If it weren’t for writing assignments, my house would never get clean.
If that sounds remotely familiar, you know the inexorable agony of pencils and the blank page, the pain of being caught between writer’s block and a hard place, the relentless hum of solitude and the hard work of sitting in one place for a long time, typing.
You know what you need? Some giddy-up! Inspiration! Maybe at the very least a new view upon which to cast your gaze as you try to come up with the next sentence.
Your hardworking, hard-writing self probably also needs a vacation. Here’s where and how to kill two birds with one stone. Yes, that’s a cliché. We would never write such a thing after one of these trips:
Sirenland Writers Conference
Submit 7,000 of your best words and a “statement of purpose” (what you want to get out of the exercise) before November 6th for a shot at being accepted to a week of luxury and learning on the edge of the ocean in Positano, Italy. You will be staying at Le Sirenuse, one of the world’s loveliest hotels.
The centrepiece of each day at the Sireland Writers Conference will be a two-hour workshop, held mid-morning. Each of these workshops will be mixed-genre, fiction and memoir, and taught by Dani Shapiro, Richard Russo or Jim Shepard.
You will be among other aspirants and experts, among whom you will workshop, talk, learn and perfect your efforts. Plus, you will eat and drink like a god.
Write your way to the Banff Centre
Banff is one of those glorious places where you can say “awesome” and it won’t be a throw-away. It’s a stunning locale and the Banff Centre is nestled in the craggy mountainous heart of it — in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The spectacular beauty of the Canadian Rockies surrounds the extensive campus spread over 43 acres of land on the west side of Tunnel Mountain and just a few blocks from downtown Banff.
There are courses and residencies for all kinds of creative endeavor, including writing, as well as courses on things like memoir and crime writing, taught by writing profs and guest lecturers who are more than likely bestselling authors in their daily lives.
The atmosphere is bracing and surely therapeutic, and if you can’t be inspired by the view, well, you might be dead.
Under the Volcano
Maybe you are living somewhere where the idea of being in Mexico in January holds a special appeal. Don’t let the volcano scare you – the area around Tepoztlán, Mexico is lovely and a great place to spend a week or so honing your craft.
Established in 2003, Under the Volcano is a ten-day program of writing master classes that convenes every January. Intended for committed writers with projects underway, the program is open to poets, short story writers, novelists, journalists, librettists, memoirists and essayists, as well as those working on projects that challenge traditional genre lines. There are fiction workshops in both English and Spanish, and journalism and memoir master classes are open to Spanish-language writers, provided applicants are fully able to read and critique work in English.
Nature writing in Oz
The annual nature writing retreat at Shallow Crossing will run again in October 2017 (dates TBC).
You will be ‘glamping’ at The Escape, on the Clyde River, on the south coast of New South Wales. It’s a beautiful setting, in a high clearing overlooking the crossing, amid a forest of spotted gums and cycads. Sleep to the sound of the river and wake to mist over the water, and grazing kangaroos. The accommodation is close to nature and yet glamorous, and… the food to die for.
It’s a week-long immersion in nature and place – whether you’re dreaming of being the next Annie Dillard or Barry Lopez, wanting to write the waves like Winton, or perhaps just sharpen your activist pencil to save your local environment. You’ll unplug and unwind for the week, learn more about your craft, how to develop your work in progress – and how to tap deeper into your creativity.
Ossabow Island Writers Retreat
For more than 50 years, creative folks have traveled to this island outside of Savannah to seek inspiration. Located just twenty minutes from downtown Savannah, GA., the retreat offers lectures, readings, workshops, and manuscript consultations.
The unspoiled beauty of Ossabaw Island has attracted writers, artists, and musicians to live on the island for short periods of reflection, research, and creativity. Writers including Ralph Ellison, Annie Dillard, Olive Ann Burns, Margaret Atwood, T.C. Boyle, Rosemary Daniell and Alice Walkerare among those who have drawn inspiration from the island.
The main retreat – there are weekend jaunts, too – are six days and five nights of writing, workshops and one-on-manuscript consultations with nationally recognized authors. Space is highly limited, so submitting your application early is highly recommended.
Stay home and focus
Here’s how you can watch video and still be writing. Blockbuster bestselling author James Patterson teaches a master class on writing. Not just writing – he promises to teach you how to write a bestseller! If only it were something that can be learned, right? Well maybe it is and you just have to risk a bit of effort and USD$90 to take the online course and find out. One of our favourite lessons is the one that promises to help you stop wasting time: How do you recognize a great idea? How do you figure out if it’s worthy of your effort? James spells out the techniques he uses to generate his ideas and then separate the good ones from the less compelling ones.
Now that sounds like it’s worth at least $90. Time is money after all.