Unplugged: A Writing Retreat at Clare’s Well

Clare's Well
Clare’s Well 

I just spent four nights at Clare’s Well, a Franciscan Sisters’ Spirituality Farm in Annandale, MN, about sixty miles from the Twin Cities. For the time I was there, I was unplugged, in more ways than one. There was no Internet in my “hermitage,” though there is in the main farmhouse, where the nuns who run the place live. I went to get away from email and Internet, from TV, newspapers, news, music, airplanes passing overhead, traffic, city life, cooking and cleaning, my husband and dog, and most of all my distracted, busy self. I went there to write.

The novel I’m writing is based on the 1947 lynching of a young black man, Willie Earle, in my hometown of Greenville, S.C., by a mob of white taxi cab drivers the night after he was arrested on suspicion of killing another driver. The murder and trial are brilliantly documented in piece by Rebecca West, called “Opera in Greenville,” which appeared in June 14, 1947 issue of The New Yorker.  I’m writing the stories of four fictional characters who were impacted spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically by the incident. I wanted to finish the section I was working on about Alma, a black maid in Greenville who, in my fictional world, had known Willie Earle when he was a child.

My hermitage: St. Francis house
My hermitage: St. Francis House 

Sitting on the floor on a prayer cushion in the “House of Francis,” my one-room cottage, I cried like a baby as I wrote the final pages of Alma’s story. I forgot even that I was writing, and only came to when I realized I was crying. The story unfolding quite apart from my conscious mind was so real and alive to me, and so sad.

I doubt I could have entered into the writing that deeply at home. It took the solitude and freedom from my regular life that Clare’s Well provided. What a gift!

God had a sense of humor when he made me
God had a sense of humor when he made me 

The 40-acre retreat center is run by three Sisters who make such respite possible. People stay in one of three hermitages for spiritual retreats or simply to read, to pray, to renew, to be alone, and to enjoy the beauty of nature and the farm.  It is a beautiful place, so quiet, with only the sounds of nature, and the squawking of the silly Guinea hens, whose appearance reminds one that God has a sense of humor.

Every day, the nuns, Carol, Jan, and Paula, feed the retreatants lunch and dinner. Can you imagine? It’s like having three to five guests for two meals every single day—argggh.  But it was incredible to be fed without having to think up what to have, buy it, fix it, and clean it up.  All domestic responsibilities fell by the wayside for the five days I was there.  I was a bit in shock at all the time that opened up–time to be by myself, to think only of my novel or nothing at all, to wander around farm and fields, get a Trager massage Continue reading “Unplugged: A Writing Retreat at Clare’s Well”

A Writer Learns about Creative Process from Two Artists: Hopper and O’Keeffe

“So much of every art is an expression of the subconscious, that it seems to me most of all the important qualities are put there unconsciously, and little of importance by the conscious intellect. But these are things for the psychologist to untangle.” —Edward Hopper

hopper night office sketch
Hopper study for Office at Night

Whenever I’m trying to write something, it helps to remember that most works go through stages of a creative process.  Even something like this blog post—and I’m not saying I’m penning War and Peace here—follows a somewhat predictable series of steps. I never get what I’m after the first time through, as much as I’d like to. With a long, complex project like a novel, I especially have to keep in mind that I’m going to go through a lot of process. It helps to remember this, and to recognize what stage I’m in. I’ve posted about Louise DeSalvo’s excellent “Stages of the Writing Process,” but many other people have described how a creative work proceeds from the initial impulse through the finished form.

The basic progression goes something like this: A project starts with some intimation, idea, image, hunch, object, experience or desire to bring something into being; it then evolves through a germination period as the writer or artist gets to work, going through drafts, sketches, and approximations in an effort to get closer to whatever the vision is. Perhaps he or she encounters technical problems or simply isn’t satisfied, without knowing what to do or how to “fix” the piece. The person may ask for feedback from others at some point. Often time must pass as the subconscious wrestles with the problem, and the artist simply has to wait. Eventually (God help us) the artist or writer comes to know what the piece wants to do and be, and is able to complete it. I find it helpful to keep this process in mind as I try to create something, be it a blog or a book. Doing so allows me to be more patient and accept that the time it takes to move through various stages is often necessary to bring a creative piece to fruition.

The Walker Art Center’s current exhibit, “Hopper Drawings: A Painter’s Process,” on loan from

Hopper Study for Office at Night
Hopper study for Office at Night

the Whitney Museum of American Art, provided me not only an opportunity to view some of Hopper’s paintings and drawings, but also the opportunity to learn something about his creative process. It’s always interesting and valuable for me to see how the creative process works in another medium. The Hopper exhibit also reinforced the notion that in art the real or concrete is transformed by the artist’s (or writer’s) imagination—and process— into something new and different.  That brought to mind something similar I had read about Georgia O’Keeffe’s creative process, which I’ll tell you about in a moment.

According to the Walker’s exhibit notes, “More than anything else, Hopper’s drawings reveal the continually evolving relationship between observation and invention in the artist’s work . . . The show surveys Hopper’s significant and underappreciated achievements as a draftsman, and pairs many of his greatest oil paintings—including Office at Night (1940), an important piece from the Walker Art Center’s collection—with their preparatory drawings and related works.”  It’s this connection between observation and invention that interests me the most.  As Carter Foster, the curator of the drawings for the Whitney Museum said in an interview, “Hopper had to have real details.  He had to go out and look for it in the world. He was walking the streets of New York constantly, absorbing the world and putting it into his paintings. So the real was very important. But to turn it into something poetic, he had to do something to it.”

Because Office at Night is one of Hopper’s most iconic paintings, I’ll focus on that particular piece here.

According to Gail Levin in Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, diary entries kept by his wife Jo describe a “creative dry spell” that Hopper had in December, 1939 and early January, 1940. At her insistence they attended an exhibition of Italian masters at the Museum of Modern Art, paying particular attention to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. She enthused about the painting, but Hopper dismissed it as “only another pretty girl picture” [!]. Levin comments that perhaps this dismissive characterization betrayed “some deeper stir.” Continue reading “A Writer Learns about Creative Process from Two Artists: Hopper and O’Keeffe”

Examining a Passage from The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch 

I posted earlier on the brilliant, beautiful novel The Goldfinch.  I had to do so in broad swaths, given how dense in character and plot the novel is, just to give you a taste of it. But now I want to go back and drill down on just one passage, to analyze what makes the writing—to me, at least—so marvelous. There are so many paragraphs I could choose, but I was particularly taken with the following description of how Hobie, the furniture restorer who takes in the young, homeless Theo, trains him in the art and craft of fine furniture repair.

As you read the passage, make a mental note of how you respond to it, and what you notice in particular (There will be a test . . .).

Auction houses all over the city called him, as well as private clients; he restored furniture for Sotheby’s, for Christie’s, for Tepper, for Doyle. After school, amidst the drowsy tick of the tall-case clocks, he taught me the pore and luster of different woods, their colors, the ripple and gloss of tiger maple and the frothed grain of burled walnut, their weights in my hand and even their different scents—”sometimes, when you’re not sure what you have, it’s easiest just to take a sniff”—spicy mahogany, dusty-smelling oak, black cherry with its characteristic tang and the flowery, amber-resin smell of rosewood. Saws and counter-sinks, rasps and rifflers, bent blades and spoon blades, braces and mitre-blocks. I learned about veneers and gilding, what a mortise and tenon was, the difference between ebonized wood and true ebony, between Newport and Connecticut and Philadelphia crest rails, how the blocky design and close-cropped top of one Chippendale bureau rendered it inferior to another bracket-foot of the same vintage with its fluted quarter columns and what he liked to call the “exalted” proportions of the drawer ratio.

Okay, Students! How did you respond to this passage? What was the first thing that struck you?  Did you like it, dislike it, love it, indifferent, irritated, what?

I wish we were sitting around a circle and I could hear your answers, which I’m sure will be much more interesting than mine!  And different.  You’ll just have to let me know.

Meanwhile, I’ll give you my take.

The first thing that strikes me is how much Donna Tartt knows about furniture restoration! She’s done her homework, boys and girls. She’s the smartest girl in the class. And it pays off. What authority this passage contains! It absolutely convinces us that the world she’s creating is real, solid, and authentic. We trust that she knows of which she speaks, so we can give ourselves over to the story completely. Surely she researched these esoteric details with someone extraordinarily versed in furniture restoration. Did she takes notes? No doubt. But I’ll wager the best note-taker in the world couldn’t transform mere research into this sterling passage of prose.

Beyond authority, what strikes me the most here is how sensitive and skillful she is in terms of language itself: words, the sounds they make, how they join together into sentences that create rhythm and meaning.  Most of all, her words awaken our senses. Here, words give us the deep pleasure that only our senses can provide. It’s quite a paradox. Most of the time in our so-called real lives, our senses are on pause, slumbering, acclimated to the quotidian. But when we read a passage like this, loaded with extraordinarily precise, sensory detail, our senses wake up and really pay attention, pulling our whole mind into the act. Continue reading “Examining a Passage from The Goldfinch”

Salter and Aciman on the Past

Street in Rome (Photo by Sean O'Neill@oneillsdc5)
Portico d’Ottavia in Rome  (Photo by Sean O’Neill@oneillsdc5)

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m teaching an online memoir course.  I’m captivated by watching my students grapple with and write about the past.  Here are two passages for writers and anyone else who muses about the nature of memory, one from a novel and one from an essay, both beautiful and thought-provoking.

The first is from the narrator of the novel A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter:

Certain things I remember exactly as they were. They are merely discolored a bit by time, like coins in the pocket of a forgotten suit. Most of the details, though, have long since been transformed or rearranged to bring others of them forward. Some, in fact, are obviously counterfeit; they are no less important. One alters the past to form the future. But there is a real significance to the pattern which finally appears, which resists all further change. In fact, there is the danger that if I continue to try, the whole concert of events will begin to fall apart in my hands like old newspaper, I can’t bear to think of that. The myriad past, it enters us and disappears. Except that within it, somewhere, like diamonds, exist the fragments that refuse to be consumed. Sifting through, if one dares, and collecting them, one discovers the true design.

And this from “Intimacy,” an essay by Andre Aciman in his collection Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere.

In this passage, Aciman revisits after many decades the street in Rome where he lived for three years as a boy, having emigrated there from Egypt with his family, while they waited to get visas to America.

One more block and scarcely five minutes after arriving, our visit was over.  This always happens when I go back to places. Either buildings shrink over time, or the time it takes to revisit them shrinks to less than five minutes. We had walked from one end of the street to the Continue reading “Salter and Aciman on the Past”

“APING” Guy Kawasaki with a Little Crowdsourcing of my Own

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Kawasaki and Welch
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Kawasaki and Welch 

I listened to a webinar this past week on shewrites.com by Guy Kawasaki, who is BIG right now for his (self-published) book (along with Shawn Welch) on self-publishing: APE:  Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur.  I found the talk superficial and simplistic but maybe you get what you pay for (it was free).  I can’t judge the book by a 30 minute webinar, but Kawasaki is one smart guy, “chief evangelist for Apple” (what does that mean?  Is that an actual job?), author of 12 books, including Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, which was a New York Times best seller, and What the Plus!  Google+ for the Rest of Us.  He’s a marketing genius, apparently, and is now an expert on self-publishing, which he refers to as “artisanal publishing,” meaning writers who love their craft and are involved in every aspect of it from beginning to end, just as there are “artisanal” beer makers, bakers, cheese producers, etc.  Guy can coin a phrase.

During the webinar, he did acquaint me with a term I had never heard of: crowdsourcing.  What the heck.  He crowdsourced APE, sending out first an outline of the book, then the manuscript-in-progress, and the final draft to all his considerable social media contacts, soliciting feedback, expert info others had that he lacked, fact-checking, and even copy-editing.  He didn’t go into a great deal of detail about his crowdsourcing in the webinar, but I found a more detailed description of it on a website called The Creative Penn, by Joanna Penn.

Penn asked Kawasaki how he managed to get 145 reviews on Amazon for APE within a few days of publication, 135 of which were five stars.  He said he sent an email to 4 million of his social media contacts (and you thought you were popular), offering a review copy of the near-final manuscript.  That enabled him to have 1,100 readers before it went live.  4 hours before Amazon turned it on he sent emails to those readers asking them to post a review for him.  He woke up the next morning to 45 five star reviews.

Not many of us have 4 million social media contacts, the publishing track record Kawasaki has, or his incredible business background and marketing savvy (not to mention ambition and energy).  Nor are most of us publishing a book like APE, which is right place/right time.  Still, I was fascinated by his experience.  Crowdsourcing sounded so savvy, especially for a non-fiction book like APE:  solicit alpha and beta readings from people who have self-publishing experiences, stories, and expertise he could draw on!  It makes tremendous sense–an on-line, stream-lined version of research.

Still, crowdsourcing seems anathema to writing novels.  What happened to the writer alone at her desk with nothing but her own mind (such as it is), trying to open that proverbial vein?

Continue reading ““APING” Guy Kawasaki with a Little Crowdsourcing of my Own”

Vivian Gornick on Situation and Story


Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

In her short book called The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick describes one of the most useful and important ideas about writing that I know:

“Every work of literature has both a situation and a story.  The situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say.” 

I just critiqued a novel where Gornick’s concept seemed particularly relevant.  On the whole it’s an amazing novel, but I had a clear sense towards the end of where it went off the track, and why.  It was because the writer lost track of the “story,” and just wrote “situation.” Without the “story,” the situation became merely material.  Even though the material at that point was dramatic and even riveting, it lacked the real power that comes from the writer carrying through with the story under the situation.

It can be a little confusing because Gornick’s not using “story” here in the traditional narrative sense. The way I understand Gornick’s “story” is that it is like an interior narrative, the internal journey that the protagonist is experiencing or undertaking which the external action–the situation–the plot– dramatizes and plays out.  This journey is psychological, emotional, spiritual or all three.  It is what the reader is actually tracking, even as his or her attention is captured by the external situation and action.  It’s what gives shape and meaning to the situation. 

Gornick gives this example:

Continue reading “Vivian Gornick on Situation and Story”

What the Reader Needs…


The Antioch Review

“…to be conscious of what the reader needs and only what he needs…” 

I first encountered this bit of writerly advice in 1984 in The Antioch Review, in a piece written by Nolan Miller, who was then Associate Editor. It has served as a North Star of writing for me ever since.  

Miller was a short story writer and novelist who taught creative writing at Antioch College for over fifty years.  The Antioch Review, remarkably, has been publishing continuously since 1941.  It publishes fiction, essays, and poetry, from both emerging and well-known authors.  When it published a story of mine, it was a huge thrill in my literary life.  If you want to read one of the best literary magazines around, subscribe to it:  http://antiochcollege.org/antioch_review/subscribe.html

Miller composed his piece as an imaginary interview between a Reader, Writer, and Editor. He posed the questions that he wished to answer as the editor of the Review, such as: what are literary magazine editors looking for; how do they make decisions; what makes them accept a story; what do writers need to do to develop; and much more, all articulated in a gracious but authoritative voice evoking a professor sitting in a old wooden English Department chair with a pipe in his mouth.  Though the world of publishing has changed dramatically since Miller wrote this piece, his advice about writing is still relevant.  Some things about literature remain the same, eternally let’s hope.  You can read the whole article at this link: Editorial: Reader, Writer, and Editor: An Imaginary Interview   (Copyright 1984 by the Antioch Review. First appeared in the Antioch Review, Volume 42, and Number 2. Reprinted by permission of the Editors.)

When I first read “to be conscious of what the reader needs and only what he needs” it struck me as an essential key to writing that I had been missing.  I don’t believe I had ever thought about the concept, or at least I had never heard it articulated so directly and with such command. I didn’t become enlightened at that moment.  But Miller showed me what I needed to work on: to give the reader what she needs and only what she needs.  Seemingly simple.  Very difficult to master. 

In Miller’s words: “Learning to be direct, to be honest, to be always conscious of what the reader needs and only what he needs requires tremendous self-discipline.”

What does the reader need, exactly?  And as the writer, how do you know what that is? 

What we need may be necessary, relevant, functioning information.  It may be tone, the writer’s attitude towards the material that helps us interpret it.  It may be the kind of original, concrete, specific, sensory detail I talked about in my August 8th post.  It may be starting the story or memoir in the right place, striking the key note from the get-go.  It involves writing with the kind of authority that says the writer knows what she’s doing, and has found the best possible way to do it.  It’s a lot of things, and it varies from piece to piece.  But it comes down to the feeling that as readers we can give ourselves up to the writing because the writer knows what works. 

How does one come to write with that kind of authority and certainty? Continue reading “What the Reader Needs…”

Henry James’ Weak Specification–eek!


“Office at Night” by Edward Hopper

I live in fear of weak specification.  I consider it the eighth deadly sin: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony and weak specification.  I’m guilty of it, I admit.  I’m only human, or, some would say, all too human.  I strive to overcome my weaknesses, to improve myself in every way (occasionally) but especially in the matter of weak specification.  I try to be diligent, only to find it sneaks up on me. 

I first heard the term “weak specification” years ago when I read a piece by Flannery O’Connor called “Writing Short Stories” (in Mystery and Manners).  One could do worse than sleep with this essay under one’s pillow every night, hoping trenchant wisdom from it will seep into one’s brain and embed itself there, to come out forever after in one’s writing. 

I felt the sort of conversion experience Paul must have had on the road to Damascus when I read the following passage:

“Fiction Writers who are not concerned with… concrete details are guilty of what Henry James called ‘weak specification.’ The eye will glide over their words while the attention goes to sleep.  Ford Madox Ford taught that you couldn’t have a man appear long enough to sell a newspaper in a story unless you put him in there with enough detail to make the reader see him.”

I was guilty!  I committed weak specification in my writing, and half the time I didn’t even know it.  But that didn’t matter.  It was NO EXCUSE.  I determined that I would do better.

What O’Connor is referring to by concrete details are sensory details: what can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched. If the writing is not grounded in concrete, sensory detail—if the words are imprecise or inaccurate—the reader will sort of go dormant, even while “reading.”  Haven’t you had this experience?  And haven’t you noticed when you’re riveted to the page by the very specificity—we could say strong specification—of the writing? 

"Chop Suey" by Edward Hopper
“Chop Suey” by Edward Hopper


I’m reading Carry the One right now, a fine novel by Carol Anshaw, which I’ll post about when I finish it.  I love her writing because it is so highly specified.  Because of her details and descriptions, because of the voice that is delivering the observations and descriptions with such aplomb, you cannot glance away. 

Here, for example, is the opening paragraph:

So Carmen was married, just.  She sat under a huge butter moon, on a windless night in the summer of 1983, at a table, in front of the remains of some cordon bleu.  She looked towards the improvised dance floor where her very new husband was doing the Mexican hat dance with several other large men, three of them his brothers, other Sloans.  Matt was a plodding hat-dancer; his kicks threw the others off the beat.  In spite of this lack of aptitude, he was waving her over, beckoning her to join in.  She waved back as though she thought he was just saying hi.  She was hoping to sit out this early phase of her marriage, the mortifying dances segment.

Here we have the first moments of this marriage, the first paragraph of this novel, and I ask you: Can this marriage be saved?

Don’t you love the butter moon, the cordon bleu, the image of a plodding hat-dancer throwing the others off beat?  It’s delicious.  Why?  Because it’s concrete, specific, original and exact. There is nothing weakly specified about it. 

Here’s a description a page or two in:

Carmen entered the farmhouse by the back door into the kitchen, which at the moment was vacant of humans, going about a life of its own.  An ancient refrigerator emitted a low, steady buzz.  The pump spigot dripped into a sink whose original porcelain was, in a circle around the drain, worn down to the iron beneath.  A fat fly idled around the open window amide dangling pieces of stained glass.  The room signed out its own smell—a blend of burnt wood and wet clay.  Trace elements of blackstrap molasses, tahini, apples, and dirty socks were also in the mix.

As a piece of writing this description is pure pleasure.  See how your senses draw you in as you hear, see, and smell.  Notice how closely observed it is.  “Close observation” is a key concept.  It makes you aware that you need not only to see, but to see beyond your first glance, your first look, to really see and experience what you’re describing more acutely, more originally, more specifically.  Read the passage again and see just how specific the details are.  James and O’Connor would approve.  Continue reading “Henry James’ Weak Specification–eek!”

Colm Toibin and “What is Real is Imagined”


Colm Toibin
Colm Toibin

In an essay called “What is Real is Imagined” in the July 15, 2012 The New York Times, Colm Tóibín describes being back in the remote place on the Coast of Ireland which his family visited in the summers until he was twelve.  When he passes the house where his family once stayed, it’s his parents’ bedroom he sees in his memory with its iron bed and the cement floor, and the clover he smells is the same as it was in 1967.  Or, as he amends, because he is trying to dream that world of 1967 into existence, “it is sometimes closer now than it ever was.”

It would be easy to exaggerate, he writes, and say that his remembered town is more real than the one that is there now, where almost everything has changed.  But he resists that temptation, saying that clearly what is real is what is there now.  In a beautiful passage, he muses on the difference between what he sees around him and the fiction originating in his memory:

The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known. It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water.

What occurs as I walk in the town now is nothing much. It is all strange and distant, as well as oddly familiar. What happens, however, when I remember my mother, wearing a red coat, leaving our house in the town on a morning in the winter of 1968, going to work, walking along John Street, Court Street, down Friary Hill, along Friary Place and then across the bottom of Castle Hill toward Slaney Place and across the bridge into Templeshannon, is powerful and compelling. It brings with it a sort of music and a strange need. A need to write down what is happening in her mind and to give that writing a rhythm and a sound that will come from the nervous system rather than the mind, and will, ideally, resonate within the nervous system of anyone who reads it.

In his book Power in Writing, Peter Elbow was perhaps trying to get at the same thing, though less eloquently.  He talked about the central characteristic of “real voice” being that “the words somehow issue from the writer’s center—even if in a slippery way—and produce resonance which gets the words more powerfully to a reader’s center.”  Tóibín speaks of writing as “a sort of music…a rhythm and a sound.”  What writers and readers respond to is often the cadence, rhythm, and tone of language.  The writer listens to the sound of the sentences to see if they ring true, not in a factual sense but in the sense of resonating with whatever inchoate vision is trying to come into being. Maybe they ring true in the body.

Tóibín goes on to describe the process of developing the character based on his mother:

I don’t know what she thought, of course, so I have to imagine. In doing so, I use certain and uncertain facts, but I add to the person I remember or have invented. Also, I take things away. This is a slow process and it is not simple. I give my mother a singing voice, for example, which she did not have. The shape of the story requires that she have a singing voice; it is the shape of the story rather than the shape of life that dictates what is added and excised.

But the singing voice is a mere detail in a large texture of a self that gradually comes alive — enough to seem wholly invented and fully imagined, although based on what was once real.

The demands of the story, not an allegiance to memory, become the driver.  “The story has a shape, and that comes first, and then the story and its shape need substance and nourishment from the haunting past, clear memories or incidents suddenly remembered or invented, erased or enriched. Then the phrases and sentences begin, another day’s work.” Continue reading “Colm Toibin and “What is Real is Imagined””

Paulette’s Workshop on Writing the Book-length Work

Writing at MISA
Writing at the Madeline Island School of the Arts

Dear writing friends:

I’ll be teaching a workshop called The Achievable Climb: Writing the Book-Length Work at the Madeline Island School of the Arts in Northern Wisconsin October 8 – 12th.

The workshop will be useful to those working on either a memoir or fiction project. If you have a manuscript underway, or just an idea for one you’d like to begin, I’ll give you lots of ideas, exercises, feedback, and support. It’ll be a great time to get experienced, constructive instruction from me, to join the company of others “making the climb” who can give you helpful comments, and to have free time to yourself to concentrate on your writing away from the usual distractions and temptations of everyday life. On an island, no less!

We’ll be tackling the “usual suspects”: voice; structure; what to put in and what to leave out; how to find what the book is REALLY about; where to start; how to work through drafts; and how to complete the work.

There will be 3-4 hours of classroom time each day, with exercises designed to help you with various aspects of your project; opportunities to get feedback on your work from members of the workshop; examples of successful techniques to model; and time to work on your book each day. I’ll meet with each of you for an individual conference on your project.

Island time for yourself
Island time for yourself

If you have questions you can email me at pbalden@aol.com or via my website contact form, or call me at 612-920-1896.

I’m really looking forward to it!

Fall leaves on Madeline

This is the first time I’ve taught a workshop for MISA, but I hear wonderful things about the experience there. Madeline Island, on Lake Superior, will be so beautiful in the fall! It’s about a five hour drive from the Twin Cities, or you can fly into Duluth and drive about two hours from there. You reach the island by ferry–talk about away from it all.

The workshop is limited to 15 students. You can call 715-747-2054 or email the School at misa@chequnet.net to ask questions or reserve your place. The cost for the workshop is $425.00 for non-credit, and $520.00 for 1 graduate credit from the University of Minnesota at Duluth. These links will also give you information about MISA and my workshop. You can also register online.



Milk House at Madeline School of the Arts
Milk House at Madeline School of the Arts

Various lodging is available on the island, including B&Bs, campgrounds and cottage accommodations at the school. Things fill up fast, so do think about booking now.

Please help me get the word out about the workshop. If you know of someone who is working on a book-length work, please forward this information on to them. THANKS! For writers’ groups, there is a group discount if 4 or more sign up. There is also information on my website under “events,” at www.paulettealden.com.

I hope to see you there!



Madeline Island map
Madeline Island map