Subsequent days at the Lost Coast Writers Retreat (see my previous posts) blended seamlessly one to another for a five-day-long span of time. Presenters each day had unique approaches to their craft and gave us plenty to think about. It was up to us to make the tools our own if we wished. My intention was to write as much as possible and listen to suggestions and feedback about my work; I don't currently have a writing group, so that was a new dimension in writing for me and very eye opening.
Jim, one of the staff members spent a great deal of time in conversation with me and others and gave objective responses to material I'd written. I felt my confidence wax and wane, but it was all due to pressure I was putting on myself. Staff members kept a neutral hands-off approach unless asked to give feedback and coaching. That's not to say they were not warm and kind-hearted. Calm generosity of spirit as well as respect allowed everyone to be at ease.
Daryl Ngee Chinn, poet and teacher, read his work and the work of other poets and then gave prompts for us to use as a starting point for our work, but he did set short time limits on writing. At first, this seemed to be intimidating, but it proved to be exactly what I needed to produce quick-response imagery and emotion. Later, we literally made books with Daryl and Linda (the angel in disguise), who belongs to a bookmaker's guild in her area.
Jeff DeMark, storyteller and comic, presented a work-in-progress as well as his thinking process as he created a new routine; we gave feedback to him as he worked out loud. Odd, but I had never considered comedians and storytelling actors to be writers first, but it's now obvious to me.
Jessica Barksdale Inclan, novelist and teacher, spoke about setting scenes in story and was able to zero right in on what was going on - or not - in our work. Her high energy and vivid use of imagination was very stimulating. She gave us one-to-one time for half-hour workshops in the afternoon.
Noelle Oxenhandler, memoir writer and teacher, talked about finding a unique situation or picture and using it to prompt new thinking about things we had perhaps passed over before. Her contention is that you don't need to have dramatic sweeping sagas to tell an intriguing tale. She, too, was very perceptive in her feedback and allowed us plenty of time, had lots of patience. Her unique prompt is this: Find a photograph and ask: What's in the picture? What isn't in the picture that has happened "off camera?" What question do you have to ask yourself because of this?
Finally, we said good-bye and parted company. I had slipped so easily into the routine of the camp that I really could have continued for a whole month. It was good to have a community, a colony if you will, of creative, thinking people around me who had every intention to write, converse and play without contentiousness. I grew up without much TV or commercialism around me, so it was like going home again in the best possible way. I came away feeling more self-directed, more engaged in the creative world of writing and definitely filled with plenty of new ideas.
Sadly, this workshop retreat is threatened with extinction due to lack of funding, but I believe that if word gets out to enough people who will then support the Redwood Writing Project, it will thrive. It's too valuable a treasure to let fall by the wayside. The core staff is highly dedicated to seeing it continue. I look forward personally to returning and encourage anyone who has any writing aspirations whatsoever to attend. If for no other reason than to escape to a lovely nowhere for a week, you will never regret it.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way