FOUR NEW RESIDENTIAL RETREATS OPEN: NORTH CAROLINA & OREGON (USA); CANADA
We are proud to announce the
opening of a writers’ retreat in Tamworth, Ontario, and a second writers’ retreat in Schull, Ireland. Welcome to Carolyn Butts in Ontario, Canada, and Katarina
Runske in Schull, Ireland,
and the best in success to our hosts! To find out more or to secure your
space, please contact them directly.
Carolyn at email@example.com and Katarina at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, a warm welcome to Sharon Chinook for opening a retreat on fifty acres in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Please
contact Sharon via e-mail at email@example.com or The Writers’ Retreat in Klamath
Finally, congratulations to Susan W. Verren for joining the network with her retreat in Oak Island, North Carolina. Please bear with her, as she has not yet fully completed her
setup, but the retreat should be ready very soon! You may contact Susan via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Writers’ Retreat in Klamath
FIVE MEANING-FILLED MEMOIRS AT PANTHER ORCHARD FARM
By Nan Phifer and
thought about writing a memoir?
are different from autobiographies. Autobiographies present a life with
broad strokes supported by factual data. Memoirs focus on the hours and
minutes that are keen in our lives, the times when experiences penetrate to
the quick. In these moments, we define ourselves and the ways we respond
reveal our souls. At such times—moments of crisis, or profound contentment,
or gratitude—our individuality emerges.
Memoirs are also different from journals. Journals
share a log of daily growth, observations, musings, and reflections. In
contrast, memoirs focus only on our most significant experiences and tend
to tell a more organized story of what is meaningful to us. Because of the
inherently narrative structure, memoirs feel whole rather than fragmentary,
and generally end up more polished.
Writing a memoir is a grand voyage of
self-discovery. Its course, unlike that of an autobiography, is not linear.
Where autobiographies start with birth and move forward, memoirs may start
with accessible events in our lives and spiral inward to find meaning.
Visualize writing a memoir as similar to walking a great labyrinth. Upon
reaching the center of a labyrinth, walkers often report a soothing sense
of wholeness and balance. Similarly, memoir writers moving from their outer
to inner lives report gaining insights, making discoveries, and arriving at
a sense of balance and wholeness.
The very writing of a memoir stimulates personal
growth. Articulating responses to major events and formative influences,
the writer’s values, ideals, motives, beliefs, and hopes are revealed.
Personal traits and patterns emerge, and the writing clarifies the meaning
and purpose in one’s life. Strengths and qualities not previously
appreciated become apparent as the memoirist’s strivings are recognized and
Memoirs live beyond our time on this planet,
sharing something important about who we were and how we experienced life.
Imagine searching in a trunk for something, but finding instead the memoir
of a great-grandparent. We would cease searching for the other item and sit
down, eager to read the personal story of an ancestor. Memoirs allow
descendents to see the joys, difficulties, temptations, and persistence of
their forbearers. Readers are strengthened by learning something meaningful
about their heritage, gaining understanding that would be lost if the
memoir had never been written. Our own memoirs will be just as great a
treasure to our descendents, the product of our efforts to discover
ourselves, the narrative of our own inner lives.
There are many “aha moments” when writing a memoir.
Eyes light up with insight and excitement as writers recount their
significant experiences, their longings, agonies, and joys. Memoir writers
find satisfaction as they become aware of their aspirations and their
efforts, gratified by the unveiling of their very essence.
During September 28–30, Panther Orchard Writers’
Retreat will host a workshop for writers yearning to “unveil their very
essence” through the writing of a memoir. Led by Nan Phifer, author of Memoirs of the Soul: A Writing Guide
workshop participants will learn how to find meaning inside their most
vivid memories and work to explore the patterns of their own inner lives.
Join us and
learn why “Nan Phifer is a stealth bomber. She sneaks in, appears sweet and
gentle and lovely, but then opens us up, through writing, to our own
explosive promise.” — Kae Evensen, workshop participant.
For more information, you can reach Lynne Anderson via e-mail at email@example.com, owner
of Panther Orchard Writers’ Retreat or visit Panther Orchard
Retreat in Hopkinton, Rhode Island.
BOOK SIGNINGS: TIME TO MEET THE PUBLIC
By Adilah Barnes
The writing process is generally a solitary
experience until our book is complete and we actually have the finished
product in our hands. (I remember well the day my galley copy arrived by
UPS, and I actually felt the texture of the pages against my hands, which
made the completion real for me!)
Once in hand, it is time to share our work with
the literary world. One of my favorite ways of distributing my book ON MY
OWN TERMS: One Actor’s Journey is
by offering autographed book signings. I enjoy the personal touch with
For those of you who are now at that stage of
starting or continuing a book tour, I offer the following suggestions:
Knowing your market will make it infinitely easier
to determine your audience for book signings.
In my case, my book crosses genres and readership
that include those in the theater and entertainment industry, those looking
for a good memoir, autobiography, spiritual, motivational, or women’s
entrepreneurial read. Given that, I am able to cast my net widely to reach
readers of many communities in many different settings. You can do the
In my case, I have scheduled book signings at
venues that include colleges and universities following performances,
lectures and keynote addresses, theaters, organizations, private homes,
book circles, and book fairs. Give thought to whom you want to reach at
book signings and at ideal settings that will work for you.
An appealing presentation can attract readers to a
booth or a table. A six-foot table generally allows enough room to include
a nice tablecloth, a poster, book stands, a guest book, a one-page or
flyer, order/cost forms, and a money box with change. Other items that can
add ambiance might include an aromatherapy candle, fresh flowers, and a
candy dish with goodies. Color can have a positive visual effect, and in my
case, because the cover of my book is turquoise, I always use the colors black
It can also be helpful to have a second person
handle the sales, the signing of the guest book, and who passes the book to
the author with the buyer’s name so the author may personally autograph.
Some authors dress formally, especially if their
books are based on subjects that embrace business. Others may dress more
casually based on other genres and subjects. In either case, comfort is
important, especially if attending an all-day book fair.
EXCERPTED BOOK READINGS
Depending on the venue, such as at a bookstore or a
coffee house, it might be desirable to read from one’s book. Usually
reading up to three to four sections with a maximum reading time of fifteen
minutes provides enough time for the reader to get a sense of what the book
is about, the style of writing, and the author’s
voice. A brief question and answer period can follow. Choose
sections that you particularly enjoy. Projection, enunciation, and
inflection can add also color and interest to the reading.
MEETING AND GREETING
A warm smile and direct eye contact can have a
welcoming effect. Oftentimes, a reader may approach the work by picking up the
book and flipping through the pages. An author may want to allow the reader
that private moment with their book and be prepared to give a one or two
sentence answer to the possible question, “What is your book about?”
It is important to have a good pen available. I
prefer a Uniball, and I sign with a black ink pen. The traditional place to
sign a book is on the title page that includes the author’s name. Some
authors always autograph the same quick note addressed to the reader for
consistency, and if there is a line of fans waiting for copies, be sure to
keep the line moving! Some authors also date the book.
Follow up with an e-mail, thank the reader for his
or her purchase, and request feedback. Include a flyer for the book so others
may pass it on. Offer discounts to those who make additional purchases for
family and friends.
Book signings are one of my most enjoyable ways of
both introducing my work to others and distributing my book. Do enjoy
meeting your readers in person as you also promote your book!
Adilah Barnes is the proprietor of the Writer’s Well in
scenic Sharpsburg, Georgia. She can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Writers’ Retreat in Sharpsburg, GA.
TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING: PART I
By Julia Shipley
Broadsides and Impressive Writing
Broadsides are, in today's
parlance, posters. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses written in 1517 was a
broadside. The Declaration of Independence published in 1776 was a
broadside. And this week’s notice in the store window for Chicken Thighs at
$4.99 is broadside. Broadsides are now ubiquitous, flaunting their text
In fifteenth century Europe, broadsides were cutting edge communication
technology. The emergence of moveable type resulted in inexpensive
dissemination of printed materials. As literacy rates rose, broadsides
featuring spiritual, political, and pedagogical messages became commonplace
in homes. Though offset and digital technology has made producing broadsides
so effortless a seven-year-old can create one, original letterpress publishing is a hands-on art on par with finish
carpentry. It is as much an exercise in good design as it is a project about
disseminating a text document.
Kelly McMahon of May Day Studio in Montpelier, Vermont,
is a letterpress printer. She produces “quirky paper goods”—cards,
journals, stationery, coasters, invitations, wrapping paper, business
cards, and broadsides using cases of lead type, wood type, and her trusty
Vandercook printing press.
Each broadside begins near the printer’s
heart; literally, as Kelly holds a shallow, narrow tray called a composing
stick in her left hand close to her navel, and selects each letter of lead
text from the drawer on a tilted table at (ideally) chest height. After she
has created the “form,” all the text, plus all the space-ings and all the
ornaments, and the structure of the page, she carefully transfers this to
the press bed.
This labor-intensive process
increases the printer’s intimacy with the work. By the time Kelly is ready
to print the document, she has made umpteen decisions ranging from choices
about typeface, layout, spacing, and even the thickness and quality of the
paper. She is also considered a decorative component, perhaps opting to
incorporate woodcut prints or etchings with the text.
Using her hand-cranked press, each paper
is rolled onto the bed containing the bound text form as pressure ensures
the inked lead lettering is pushed into the paper’s surface. What emerges
is a document with impressions. When it dries, you can course your
fingertips over the top of the sheet and feel the indentations of each
letter, which adds a tactile pleasure to the work, in addition to the
pleasure of the visual, and the pleasure inspired by the content, the
meaning. Hence, Letterpress Broadsides offers a multisensory experience,
beyond, say, the grocery store poster. The
marriage of design elements with the content makes for a unique, visual,
and literary work of art.
The work entailed to publish
a limited edition of high-quality broadsides is easily six hours, making it
seem relatively involved compared to the act of hitting the word “print” on
your computer. Furthermore, letterpress broadsides are usually produced in
finite editions of fifty to one hundred, thus conferring more value to this
rare published specie.
This April, the Kellogg Hubbard Library in
is hosting the New England Broadside Show, the only letterpress show held
in Montpelier in recent memory and featuring
fourteen Broads published by eight studios from throughout New England,
including three studios in Vermont, as
well as studios in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
This exhibit is part of
Montpelier Alive’s month-long celebration of poetry in Vermont. The broadside show,
coordinated by Chickadee Chaps & Broads, a letterpress partnership
based in Montpelier,
is part of CC&B’s mission to celebrate beautiful words in a beautiful
format, using traditional handset type. Chickadee Chaps & Broads is an
imprint of May Day Studio of Montpelier, a joint collaboration between
writer and letterpress artist Kelly McMahon, and poet, teacher, and retreat
operator, Julia Shipley. To learn more about the show, please visit www.chickadeechapsandbroads.com and read
Part II of Traditional Publishing Techniques: “Chapbooks: Lovely Book-ish
and Short” in the next issue of the Writers’ Retreat newsletter.
operates the Writers’ Retreat in Craftsbury,
Vermont. You can contact her
at 802 586 7733 or visit The Writers’ Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont.
THE OUTSIDE EYE
By Louise Page
All good writers live and breathe their work. I
have been known to sit at a keyboard, cry with my characters, and shout out
with their exasperations. But sometimes we get in too deep or not deep
enough. This is where workshops and supported retreats come in.
I have been working on a play called, “Self-Storage.”
It is about the ownership of knowledge and stealing of education. I wrote
the first draft in the white heat of six weeks, my head down, and
challenging myself to complete a certain number of pages a day. To keep my
momentum, I ignored some pertinent facts. A brother and sister go looking
for a will. I know where it is and what is in it, but in my first draft
they did not find it, because having used it as a device to get them
together (this is a play, they don't get on), other passions and ideas took
over and demanded expression. When things surprise me as I am writing, I
stick with them. If they surprise me, they will surprise the audience.
I am writing the play on a research grant from The
Royal Shakespeare Company, and they offered me a workshop led by Mark
Ravenhill. After the initial first reading, the will issue quickly reared
its head. You do not go looking for a will unless someone has recently
died. If it was hidden in the son’s house, why was it hidden there? Once we
started exploring the grief of the brother and the sister, other things
happened. One of the actors suggested their ages be reversed. The minute
the actor said it, it became clear to me that making the brother older than
his academic sister opened a completely new raft of possibilities. Everyone
liked the third character in the play who symbolizes the power of learning
to transform lives and futures, but interestingly, the audience wanted her
to be more flawed. The audience wanted points where they could disagree
with some of the issues she was raising about neocolonialism. I am now
rewriting the play. Even though I am an established writer, I feel safer
and freer, because no one would have raised these points in the workshop if
they had not been involved in what the play said about knowledge and the
theft of natural resources. What I needed was an outside eye to free me
from the backstory of how I wrote the first draft.
I work with writers during retreats and in courses
this way. I pull out questions they probably know, but have not asked
themselves. A recent example was a novelist who was stuck in her
commissioned second novel with a deadline approaching. Her editor had given
her a lot of advice, but it was generalized information and not specific. The
writer was finding it hard to respond to criticism that was too generalized,
such as “The energy drops in Chapter 6.” We looked at the chapter together.
I asked what the consequences would be for a teacher who got pulled out of
school in May (in England, the middle of the exam season) to respond to a
family crisis in Italy, she realized she was more interested in the
daughter’s conflict about work and family than the romantic storyline she
thought the chapter was developing. In a romantic novel, once you take the
concentration off love and put it onto what love does to people, the move
from the abstract to the specific takes over and drives the plot in a much
more satisfying manner. In a detailed four-hour session, the writer
re-engaged with her work and was able to continue and deliver the
manuscript on time.
On retreats, I always have my own work on the go.
There is no point telling writers that writing discipline is paramount to
good writing if I am not practicing that myself. This autumn, I shall be
embarking on a novel using my family history. I have worked with many
writers on memory and autobiographical projects, and now it is time I
experienced that process from the inside.
To find out more or to secure
your space, please contact Louise Page via e-mail at email@example.com or The Writers’ Retreat in Heron’s
The Writers' Retreat ---- www.WritersRetreat.com ---- firstname.lastname@example.org
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