Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

By Annette Dashofy

When I joined the Mary Roberts Rinehart (Pittsburgh) Chapter of Sisters in Crime, I really didn’t know what to expect. In the six years since then, that much hasn’t changed. Each meeting and event brings a new experience ranging from parties and picnics to being locked in jail cell.

Every year, one of our members opens their home to our group for a summer picnic. It’s a chance to socialize, eat, and possibly play croquet. Other annual outings include a Christmas Party and the Festival of Mystery where we pitch in as volunteers to help Mystery Lovers Bookshop put on its spring extravaganza.

Some of our meetings include workshops, lead by local published authors and experts. Topics can range from the craft of writing, to publishing, to police procedure. We’ve taken field trips to an area police department (hence the locked-in-jail episode) and to a sportsmen’s club firing range where we had a chance to learn about firearms and then actually shoot a variety of them.

We’ve even taken on service projects by donating and helping to plant a tree at the Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park as homage to our namesake.

Some of our biggest adventures, though, have been our writing retreats.

At first, the retreats were held in Deep Creek, Maryland at a home belonging to the in-laws of one of our members. It was a huge lodge on the lake with room for nearly twenty. Unfortunately, that home is no longer available to us, so when members expressed an interest in reviving the retreat, we had to find a different locale. This past spring, twelve of us traveled to Confluence, PA where we took over Paddler’s Lane Bed and Breakfast. Ramona Long attended as our guest presenter for what would be an exciting weekend…for many reasons.

The workshops were interesting and educational. The food was delicious. Chocolate and wine flowed freely. Unfortunately, so did the Youghiogheny River outside our backdoor. You see, we happened to schedule our retreat on the very weekend when the area’s largest snowfall in recent memory happened to melt. The resulting flood covered the only road into Paddler’s Lane as well as several of the main roads in and out of the valley. We worked on our writing while keeping one eye on the river coming closer and closer to the house.

With twelve women mystery writers trapped in a house in a flood, you can well imagine the stories we conjured up.

I’m happy to report the flood waters receded in time for us to depart on Sunday as originally intended.

Next year’s retreat is now in the planning phase. We’re looking for new venue slightly farther away from water.

With this group, no matter what the workshop, party, or field trip, you can expect the unexpected. And you can count on having a good time.


Annette Dashofy is the president of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Her short mysteries have been published online at Mysterical-e and Spinetingler. One of them was a nominee for a 2007 Derringer Award. Check out Annette's web site and blog,


Sherry said...

I loved the retreat, Annette. How did you ever forget that we face the pestilence (in the form of thousands of lady bugs) along with the flood. And the firearms workshop was fantastic as well. What a nice group of people in our group.

Joyce said...

Annette, you should know that it won't matter where the next retreat is held. Somehow Mother Nature or one of her minions will find a way to attend!

Annette said...

I didn't forget the lady bugs, Sherry. Much as I try to...

evleroux said...

This sounds like one heck-of-a-retreat. And a very productive one in spite of "Mother Natures" intervention.


Donnell said...

I keep thinking I have to go east, young woman. Ya'll have all the best events. Glad no one got swept away in the flood!