In-home Retreat for Your Friends, Family, or Associates

“What I do best is share my enthusiasm.” — Bill Gates

Image courtesy of sirikul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sirikul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You want your critique group, your family, your scrapbooking group, or your Bible study members to spend special time together. You want the experience to be more than a party. You want to bond. But organizing a retreat seems overwhelming.

Whether your house comfortably sleeps 2 or 10 guests, with a little enthusiasm you can create a meaningful getaway in your home. Here are basic tips to help transform your work into a fun experience.

DayDreamTip 1. Before getting into details, dream what the experience might look like.

This is the fun, creative part. The experience won’t mirror your dream, but it’ll set the basis for your preparation. Imagine:

  • your family members away having fun at grandma’s or at the scouts’ camping trip;
  • your guests rearranging their lives in order to come to your retreat;
  • you coming across to your guests as calm and welcoming;
  • your guests conversing around inviting food;
  • your guests laughing during fun activities;
  • your guests having down time to recharge; and
  • everyone absorbing inspiration and renewal.

Tip 2. Make sure your family members are away doing something they enjoy.morning golf 01

During a recent retreat I hosted, my husband stayed with my brother-in-law and played golf. Knowing he was happy, I focused on my guests.

Tip 3. Attending is work for your guests, so minimize their help and expense.

When I slip into a spa, I don’t tote brownies I’ve baked. Before the retreat your guests are already working on such things as:

  • travel,
  • child or adult care,
  • animal care,
  • work delegation, and
  • other responsibilities.

It’s not wrong to have your guests share the workload. But I’m reminded of one guest’s exasperating travel. I was glad I hadn’t asked her to be responsible for one meal.

Tip 4. However, encourage guests to do one or two simple tasks beforehand that put them into the retreat mindset.

Image courtesy of BrandonSigma at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of BrandonSigma at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have them:

  • select a devotional to share,
  • collect items in a shoebox that represent things about themselves for an easy introduction exercise, or
  • think of something to share concerning the theme of your group.

At the recent writers retreat I hosted, we each presented a challenge in our novels for the others to brainstorm. If your guests are knitters, they might demonstrate knitting techniques.

Tip 5. Lower your stress level; keep food preparation during the retreat light and easy.

For some hosts, guests helping in the kitchen is stressful. Following recipes is difficult when guests chat with you. Preparing food ahead frees you to have those wonderful chats.

Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Prepare freezer-friendly-stick-it-in-the-oven dishes ahead of time.
  • Include healthy options. Fresh fruits and raw vegetables are easy.
  • Bake a variety of cookies beforehand. They make good lunchtime desserts and snacks and don’t use refrigerator space.
  • Employ buffets of make-your-own garden salads, sandwiches, or taco salads. Easier for you, and allows guests to select items they like.

Guests have special food needs? Relax. I enjoyed perusing gluten-free recipes online. The cookies and meals I chose were so tasty and easy I served them to everyone.

Tip 6. For enrichment, plan activities around your group’s theme.

  • Have guests share Tip 4’s activities.
  • Show theme-related, how-to YouTube videos you’ve previewed.
  • Do your themed activity together, if possible. (Knit, write, scrapbook, study the Bible)

MP900387329Tip 7. Plan flexible activities that include exercise and recharging. 

  • A walk.
  • Bocce or Badminton
  • Free time for naps, reading, or one-on-one conversations.
  • Picnics in the fresh air.

These are the basics I’ve learned that keep my guests and myself cared for and renewed.

What has made a small retreat special for you?