Bing tracking

We Meet Again! A Recap of the Second Writers’ Retreat

Amanda Vetsch, book project coordinator, shares an update on the young adult book project.

The group of writers outside in the sunshine posing for a group photo. The Young Adult Book Project has surpassed another mile marker in our project! Our author team gathered for a second Writers’ Retreat at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center last month. This gathering marks the completion of mile marker #5! We’re just over a year out from The Threshold Envisioning event, where about fifty young adults gathered to share our joys, heartaches, hopes and dreams for the church and the book chapter themes were distilled from those stories and experiences. Since then, we selected a young adult author and a thought leader author to co-write each chapter. We gathered those authors in March at the first Writers’ Retreat to create a shared vision for the book and start the co-writing process. Two authors have had to discern out of this project due to needing to prioritize their time and energy on health and recovery. As people come and go from this project – we give our deep gratitude for the contributions along the way. Their departures created space to invite two new authors in.  Each set of authors has navigated the highs and lows of the writing process, defined and redefined their expectations of each other, and wrestled with their busy schedules to write and revise first and second drafts of their chapters.

The purpose of this second Writers’ retreat was to move into the “Craft Phase” of the book.  Rick Rubin describes the creative process as four phases: Seed, Experimentation, Craft, and Editing & Completion. The “Craft Phase” moves from generating possibilities and ideas into refining material with a clearer sense of direction and structure. For this project that means both the individual chapters and the larger book are beginning to take clearer shape and more cohesive structure. We accomplished this at the retreat by developing a shared larger vision of the overall book, large group discussion and decision making for cohesiveness across chapters, and co-author work time. 

So far, each author has focused specifically on their own theme, and Kristina and I are the only people to have read each chapter. To help the whole writing team develop a wider vision of the book, we had each author pair share a brief overview of their chapter. They explained the main concepts, the hoped for impact, the writing style, and anything else they want everyone else to know about their chapter so far. This helped everyone have a wider view of the book, with a better, more updated, understanding of how each chapter is emerging. 

The top photo is 4 authors smiling at each other while one is sharing out loud. The bottom right is our online author team. The bottom left is the tech set up with the meeting owl, projector and screen that says "writers retreat #2"Then each writer was assigned a different chapter to read and share feedback on. We paired each pair of co-authors with authors from two different themes, ones we (Kristina and I) considered having some sort of connection or overlap. They each read the paired chapter and spent time sharing their reflections on the following questions: 

  1. What needs clarifying? Was there anything confusing to you or that you think might potentially be confusing to other readers? 
  2. What seems key to this chapter theme? What do you think is most important (and helpful) for the reader to take away?
  3. What would help you as a reader take ideas from this chapter and integrate them to your own context? 
  4. What questions do you have for the author? 
  5. What connections do you hear with your own chapter?

After this work to expand the team’s understanding of the book as a whole, we reflected on what we’re hearing as themes throughout the book and distilled some common themes and moved our focus onto the cohesiveness of the book. The cohesiveness will emerge with attention to shared elements across each chapter, and how the chapters are framed with the introduction and conclusion. Some of the key elements that will be intentionally built into each chapter are: 

  • Voice: all chapters will be written in a distinct two-author perspective
  • Contextualize Authors: there will be a clear, concise paragraph so each reader knows who the authors are for this chapter and why they are writing on this theme
  • Reader Accessibility: authors will tend to the language and structure of their chapter so the readers will be able to clearly understand and receive the message in each chapter
  • Application Toolkit: the end of chapter will include a toolkit to help the reader respond to and integrate the ideas into their context. The toolkit will include discussion questions, practices, and recommended resources. 
  • Nitty gritty details: The specifics of citations, font and formatting will also get more attention in this draft than they previously have. 

Candid photos of a few of the authors speaking throughout the retreat. The framing of the book will open with an introduction that serves a lot of purposes. It will build trust with the reader by sharing how this book came to be, who is behind this book, our hopes for what the book invites the readers into, and some tools for the readers as they read. The conclusion will end the book by inviting readers to respond to the invitation of the book, and each specific chapter. Much like the process of writing this book, the invitation in the conclusion will be deeply relational, imaginative, collaborative and embodied. 

We closed our time together by tying up loose ends. Each author pair had time to finalize their plan to work towards a final draft due at the beginning of February, and sent us on our way with a shared song. It was a gift to be together again, sharing space and intentional work time together, remembering our hopes and vision for the project and the church, playing games, being nourished by food, laughter, nature and rest. 

As we look ahead to the next milestones of the project, we’ll be revising and editing, having ongoing conversations with the publisher, developing a marketing and promotion plan for the book, following the publisher’s lead, and celebrating and compensating for the great work of this amazing writing team! If you’d like to get an update when pre-orders become available, fill out this google form to join the mailing list

Additional Resources:

Read more about the Threshold Event here:

Recap from the first Writers’ Retreat

Learn more in his book (Rubin, Rick. The creative act: a way of being. Penguin, 2023.) or the On Being Podcast Episode: