Novel Writer’s Beach Retreat:
After 4 jam-packed days of preparation, we arrived in Daytona on Friday evening (July 26)—later than I’d wanted, so we missed dinner with the group. We checked in and went up to our 2nd floor room. Oceanfront. Sweet! I cannot tell you how beautiful that was to see after all the stress of getting there…
But the bed was too high for my husband to transfer into from his wheelchair.
This is something we hadn’t thought much about before. At a local hotel where we sometimes stay for our anniversary, my husband uses a copy of Stephen King’s Under the Dome for a boost to get into the higher bed. But we’ve never actually measured the height.
When we bought our new bed in early June, we really began to think about it—especially when he almost got a pressure sore from the firmer bed. We tried to use the guest bed his mother bought for us, but that bed is 24” from the floor to the top of the mattress. (Our bed is 21″) My brilliant idea was for him to transfer onto a night table then transition into the bed. That resulted in a shearing injury and a whole host of other problems. (Oh the trial and error of life with a disability.)
Since this bed was also 24″, I knew it wouldn’t work. I asked the front desk if they had a room with a lower bed. They showed me one on the 8th floor that was a suite. However, it was very small and tight (and not an ocean view, though I wasn’t opposed to losing that option for a bed that would work). Unfortunately, the bed was the same height.
My husband told me to see if they had someone from housekeeping or maintenance who could remove the castors under the bed to lower it. Our new bed had come with wheels, but they left them off to make the bed the right height. He figured this could be done to the hotel bed, too.
The guy that came in was able to get a couple of them off, but it was a king bed, and he needed something to hold it up so he could reach the ones in the middle and back. Since we were going to stay in the room by then, I unpacked, fumed at the stupidly-designed closet, and prepared to head down for the opening session of the conference. The guy told us not to worry, he’d figure it out. He cracked a few jokes that helped ease the tension I’d felt at the bed, at the stupidity of how people implemented the ADA codes, and at the stress I’d been under for the past week.
Little did I know this would be one of the easiest stays we’d have.
Side note on the closet: They usually put a lower rack in so people in chairs can hang clothes—often with hilarious results. This one had a shelf that made the higher rack too short to hang shirts, and then put the safe in the middle of the lower section, taking up almost all of the space. Even the maintenance guy looked at it and said, “Yeah. That was a stupid design.”
Though it’s hard to tell from this angle, the shelf extends to the front, so my shirts and pants aren’t hanging straight down, but draped against the edge and sticking out of the closet.
Then, when we walked into the meeting room, the chairs were lined up wall to wall with no space for a wheelchair. I have to admit frustration when I walk into situations like these. I’m always stressed out just trying to get to places on time, and then to have there be no room for my husband? grr.
But people are always kind. A couple of them moved, and we managed to make it work. Turns out the hotel had only opened in May, and they’d assured the host (and he’d seen blueprints) that the meeting room would hold 40 people.
Uh nope. But we got a good laugh out of it. 😀
They also gave everyone a plastic bucket (with shovel attached to the handle) filled with various snacks, paraphernalia and a pair of sunglasses. Such a neat idea! It’s the little things, you know?
After that, things improved immensely.
During the retreat, they read my first page (projected on the big screen, no less) and Mark Hancock, Eva Marie Everson, and Rachel Hauck all discussed it.
They had many encouraging things to say about it, and I felt elated by the experience.
The next evening, we broke into groups and did a Word Weavers style critique of the 1500 word samples we brought. I chose a scene I was currently working on—a bit more confusing than if I’d chosen the beginning of the story, but that helped my purpose: if they could understand it, I knew the scene would be fine. The reactions were mixed and though I had several say, “This isn’t my genre”, Rachel Hauck’s assessment challenged me.
She told me the scene was too neat and tame compared to the emotion that should be shown.
I would mull over that for the next month.
During the last session, I won one of Eva’s books as a door prize, and we bought Rachel’s latest (and had both signed, woot). Then they handed out prizes I’d seen mentioned but hadn’t paid attention to.
The first prize went to me: an hour-long mentorship with Eva.
She said it came down to the first line of the one-page samples.
Oh, wow! Commence internal dancing and butterflies. 🙂
Then, without a moment to lose, we headed home…only to hit bad traffic on I4 due to construction on a long stretch with no off-ramps. We were stuck. But we spent the time talking about the great retreat and kept our spirits up.