Per our theme this month, I'm sure there were many funny things that happened on the way to being published. Alas, I can't remember them. Sometimes the less than perfect things stick in the mind. But I do recall a setting and place that played an integral part of my writing development and eventual publishing success.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia was the city for Washington Romance Writers' annual retreat. There, we had the hotel - Hilltop House, which overlooked the bluff where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers merged. It was picturesque and steeped in history with a little bit of the ghostly stuff. But here we gathered each year with editors from the publishing houses, agents, and eager writers in the company of several famous and successful writers for a wonderfully, creative weekend.
In the 90s, I'd come here in the spring for our retreat. We'd park our cars and head for the bar. The lobby would be filled with the laughter and chatter of the attendees. There were no distinctions, we were all in the company of writers and supporters of our endeavors. On the third floor, at the very top, living under the roof, I'd stay with several author-friends. I think it was room #66 and reportedly was haunted by a child. We'd talk into the wee hours of the night, sip on wine, and chat about everything on our minds, including hoping not to see, hear or feel signs of our ghostly roommate.
On the left in the gray brick section of the hotel was the dining room on the first floor. Food was not 5-star and they didn't pretend to serve such sophisticated cuisine. It was fried chicken and every carb under the sun. Then there would be a table of desserts and a soft ice-cream machine. All buffet style. After dinner on that first night, there was a walking ghost tour, but really you could go upstairs and enjoy a bit of the ghostly presence without the upward charge on the hill.
Workshops for the entire stay were held on the lower level.
As you can see, we were literally on the edge of the land. And that part of the building on the edge held our workshops and, on the lower level, provided seating close to the scenery once you got your drink from the bar.
The hotel as far I know was established by the Lovett family who moved to the area after the Civil War. They owned another hotel, but one of the children built this hotel in 1890. Several fires in different years almost demolished it, but the family kept rebuilding until they sold it in the 20s. Notable guests have stayed at the hotel, such as Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, Presidents Wilson and Clinton.
By the early 2000's, Hilltop House was showing its age. Complaints and failing inspections caused us to find other locations for the annual retreat. But there is a soft spot in my heart for this place and the history that it brought to us. Now it's a shell, a broken one, that is abandoned and only serves as a point of discussion for our fond memories.
I bid you adieu, Hilltop House.
Much laughter and joy blossomed under your roof. You will always be a part of my heart.