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Memoir Retreat: Finding and Shaping Your Original Material, October 14 to 19

October 14, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - October 19, 2019 @ 9:00 am


(Photo credit: Melanie Bishop)

As memoirist Judy Blunt once observed: “In fiction you invent a whole rich, complex tapestry for a short story or novel. In memoir, you already have the whole tapestry—your life.” But how can a writer distill a whole messy life into an artful, effective, selective memoir? This memoir retreat will help participants locate the single tapestry thread that will help them to later write a focused, thematic memoir. Readings and discussion provide participants with an accelerated introduction to the genre, while specific exercises work writers’ muscles, generating carefully-selected scenes crucial to each memoir’s thematic thread. Excerpts from the work of Joan Didion, Judy Blunt, Joanne Beard, Tobias Wolff, Kathleen Finneran, Abigail Thomas, David Sedaris, and others, will serve as useful models. Each participant will have one, 30-minute, private consultation with instructor. Some participants will leave the retreat with 15-20 pages of a short memoir-in-progress. At the very least, participants leave the retreat having constructed several crucial scenes, and with a good understanding of how to further develop and shape their memoirs, using the identified tapestry thread from their lives as an organizing tool. Writers of any level welcome.

  • Five nights, Monday through Saturday, October 14 to 19. (Arrive Monday 10/14 between 2 and 4 pm. Check out Saturday 10/19 at 9 am.)
  • Enrollment limited to the first eight registrants who register and pay in full. To pay, go to our shopping cart or call the PLAYA office at 541.943.3983. Once payment is complete, please have all members of your party fill out this form
  • Group meets daily. Times TBA.
  • $1250 includes instruction, private lodging, welcoming Meet&Greet, two dinners. (All cabins have kitchens and participants will bring their own provisions for other meals.)

Meet Your Mentor: Melanie Bishop

Melanie Bishop’s essay, “I Would Have Driven Her Anywhere,” appeared in the New York Times Modern Love column in November of 2018. She has taught writing or led creative writing retreats in Arizona’s Sierra Ancha Wilderness, at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti (www.arcosanti.org), in the Cycladic Islands of Greece, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Prescott, Arizona, and in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Currently Faculty Emeritus at Prescott College, Bishop has published fiction, nonfiction and a YA novel, My So-Called Ruined Life. Her novel was a top-five finalist for both the John Gardner Award in Fiction, sponsored by Binghamton University, and the Firecracker Awards, sponsored by Community of Literary Magazines & Presses. (Access online publications here.) On creative writing faculty at Prescott College for 22 years, Melanie taught Memoir as her signature course. She was also founder and fiction/nonfiction editor of Alligator Juniper, the college’s national literary magazine, three-time winner of the AWP Directors’ Prize. Bishop is teaching a class in July 2019 for Stanford Continuing Studies, has twice been a resident at PLAYA Summer Lake, and has served on PLAYA’s review panel for selecting applicants to be awarded stays. Learn more about Melanie here.

Writing retreats provide the perfect balance of solitude and companionship, introspection and discussion, rest and stimulation, work and play. During retreats, writers often find they have better access to the muse, simply because they’ve left behind their familiar environment, with its typical distractions and demands. Being stimulated by a new locale and landscape recharges the senses, restores inspiration, and generates new material. Other than class times, participants will be encouraged to design their daily routines according to their own preferred rhythms—writing, reading, taking walks, taking photos, stargazing, and communing with other writers.”      –  Melanie Bishop


October 14, 2019 @ 2:00 pm
October 19, 2019 @ 9:00 am
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