Brainstorming 2014: Four Days of Ideas and Friendship


Brainstorming 2014!

My brainstorming buddies just drove away in a car overflowing with luggage and  ideas for new books. Topping this off? Characters and scenes for works already in progress. Now comes the work of putting the ideas to good use, weeding or tossing them, whichever proves to be most valuable.

Serena Miller, Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan, and Shelley Costa arrived on Sunday morning bringing groceries and energy with them. Our brainstorming schedule gives each writer two one-and-a-half hour sessions, and we do two sessions each day.

If we have time and energy we also read the tarot cards (Casey’s specialty) for one character for each writer, looking for motivation, challenges, goals, etc. It’s a unique and extra-fun way to get to know someone we’ll be living with for months in the future.

BrainstormingIn between we eat, nap, socialize, make notes on what we did earlier in the day or continue discussion of something that came up in somebody’s session. By day’s end no one complains when it’s time to go to bed.

One of the most enjoyable parts of brainstorming is a chance to work on novels outside our own specialties. I write what publishing terms “women’s fiction.” Serena writes “Christian or inspirational fiction.” Shelley writes mysteries and this time worked up an idea for a thriller. Casey/Kylie writes mysteries.

What do we have in common? We’re storytellers. The genre is less important.

So what did we talk about?

  • Pasteurizing of milk
  • Preferred methods for murder
  • Christian symbolism.
  • Foster care
  • Fur trappers
  • Beauty pageants
  • Museums
  • True crime reporting

And other subjects far, far too numerous to mention.

I presented two potential book ideas and we fleshed out both of them. Another of the merry band wanted to work out scenes for her novel in progress, and we did.  The third asked us to spend both her sessions on the same book, jumping off what we accomplished in the first session to broaden the final one. Like me the fourth presented two separate ideas and asked for help with details and plot points.

From the photos you’ll see we had time to do a little wandering, too.  In the first photo we’re sitting in front of the fountain in Bestor Plaza at Chautauqua Institution, where we brainstormed. In the second the statues titled “United We Stand” presently reside in front of the Baptist House. Kirsten Engstrom, the sculptor, has a studio just down the road. The statues represent five women from different religions leading the way toward peace. It occurred to me as my husband snapped the photo that each member of our writing group represents a different religion, too. We are Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Unitarian, ecumenical to the core.

We’re already talking about next year’s session.  We only hope that soon enough, you’ll be talking about all these new books, too.


  1. Martha on September 18, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Emilie, thank you so much for the wonderful glimpse into such a unique way of interacting with other authors. I know authors have their writing groups just as I have mine, but yours appears to be a bit different from other celebrity writers whose blogs I read. Best to all of you. I am immersed in “No River Too Wide” and will keep your post in the back of my head as I read.

  2. Serena B. Miller on September 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    What an amazing writer’s retreat/brainstorming session/laugh-fest/food-fest/ creativity boost, you hosted, Emilie. I came home filled with renewed enthusiasm for this job we share of storytelling. Thanks again for sharing your lovely cottage, your expertise, and your
    cuddly beagle:-).

    • Emilie Richards on September 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      It was wonderful to have you with me in NY. Nemo was delighted, as well. Now to put all that good brainstorming to work.

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