RAWR: Year One Review
Earlier this year, I paid to stay up late critiquing roughly 1,500 words a night from talented writers while teetering toward a panic attack as I wrote my first sex scene. I loved every minute of it.
This was the first year of the Regional Anthropomorphic Writers’ Retreat (RAWR) led by Kyell Gold (Out of Position, Green Fairy) with associate instructor Ryan Campbell (God of Clay, Koa of the Drowned Kingdom) and facilitated by Chandra al-Alkani. After an icebreaker dinner, the next five days would begin with lectures from Kyell, Ryan, Watts Martin (Why Coyotes Howl, Indigo Rain) and Jeff Eddy of Sofawolf Press. They covered world building, setting, character, structure, and publishing while some of the attendees were still drinking coffee in their pajamas. It was helpful advice to keep in mind as we moved into critiques.
Critiques swallowed up most of my time at the retreat whether I was critiquing the work of my peers or writing notes on the feedback the other writers provided for my stories. Listening to the other writers point out what’s working and what isn’t in my stories was both intimidating and exhilarating, but that may be my inner masochist (that explains why I applied for this retreat). Despite my fears, getting that feedback was invaluable. Not only could I trust the other writers to give me honest feedback, they always had something positive to say. Above all, RAWR is all about helping writers grow.
Each writer got two critique sessions. Some of us edited the first story and submitted it to be critiqued a second time after revisions. Some of us had two different stories to be critiqued. One of us even submitted a long story in two parts. I went with option two after I told Kyell about the second story I was working on and he encouraged me to submit it despite not being halfway done with the first draft. If you ever need a kick in the pants to finish a story, having a deadline due in less than 24 hours works wonders. There are times when I want to procrastinate, but being in such an environment got me to work on more writing than I’d done in a month.
One of the highlights of the retreat was the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Kyell and Ryan to ask them anything I wanted. I brought a paper with questions to mask the fact I was essentially word vomiting whatever came to mind. This ranged from serious discussion of my writing (How often should I put out new writing to grow my audience?) to the self-indulging (What tips do you have about writing anthro skunks?)
It wasn’t all work. We’d eat together at the private residence where the workshop was held … while finishing a draft before the submission deadline for critiques. We’d watched movies … while critiquing stories. Okay, so work bled into our downtime, but at least we weren’t bringing our laptops to restaurants when we ate out.
By the time the final day of the retreat arrived, I didn’t have peers. I had friends who I would root for whenever they submit work for publication. I had a renewed resolve not only to improve my writing, but also give back to the furry community. This was one of the most exhausting five days of my life that I wouldn’t trade for a spot on the bestseller list.