NEKLogoSmallThe Writers’ Retreat Newsletter

October 2011, Volume 11, No 3


In This Issue





Vermont Workshops:

10/23/11: The Chapbook: Reading and Writing the Slender Book

Info and register online or e-mail Julia Shipley



11/5/11: Braided Essays: A nonfiction workshop

Info and register online or e-mail Julia Shipley







Garp knew what every artist should know: as he put it.


“You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else. Even if these so-called endings and beginnings are illusions.” Garp did not write faster than anyone else, he simply always worked with the idea of completion in mind.


To achieve your writing goal, you must first focus on your passion—whether that is writing your novel, life stories, a screenplay, or something else. Immerse yourself in a focused writing experience and you’ll be exhilarated by your productivity, far beyond what you thought possible. Experiencing your true potential translates into a wonderful momentum that reshapes your world.

A one-week intensive writing retreat in a creative atmosphere is a great start, and may be the only way to kick-start your creative engine!



Micheline Côté, The Writers’ Retreat.

Shape your Vision into Reality with The Writers' Retreat!




By Julia Shipley


Pretend I’ve brought a piece of baling twine to show you. I’m teasing apart a frayed end to show that rope is really a bunch of individual strands that form something new. Like rope, life is made up of disparate strands, some of which you would not expect to tangle and embrace one another. I love braided essays for their ability to plait together things that one might not normally connect.


A braided essay does the work of mending divisions that we've become used to between This and That. It does a little repair work like twine.


A regular essay has a one main idea and is usually supported by a couple of examples. Sometimes an essay has two ideas that it explores (compare and contrast, pros and cons). A braided essay takes at least two topics (sometimes whacko topics like intensive rotational grazing and the landscape paintings of artist Milton Avery), and explores genuine links and congruencies between these topics, and sometimes, because of this investigation/consideration, a third strand emerges, “mortality” or the “urge to create.” Or sometimes the author builds that third strand right in it. I recently finished an essay that braided the ideas about soil science, a road trip to Iowa, and Walt Whitman. Herein lies the fun and the challenge, because you have to earn the reader’s trust, and you must not yank them around simply for the joy of making links. Your braided work must repair or hold or contain something of value to be worth the reader’s time.


In the book Writing Creative Nonfiction (ed. Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard), contributor Brenda Miller writes about her discovery of the braided essay. “I began to adopt the structure of fragmented, numbered sections for much of my prose. And I began to see more clearly that this form wasn’t just about fragmentation and juxtaposition; it wasn’t really about mosaic I was after. There was more a sense of weaving about it, of interruption and continuation, like the braiding of bread, or of hair. I had to keep my eye focused on the single image that held them all together.”


Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, braids a whole book-length narrative in For The Time Being, which explores the natural history of sand, clouds, newborns in an obstetrical ward, and a family of Mongol horsemen.


This form may prove frustrating or confusing—so if you lose your way—good. That means something fresh and surprising is about to manifest in your writing. If you’re really stymied, try plaiting two ideas instead of three. (The third will probably emerge anyway.)


Please remember that this form is here to serve you, to allow you to exhibit the content you wish to share, the way a basket holds apples or a bird’s nest holds speckled eggs.


Most of all, have fun, and keep writing.


Julia Shipley operates a writer’s retreat in Craftsbury, Vermont. Her retreat will be available at reduced rate for stays of 30+ days from December 1, 2011 to May 1, 2012. To reach Julia Shipley, please dial 802-586-7733 or send an e-mail to or visit




By Adilah Barnes 


As writers, many of us find it challenging to just sit down and begin writing. Add to that, those of us who are also procrastinators about doing anything, and we can find ourselves with a laundry list of many other things to do before we settle down to let the pen or keyboard begin their movement.


I have begun to try to find “fun” ways to roll up my sleeves and give voice to my literary expression. I share with you below some refreshing ways that may work for you:



The computer - Many of us traditionally sit at our computers to write. If this is the case, we can add appealing elements by lighting an aromatherapy candle, incense, propping up our chairs with a comfortable pillow for our backs or bottoms, and allowing ourselves the sound of soothing jazz in the background to take us to a place where our thoughts can flow effortlessly.


A change of pace – If we have a laptop, we may also want to change our writing environment. Take your laptop to the sofa in the living room, at a dining room table, outside on a deck or patio, or go out to a Starbucks or library to feel the synergy of others and by adding stimuli that keep us engaged. When I was writing my book, I would periodically write outside at The Indian Canyon in Palm Springs on my laptop amid palm trees and the beauty of nature. A setting like that can be especially stimulating.


A writing workshop – I find it inspiring to take a writing workshop from time to time where I am surrounded my other writers who, in silence, are all writing organically from exercises given by the instructor and sharing afterward aloud what came from the guided exercises. Hearing the work of others and receiving feedback from the instructor and participants can be extremely rewarding.



Writing as a spiritual experience - I sometimes enjoy stretching out on my sofa or propping my pillows behind my head as I write on a notepad. I am generally clad in pajamas in the evening while in bed writing. I may take a bath first to release the day and have a hot cup of herbal tea nearby that soothes and nurtures my body and soul at the same time. Again, jazz can be added to this tranquil time. I have found this to be an especially relaxing way to allow thoughts and feelings to come forth freely.


Back to paper and pen - Most of us use computers nowadays, because it is quicker. We can edit as we go and save directly onto our computers. However, I occasionally enjoy taking the time to make direct contact with my pen and paper again. It is a more personal way of allowing my literary voice to come through and there is something about touching the paper and making contact with a good pen.



Choosing a specific time and day of the week to write is a very disciplined way to force a procrastinating writer to write. There is no getting around that date to write and after a while, it can become as much a ritual as brushing our teeth each morning. It does not matter how long the writing sessions, only that they happen.


Meditating, walking, journaling, or doing some spiritual reading first are also excellent ways to surrender and segue into a designated writing time.


Whatever the choices, the process still boils down to getting started. Enjoy some of these different ways to approach your writing!


Adilah Barnes can be reached at (Georgia location) or




I cannot thank you enough for sending comments regarding my guidebook A Writers’ Retreat: Starting from Scratch to Success! I wrote this as a guide to assist you in contemplating your dream of operating a writer’s retreat business. I am so glad to hear every day it is fulfilling its purposes in making you realize that your dream of operating a retreat business is possible but more importantly that it inspires you to take action and give you strength to go further with your project.


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 to peak inside the guidebook. It is available in print, e-book, and audio formats.


The Writers’ Retreat is stronger than ever. More than 2,000 subscribers enjoy the benefits of our year-round residential retreats, their location, and services. We are excited by the prospect of serving more writers at more locations. We welcome your participation in creating a broader choice for our community of writers.


Join now! Cost is $199 per year! Visit our network at or email




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