Tuesday, June 16, 2009

northern exposure: a writer's retreat

I just came back from a self-imposed retreat. Exploring Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, I visited the incredibly beautiful towns of Petoskey, Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and of course Mackinaw City and the indescribable Mackinac Island. For four days I had nothing but a notebook, camera, and open mind to encourage me to absorb the natural settings, interact with the locals, and inspire the creative juices within. It worked. Coming home, I had an energy within me for creating new works, researching new material, and living off the rejuvenation such a weekend can provide.

While away, I made sure to visit all the independent booksellers I came across. What a treasure I found! On Mackinac Island and in Mackinaw City, The Island Bookstore offered an abundance of local and regional authors to discover. Here, locals and visitors can take part in the many author events in-store, such as the past weekend’s “Great Summer Read Presentation” from Random House or the upcoming signing with author Vince Carroll. Another great stop was at McLean & Eakin, in Petoskey MI. Talk about variety and secret finds! M&E has an entire display of signed copies – books signed by authors during past visits. I had a hard time controlling myself, I’ll admit. But it just shows how many author events they do at this great bookshop. With two floors of shelving and a staff that can talk your ear off (in a good way), this is a booklover’s paradise. I feel lucky to have had the chance to meet some independent booksellers and learn their hot picks for the summer. What an incredible weekend.

When I came home, I had some very nice news. I have a new poem in the summer issue of Willows Wept Review, and this November I’ll have poetry featured in Two Review, published in Anchorage AK. I also just found out I received an honorable mention from The University of Western Ontario for the Marie Smibert Writing Program Achievement Awards. Really, there is nothing like coming home to mail like this. I should go away for the weekend more often!

Now that I have been catching up on e-news since my return, I see there are some interesting discussions that caught my eye. One is a great article by Louis Menand of The New Yorker who asks, “Should creative writing be taught?” This is an intriguing relation of how creative writing programs have developed over the years and how the ‘industry’ has reacted in various ways. Like many of the quoted people in the article, I believe this question will never have a final answer. My favorite part of this article, however, is the lead photograph of Robert Frost and peers prior to the dawn of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Another great piece I came across is a blog post from author Allison Winn Scotch who discusses why all authors should be on twitter. While I have returned to the blog world and believe social networking sites can be beneficial to writers, I have not yet found it in me to join the twitter movement. However, there are some really great tweets out there I do read. One is an incredibly cool project from the poets at The Scarab Club. With rolling contributions, it’s neat to see how this poem in motion is translating.

And speaking of poetry, now that I have settled down from my weekend retreat it’s time to get ink-deep into turning inspiration into fruition. I look forward reviewing the notes and poems I began on my trip and discovering where they will take me…

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