“I’ve always felt that my ‘style’—the careful projection onto paper of who I think I am—was my only marketable asset, the only possession that might set me apart from other writers.” ---William Zinsser

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Word Lovers

Travel Writing and Personal Essays were the focus of November's Word Lover's Retreat at the Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in Lakeside Ohio. Travel Writer Doris Larson and Writer Claudia Taller hosted a relaxing writing retreat near Lake Erie's shores. Doris Larson taught us how to make the places we have experienced come alive in writing and provided insight into the publishing world. We all gave our writing the attention it deserves and pursued better ways of working our words during the weekend of November 6-8, 2009. The retreats are a unique combination of learning, writing, and connecting with others. For more details, write to Claudia at ctallerwrites@wowway.com. A flyer with full details of the next retreat will be sent to you.

Igniting Possibilities

We had a wonderful time Sharing Our Gifts at the Idlewyld this fall. The next Sharing Our Gifts will take place, as it always does, during the third weekend in October 2010. We already have some fun things planned, but it's difficult to top making art journals from old books and watching a belly dancing performance after participants shared their gifts of quilted bags, poetry, and artwork to open the weekend. Our notebooks continue to inspire all year long as we are amazed by how creative our friends can be when they step back from routine life.

The writers who came to Word Lovers in November started new projects or became excited about old ones as we explored how to write meaningful travel stories and personal essays. Writer-in-residence Doris Larson gave us plenty of takeaways. Over the next couple of weeks we will try to outdo each other as we share what we have been writing. We're all working on good beginnings and metaphors that speak to the soul. Word Lovers will meet again April 30-May 1, 2010, and September 17-19, 2010.

Look for announcements for Caring for the Authentic Self in January and Connecting With Nature in May, and a possible weekday retreat at the Idlewyld to ignite possibilities in your life. In the meantime, next into the holiday season with family and friends and get those home fires roasting with warmth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Writing in the Cuyahoga Valley and on Lake Erie's Shore

One of the highlights of my year is spending time in the Cuyahoga Valley with fellow writers in August. Skyline Writers has made Hines Hill Conference Center its home-away-from-home for several years, and my memories include dappled sun through tall trees, walks along the Tow Path, deer grazing on the lawn, and trading ideas with other writers at the picnic tables outside the weathered estate. This year I'm looking forward to hearing what the speakers have to say. The workshops include Thomas Sigert on book proposals, Kristin Ohlson on memoir, Sandra Gurvis on story crafting, Kelly Boyer Sagert on successful freelancing, and Barbara Snow on motivation.

Now that the Word Lover's Retreats are underway, I also look forward with great pleasure to spending time in Lakeside. Travel writer Doris Larson will be joining me and other writers for a weekend of writing immersion with focus on travel writing and personal essays. Prolific travel writer Doris Larson reports that her recent publications include a July 5 PLAIN DEALER article on Andrew Wyeth--CHADDS FORD HOLDS A WEALTH OF WYETHS; THE WINE BUZZ July/August 2009 article on Spain's Basque Wine Country--TRIPPING THROUGH BASQUE WINE COUNTRY; and LAKE ERIE LIVING, April/May article on butterfly houses--SPREADING THEIR WINGS. I'd like to know how she does it. I'll spend time on the rockers of the Idlewyld and on the streets of Lakeside talking with word lovers about writing, and life--it's the best.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Anne Lamott takes it Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird is one of the most admired books about writing. We will watch a film about Anne at the Word Lover’s Retreat this coming weekend. Anne’s message is that we should become one with the writing and write what needs to be written. She says, “The good news is that some days it feels like you just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.” Letting the characters do what they need to do and writing it truly are recurrent themes. “It is a little like when you have something difficult to discuss with someone, and as you go to do it, you hope and pray that the right words will come if only you show up and make a stab at it . . . Think of a fine painter attempting to capture an inner vision, beginning with one corner of the canvas, painting what he thinks should be there, not quite pulling it off, covering it over with white paint, and trying again, each time finding out what his painting isn’t, until finally he finds out what it is.” We are not the creator of the story, we’re just the conduits. The Truth wants to be expressed. Choose your words so someone else will read it and think they never thought of it that way before, but what is said is the truth they didn’t know they were missing. We find the truth, in our own plodding way, bird by bird.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I was mesmerized by the lyrical prose of Francine Prose’s Goldengrove. The literary fiction was well read and the story was movingly told. As the jacket says, “Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister’s enigmatic boyfriend.” It was a coming-of-age book that was poignant and interesting and full of discoveries. The author took her time in creating a beautiful book and complicated story line without overdone plot. Radiant metaphors infuse every other sentence with summer promise and sexual tension, an appealing quality. Francine Prose is the author of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel and the nonfiction Reading Like A Writer. She’s also president of PEN American Center. Her fiction and Reading Like a Writer will guide our study of literary techniques at the May Word Lover’s retreat.

Thursday, March 5, 2009



FRIDAY - Arrive any time after Noon, Lakeside Walk Tour, Make Your Own Pizzas with Salad Bar, Word Play with Literary Techniques

SATURDAY - The Work of Francine Prose and Literary Masters, Lunch (Sandwiches, Veggie Tray, and Fruit), Manuscript Makeover Techniques, Rewriting Together, Dinner at Local Restaurant, Film Clips and Discussion

SUNDAY - Breakfast and Critique Session

Caring for the Authentic Self Re-cap

22 of us gathered at North Olmsted United Methodist Church at the end of January to care for ourselves through creative exercises, discussion, journaling, memoir writing, and yoga. We looked to The Artist’s Way for our spiritual path to creativity. Julia Cameron stresses that creativity is a gift of God and we are the instrument to express what is inside us and our connection to God. Our lives become our work of art. For me, The Artist’s Way showed me I could let go of fear and be open to the possibilities for my life. “No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”

Memoir is an extension of one of Cameron’s basic tenets, the Morning Pages, and it’s important for understanding of self and one’s value to the universe. It helps the writer find his or her place in the world and what needs to be accomplished. Everyone has a story to tell and every story is worth telling.

The word “yoga” means union of body, mind, and spirit with the universal spirit. Yoga de-stresses and opens, allows the body and mind to be more flexible and youthful. Read from Yoga book introduction. What’s inside us is the little bit of God that’s in all of us, our spiritual selves. Yoga is deep breathing, asanas or postures, relaxation, and meditation, for the mind, body and spirit. Yoga requires that we eat pure natural food in the religious tradition that body is a temple to be taken care of.

For me, expression of self through creative arts or writing and yoga practice are meditations or prayers. Live becomes a prayer because it’s God-connected. We spent a day in prayer as we cared for the authentic self.

A Winding Road - Writing

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My book, "Ohio's Lake Erie Wineries," an Arcadia production, explores the history of island and lakeshore wineries from the mid-1800s through today. I write travel, memoir, profiles, book reviews, local interest articles, and fiction. My writing is always of discovery--whether it's journaling, book reviewing, letter writing, or sharing an experience of life. I have written two novels and am working on a third novel and a memoir. I am passionate about sharing what life has to offer with others. "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron woke me up to a sense of possibility--life is too short not be enjoyed by living deeply and well. I created Igniting Possibilities, a conduit for creativity workshops and events, in the hope of guiding others to realize their full potential. The Word Lover's Retreats at Lakeside, Ohio's Chautauqua community, help writers find their voice and direction.