Deep Woods Writing Camp Review

by Jennifer Chastain

When I saw the email for the Deep Woods Writing Camp back in July, I immediately knew that I wanted to attend. I mean, a whole week of writing, writing workshops and a chance to recharge my writing batteries.

As I traveled first by airplane and then by vehicle to reach the North Shore of Lake Superior, I thought, “what am I doing here?” I was so out of my comfort zone. Here I am, traveling off to parts unknown with people I don’t know. What was I thinking? Okay, so, needless to say, I had a lot of self-doubts and was second guessing my decision to attend.

But as we drove on the darkened highway, we shared our personal writing journeys along with the stories we wanted to work on. I realized we’re not so different after all. Yes, some were further along in their writing than others, but that’s okay. And our stories were all unique, just like each attendee. It was a great time to connect with others from different areas of the country as well as make lasting friendships. It amazes me how God brought us all together.

When I first signed up, I had my whole week planned out. I was going to sit down, plot my stories (notice the plural – LOL) in record time and knock out thirty thousand words. And not to mention learn from one of the best writers of contemporary Christian romance.

On Sunday morning, we met for breakfast and then a short time of devotions, led by Susie. This was the pattern for each morning.

But what I appreciated most was that not only did we pray together, Susie specifically prayed for each one. It was a sweet time of fellowship, of sharing our burdens and giving praise to the One who gave us this burning desire to write.

Susie brought home the point that we’re not in this writing journey alone. God is with us and we need to consecrate our writing to the Lord. And as I sat and meditated on this truth, I realized I hadn’t been doing this. Yes, I believe God called me to write, but I was trying to do this in my own power.

Around ten a.m., we had classes on scene building, overwriting or wordsmithing. The classes were optional, there was no pressure to attend. If we didn’t want to sit in, we did research or worked on our works-in-progress (WIPs).

Some of us went hiking to Devil’s Kettle, others walked through the woods alone and a group attended the local high school football game with the deep blue shore of Lake Superior in the background.

The afternoons were reserved for writing and one-on-one time with Susie. Everyone had time to meet with her, to hone their stories or even plot new stories. Susie poured herself into each person this week.

In my case, we tore apart my story, reworked my plot and story equation (SEQ). This made my story stronger. After a session like that, I felt limp, overworked. But I was encouraged. Why? Because the possibilities for my story were endless!

In the evenings, we watched a movie and then analyzed it according to the SEQ. Or a group gathered around the firepit, with blankets on their laps, gazing at the stars in the velvety night sky, and talked.

Friday morning and early afternoon was reserved for one-on-one time with Susie. She read scenes and first chapters, making suggestions for improvement. Oh my, she could see to the heart of a scene! That afternoon, we walked through the charming town of Grand Marais, shopped, took selfies. And, for those of you familiar with the Deep Haven books, we ate doughnuts at World’s Best Doughnuts!

Friday was bittersweet. Our last day and then off to our respective homes. The bond that we formed was the result of not only writing. But of the oneness of spirit in Christ. But more than anything, I came away not only excited about my story but refreshed in my spirit.

If you have the chance to attend, Deep Woods Writing Camp, I suggest you jump on it. You won’t regret it!

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A graduate of  Tennessee Temple University with a degree in Communication Arts, Jennifer Chastain writes contemporary fiction, recently completing her first novel. Married more than twenty years, she and her husband make their home in the beautiful state of North Carolina with their rescued black cat.