After joining the Redbud Writers Guild a few years ago, I was like the girl who finally received an invitation to the popular, pretty girl’s birthday party—excited and thrilled to be included but wondering if I truly belonged.
So, I stayed on the periphery, observing from a distance, and creeping in the shadows. I joined the Facebook group, offering my likes and maybe a congratulatory comment. Because I had agreed to do so, I submitted my articles for the Redbud Post. I read every word of the Post, followed most members on social media, and bought many books by Redbud authors.
But when my first book was released, I did not announce it or share it with the guild. In some ways, I still suffered from imposter syndrome, believing that many of the authors in Redbud were the real deal and that I was still playing pretend.
The problem is that I am an “all-in” kind of woman. Straddling the fence, sitting on the sidelines, and dipping my toes in the shallow end (how many more idioms can I use before I drive some of you absolutely crazy?) were not long-term strategies for me.
Should I take a chance and get involved, or should I walk away and leave the guild?
Taking the plunge
At this pivotal point, I received an email asking for help with the upcoming Redbud Writers Retreat. Although I agreed hesitantly (thinking that I could bail if necessary), it was one of the best decisions I made for myself as an author, speaker, and teacher.
While I would love to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our retreat committee meetings and how welcomed, accepted, and valued I felt as a new member, I want to focus on the evidence of that collaboration: the Redbud Writers Synergy Retreat.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, the guild president, explained the theme of synergy to us: “The saying, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,’ expresses the core meaning of synergy. When you combine elements–chemicals, ingredients, people–we expect these things to interact in a certain way. When something extraordinary happens, this is synergy. We were designed by God to flourish together. Synergy implies that the magic is in the coming together, as opposed to the individual elements themselves.”
And because we planned for it, prepared for it, and, most importantly, prayed for it, synergy happened at the Redbud Writers Retreat.
Since I am a teacher first, I often use acrostics in my writing and speaking to help me synthesize and remember key points. I think I also use them because I am getting older and need simple and concrete cues!
Although SYNERGY is not the easiest word to break down, I wanted to use it to summarize the retreat and show what it looked like to experience the magic of coming together as one group.
S – Strong spirit of unity and service
Most groups and organizations embody the values of their leadership. Dorina and the Redbud board members are all examples of servant-leaders. They worked as hard (if not harder) as the rest of the retreat committee to serve the members and include everyone. It took me a long time to figure out which members were on the Redbud board because they were indistinguishable in how they selflessly served, graciously gave, and warmly welcomed. This spirit of unity and service came from the top and was present in every part of the retreat.
Y – Yearning for knowledge and growth
If you wanted to learn about publishing trends, speaking skills, platform growth, or proposal writing, the retreat provided professional and personal opportunities to learn and grow. From the retreat intensives to the numerous workshops to the Q & A sessions, there is no way anyone walked away from the retreat without being encouraged, equipped, and energized.
N – New connections and renewed relationships
When I walked into the retreat and met the people I had only known through Zoom (and realized that they had entire bodies!), all those feelings of being the new girl at the party came flooding back. Would they talk to me? Would it be awkward? Would I be accepted? Within minutes, all my anxiety dissipated as everyone was just as eager and willing as I was to connect. By the end of the weekend, I knew I had gained not only wonderful colleagues but also lifelong friends.
E – Encouraging discussions & engaging conversations
Because we are all creatives who think and feel deeply, it did not take long to move past surface introductions to authentic discussions. Yes, I participated in the dreaded icebreakers and even had fun (!), but it was in those precious downtimes during meals or sitting in the common areas, that I poured out my heart and soul and listened as others did the same. I felt seen, heard, and understood in a way that is hard to describe.
R – Reflective and responsive sharing (especially at our Poetry & Prose Slam!)
How do I even capture the synergy of the Poetry & Prose Slam? As retreat committee members, we were unsure if anyone would even participate, but they did! And the retreat’s sacred and safe space allowed women to share with abandon. For some, it was the first time they had read their work aloud to anyone. Do you know what kind of courage that takes? It was one of the weekend’s most moving and bonding experiences.
G – Gracious and generous giving
I have attended other writing and speaking retreats with an undercurrent of comparison and competition. For example, “if I tell her about how I got my agent or my publishing contract, she might get one too!”- When we see others as threats to our success, we withhold out of fear. The Redbud Retreat was full of open-handed collaboration and communication. People were willing to share graciously and generously with others, championing them and wanting them to succeed. Synergy is when we realize that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Y – Young Redbud Energy & Enthusiasm
While I may be newer to the Redbud Writers Guild, I am a “seasoned” woman who has been married for more than 32 years, raised four children, and taught, written, and spoken for more than 15 years in the industry. One of the unexpected blessings of the retreat was meeting and getting to know the newer (and much younger!) members of the guild, especially those in the mentoring program. Learning about their backgrounds and experiences injected new life, energy, and enthusiasm into the retreat. It gave me tremendous hope to look at the guild’s future and how these young creatives will help us lead the way in touching minds, hearts, and souls for the Kingdom.
I decided to attend the popular girl’s party and overcome the fear of being an imposter. And guess what? It was beyond anything I could have anticipated. It is a privilege to be a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And if you are someone who is still sitting on the sidelines of whatever opportunity awaits you, reach out to someone who will take your hand, show you around, and push you (ever so gently) into the deep end.
In photo from the retreat, Carla Gasser is 3rd from the left.