Let me tell you about a group that has . . .

. . . revived my writing life.

The Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association.

Wow. The women in this group — and yes, one man, brave soul, hysterically funny, too — are amazing.

And generous. And kind. And smart. And talented, brave and (did I say?) funny. I had a blast at their first annual retreat held at the Hotel Albuquerque in ABQ, New Mexico during the last week of September. I’m so glad I could make it.

Two weeks before I was supposed to leave for NM, the Rough Fire, a huge wildfire burning out of control in the central Sierras, came within a few miles of our ranch. We were put on evacuation warning. That was scary, but not nearly as scary as seeing the flames cross the last ridge near my house. When, a few miles down the road, the sheriffs started going door to door, telling folks they had two hours to get out, we got the cat carrier, the documents and were ready to go.

Then we got lucky, or there was a miracle, or something. The wind changed, and Cal Fire could stop the blaze at Mackenzie Ridge. If they hadn’t, it would have been game over for us.

Then it rained. Not much, not east coast rain, but enough so we could hear it on the roof, so we could stand on the porch and smell the damp air instead of smoke. We were safe.

So off I went to this retreat, which I really needed. It had been a really hard summer even without the fire, and before that, it had been a really hard year.

For four days at the WFWA, I talked writing with women who were dealing with their own struggles — caregiving, critical in-laws, husbands losing their jobs, children with health issues — and yet they didn’t give up, not in the face of family issues, or hundreds of rejections. One writer had gotten 473 rejections before her book got published and won a big award for best first novel. One woman even rigged up a way to type while she used her treadmill at, like, four in the morning. One way to solve the no-time-to-write problem. These women are tough!

I talked a lot about Bird of Paradise, the novel I’m working on, about the changes I’m making, got a lot of good advice and feedback, made friends, learned some survival tips. I got the names of agents who are looking for women’s fiction, the names of editors who’ll work with you, plus an on-line workshop with Donald Maass. How cool.

Anyway, there was all this plus margaritas and lovely dinners.

I’m definitely going to the WFWA retreat next year. If you’re working on a writing project, you might want to check them out. Maybe I’ll see you at the next event.

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