Writers Retreat, September 27-30, 2012

This retreat will provide a safe and intimate environment for serious dialogue about the craft of writing and the writing life. The daily schedule will emphasize seminars and plenary sessions with ample opportunity for conversation, recreation, and writing.

Guests are expected to attend one of the seminars listed below. Upon registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to enroll for the seminars. Due to limited space, seminars will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. We will do our level best to provide your first choice.

Jeffrey Overstreet (Author/Editor; Washington)
John Medina (Author/Professor; Washington)
Julia Kasdorf (Poet/Professor; Pennsylvania)
John Wilson (Author/Editor; Illinois)
Lauren Winner (Author/Professor; North Carolina)
Ashley Cleveland & Kenny Greenberg (Recording Artists; Tennessee)

Plenary Talks
What makes writing memorable? Can recent advances in brain science weigh in on the question? Quite possibly. Most of the cognitive gadgets predicting whether something being perceived will also be remembered are recruited in the first few seconds of learning. These gadgets allow the brain to interrogate newly received information with six very specific questions. Based on the answers it gets, the organ then selects what information will be further processed – and what will be ignored. This lecture describes those six questions, specifically in the light of narrative information. It identifies what brains find boring, what brains find interesting, and what writers can do about turning one into the other.

Lies that Tell the Truth; Julia Kasdorf
“Art is the lie that tells the truth,” said Pablo Picasso, thinking perhaps of cubist abstractions. But when it comes to writing poems, at one time or another, every author has felt pinched between memory, imagination, fact, and an urgent need to speak emotional truths. In this workshop, writers will be encouraged to create new drafts every day in addition to sharing pieces they may have brought from home. We will read examples of contemporary poetry that speaks truthfully from personal experience or bears witness to public events. Please bring a sample of a truthful piece of writing (your own or someone else’s) to share on the first day.

Gradual Bedazzlement: The Art of “Telling It Slant” in Fiction; Jeff Overstreet
We will focus on ways in which fiction can capture the reader─and the writer─with surprise, mystery, music, the power of obstacles, and the art of elimination. If writers have projects they would like to discuss in class or individually, they should send samples (750 to 2,000 words) to Jeff to review by September 15. Please send submissions for Jeff via gate@laitylodge.org.

Wild Reading; John Wilson
An invitation to step out of normal patterns, to read in conjunction a number of different things that you might not be likely to pick up—and that you certainly wouldn’t think of reading more or less at the same time. No pre-retreat assignments.

The Art of the Sentence; Lauren Winner
Although most of us haven’t thought about what constitutes a sentence since middle school, the sentence is the building block of prose. In this seminar, we will consider what makes a sentence work and what kills a sentence.  We will look at first sentences and last sentences, long sentences and short sentences, declarative sentences and interrogative sentences. We will even look at punctuation–why might you want to make a sentence with a semicolon, or an em-dash? Please bring with you an essay or chapter of prose that you love (the work of someone else); you will be marking up the essay or chapter in question, so bring a copy you will be happy to annotate.

Songwriting; Ashley Cleveland and Kenny Greenberg


Registration fee: $495 (standard) | $570 (standard, private)
Plan to arrive at Laity Lodge anytime after 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 27. The retreat will conclude Sunday, September 30, at 11:00 a.m., followed by brunch. Click here for directions and more info on how to prepare for your visit.