NEKLogoSmallThe Writers’ Retreat Newsletter

www.WritersRetreat.com

January 2011, Volume 11, No 1

 

In This Issue

· TWO NEW RETREATS OPEN: NEW JERSEY, USA, AND ENGLAND

· MY COURAGEOUS AUTHOR

· YOUR WRITING CAN FLOW: Four Easy Steps to Getting Unstuck

· WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE THAT BOOK?

· DROPPING YOUR PANTS: The Naked Truth about Memoir Writing

· MY CARIBBEAN SALON

· A HARVEST OF THOUGHT

· THE MAGIC OF SAN MIGUEL, OR WRITING ABOUT “PLACE”

Upcoming Workshops and Clinics:

January 29–February 19, 2011: Let’s explore Sonnets!

Info and register online or e-mail Julia Shipley

 

February 13–18, 2011: Poetry of the North Country: Winter

Info and register online or e-mail Julia Shipley

 

February 22–24, 2011: First Person ~ First Impression

Info and register online or e-mail Heather Hummel

 

February 26–27, 2011: The Chapbook: Reading and Writing a Slender Book

Info and register online or e-mail Julia Shipley

 

October 7–9, 2011: Screenwriting Clinic: 

   Making a Good Script Great

Info and register online or e-mail Linda Seger

 

 

 

Greetings

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Set Up and Operate a Writers’ Retreat

 

I am proud to announce my upcoming book release next month:

A Writers’ Retreat: Starting from Scratch to Success! I wrote this as a guide to assist you in contemplating your dream of operating a writers’ retreat business.

 

With this book, you will simply rediscover your standards and realize that a successful retreat business is a calculated formula that anyone can follow.

 

Reading and following A Writers’ Retreat: Starting from Scratch to Success! you will: 

-    Lay the foundation for a solid writer’s retreat by developing a vision

-    Understand your value and strengths by self-evaluating your knowledge, experience, and interests

-    Confidently frame the business you’ve dreamed of by analyzing your needs, choosing a location, and a property

-    Successfully market your retreat business following Micheline Côté’s expert instruction for defining your territory and designing a viable program of literary services

-    Develop a long-term clientele by adapting and using successful structure tools and system templates.

 

Visit www.WritersRetreat.com next month for more information about the guidebook, which will be available in print, e-book, and audio formats.

For details on pre-orders, e-mail the author at info@writersretreat.com.

 

Micheline Côté, The Writers’ Retreat.

Shape your Vision into Reality with The Writers' Retreat!

 

 TWO NEW RESIDENTIAL RETREATS OPEN: NEW JERSEY, USA, AND ENGLAND

 

We are proud to announce the opening of a year-round residential retreat in beautiful Cape May, New Jersey, and delighted to welcome Dana Walrath, on-site mentor.

 

Situated on the quiet fringe of the country’s oldest beach town, the Writers’ Retreat at Cape May offers sanctuary to writers and artists seeking serenity and renewal. Cape May is located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey. The lovingly maintained and fully equipped two-bedroom cottage is just a few minutes by foot or by bicycle to a gorgeous beach that arcs inland and westward to the Cape May lighthouse. 

 

On-site mentor, Dana Walrath, holds a BA in fine arts from Barnard College, a PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. She is the author of a best-selling introductory anthropology textbook, has recently finished a novel, and an illustrated memoir. She has exhibited works of art in Vermont, New York, and Los Angeles. She currently mentors creative writing students at Vermont College.

 

For more information, please contact Dana Walrath via e-mail at dana.walrath@uvm.edu or The Writers’ Retreat at Cape May, New Jersey.

 

We are proud to announce the opening of a first residential retreat in Byworth, West Sussex, England, and delighted to welcome Daniela Manutius-Forster, on-site mentor.

 

 

The Writers’ Retreat in Byworth, West Sussex, England, gives you an opportunity to live and write in a wonderful spacious house, dating back to 1470 in the countryside of West Sussex. Residents will enjoy the spacious rooms and privacy and nearly one acre of secluded gardens and a small pond near the top of the garden.

 

On-site mentor Daniela Manutius-Forster holds a BA in fine arts from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a master's degree in Film Studies from Columbia University, New York, and years of experience as creative coach and motivational speaker. Daniela is currently working on a novel, and she is in the last stages of her illustrated memoir. She has exhibited works of art in Germany and America, is Ambassador of Mariposa's Visionary Club, and currently mentors young writing students and writers that are stuck, blocked, feeling lost in their process. She will welcome you at her retreat starting in April 2011.

 

For more information, please contact Daniela Manutius-Forster via e-mail at daniela.manutius.forster@gmail.com or The Writers’ Retreat in Sussex, England.

 

 

 MY COURAGEOUS AUTHOR

 

By Denise DiPietro

           

I am an editor.

My husband, a writer.

 

Numerous times during our life together, I would hear him say, “Sleeping with your editor is not always a good idea.” Then he would turn and smile at me.

 

We had a wonderful life together—thirty years this month—until last January when tragedy struck. My husband was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He fought a courageous fight for eleven months, and on November 17, 2010, he passed away having fulfilled his dream. Exactly one month from his passing, his action-packed thriller, Greed, A Love Story, by Douglas Beach, debuted.

 

I am proud to announce that Doug’s novel has already won two iUniverse publisher awards: an Editor’s Choice Award and the prestigious Rising Star designation. These awards were based on the excellent quality of the writing, his worthy credentials, the topic and timeliness of the book, noteworthy marketing and sales potential, and our sincere commitment to its success.

 

If we meet our goal of 500 book sales, commissioned sales reps will march into national retail, wholesale, and independent brick-and-mortar stores to assure placement on the shelves, and the book will be accessible to traditional publishers.

 

Our marketing plan is aggressive and clever. Along with Internet cafes, on-line bookstores, customer reviews, and literary links, we have secured vendor permits to sell the novel on the beaches in and around Zihuatanejo, Mexico, our home. Our pup Luz will wear a handmade book bag with pockets containing Doug’s novel. One side flap reads, “Barking Up the Write Tree,” the other side, “The perfect Beach read.” Two book presentations at predominant, local restaurants are scheduled; a review in the local magazine, Another Day in Paradise, and the novel will be available at various social gatherings and events in Zihuatanejo.

 

Our shameless plug: should you, dear subscribers, have friends, writers, readers, co-workers, and fellow colleagues who take pleasure in reading an adventure story with a sense of western flair, dry humor, an honest romance, and finally, redemption, Greed, A Love Story is to be shared. Please pass along this newsletter.

 

Dreams are to be realized, and I wish to make my husband’s dream come true by hitting our magic sales number of 500.

 

So maybe sleeping with your editor is not such a bad idea after all.

 

Copies of Greed, A Love Story are available at:

Amazon.com

iUniverse.com

BarnesandNoble.com

Borders.com

Doug’s blog site: http://doug-zihuatanejobayfishing.blogspot.com

 

Denise DiPietro can be reached at icopyeditu@yahoo.com  

 

 YOUR WRITING CAN FLOW: Four Easy Steps to Getting Unstuck

 

By Cindy Barrilleaux

 

Being stuck as a writer feels horrible. Ideas and words stop flowing and dread replaces enthusiasm. Usually, these periods are short-lived and not a cause for concern. But when writing feels like slamming your head against a brick wall, you have a writing block. Rather than forcing your way through the process or give up on writing, try the technique below. It works.

 

If you want to write, you should be free to pour your thoughts onto the page. Being stuck blocks that freedom. Having worked with writers for more than twenty-five years, I have developed this brief, four-step exercise to get unstuck and release writing blocks. This exercise has consistently freed writers from the grip of a block

 

Step One:  Find the Source of the Block

We all have an inner critic that sounds like our own voice in our head muttering harsh, critical things about us. The inner critic’s messages about your writing, such as “Just give it up,” can block your natural, creative expression and make writing painful or impossible.

Once you know the source of the block—the inner critic—you are no longer helpless. So the first step is recognizing the source of the block.

 

Step Two: Notice the Language of the Critic

You may not notice the critic’s attacks until you simply can’t write. So next, you need to sharpen your awareness of the critic at work. This step, developed from a technique suggested by writing teacher Heather Sellers, works wonders.

For a week, each time you write, record on a separate page the critical thoughts you hear in your mind. Interrupt yourself each time you hear criticism. For instance, your critic may say:

             

Somebody else has written this and better.

Who do you think you are trying to write a book?

You don’t have what it takes to be a writer. 

At the rate you’re writing, you’ll never finish.

 

It doesn’t matter what you hear, write it down. Yes, it’s a nuisance to stop each time, but it’s effective. Soon, the critical voice will soften and become less insistent. More important, you now are ready to take the next two steps.

 

Step Three: Get to Know Your Inner Critic

It’s easy to dislike someone you don’t know. Yet, as you get to know them, compassion and friendliness arise. The same is true with your inner critic. This step will transform your relationship with your inner critic. You’ll need paper, pen, and uninterrupted time.

Sit quietly with your eyes shut. Think of the most painful messages the inner critic has you with.  Now, have an inner conversation with your critic and write down the questions and answers. (This may sound hokey, but trust me it works.)

 

Ask questions that shed light on the inner critic’s purpose and expectations, such as:

What is your purpose in my life?

What are you afraid of about my writing?

Why are you angry when I write?

How can I help you feel calm while I write? 

           

Many people I have worked with ask their inner critic, “How old are you?” And many find that the inner critic is quite young. That can be helpful in developing the relationship.

 

Have an attitude of curiosity and make sure you actually listen for the response rather than guess what it is. If the critic voices a fear, respond compassionately. You may need to reassure your critic that what you write in your first, second, or even third drafts won’t be seen by anyone except perhaps a writing coach you trust. With that reassurance, the critic often relaxes.

 

Step Four: Become Allies with the Inner Critic

This final step can change your writing life forever. Take a few minutes for another brief conversation with the inner critic. Assure your critic that you need its critical capacities during the final stages of your writing. Ask your critic if it is willing to reserve its criticism until that stage of the work. (It’s important that you see the real value of this. Faking this just doesn’t work.) Then listen to and record the critic’s response.

 

You’ll be surprised by how readily your inner critic responds to your need for a new kind of help. You’ll feel the internal pressure and anxiety dissolve.  Follow these steps and you will feel a new confidence in your writing. And when you hear critical messages again, revisit the steps and renew the alliance. Your creativity will soar in the peace and quiet of your new writing life.

 

Cindy Barrilleaux has coached and edited nonfiction writers around the world for more than twenty-five years. Besides her work with individuals, she leads writing groups by phone, teaches teleseminars on writing and getting published, and conducts weekend writing retreats in New Mexico. For more information and to learn about her Introductory Special Offer, visit her website at www.WriteYourBest.com or e-mail Cindy at Cindy@writeyourbest.com

 

 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE THAT BOOK?

 

By Charlyne Meinhard

 

If you travel in the National Speakers Association (NSA) circles for any length of time, you’ll have the opportunity to meet, hear, and read words from incredible people who are keenly aware that they have a unique message to share. Not just aware, these folks are committed to learning how best to share that message. The first way they share is through speaking, and speaking feels right … freeing … exhilarating.

 

Sometimes, the person has survived a traumatic experience and having made it to the other side, realizes that others can benefit from her story. Sometime, the person finds himself in a bizarre or outrageous situation, and the shear impossibility of it all propels him to tell others about it. Sometimes, the person’s wisdom has developed over years of experience and all of a sudden, she realizes that she has an expertise that others need. And sometimes, the person has struggled for a lifetime through difficult circumstances and reaches a point where he realizes, “I’m okay. Even though it’s been hard, I can do this.” However they got there, all have discovered a message and wisdom that they feel compelled to share with others—first through speaking to groups and often through writing articles or authoring that book about their message. 

 

But how to get the message, the mission, the passion out of one’s head and onto the page? For most of us, even the most passionate of us, writing is not easy.

 

Dan Poynter, author, speaker, and writing coach, has a saying that got me started: “I don’t want you to die without having written that book that is burning inside of you!” Sam Horn, America’s intrigue expert, says we should “create one-of-a-kind ideas and approaches that help us break out versus blend in.” And Mark LeBlanc, 2007 National President of NSA and author of Growing Your Business, asks his clients, “Can you write for twenty minutes a day?” 

 

Yes, I had that book burning inside me. And yes, I had experience that I wanted to use to break out versus blend in. For me, however, having a time of incubating—a focused time away, a time to think and organize my thoughts—was necessary before I could spend any time writing daily in the right direction. I needed the space, physically and mentally, for the book to incubate before it became a reality. That is why I developed the Lake House Writers’ Retreat: to fulfill every need I experienced, and had to develop for myself, when I was working intensely on writing that book. 

 

A wonderful recent guest at the Lake House Writers’ Retreat described her “incubation” process this way:

“What I found was that it took me awhile to simply unwind and relax before I could start the creative thought and writing process. It was strange at first living with so much peace and quiet. But to have such a view of tranquility helped to still my soul much quicker. With a big slice of the Master’s creation viewed from every window, it would be hard not to be inspired to connect with the creator in oneself! … It was so obvious the loving care and thoughtfulness you took with every room of the Lake House Retreat in making it feel like a home away from home! 

            The amenities you provided were most thoughtful and kind to a writer’s soul! The personal greeting you wrote for me gave me the warm feeling that I belonged there; the various spaces and rooms for different sittings, collaborative meetings, quiet thinking, and a variety of workspace needs.

            The pen theme throughout the place was unifying and fun! It gave such a sense of place and history, even stimulating my curiosity juices (that I’m sure helped my writing also)! Seeing a few books that my fellow NSA speaker friends had written did indeed spur me on to complete my own project! And I’m just finishing the e-book project I needed to complete by tomorrow, which may never have happened if it were not for your generosity.”     Lois Gallo

 

I’m so glad that other speakers and writers are now able to use the Lake House Writers’ Retreat as the perfect incubator for their creativity and their writing. In many ways, I feel like a co-creator by providing this little piece of heaven on earth for them to use.

 

Call Charlyne Meinhard at 804-382-5054 about The Lake House Writers’ Retreat, Hartfield, Virginia or send an e-mail to Charlyne@NextLevelForYou.com

 

DROPPING YOUR PANTS: : The Naked Truth about Memoir Writing

 

By Mary Ann Henry

 

For writers, fear is as familiar as our own breath—we’re afraid we won’t be published because we’re not good enough, and we’re afraid if we do get published, we may reveal too much about ourselves. For many, fear is as much a part of the writer’s life as stale coffee and cheap wine. The brutally honest Edna St. Vincent Millay said that a person who publishes a book willfully appears in public with his pants down. But, take the writer who publishes a memoir and multiply that vulnerability tenfold.

 

Memoir writers like me know what real fear is because we can’t hide behind fictional characters. For us, fear is the wolf at the door with an engraved invitation, the fire into which we’ve willingly leapt, the nightmare for which we’ve written the script.

 

I know these things because I am one of the self-cursed who has written a memoir before I’m too old to care what others think. It takes great courage to face myself on the pages for each re-write, never mind sending out a query letter. And what about those who might not be thrilled to find themselves stars of a chapter or two?  Sure, I could fall back on a pen name. I could also get out there and take it on the chin. It’s the memoirist’s dilemma.

 

On my first draft, I was shot down for not revealing enough of the down and dirty. “You’re pulling your punches!” a famous writer told me. This from a woman who has such a big fan base that they meet annually in various cities around the country. I asked her if she would reveal to the world the very details that she was encouraging me to spill. She answered honestly, “I don’t think so.” Then again, she’s not writing a memoir. But, that’s the rub. Those of us crazy enough to do so must be willing to go past our fears. For us, there’s no hiding behind so-called fictional characters and plot lines. We have to throw ourselves, pant-less, to the masses.

 

At my writer’s retreat in Folly Beach, South Carolina, I work with writers of all genres. Yesterday, a writer who is close to finishing her memoir, called to tell me that her dying sister wants to read it. “Let her,” I encouraged. “Or, why not read it to her?” There was a strained silence on the phone and then the sound of sobs. “I once read a chapter to my mother,” she said. “And she was so critical that I couldn’t write for an entire year.” Ah, right.

 

In my latest draft, I tried to let go completely by pretending that no one but I will ever read it. So, I stripped naked and did the wild dance of truth. I have to admit that it was fun and freeing, but when I think about publishing, my familiar enemy—fear—crept back.

 

            Once, I stood on a rocky coast in New England looking out to sea with my two friends Alan and Peggi. We had just returned from a week-long adventure on an Irish tall ship and were toasting our return. As a low-flying plane came roaring above us, without a word, Peggi and I both put our drinks down, leaned over, and as they say, shot the moon. Alan, standing in the middle and thankfully too much the gentleman to look, threw his head back and roared with laughter. I had never done such a thing before, and I don’t know where it came from. But I’m trying to summon that bravado as I face sending the book out. There will come a moment when I’ll try to think of my reading public as that low-flying plane. I just hope I have the courage to drop ’em.

 

Mary Ann Henry can be reached by e-mail at lowcountrywritersretreat@comcast.net or by telephone at 843 437-1934. Visit her website at The Writers’ Retreat in Folly Beach, South Carolina for more information.

 

     

MY CARIBBEAN SALON

By Alexandra Edwards

 

Ever since I read a deliciously evocative article in British Vogue magazine about writer Zadie Smith’s month-long sojourn at a writing salon in a Tuscan farmhouse, I had dreamed about turning our seventeenth century family home in the hills of the North Coast of Jamaica, into a writing retreat. Seduced by descriptions of long lazy days in the sun imbibing inspiration along with Pinot Grigio—long, lingering alfresco dinners of farm fresh Italian food enlivened by intellectual literary discussions—I was hooked. Why not recreate this Jamaican-style with me as the host. For generations, the big old house had been a mecca for all sorts of people, and it positively thrives when it is full of people.  

 

By good fortune, my daughter attended a small, private high school in Northern California with writer Joyce Maynard’s two talented and artistic sons. After meeting Joyce at a party, I brought up the idea of a writers’ retreat in Jamaica. To my delight, she jumped at the suggestion and a few months later, we were flying together from San Francisco to Montego Bay. After the drive along the curving shoreline of the island from the airport, we turned inland and eventually rattled across the cattle grid through Bromley’s stone pillar gates and pulled up in front of the house. Joyce unfolded her lanky legs from the back of the car, kicked off her shoes, twirled around to look at everything, and turned to me. “Oh, Alex. This is magnificent,” she exclaimed with a broad smile.

 

Joyce’s retreat was a huge success and in between cooking and planning excursions, I sat in on her workshop marveling at the careful attention she gave each writer in the group. Hard to believe this all took place six years ago. Along with my marvelous team at Bromley, I have hosted many retreats—painting, writing, yoga—and I continue to dream up new recipes and find new beaches to explore. New York Times bestselling author, Jacqueline Sheehan, has hosted retreats at Bromley with fellow writer Celia Jeffries. Jacqueline said the most wonderful thing after one of her visits, likening the house to “the chambers of the heart.” The beauty of Bromley is not only in its lush, tropical surroundings and in its mountain views, but also apparently in its welcoming soul.   

 

My husband Johnathan relishes his role as “butler and chauffeur” driving us all to a secluded private cove in his four-wheel drive. He appears in the evening to pour delicious rum cocktails or talks about some of the rich history of the house and his forbears, including his grandmother who was introduced to Walt Whitman and Rabindranath Tagore under this very roof. Gathering for dinner in the formal dining room by candlelight after a long and fulfilling day and listening to the happy chatter of our guests,  I think that yes, quite possibly, I have realized my dream.

 

Alexandra Edwards can be reached by e-mail at alexandra.sale@gmail.com. Visit her website at The Writers’ Retreat in Walkerswood, Jamaïca for more information.

 

A HARVEST OF THOUGHT

By Julia Shipley

 

In our excruciatingly beautiful one hundred frost-free days here in Northern Vermont, my poems and essays wither from neglect as the urgency of other tasks takes precedence: build fence, weed potatoes, mow hay. But in these assured one hundred days of pure winter, snow choking an old watering can, and the raspberry canes denuded of leaf and fruit, now the poem fattens, now the essay thickens.

 

But, how does a long detained writer return to her work? How do her poems and prose pieces germinate and develop? What practices nourish the work?

 

Two American nature writers I revere, Mary Oliver and Henry David Thoreau, both use a notebook as a way to sow the seeds of poems and prose pieces when the growing season is over and the world is dark and cold. Oliver uses a small, pocket-size notebook, which she carries with her on her daily rambles through the woods and fields of Cape Cod. Thoreau kept a pocket-size diary, which he carried with him on his forays into the wintery world, but upon returning home, he used something grander, a menu-size ledger, for entering his discursive remarks.

 

In The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets, edited by Kuusisto, Tall, and Weiss, we get a glimpse of Oliver’s mind gleaning keen ideas, poetic lines, potent observations of the natural world—the raw material of poems, and then scattering these seeds throughout her pocket notebook. It is filled with items like:

 

Do you ever think the wren dreams of a better house?

*

When one of the main characters of one’s life die, is there any replacement?

Or, is there anything but replacement?

*

When you first saw her—beauty, the dream—the human vortex of your life—or him—did you stop, and stand in the crisp air, breathing like a tree? Did you change your life?

*

I took the fox bones back into the dunes and buried them …

*

M. arranging the curtains in the next room. “Hello there, darling moon,” I hear her say.

 

“I do not use the pages front to back,” Oliver says in her introductory remarks from The Poet’s Notebook, “but randomly, in a disorderly way.” Though she describes her process of “broadcasting” the seeds of future poems, she’ll admit that not all of these germinate and blossom into poems. “By no means do I write poems in these notebooks. And yet over the years, the notebooks have been laced with phrases that eventually appear in the poems. So, they are the pages upon which I begin.”  

 

Whereas Oliver seems to beach comb her daily experience in the world and capture little fragments of it in her notes, Henry David Thoreau, who wandered around the rivers, woods, fields, and towns of Maine, New Hampshire, and most famously, Concord, Massachusetts, in the 1800s, would often bring back actual specimens of plants, as well as inspiration for poetry and prose.

H. G. O. Blake edited an edition of Thoreau’s journal entries ranging from December through February during the years1837–1860 and published a book aptly titled, Winter: From the Journal of Henry Thoreau. 

 

In page after page, each entry begins with a date, and then continues with meteorological observations (Jan 22, 1857: I asked Minott about the cold Friday. He said, “It was plaguey cold. It stung like a wasp.” He remembers seeing them toss up water in the shoemaker’s shop, usually a very warm place, and when it struck the floor it was frozen and scattered like so many shot …); philosophical aphorisms (January 23, 1858: It is in vain to write of the seasons unless you have the seasons in you.); and naturalist musings (Jan 30, 1859: How peculiar is the hooting of an owl; not shrill and sharp like the scream of a hawk, but full, round, and sonorous…).

 

Both Thoreau and Oliver use their notebooks as a place to exercise their senses, to engage in the world around them; they show us how full of substance, variety, and inspiration, the seemingly empty and white/gray world of winter. And they remind us that all it takes is a notebook, a pen, and the impetus to get out and wander around for a while, to cultivate a new garden of creative writing.

 

Perhaps Thoreau sums up the whole endeavor of farming the fields of the imagination when he writes on January, 30 1854: “While the milkmen in the outskirts are milking so many scores of cows before sunrise these winter mornings, it is our task to milk the winter itself...Because the fruits of the earth are already ripe we are not to suppose there is no fruit left to ripen …Then is the great harvest of the year, the harvest of thought.”

 

To reach Julia Shipley send an e-mail to vermontwritersretreat@gmail.com or visit her website at The Writer’s Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont.

 

THE MAGIC OF SAN MIGUEL: OR WRITING ABOUT “PLACE"

 

By Lynne Anderson, PhD

 

It was a dangerous thing to do. My husband and I spent the holidays in San Miguel de Allende, a history soaked, colonial town four hours by bus from Mexico City. As we settled into Casa Amistad, the bougainvillea-draped home my sister and her husband built for their retirement, our travel fatigue evaporated instantly.

 

Nestled into the Mexican neighborhood of Colonia San Rafael, our daily lives became an extraordinary blend of bilingual, bicultural experiences. For ten days, we walked everywhere—down cobblestone streets, through open-air markets, across plazas, into courtyards, and up onto rooftops. For ten days, we were captivated by the rich and vibrant colors of street musicians, balloon vendors, embroidered textiles, exotic flowers, and the sun-drenched walls of unusual hues. We enjoyed the richness of a culture in the throes of really celebrating the birth of Jesus with elaborate crèches in every home and elegantly attired replicas of the baby Jesus to fill them. Everything was a feast for the eyes and ears, not to mention the palette. Whether it was breakfast at Buenas Dias, margaritas at La Cucaracha, dinner at Mama Mias, or simply tacos on the street, we ate well, very well.

 

To say there is something magical about San Miguel is to repeat a phrase heard often, especially from a large contingent of American retirees opting to live out their lives in sunny comfort and social activism. Many originally came to study or visit, then fell under the city’s spell and returned. We learned that cultural blending is not a new phenomenon for San Miguel. As early as the seventeenth century, the city was a melting pot attracting Spanish born peninsulares, Mexican-born creoles, and various castas of mixed racial heritage. By the eighteenth century, the area had grown rich catering to the needs of nearby silver mines with wealthy merchants and artisans, huge haciendas, and a reputation for fine woven textiles, especially the quintessential Mexican serape. Unfortunately, the city’s wealth, like that of the rest of the country, was founded on inequality and imperial exploitation. Inspired by the political vision of local hero, Ignacio Allende, San Miguel was the first city to be liberated from Spanish rule, giving birth to Mexico’s War of Independence in 1810. In recognition, the town voted to change its name from San Miguel el Grande to San Miguel de Allende. And in 2008, the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site both for its role in the War of Independence and its well-preserved colonial architecture.

 

The influx of Americans to San Miguel; however, had less to do with history and more to do with the vision of one man—Sterling Dickenson. He arrived in San Miguel in 1937 at a time when the town had clearly seen better days. But his artistic side saw potential, and in short order, he co-founded an art institute, launching sixty years of industrious marketing that drew thousands of post WWII veterans to San Miguel in pursuit of education and cross-cultural experience.1 The city was transformed into an international literary and artistic mecca, and for decades provided inspiration to dozens of authors and artists, both well known and obscure.

 

Today, the literary community of San Miguel is alive and well, due to the vision and organizing energies of another American transplant—Susan Page. Author of six books, including The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, Susan moved to San Miguel seven years ago. Astonished that the city had no venue for authors to share their work, she decided to create one. Now known as the Literary Sala, monthly readings by local and visiting authors host large audiences and are scheduled months in advance. In 2005, Susan launched the San Miguel International Writers’ Conference with keynote speakers such as Tom Robbins (2008), Barbara Kingsolver (2010), and on February 18–20, 2011, Sandra Cisneros, author of Caramelo and The House on Mango Street. In addition to keynote events, there are writing workshops, a Pleasures of Reading series, and a welcoming Mexican Fiesta that Kingsolver extolled as “one of the ten best parties in my life!”

 

In short, San Miguel is both enticing and seductive. And we want you to experience the magic yourself. Writers who stay at least two weeks at Panther Orchard Writers’ Retreat in 2011 will receive one free week at Casa Amistad in beautiful San Miguel.

 

For details, contact Lynne Anderson, owner of Panther Orchard Retreat in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, at lynneandrs@gmail.com.

______________  

1 For more information read Jonathan Kandell’s, Under the Spell of San Miguel de Allende, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2010.

 

 

The Writers' Retreat    ----    www.WritersRetreat.com    ----    info@writersretreat.com

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