When authors get together for a writing retreat, you can usually expect four things to happen: lots of writing, some brilliant ideas passed around, catch up on the latest news and a trip to Wally World. Not particularly in that order.
I recently had the pleasure of hosting my first writing retreat. It was, without doubt, the craziest and best time I can remember. Some things, however, I never saw coming.
One gifted author was desperately searching for inspiration for the hero in her current WIP. She said she could see his individual features in her mind but she couldn’t bring it all together. And, of course, he had to have heroic values. He had to act in a heroic way regardless of what he might encounter. We tossed out a few names of famous people but none did the trick. “Maybe it will clear your mind if we do our Wally World run now?” All agreed. Off we went.
I needed Dr. Peppers. Another sought bottled water and so on. We walked into the store and each of us went our separate ways. I grabbed a cart (yes, I’m lazy) and headed to the drinks isle. After parading up and down several times I found cases of Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Mountain Dew – everything but Dr. Pepper. About then the others approached me and ask if I was finished shopping.
“I can’t find the Dr. Peppers.” We all looked and nope – none to be found anywhere. It was about then the trip to Wally took on a whole different meaning.
“Excuse me, Ma’am.” I turned toward the deep, southern drawl. “The Dr. Peppers are back there,” he pointed, “on the very back wall. Had a hard time finding them myself.”
This guy was about six foot four, clean-shaven, boots, worn jeans, plaid shirt and if I had my guess, his western hat was in his pick-up truck with or without his horse trailer attached. He was pushing a cart. In it was an adorable baby about six months old.
“If you’d like to come with me, I’ll show you where they are.” Where they…? Oh! The Dr. Peppers. Of course. I followed him to the isle. Down about half way he pointed at the cases. I thanked him profusely and he gave a nod. “Yes Ma’am. Glad I could help.”
He went his way and, sadly, I went mine. I hadn’t gone far when the other girls caught up with me. They had witnessed the whole thing and the one looking for her hero said, “That’s HIM! That’s my hero!! I’ve GOT to get a picture!” We tried to follow but with those long legs, he out maneuvered us. Finally, I told them to put their groceries in my basket. I would check out and they could do what authors do: hunt the man down.
After checking out I waited at the front of the store. I saw the hero and his baby in line. The girls joined me. Sadness prevailed. They couldn’t get a picture. He was too fast. Too many people; too many corners. One sighed and said she may have gotten a butt shot. I’m thinking… we have all gone a little crazy. We are, in essence, stalking this poor guy!
His wife joined him in the line and our shoulders dropped a bit further. Giving up on the picture, we all headed to the car. After unloading the basket we took off for the exit, a route that propelled us down the main isle of the store… the one right in front of the doors; the one where you stop if pedestrians need to cross. We stopped, looked harder. It was him. How many chances are we given on something this important in a life time? This was destiny. This picture was meant to be!
“Girls! Grab your phones! Hurry!” was the unanimous cry. Again his long strides took him across the cross walk faster than we could dig the cell phones out of the bottom of our purses. A sad sigh and accompanying groan was made by every author in the car. I’m in the back seat thinking… this just isn’t right. We worked for this picture. We earned this picture. We should not let fate or unpreparedness stop us from getting a picture of Every Girl’s Hero! With no sane thought in my head, I bailed out of the car, my phone still in my hand.
My hubby can say what he wants but I’m not totally brain deficient. I went straight to his wife. I apologized for bothering and explained we were authors for Harlequin and we were in need of a picture of a true hero to serve as inspiration while we write the next story. I explained what her hero hubby had done for me and asked if we might take his picture.
She grinned and looked at him with a new appreciation in her eyes. “Sure. Absolutely.” Bless his heart. It never occurred to anyone to ask if he minded. Like a true hero, he merely asked “Where do you want me?” The other girls bailed out of the vehicle and we proceeded to have a photo session right there in front of Wal-Mart. We had traffic backed up out of sight in three directions but who cares? We were getting pictures of a real life hero!
We presented our business cards as proof we honestly were authors and let the obvious impression we were all crazy as a bat slide to the background. Returning home, we all felt the excited peace of success. We came. We saw. We conquered!! And we bet his sweet wife had a whole new appreciation of her hero hubby!
One last tidbit… The baby’s name turned out to be the same as the heroine in the story. You can’t make this stuff up and it just doesn’t get any better!! Who’s up for another writer’s retreat?