HALLIE EPHRON: Lucy and I are in the throes of planning this year's Seascape "Escape to Write," our fifth annual weekend retreat. It's for writers who want to get together with like-minded writers, kick back, and really focus on improving their writing. Over the Seascape weekend, we meet with a small group of writers to take a good hard look at the opening pages of their works in progress from several perspectives.
We've opened registration for our fifth season (September 14-16 in Chester, CT), and this year we're adding special guest instructor, Hank Phillippi Ryan. She'll be there, talking about (among other things) how to use techniques TV journalism to pump up your novel.
This year, we had great news that three of our alums have landed book contracts. Barbara Ross, Edith Maxwell, and Liz Mugavero all have multiple book deals. We are doing the happy dance with them.
And here's the thing: there are a bunch more enormously talented alums who will most certainly be signing their own book deals soon, too.
The day after each retreat, I am exhausted and exhilarated. Here's one of my favorite morning-after emails came from KB Inglee, who was with us in 2010. She wrote: "I think I will finish killing Charles this morning. I have found it really gratifying to do it with violence."
We always feel we learn as much as the participants. So we thought we'd share a few insights. Here are a few of mine:
1. Don't judge a writer by their writing: I've been astonished, year after year, by the amazing growth that takes place for some writers, just over the course of a weekend.
2. It's easy to see the flaws in your own work in the work of others: why this is I cannot tell you, but it's very satisfying when you see that light bulb go off and the writer says, "Oh, NOW I get what you're talking about."
3. One of the most important take-aways: Put the characters in the driver's seat.
4. Viewpoint is still one of the biggest stumbling blocks for new writers.
LUCY BURDETTE (AKA ROBERTA ISLEIB): I have to second Hallie's excitement about the Seascape weekend. It's different from most of the workshops and conferences out there, because everyone does a lot of work ahead of time, and then we talk and talk and talk.
Here are a few of the things I've taken away.
1. Anything can be fixed. But you have to write it first. This probably comes directly from you Hallie, but I couldn't agree more: Just hold your nose and write!
2. Stay as close to the real experience of the characters as you can and let them lead--rather than trying to jam them into your plot and your story.
3. The mystery writing community is so generous. We've seen over and over on this weekend how the participants get excited about each others' stories and really work hard to make them better.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What I hope to bring to the party?
1. Writing a good book is difficult. When you start thinking--whoa. This is hard! Then hurray. You're a writer.
2. Anything can be fixed, I so agree. Worrying does not help. Sometimes the best secret is to let go. Give yourself a break, and let your mind bloom. The characters will tell you what will happen if you listen to them.
3. There is no writers block. Working in journalism teaches you how to banish it. I will share!
Hurray for KB! And can't wait to be part of the stories we'll all be telling next year.
HALLIE: Registration is open. More information...
Have you been to any kind of retreat, writing or otherwise, and did you come away with a nice big fat Aha! Please, share!