Brainstorming in Sunny Climes–Five Authors and a Blizzard of Ideas

Arlington Snowmageddeon.jpgAs I’ve told you before, I’m a confirmed Brainstormer, or BSer, as my group fondly calls itself.  I just finished a week in Sarasota, Florida with my brainstorming friends working on ideas for our upcoming novels.  Please remember, the plans for this event were laid months ago.  We didn’t check weather maps or consult a crystal ball.  I had no idea that the Washington DC area, where I live, would have a historic snowstorm, the largest on record, while I was away, or the view from my front windows would be the one in this photo.  No idea, nada.

But wow, did we choose our week well, or what?  I’m a great fan of history.  I just prefer not to witness this kind first hand, particularly not when my author friends are calling, our view is a lake with an alligator snoring in the sunshine, and the only objects falling from the sky are ospreys searching for dinner.

So what if now that we’re finished, I can’t get home again?  Southwest Airlines apparently objects to 30″s of snow on airport runways, but no problem for me.  I am snugly settled at my brother’s house in Tampa for the duration, having at brith been lucky enough to acquire a sibling who would have the good sense to live not far from the very airport where I’d be forced to wait for Snowmageddeon to cease in Virginia.

Meantime, while I wait, I’m bursting with ideas I want to translate to paper.  A brainstorming group is NOT the same as a critique group.  We don’t read passages of our work out loud to solicit comments and advice. We are all confident in our abilities to put our stories on paper–although when we’re actually doing it, we often wonder. Instead during our week together, in ten one-and-a-half hour sessions and five tarot readings for characters, we worked on skeletal plots, plumping them out  or more often turning them inside out.  Some of us started with bare bones ideas; some just needed advice on a few points in their works in progress (my Sunset Bridge among others).  We plotted an international thriller, a paranormal mystery, an inspirational novel, a traditional mystery, a women’s fiction story.  We discussed at length two ideas for upcoming series–one of those mine.  Some of us worked on different ideas at each session, and some stuck to one. 

My job now that I’m temporarily marooned, is to transcribe the tapes I made during my sessions.  What will I find?  From experience, I’m sure I’ll discover many, many half-formed ideas that lead nowhere.  I’ll listen to ideas that have no appeal or are impossible to implement, ideas that just didn’t fit this story but are worthy of consideration for another, ideas with possible merit.  And finally, there will be THE ideas, the ones that are like  fireworks displays when they erupt.  “Ka-ching” ideas that are the missing pieces I’ve been searching for.  There won’t be many.  But two or three for a week of hard work?  Believe it or not, that’s enough to fuel a novel.

Brainstorming is wonderful.  I’m delighted by my fellow BSers.  I like their wit and their insights.  I love our dinner conversations, when we finally have the chance to catch up with each others’ lives.  But brainstorming is surprisingly exhausting.  At the end of a day’s work, we go to bed early and sleep well. Very, very well.

So once Southwest decrees it’s safe to fly, I’ll go back to the land of ice and snow.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a few more days of sunshine.  And I’ll put ideas on paper.  Lots of ideas.  I hope that in a year or two, I’ll be sharing them with you.  After all, that’s what this past week was all about. 


  1. Sharon Setzer on February 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Emilie, You hid your regret about not being here so very well. We are all very very sorry that you were unable to participate in the Storm of the Century and or the ten other names it has been given! Wow — it was something. Lucky us, the Weather Channel told us over and over and over that this storm was coming, when, where and how much. So we purged the grocery store shelves of foodstuffs we would not normally have in our cupboards, fueled up the car, brought in extra wood pellets for the stove, found candles, filled gallon cartons with water, fluffed up some extra blankets, put out lots of suet, seeds and peanuts for our friends and hunkered down for the Snow. We have done this before, only to be “sadly disappointed” when the storm did not show up, or was a wimpy little affair.
    But this time we were not to be disappointed. Friday came and so did the snow. and Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday! Every time I looked out the window we had more of the fluffy white stuff. My full size truck was quickly disappearing in a blanket of the powder. We did not lose electricity like many of our fellow citizens did and the pellet stove kept us toasty warm and the homemade vegetable soup warmed the cockels. We regularly ventured out to shovel some of the nasty stuff off the brave and gallant truck. and waited out turn to have the owners of powerful snowblowers and tractors and plows came to rescue us. Tuesday noon our knights arrived and dug us a path to the road to freedom.
    A trip to the local WalMart was really remarkable. While many piled grocery carts full of foodstuffs, shovels and the few sleds left for sale, the rest of us just grabbed a few things and got in one of the long lines. But even that was not so bad. We were all in this together and the atmosphere was really fun. We shared the misery of being snowed in and the fun of kids having hours of fun in the snow. I did not see many angry faces or short tempers. This too shall pass.
    Wednesday, we awoke to More Snow and Lots of Wind. This is getting old really fast and now I have to have the driveway plowed again. When did you say Spring was coming? And oh, yes, does your brother have a spare room and what was his address again? Can I come?
    Lots of fun in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Did you notice that the newscasters did not have much time to talk about The War, shoot outs, bad news, etc. Sorry this is so long — I have nothing else to do today.

  2. Emilie Richards on February 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I can only say “wow!” I’m still in Tampa, so since there’s only one guest bedroom, I’m afraid my brother’s not going to agree to more guests, darn it. From the email, I’d say you still have power. May that continue. Meantime, I try to fly home tomorrow. Again. Fingers crossed. I have to fly out again on Sunday, and that’s a trip I don’t want to miss. Stay warm and safe.

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