Sunday, May 31, 2009

Writers Retreat Workshop: A Novelist's Best Bet... and so close!

Once upon a time, Lou lived in New York City for five years (actually, four years then a break and then another year). Do you know how long it took Lou to get to the Empire State Building? She went the last day she lived there during her first four year stint. Do you know how long it took Lou to get to Coney Island? She visited the last week before she left for good. Do you know how long it took Lou to get to the Statue of Liberty? She saw it once, from a distance. Do you know how long it took Lou to get to the Twin Towers (yeah, they were still there)? She never did.

All of this is just to say that sometimes Lou has great stuff in her back yard, and she just... never gets around to it.

Such is the case with the Writers Retreat Workshop. WRW has been a huge part of my life for the past seven years, ever since I first attended in 2002. Many of my bestest friends are folks I met through WRW, and Roommate is the Big Kahuna of the program. And though I've linked to WRW, I've never actually written about it... even though it's right in our back yard.

The Writers Retreat Workshop was founded by Gary Provost in 1987 and has been held in May/June in Erlanger, KY at the Marydale Retreat Center for the past umpteen years. It is a 10-day workshop for novelists who are seriously committed to honing their craft and getting their manuscripts ready for submission. This year, for the first time, WRW is being held twice-- it's going on right now and another session will take place August 22-30.

This is not a workshop for the hobby writer. This is Boot Camp. You will be worn out and ragged after ten days. But as Mellencamp says, it hurts so good. The program maxes out at around 30 writers, so there is tons of individual attention. During your stay, you'll study under published and accomplished writers, you'll have chances to meet with editors and agents, and you'll have a hell of a good time during the little downtime you're able to snag.

Writers who have served as students, instructors, or guest lecturers over the past few years: Nancy Pickard, TJ McGregor, Michael Palmer, Jennifer Cruisie, Jack Getze, Kimberly Frost, Ayelet Waldman, Christine Goff, Janet Chapman, Arthur Golden, Donald Maass, Gregory McDonald...

Back in 2002, I won the program's Robin Hardy Scholarship-- a full scholarship for a new attendee. This year's scholarship winner is another Louisvillager (I wasn't a Louisvillager at the time when I won). Winning that scholarship is easily in the top ten list of best things that's ever happened to me. I've attended three or four WRWs since then-- sometimes just dropping in to take a few classes and visit with friends (I'm lucky enough to be in good with the Big Kahuna. Most people can't do this.) And every time I go, I learn more great stuff and make more great friends.

That scholarship application for August is open until June 5. If you're a novelist and serious about buckling down and becoming the best writer you can be, this is something you should shoot for. And even if you don't win, it's an awesome investment. Once you've been to one WRW, you are part of an incredibly supportive, smart, and dynamic family. I'm so thankful I stumbled upon the program online in 2002. It changed my writing and it changed my life.

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