Monday, August 20, 2007

Writer Heaven

It's quiet around our blog village, so I think I'll take the opportunity this week to get in a few plugs for good things, starting today with The Writers Retreat Workshop.

I've taught there twice, as has T.J. MacGregor who stopped by to say hi when I opened this blog. My co-writer on Seven Steps on the Writer's Path, psychologist and self-help writer Lynn Lott, taught there with me one year. I'll be teaching there again next spring. Our blog friends Conda, Beth, and Kimberly have all attended as students. My agent, Meredith Bernstein, has been there, as has Donald Maass whom I quote a lot. Jason Sitzes (jscs), who stops by here now and then, is the director of it. For the full story of its founding and programs, please go to this link.

That link can give you the facts, but I want to give you a picture of what it's like to get to leave your regular life and go do--finally, at last--what you've been longing to do, possibly for years, maybe for a lifetime. In this case, it's writing, but it could be anything you're longing to be able to do without interruption, if you could only find the place to do it. Maybe this will inspire somebody out there to do the same for himself or herself.

Here's what WRW was like the last time I was there. . .

They were doctors, physicists, teachers, computer technicians. They were two pilots, a clergyman, and at least one housewife. They worked in insurance and in law. Some could easily afford the considerable expense of the retreat; others had saved or worked harder, or gone into debt to pay for it. They were black and they were white. They were old enough to be retired and young enough to stay up all night. The important things they almost all had in common were that they had felt how unhappy it made them if they didn't write, and then they had let their desire grow until it gave them the courage they needed to make this grand commitment to their writing. They took the risk and gambled big on what they wanted. For ten glorious, hard, demanding days, they laid down their money and their time on the table where their wants were.

They had little rooms to themselves, they had their computers, they had classes to attend, agents to meet, editors to whom to show their work. The communal areas chattered with talk and bubbled with laughter, but the long corridors remained thoughtfully quiet as the writers tiptoed past one another's work. Books were born, or torn up, and begun again, or nearly finished. Careers started or were revived or rethought that week. They had POS buttons to wear anytime they fell into a funk and thought their writing was a piece of shit. The buttons signaled that they needed pats on the back, hugs, and encouraging words. They were served food, somebody else washed their sheets, but they did their own heavy lifting where the writing was concerned. They wrote. For those ten amazing days away from their "regular" lives, they became the full-time writers they longed to be.

For people who desperately wanted to write, it was heaven on earth.

Tomorrow: My little piece of heaven, Kansas, has its own mystery convention.

(Excerptrom Seven Steps on the Writer's Path by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott, Ballantine Books, 2003.)


Nancy P said...

Good Monday to you!
I'm going back to bed. See you when my eyes will open fully.

katiebird said...

Good Morning Nancy, I've seen The Writer's Workshop mentioned here before. I'm glad to hear a little more about it. It sounds wonderful.

I'll be back in a couple of hours too.

AndiF said...

Afternoon Nancy and kb.

Kudos to writing workshops, fantasy camps, adult ed, outward bound, elderhostels and all those other avenues which let people get a grip on what they thought was unreachable.

Nancy P said...

Hi, katiebird and andif.

katiebird, good luck with your photo exhibit installation today.

andif, that's a wonderful way of saying that. . ."which let people get a grip on what they thought was unreachable." I really love that way of expressing it, both the "grip" and the "thought was unresachable" parts. Thanks for that.

olivia said...

Agree ... Andi, I like that a lot.

Afternoon all.

Rick Bylina said...

Two-time WRW attendee here. It's a great workshop. The people are the best. And the focus is on your work, so you get some real work done.

-rick bylina
2006 WRW Gary Provost Scholarship winner

Nancy P said...

Goodmorning, Olivia, Queen of Pink!

And Good Monday to you, too, Rick. I notice you are a WRW scholarship winner. That's such a good sign of potential. They pick carefully. I hope it helps you make the transition into publishing.

Nancy P said...

And Olivia? I wrote that BEFORE I saw your new post today, lol.

You guys have GOT to click on the link for Olivia's photo blog today. It's on my blogroll.

Kimberly Frost said...

I love the workshop. It's a bit of a boot camp for writers, an immersion course in craft the first year. Just as importantly though, it's amazing to be surrounded by other writers and industry professionals.

At my first ever workshop, Nancy gave the opening night keynote speech, which was funny and inspiring. She shared how she can sometimes lose her way in the middle of a book, and I thought...Okay, so that's normal then. Maybe I can just do as Nancy does and keep going and I'll figure things out in the end.

Nancy, I know I've told you before via e-mail, but that first speech remains one of my favorite ever that I've heard at a conference. And though WRW 2002 was my first writing conference ever, I've been to lots of places since.

Nancy P said...

Thank you, Kimberly. That's a really nice thing to hear!

Conda said...

Hi Nancy,

Excellent post--and quite thought provoking. It made me yearn to head to the WRW.

I had the great honor of attending (too many years ago) the first WRW with Gary Provost. He is much missed--what a superb teacher he was. (I didn't place that novel, and for good reason, but became professionally published with short stories when I applied his teachings.)

From all that I've heard, WRW has continued and expanded in his superb tradition and excellent standards.

Oh, I wanna go again!

Nancy P said...

Go, Conda, go!! lol!

You were at the first one? Wow. Nice memory to have! I wish I'd known Gary Provost. He must have been a wonderful writing teacher, and he and Gayle certainly started something terrific.

My first novel didn't get published either, thank god. :)

AndiF said...

Well what do you know -- here it is only Monday and I've already made my quota on worthwhile blog contributions. Now, I can just cruise along making my normal witless remarks. :D

(thanks Nancy and olivia)

Nancy P said...

Not so fast, there, Missy andif!

Where's our Monday photo, hm?

I don't actually know if you've given us one every Monday, but you *should* have, so. . .there.

Anonymous said...

Howdy from Winchester, VA, where it's 64 and POURING outside. I have the heat on in my hotel room - sorry, those of you still sweltering in the heat wave.

Adding my two cents' re WRW. I'm an alum from WRW 2007, and will definitely return. The best part was being surrounded by people who "get it" - people who speak the same language I do, who understand the need to write, write, write. They are funny, caring, intelligent, creative, supportive people. For ten days you're in a cocoon. I learned so much - the staff are generous with their time and talents, the classes interesting and SO informative. If you can, go.

Hopefully I'll get to attend the next time Nancy's teaching! Conda, I'm so jealous you met Gary - his spirit is wrapped around every moment of the workshop.

More southbound driving tomorrow...waving as I pass!

AndiF said...

Well, I don't think I've been posting pics on any kind of a schedule but I do happen to have a perfect Monday photo.

Nancy P said...

Oh, andif, that is sooo cute. Which of the guys is that?

Nancy P said...

Waving at Beth!

AndiF said...

That's Sniff.

olivia said...

LOL Nancy ... pink is a safe bet it seems ... ;)

Andi, that has got to be the cutest photo of Sniff!