Writers get it done at ‘WIWA’s Lockdown Retreat’ in Coupeville

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The grounds of the Captain Whidbey Inn are the perfect setting for writers to find solitude and inspiration. (Photos courtesy of Lloyd Moore)

The grounds of the Captain Whidbey Inn are the perfect setting for writers to find solitude and inspiration. (Photos courtesy of Lloyd Moore)

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
April 11, 2013

First, write the book!

They’ve already done that hard work at their writing desks. They’ve submitted their manuscripts for scrutiny by writing-world professionals. Now, they’re packing for a weekend of seclusion on Whidbey Island to work some more – this time far away from their usual interruptions and distractions.

Writers and instructors from as near as Washington and Oregon, and as far away as South Carolina and Virginia, will convene April 19 to 21 to immerse themselves in their craft. Such an immersion is available thanks to the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts and Whidbey Island Writers Association’s third annual “Writers’ Lockdown Retreat” at Captain Whidbey Inn on Penn Cove in Coupeville. The theme of this year’s retreat suggests a no-slouching-allowed policy, “First Write the Book! It’s All in the Craft.”

Although the retreat affords writers plenty of uninterrupted time to hunker down and hone their skills in solitude, it also brings writers together to meet and discuss their work. Writers also receive instruction in a group workshop setting, and consult one-on-one with a mentor in an intensive manuscript critique. Well, there goes all that time to slouch.

In fact, “intensive” is a key word for the entire lockdown experience.

“This is not for the faint of heart;” writer William Xander said,  “a trying experience, but one that in the end will hopefully produce friendship, camaraderie, and more writing and content than any of us know what to do with,”  he added. Xander speaks from experience, having attended last year’s Lockdown.

Pat Brunjes, co-chairperson of Whidbey Island Writers Association, said that the greatest benefit of this retreat is the chance for novice writers to consult one-on-one with instructors who have had years of experience in the art and craft of writing, as well as in the practical aspects of publishing. The mentors study their student’s manuscript before arriving at the retreat, Brunjes said. Then mentor and writer meet privately for a critique of the work, which one might guess to be an improved experience in the serene, seaside setting of Penn Cove.  Later, student writers return home to revise their manuscripts and use the knowledge shared with them by the pros to develop and potentially publish their work.

Three teacher/mentors will address all phases of the writing process.  Kelli Russell Agodon is a Northwest poet, writer, editor and essayist.  Andrea Hurst is president of Andrea Hurst Literary Agency and Bill Dietrich is a New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer-winning journalist.

Agodon focuses on poetry here and will cover brainstorming and beginning new work, handling writer’s block and avoiding cliché. She also hopes to inspire students to a deeper level of commitment to the writing life and said that the most important thing she can teach her writing students is to value and protect their time, while living their lives as writers.

The writers will write while soaking in the natural beauty of Penn Cove in Coupeville

The writers will work, while soaking in the natural beauty of Penn Cove in Coupeville.

Hurst will discuss how to create a marketable novel or memoir, and how to reduce the chances of receiving the dreaded rejection letter. She plans to share with the writers a realistic overview of the publishing business, and how their writing goals can be achieved.

Because it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and intimidated by the mysterious book world, Dietrich will offer expert advice on networking and navigating within the publishing industry.

For both the students and the professionals, the Writers’ Lockdown Retreat is all about writers being with other writers.

“Writers have a special connection,” Agodon said.  “I always love putting myself in an environment where I am surrounded by them.  It’s an amazing feeling to be with ‘one’s tribe,’ but that is what I appreciate about experiences like this; meeting new writers and hearing what projects they are working on.”

Throughout the lockdown weekend, participants can retreat to write or to relax in charming rooms at the historic Captain Whidbey Inn, an historic landmark built in 1907 from native trees felled on the property.  Or folks can seek inspiration around the inn’s lawns, gardens and lagoons. In the dining room, writers will gather to compare notes and feast on meals prepared from fresh, local ingredients.

The cost of the retreat ranges from $575 to $780, depending on the type of room chosen. For an additional fee, writers may bring a non-participating guest to share the respite and inspiration provided by the idyllic setting. After the Lockdown Retreat concludes, writers and guests can extend their stay at a reduced rate in order to continue their work or tour the island.

For more information, call Brunjes at 360-341-2910 or visit the WIWA Writers‘Lockdown Retreat website.  For the Captain Whidbey website, click here.

Laura Stangel Schmidt is a mixed-media artist and writer.

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