NEKLogoSmallThe Writers’ Retreat Newsletter

April 2012, Volume 12, No 2


In This Issue







Upcoming workshops and clinics:


To enroll in a workshop of your choice, please browse our Workshop Page; click on WORKSHOP at











Shape your Vision into Reality with The Writers' Retreat!




Joining The Writers’ Retreat Network:  A way to connect with your dream and vision. Only $199 to join!


The Writers’ Retreat Network features residential retreats around the world in Canada, Costa Rica, Europe, New Zealand, and in the United States.


Consider a retreat a golden opportunity to pursue your dream of not only generating income but in creating a broader choice for our community of writers and authors.


If you are contemplating a business opportunity in the literary world…

If you want to create an inspiring and fertile environment for writers…

If you already own or manage a hospitality venue…

If you want to generate income in your unique home…

If you seek new ways to bring to life your true destiny…

Is your dream strong enough to motivate you to be a successful coach and mentor?


If one of the above applies to you, contact us today to discuss your idea or project and to learn more about starting and operating a writer’s retreat in your area. You may also read a few pages of the book

A Writers’ Retreat: Starting from Scratch to Success!  Visit; the book is available in print, e-book, and audio formats.


Please take a tour of our Worldwide Residential Retreats at

Micheline Côté, The Writers’ Retreat.



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 and Katarina at


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 or The Writers’ Retreat in Klamath Falls, OR


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 or The Writers’ Retreat in Klamath Falls, OR




By Nan Phifer and Lynne Anderson


Have you thought about writing a memoir?


Memoirs 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 confided.


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, owner of Panther Orchard Writers’ Retreat or visit Panther Orchard Retreat in Hopkinton, Rhode Island.



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 readers.


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 same.



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 and white.


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.



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.



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 or The Writers’ Retreat in Sharpsburg, GA.



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 everywhere.


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 Montpelier, Vermont, 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 and read Part II of Traditional Publishing Techniques: “Chapbooks: Lovely Book-ish and Short” in the next issue of the Writers’ Retreat newsletter.


Julia Shipley operates the Writers’ Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont. You can contact her at 802 586 7733 or visit The Writers’ Retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont.



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 or The Writers’ Retreat in Heron’s Reach, Ireland.



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