Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Retreat Notes

The Lodge... the Lake... the Laughter!
The inaugural Write2TheEnd Writer's Retreat is over. What a wonderful weekend, shared with truly amazing writers!

Ami and Kim were thrilled to have Yi Shun Lai and Shawna Ayoub-Ainslie join us as facilitators. Retreat participants basked in the glow of so much solid, actionable information.

I know of at least three people who came with creative blocks who had those blocks lifted. (I was one of them!)

A huge thank-you to the staff (especially the cooks) at Camp Cedar Lodge for outdoing themselves in making our Retreat a success. We had a wide range of dietary needs -- from vegan and vegetarian to gluten free to ketogenic -- and the food was wonderful!

A special shout-out of thanks to our participants. You came from all over the Midwest, from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. You threw yourself into the camping experience. Even when it got cold (Because, Michigan. In May.), you never complained. Not once. About anything. Rather, you rallied. You adapted. And you wrote your way through.

Shawna, in one of our opening night exercises, had everyone write a letter to themselves from two days later. In the letter, we were to identify what we accomplished, what we hoped to achieve, and what breakthroughs we experienced throughout the retreat. And it worked! For many participants, those letters were practically prescient, in the best of all possible ways.

Some participants flew the Flag of Solitude and sequestered themselves to write their hearts out. Others took advantage of our excellent faculty and attended every single workshop offered, soaking in all the information they could.

Our esteemed faculty was made of awesome. They made themselves readily available to everyone, answering questions and offering feedback for hours. We can't thank you enough for your dedication and encouragement.

(Side note: extra w00ts to writer and editor YiShun Lai who discovered shortly after the Retreat that her novel Not a Self-Help Book: the Misadventures of Marty Wu is a semi-finalist for the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor. CONGRATULATIONS ALL OVER THE PLACE!!)

Actually: "YAAAAAAAYYYYY!!" is a rather apt illustration of how I felt about the Retreat. From movie night to a rather rainy campfire, from literally writing in the dark to experiencing a monumental breakthrough, I am overjoyed and honored to have had a part in the first Write2TheEnd Writer's Retreat. Here's hoping those who attended find themselves inspired for many months to come.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WriteAway Spring Writer’s Retreat: Events Schedule

Friday, May 19

Afternoon (3:00 and on...): Arrival and check-in


5:30     Welcome (wombat not included)

            Participant Introductions

            Faculty Introductions


6:30     The Art of Story Structure (Hands-on “art” projects) – Ami (30 min)

7:00     One Page “Attunement”: Goal setting and self-definition (we are writers!) through epistolary practice.– Shawna (30 min)

7:30     Tripping the Light Ekphrastic: Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of ekphrastic writing. – Yi Shun (30 min)
There will be s'mores... Oh yes. There will be s'mores...

8:00     Open Mic / Wine and Snacks / Mingling (Campfire, weather permitting)

9:30     Night Writer: Step into the dark recesses of your mind for this dream-narrative night-writing mini session with guided body meditation. -- Shawna (30 min)

Saturday, May 20

8:30     Breakfast

9:00     Private Consults

9:15     Private Consults

9:30     Session I: Mining Life and Other Taboo Practices / Shawna (1.5 hours) “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better,” says Anne Lamott. Life informs art, but where do we take inspiration, and where do we draw the line? Practice diving deeper into true narratives whether for use in fiction or nonfiction. (1.5 hours)

11:00   Session II: “Help! I’m in a Fug!” What to Do When You Get Stuck (Characters, plot, and everything else) / Yi Shun (1.5 hours)  From characters to plot lines, sometimes writers get stuck. It's not a writer's block, it's a temporary waystation. Learn ways to get out of the fug, and how to quickly move on from your hiccup.

12:30   Lunch

1:00     Private Consults

1:15     Private Consults

1:30     Session III: Finding Your Voice / Shawna (1.5 hours) Whether writing to a genre or from a character’s perspective, finding the right voice can make or break your piece. Experiment with different points of view and narrative techniques using expressive writing practices in order to find the “just right” voice for any writing project.

3:00     Session IV: Revision from the Editor's Desk / Yi Shun (1.5 hours)  Ever wonder what happens over there in Mordor--I mean, editor-land? In this session, you'll learn what editors look for: What makes our ears go up; what makes our ears lie flat in apprehension; what makes us salivate and what makes us pant in anticipation. (Maybe it's not Mordor, but it can be a zoo.)

4:30     Session V: Five Easy Filters / Ami (1.5 hours) A layered approach to building multi-faceted, memorable characters with distinctive voices. Bring a scene from your work in progress and engage in a variety of exercises to help you lose your voice... so your characters can find theirs.

6:00     Dinner

7:00     Open Mic / Snacks / Mingling

9:30     Pajama Party / Movie Night Featuring one of Ami’s favorite writing-related movies; a little-known comedy that tackles such things as an artist’s responsibility, writer-as-provocateur, and what constitutes taking things too far. Hopefully, useful discussion will ensue. If not, at least there will be popcorn...

Sunday, May 21

10:00   Brunch

            Wrap-up / Final remarks

Checkout by Noon

Note from Ami and Kim: (Events and topics are subject to change. Just sayin'...)

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Retreat Starts... NOW!

It’s hard to believe that the WriteAway Spring Writing Retreat at Camp Cedar Lodge is less than two weeks away!

Kim and Ami are looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and to meeting new ones. We can't wait to welcome you to the Retreat and pledge to do everything in our power to help you climb whatever writing mountains loom before you.

The Retreat Starts Now

We are blessed to have such wonderful faculty join us on this adventure and we want to make sure you make the most of your time with them.

In signing up for the Retreat, you have taken a bold step toward making your writing a priority. (Haven't signed up yet? There are still a few spots open. Just click the Buy Now button and join us!) But there is no need to wait to get started. Here are two ways you can start your Retreat today:

1.) Get to Know the Facilitators

We’ve got some amazing writers and editors coming to work with you. In addition to scheduled workshops**, we’ve set aside time for each participant to have one-on-one sessions with both Yi Shun and Shawna. These women have vast, varied writing and publishing experience which they are happy to put at your disposal.

Don’t be like me, who once famously went to a retreat and then spent most of the first day holed up in my room, reading up on the facilitators. ::doh!::

Familiarize yourself with some of Yi Shun’s and Shawna’s published works. Browse the magazines they edit. Look for strengths they have that can help improve some of your weaknesses. Then, over the next few days, make a list of questions you have for each of the facilitators. [It should go without saying that if you have any questions for me or for Kim, write those puppies down as well. We’re all here for you!]

This way, you’ll be better prepared to ask questions that can help you. However, feel free to ask Yi Shun if she brought her wombat costume...

2.) What’s Your Line?

Choose one paragraph from your project -- the opening is a good choice; so is the last paragraph, right before the muse abandoned work for the day and flew off to play. Send it to Ami at the Write2TheEnd email address she used when she sent your Welcome under the Subject: "What’s My Line." We’ll use it as a Retreat ice-breaker.

You’ll see...

What to Pack / What to Wear

At this moment, the extended forecast for May 19 – 21 shows a high possibility of scattered thunderstorms, with temps around 70 during the day & mid 50’s at night. But it’s Michigan. So that could might will probably change.

Michigan’s capricious weather notwithstanding, here’s a short list of suggested items to pack:
  • Bedding (See the previous blog post for sleeping-specific packing considerations.)
  • Towel & washcloth
  • Toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss,  etc.)
  • Flip-flops or shower shoes
  • Clothes for 2 nights & 3 days (The Michigan mantra: hope for warm weather; plan for cold)
  • Pajamas (There will be a Pajama Party / Movie night on Saturday. Plus, you know, PJs for sleeping)
  • Sense of adventure
  • Sunscreen (we hope & pray you’ll need it)
  • Umbrella (we hope & pray you won’t need it)
  • Flashlight
  • Favorite writing utensils (pens or pencils & paper / computer / notepad / tablet...)
Looking forward to seeing you all!

**  Workshops are optional. Always optional – if all you want to do is be left alone to write, with occasional breaks to eat, we’re cool with that. S’Ok.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...

With just a month to go until the WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat at Camp Cedar Lodge, Kim and Ami are giddy with anticipation. We can't wait to share a rustic weekend with you.

The lake! The woods! The clean air!  The camaraderie of other writers! Can't you just *smell* the creativity?

~inhales.... Aaaaaahhhhhhh~

We have discovered that one question -- more than any other -- is on the minds of people planning to attend.

It's not "Tell me more about the faculty and facilitators." Nope. Shawna Ayoub Ainslie and Yi Shun Lai have solid creds that speak volumes.

It's not "What's the closest airport?" [The answer is Kalamazoo, MI. But Grand Rapids, South Bend, Detroit, and Chicago are all easy drives, too.]

"I never want to hear the phrase 'business casual' again."
It's not even "What should I wear?" Because everyone knows that "women only" and "rustic" translates as "Wear comfy clothes; no makeup or heels necessary." Whew!

Hands down, the biggest question on everyone's mind is a variation on "where will I be sleeping?"

We've discovered that "cabins" and "camping" mean very different things to people. Huh. Who knew?

So -- to those who wondered if you needed to bring your own rollmat and mosquito netting...AND to those who asked if there was electricity in the cabins or a concierge, the answer is the same: no.

The beds all have sturdy hardwood frames with standard twin size mattresses. During summer camp they are set up as bunks, but unless you really, really want to check top-bunk-sleeping off your bucket list, there is no need for anyone to do any climbing.

Tall, four-tiered, wooden shelves stand in the cabin like trees in a forest, providing handy storage for important items like writing utensils, flashlights, and a deck of Exploding Kittens.

Bring your own bedding. And your own towels, washcloths, and toiletries. The concierge is you.

To help you visualize, we went to Camp Cedar Lake and made up two "demo beds":

Exhibit A: The Intrepid Explorer

This is the set-up for people who care more for function than form (koff - Ami - koff).

These hardy souls really couldn't give two rips about whether or not things color coordinate, as long as they do the job.

Essential Items
  • Sleeping bag
  • Blanket
  • Pillow
  • Hanging flashlight
  • Large plooshy stuffed animal (optional)

Exhibit B: The Cozy Camper

Some people have an eye for beauty, elegance, and design. Instead of "gray," "blue," or "orange," they name colors things like "chickadee," "kingfisher," and "oriole."

Like Monty Python's infamous Knights of Ni, when they ask for a shrubbery, they want "one that looks nice." (Kim: these are your people!)

Though such aesthetes lean more toward spas than cabins when they go on vacation, they are no shrinking violets! They boldly bring civilization into the wilderness with them. 

Essential Items
  • Top and bottom twin sheets with matching pillowcase
  • Sleeping pillow
  • Decorative accent pillows
  • Down-filled duvet
  • Handcrafted vintage quilt
  • Retro flashlight
  • Fresh flowers (not optional)
Regardless of how you decorate, the #Write2TheEnd WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat is a weekend to tap into your creativity in fresh, new ways. Meet other great writers. Add some tools to your Writer's Toolbox. Produce some serious wordcount. Soak up buckets of advice and ideas from our faculty. Spread those wings and fly...

There is still time to register: just click the "Buy Now" button and sign up via PayPal. Better yet -- save over 10% if register before April 20. We won't make your bed, but we'll do everything in our power to help make this the Writer's Retreat of your dreams!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Announcing the #W2TE WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat!

For several years, Kim and Ami have talked about putting together a writer's retreat.

Our retreat would be in a place that encouraged creativity. A place that inspired. A place off the beaten track, full of natural beauty: hills... trees... maybe a lake...

We would eat meals together, share a few drinks, hash out ideas and projects.

We would bring in expert writers and facilitators with diverse skill sets who were both accessible and willing to share their knowledge.

Our retreat would offer workshops to benefit all levels of writers, from beginners to pros, helping participants hone skills and put new tools in their Writer's Toolbox.

Our retreat would also offer the Gift of Solitude: providing blissfully uninterrupted writing time from Friday evening through late Sunday morning for those inclined to become ornamental hermits.

Ami insisted there must be readily available coffee -- lots of it. And dogs. And access to the sort of inspiration only horses can provide.

Kim championed the importance of making the most of local wines. And social networking with other women writers. But mostly wine.

Finally, we realized:

The time for talking is over. 

With great excitement, we announce the #Write2TheEnd WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat.

Aerial view of Camp Cedar Lodge in autumn.
From Friday afternoon on May 19 through Sunday morning, May 21, we invite you to join us at beautiful, rustic, Camp Cedar Lodge in Lawrence, Michigan.

That weekend, we will do everything in our power to help you indulge and nurture your Inner Writer.

Our fabulous faculty includes:

Yi Shun Lai
Novelist, non-fiction editor, writing coach, and essayist Yi Shun Lai.

Yi Shun holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. She is the non-fiction editor of the Tahoma Literary Review, the former fiction editor of the Los Angeles Review and has worked for a variety of publications including The Atlantic, Audubon, AARP the Magazine, and many more. 

Her debut novel, NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK: THE MISADVENTURES OF MARTY WU, published in 2016, is in its fourth printing and is taught in classes ranging from Critical Thinking to American Literature. 

Yi Shun is a consultant in external communications with experience in journalism, social media and business strategy, copywriting, and line and developmental editing. She lives in the greater Los Angeles area.

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

Essayist, writing coach, consultant, survivor, and poet Shawna Ayoub Ainslie.

Shawna holds an MFA from Indiana University. Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Art Saves Lives International, and others. She is the former editor-in-chief of Open Thought Vortex Magazine.

Shawna's work addresses themes of race, place, abuse, mental health, family, and faith. She founded the Writing Through Trauma series to help survivors of trauma shed their fears and heal. She resides in Bloomington, Indiana.

Of course, Ami and Kim will be there too!

The #Write2TheEnd WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat is open to only twenty participants. For our inaugural session, it is open to women only. Ladies -- whatever your writing goals, we invite you to come and join us! Just click the "Buy Now" button at the upper right. Save $50 if you register before April 20, 2017!

For more information, check out our WriteAway Spring Writer's Retreat page.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Join Novelist Yi Shun Lai & #Write2TheEnd for a Self-Help Book Swap!

Yi Shun Lai
YOU ARE INVITED to a SELF-HELP BOOK SWAP at the #Write2TheEnd offices at 420 Main Street in St. Joseph from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 14.

#Write2TheEnd is honored to welcome writer and editor Yi Shun Lai to southwest Michigan.

Lai is the non-fiction editor of the highly regarded Tahoma Literary Review. She was, for a time, the youngest-ever writer for the legendary J. Peterman catalog. And that was before "Seinfeld" discovered it. Her most recent work is NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK: THE MISADVENTURES OF MARTY WU (2016, Shade Mountain Press), a humorous epistolary novel.

At the Book Swap, Lai will conduct a workshop on keeping an active journal and will discuss her writing process. She will have a limited number of copies of NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK on hand, available for signing and purchase. Light refreshments will be served.

“We have all been tempted by the Self-Help section of the local bookstore,” says Lai.
“And we've probably also all acquired some gems and some duds. Did you get something out of your book and want to pass it on now? Or was it just not for you? Bring it to the Book Swap!"

Prior to the Self-Help Book Swap, On Wednesday, July 13, Lai will be featured in a booksigning and writer’s Q & A session at the Webster Memorial Library, part of the Van Buren District Library, 200 N. Phelps Street, Decatur, from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

She will be a Special Guest at the Webster Memorial Library’s Writing Workshop with Ami Hendrickson the evening of July 13 from 6 to 7:30.

Lai will also appear at Women and Children First in Chicago, IL, on Friday, July 15.

NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK details the life of Marty Wu, a compulsive reader of advice manuals who would love to come across as a poised young advertising professional. Instead, she trips over her own feet and blurts out inappropriate comments. The bulk of her brain matter, she decides, consists of gerbils "spinning madly in alternating directions.”

Marty hopes to someday open a boutique costume shop, but it's hard to keep focused on her dream. First comes a spectacular career meltdown that sends her ricocheting between the stress of New York and the warmth of supportive relatives in Taiwan. Then she faces one domestic drama after another, with a formidable mother who's impossible to please, an annoyingly successful and well- adjusted brother, and surprising family secrets that pop up precisely when she doesn't want to deal with them.

Mining the comedic potential of the 1.5-generation American experience, NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK is an insightful and witty portrait of a young woman scrambling to balance familial expectations and her own creative dreams. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family raves: "A breezy and charming tale ... Anyone who's grown up immersed in a profoundly rich old-world culture and feels its constant pull will commiserate—and be entertained."

All of Lai’s southwest Michigan appearances are free and open to the public.

#Write2TheEnd is an eight-week intensive writing workshop in St. Joseph facilitated by Ami Hendrickson and Kim Jorgensen Gane. #Write2TheEnd participants have succeeded in finishing novels, poetry chapbooks, non-fiction books, and more. #Write2TheEnd also conducts occasional short workshops. In addition to Lai, noteworthy authors #Write2TheEnd has hosted include Patty Chang Anker (Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave. Riverhead; Penguin) and Ava Chin (Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal. Simon & Schuster).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Write2TheEnd On Your Summer Vacation

It's summer! Time to enjoy the sun, the surf, the sand -- the creative process!

Kick back, relax, and WRITE!
 At #Write2TheEnd, we look forward to working with those intrepid souls who want to make this summer both productive and enjoyable. If that's you, you belong at our first #Write2TheEnd meeting of the summer session tonight.

At tonight's kick-off meeting, each participant determines his or her personal, challenging, and above all achievable writing goal for a specific project this summer. Then, over the course of the next eight weeks, your #W2TE facilitators promise to do everything in our power to help you achieve that goal.

You might only have the seed of an idea you wish to outline, set a word count, and begin writing. You might have a collection of diaries you wish to turn into a book. You might wish to write and compile parts of an existing poetry collection into a chapbook. You might have a completed first draft and you may be determined to complete the editing process this summer. Whatever your goal, we want to help you meet it.

What's special about #Write2TheEnd?

In a word, INCENTIVE!

At the end of the 8 week session, #Write2TheEnd pays you back $100 of your registration fee if you meet the challenging yet achievable goal YOU set for yourself on night one! (That's tonight!) 

(FYI: We LOVE giving writers money. Seriously.) 

We'll provide the map: You take the trip!
Tonight (Monday, July 6, 6:30-8:30 PM) we'll help each participant determine an appropriate goal to pursue. And we will spend the entire summer (Mondays, 6:30-8:30 PM, through August 31st) supporting you and providing tools that make it possible for you to achieve that goal!

More than anything in the world, we WANT you to succeed! And we do everything in our power to help you make it happen for yourself this summer. It is possible! You CAN achieve your goal! We'll teach you how. 

The #Write2TheEnd welcomes our alumni from past workshops back for more! You know what you're getting into, and we're grateful for your continued faith in our process.

For those who aren't sure, we offer a one week guarantee. If, before our next meeting (Monday, July 13th), you decide #Write2TheEnd isn't for you, for whatever reason, we will return your registration fee, no questions asked.

You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.