TWO NEW RESIDENTIAL RETREATS OPEN
IN ITALY AND IN MASSACHUSETTS, USA
We are proud to announce the
opening of a first residential retreat in Italy, and delighted to welcome Nicole Durand, your host.
Writers’ Retreat in Villa d’Arte is nestled at the border of France and Italy Azur
Coast, an authentic
Ligurian art village full of authenticity and tradition. The retreat is a
balcony to the Mediterranean sea – a
setting of inspirational beauty and most peaceful environment where one can
live and create! The retreat is comprised of four Ligurian style houses
with ocean views, private terrace.
To find out
more or to secure your space, please contact Nicole Durand via e-mail at email@example.com or The
Writers’ Retreat in Ventimiglia, Italy.
Also, a warm welcome to Rebecca Southwick for opening a year-round residential retreat in Barre, Massachusetts.
The retreat lies in the heart of
New England in the small picturesque town of Barre,
Built in 1823, Maple Grove Farmhouse is surrounded by 120 acres of fields,
woods and meadows; it features twenty rooms of which eleven rooms are used
for retreat space. There are five bedrooms and one studio. Maple Grove is a place of the heart, a place to indulge yourself in your writing.
Your time is your own to write, to create, to sleep, to read. Whether working
on a novel or reflecting on life, we offer space and privacy along with the
chance to share your work with others and receive feedback. If desired, there
are daily times for gathering to read and share your writing.
Rebecca Southwick lives in
residence and grew up on this picturesque New England
farm. As a leader of workshops for many years, she has turned her farmhouse
into a retreat center. She is also a writer herself and has been a member of
a dynamic peer writing group for eleven years. She has led many workshops on
writing, spirituality, empowerment and house building. She is very happy to
share her beautiful homestead with you. Rebecca is writing her first book,
Happy Birthday to You, Too, a remembrance of caring for a beloved father who
contracted Parkinson’s and all the family dynamics that happen between eight
siblings of immense diversity.
Please contact Rebecca
Southwick via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Writers’ Retreat in Barre, Massachusetts.
WRITING STORIES THAT HEAL
By Dana Walrath
Writing and drawing about caring for my mother
through Alzheimer’s disease (http://danawalrath.wordpress.com) has me
thinking about medical stories. What makes them resonate with readers? How
can these stories heal? As deeply
felt universals, sickness, birth, and death draw us in. They create
landmarks in all our lives. These universals also make for great stories,
in part because any single sickness episode, like an individual life, has a
narrative quality with a discrete beginning, middle, and end. The
heightened emotion, stakes, and consequences that accompany life and death
situations also add to the effectiveness of a medical story. An
individual’s character becomes crystal clear during moments of crisis and
emotional intensity. These events always leave the main players, the ones
we care about, somehow changed. Whether a new life has emerged, or one has been
lost, or whether the story was one of recovery with the same number of
people still standing at its end, a brush with sickness makes characters
rethink their relationships to others. With these vital craft elements
almost “ready-made” in a medical story, why do they so often go wrong?
Despite their archetypal resonance, medical
stories often veer into melodrama, their characters into stereotypes. They can rely on the intensity of the
situation to make up for poor craft. Yet, in good hands, a medical story
provides a powerful entry into the human condition. How can an author develop these good
hands? Here are a few tips:
the rules of the mainstream medical beliefs and practices, and recognize
them as rules rather than truths. Knowing about prevailing health
beliefs and practices will help an author avoid grabbing the typical, often
trite, culturally patterned response to a sickness, birth, or death. Like a knee tapped by a physician’s soft
hammer, the socially patterned “right way” to act pops up. The danger associated with birth, the
taboo associated with death, and stigma surrounding some conditions, lead
us astray. An author must dig deeper to determine the truth of the action
to the character and the event to the story.
that even without identifying their presence, the mainstream medical
beliefs and practices are present in the stories we write. Readers bring their internalized health
beliefs and practices to the stories they read and use this as a standard
for interpretation. An awareness of
the mainstream will help an author anticipate the impact of the medical
story on readers.
on illness, which has culturally
specific social meanings, rather than disease. Since
most readers will likely not be pathologists, they receive sickness
narratives on a cultural, rather than a biological, wavelength. Stories heal illness by giving specific
context and meaning to a sickness. A story can fill in and soothe the gap
left by the absent medical diagnosis or the absent cure.
one’s own health beliefs prevents them from acting like a smoke screen,
separating an author from her characters or story. Strong
emotions are often connected with one’s own deeply held beliefs about
sickness and health, birth and death. An author can begin to use this
emotion more effectively by checking into their character’s belief
system(s) regarding sickness and health, and then reflecting on how that
compares to his/her own beliefs. When writing memoir, emotion “shown”
through story is more effective than a description of the emotion.
remember that the conditions which the mainstream medical system cannot
cure are often stigmatized. Thus terminal or chronic
sickness, mental illness, and disability have great potential for story as
all members of society are disquieted by the different or sick individual.
For more information on writing effective medical
stories, contact Dana
Walrath at email@example.com or visit
her retreat in Cape May, New Jersey.
IS YOUR WRITING FALTERING? Consider More Research
By Cindy Barrilleaux
writer occasionally stalls out on their writing project, whether it’s
fiction or nonfiction. The common
solutions first come to mind, such clarifying your theme and organization,
reducing writing distractions, dealing with anxiety. However, in my
experience as a writing coach, a less obvious solution may do the trick and
get your writing flowing again: research.
writers often expect themselves to have all the answers, all the fact, all
the supporting arguments to make their writing convincing. Many memoirists rely on their own
memories for the telling descriptions, vivid imagery, interesting
anecdotes. And fiction writers often rely on their own imaginations to
create the sense of place and atmosphere to draw in readers. However, when
much published authors are interviewed, they usually describe extensive,
painstaking research that lies behind their successful books. Nonfiction
writers who are experts in their field research backup material from other
experts and outside sources. People writing memoirs research family history
and interview others in the family for supporting details you need to add
credence to their storytellers. Novelists visit the location of the story
and research events contemporary to the time of the story.
woman I was working with was writing a novel based on her family. She
gradually felt lost and confused. I advised her to do some research, so she
spent weeks interviewing near and distant relatives, visiting the
towns where they had lived, digging through memorabilia and junk in
attics, until she had what she needed to make her story come to
life. Her story is rich with vivid images and unexpected details.
author was making lots of progress writing his nonfiction book,
a cultural critique. He began to lose momentum, and couldn't think of
what he wanted to say on the subject. At first he resisted my suggestion to
do some research, but after remaining stuck for some time, he gave it a try
and read all the other experts on his subject. Within a couple of
months, he not only fleshed out his book and gained confidence in his
ideas, but he began a correspondence with a couple of the experts.
never seen research fail to bolster a writer’s confidence and sense of
connection with the book or article. It's not surprising. The kinds
of details that research supplies add authenticity and backbone to
writing. And those are the marks of
writers, if you’re losing inspiration in your writing, ask yourself if
you simply need more foundational material and interesting details. If
so, get thee to the internet, the library, the historical society.
Interview experts, pour over journals, go to museums. Research is not
only practical, it's fun.
Cindy Barrilleaux is a writing coach for www.WritersRetreat.com and for
Write Your Best,
Inc. You can contact her at Cindy@writeyourbest.com and visit her website
at www.WriteYourBest.com, where you can sign up
for her monthly writing newsletter.
By Julia Shipley
As a writer and teacher, I pour energy into poems,
essays, articles and students. The day after day practice of giving energy
to wonderful endeavors can sometimes leave me feeling depleted, weary, and
spent. I discovered that one of the secrets to longevity and endurance is
to identify people, places and things that reinvigorate my work. Here are a
few of my creativity-resuscitation touchstones. I hope they might work for
you too, or inspire you to discover some of your own.
Poetry Alive program in Montpelier:
Each April our capitol city celebrates the vibrant poetic talent of the
state’s writers by posting poems in storefront windows. There are more than
160 poems in this “walk-able poetic anthology” to pause and read between
the café and the library, the movie theatre and the hardware store, the
State House and the DMV. It takes only a few moments to absorb the ideas
and rhythms of a single poem, hanging at eye level in the window of Rite
Aid, but the reverberations of that poem might follow me all the way back
home and leak into my dreams that evening. It’s so exciting to see this
kind of private soul-wrought writing basking out in the open where anyone,
Anyone! can read it.
April Ossmann’s manuscript consulting: As a writing teacher for all ages
and abilities, I spend a lot of energy thinking critically, and providing
thoughtful comments and feedback on others’ work. Then, when I turn to my
own work and submerge myself in the creative process, I sometimes feel at a
loss for how to evaluate it, how to guide myself through the revision
stages, and how to know where this piece fits into a larger body of work.
Then I discovered April Ossmann. The former executive director of Alice
James Books, she has since developed her own business as a manuscript
editor and consultant. In 2009, I received a grant from the Vermont Arts
Council to work with her and learn how to “think like an editor.” Thanks to
her services, I will never be the same. She is one of the most insightful
and perceptive mentors I’ve ever encountered. My poetry has grown stronger,
deeper and richer from implementing her feedback and suggestions, and as a
result, I’m also a better teacher to others.
Nothing Happened and then it Did by Jake
Silverman: Though I received a MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, I am
obsessed with narrative journalism, where stories are fortified and
amplified through research, interviews, facts and analysis. I am currently
completing a book of essays about small- scale farming, a book that is
informative, even educational, as it is rich in anecdote and personal
stories. But as we all know from the James Frey debacle, “memory” and
“truth” can be sticky, relative terms. Jake Silverman balances the urge to
fact-find and to report with the urge to explore and to stretch a story in
this compelling book. Open to the table of contents and you’ll see the
chapters lined up under one of two columns: “Fact” and “Fiction.” Despite
ricocheting between these two extremes, there is narrative consistency—from
chapter to chapter Jake takes you through the “moonscape” West Texas and Mexico, as
well as the swampy south and elsewhere on his quest to become a Real Writer
and “make something of himself.” However some chapters are a kind of
“embedded reporting” on his career- finding project, and other chapters are
pure hokum, and the beauty of this book is: it’s hard to tell which is
which. I had to keep flipping back to the table of contents to be sure. As
I tend my own essays, balancing my piles of research against emotionally
influenced perceptions, it’s inspiring to find a wacky way to handle the
business of making meaning.
To reach Julia Shipley
at The Writer’s Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
WHEN IS A
SETTING MORE THAN A SETTING?
It was not
snowing yet, but it would be soon, a blizzard, by the smell of it. The land
lay covered already in trampled snow. The land here flew away from your
eyes, gone into the black horizon without leaving one detail inside the
eye. Stubble through the snow, sharp as razors. Crows picking at nothing. Black river, frigid oil.
setting for Robert Goolrick’s first novel, A Reliable Wife (2009), is bleak and foreboding - long winter
months of dark skies, frozen ground, and enforced proximity that makes
residents of this isolated rural town in northern Wisconsin do very strange things. From
the beginning, the setting is a major character – interwoven with the plot,
aiding the action, and in harmony with Ralph Truitt whose solitude was enormous in that vast and frozen space in which he lived
good fiction a setting is always more than a setting – never just a
backdrop for other elements in the story. Setting can move the action,
influence how a character feels and acts, set the tone for emotional
response and growth, and help readers feel immersed in a specific place and
a story within a specific locale and time period, however, requires knowing
details about its life and language to make the tone, atmosphere,
descriptions, interactions, and dialogue feel authentic to the reader.
Getting it right may require research – not the least of which is actually
being there, or at least being in a close facsimile. Goolrick’s bleak small
town in northern Wisconsin
emerged from two major sources of inspiration. The first was a book of 19th
century photographs and newspaper clippings by Michael Lesy entitled Wisconsin Death Trip (1973) – a
visually disconcerting book that reveals the physical hardships and
surprisingly erratic behavior of life in rural northern Wisconsin in 1896. The second was time
Goolrick actually spent in rural Wisconsin
during harsh winters when he worked in advertising.
Orchard Retreat provides writers with access to a myriad of locales in
which to set their stories. Below is quick peek at five within a
Historic Hopkinton. Two miles from Panther
Orchard Retreat is the historic center of Hopkinton, founded in the 18th
century by Quaker families fleeing persecution in Massachusetts. Historic 18th
century homes sit on the corners of this charming crossroads and farms
lined with New England stonewalls populate
rural roads that radiate like spokes on a wheel.
Misquamicut Beach. Nine miles away is Misquamicut Beach
- the longest beach in Rhode
Island and a popular destination for surfers,
swimmers, and sunbathers. Since its purchase in the 1890s from the Montauk
Indians, the beach has undergone periods of destruction by hurricanes and
rebuilding by town residents. It now provides a modern pavilion with shade
gazebos, bathhouses, hot showers, and a boardwalk.
Watch Hill. Thirteen miles away is
the seasonal resort community of Watch Hill with its scenic harbor and
gray-shingled mansions. Important landmarks include the Watch Hill
Lighthouse, originally built in 1745, and the Flying Horse Carousel – the
oldest continuously operated carousel in the nation. Adding to the seaport
ambiance is a long sandy spit known as Napatree Point leading to the ruins
of Fort Mansfield.
Mystic Seaport. Sixteen miles south is
the living history museum
of Mystic Seaport
with its collection of historic tall-masted sailing ships and 19th
century coastal village with shops demonstrating trades required for
operating a sailing fleet. Mystic Seaport also houses the Preservation
Shipyard, where vessels are preserved using traditional tools and
Foxwoods Resort Casino. Twenty miles north is
Foxwoods, one of the largest casinos in the world, with slot machines and
gaming tables for blackjack, craps, roulette and poker. Owned by the
Mashantucket Pequot tribe, the resort complex also houses a dizzying
variety of restaurants, theaters, arcades, hotels, and spas.
can reach Lynne Anderson via email at Lynneandrs@gmail.com or visit Panther Orchard
Retreat at Hopkinton, Rhode Island
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