Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No: She was mad. Yes: Her upper lip curled, her nostrils flared. SHOW DON'T TELL!

Just having gotten back from the Show Don’t Tell Retreat: How Acting Techniques Improve Writing, I’m all hopped up. Led by Hester Bass, award winning author of The Secret World of Walter Anderson, I had been looking forward to tips that would allow me to approach my writing in a different way and, thus, strengthen it.

Timing was everything; accumulating rejections takes its toll. And while I write steadily and meet with my critique group regularly, it had been too long since my last workshop. This was just the shot in the arm I needed.

Having attended several workshops and conferences, I’ve learned the importance of keeping an open mind in my quest for understanding and I’ve learned that shyness just won’t cut it. But this retreat particularly required me to keep an open heart. Yes, a few of us knew each other beforehand—but not particularly well. Imagine spending an entire weekend with people you’ve never seen before, getting physical, sharing emotions, acting out characters, living in the moment with improv. (Don’t think it’s easy to pretend you’re a 4-year-old girl who has to GO RIGHT NOW but insists there’s nothing wrong, while your caretaker, a 17-year-old boy, insists there is!)

When you can learn writing techniques under the leadership of a woman who has lived a fairy tale—who slips into accents like a minnow through reeds, who makes you laugh until you cry—and learn within the safety net of like-minded, fun-minded individuals, now, that’s cause for motivation!

The setting alone would have inspired the Greek gods to rethink Mount Olympus as their home, and the feeling of camaraderie was nothing short of miraculous. But, best of all, are the results.  I’ve been burning up the keys this week, applying my inspiration, my renewed energy, and my new-found secrets to the stories within me.

Perhaps, like Hester, I'll write a manuscript that attracts the attention of a famous author who will subsequently become my mentor, a literary agent, and an editor (who sees my work on Monday and offers me a contract on Friday).

My advice to writers: Open up your minds, your hearts, and your arms.


  1. Love that Mt. Olympus comment. And the minnow. So true! Glad to hear the keys are clicking along. Best of luck with that manuscript.

  2. Joan's place was perfect for a retreat; wasn't it?! And I need that luck. Thanks, Doraine!

  3. What a wonderful recap of an incredible weekend. Many thanks!
    Jo H