Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writer's Retreat on Star Island, Part 2

The lighthouse on Lunging Island
Every twenty-two seconds, the lighthouse on nearby Lunging Island sounds a melancholy note.  From my room on the second floor of Cottage B on Star Island, the elegy crept in at night from the open window that faced the Oceanic Hotel and the small, ancient graveyard and gazebo house overlooking the Atlantic. Between Star Island and Lunging, a notorious landmark known as Halfway Rock is marked by a buoy that rings in counterpoint.  Halfway Rock is an unforgiving outcrop known to feast upon the keels of vessels, some as recently as the summer of 2012.  Very late at nights in my room, my mind fixated on the melodies, leading me to close that one window through which the ocean breeze swept.  Mornings were a symphony of gulls and crashing waves, the ever-present lighthouse, and, on one morning, a bit of spirited and colorful dialogue from fishermen on the decks of boats anchored in the harbor directly across from my front window.

On the second day of the Writelines workshop conducted by Dale Finley-Slongwhite, particular prompts led to the openings of three short and long stories.  The prompts and these starts fueled my inspiration into the stratosphere -- Dale presented us with such great challenges!  One of the biggest Writelines policies is that what happens inside the workshop stays within the workshop, so I've respectfully agreed not to discuss the specific prompts.  I will, however, say they were all great.  By Wednesday, one in particular put high octane ink in my fountain pen and I began work on a novella near and dear to me that had stalled, despite a publisher's interest in contracting for the project.  I placed the nib to the page and by day's end had another 3,000 quality words.  By the workshop's conclusion, I'd written forty-one pages of "The Ferry," taking it past the halfway point.  En route to the island, hoping for such a breakthrough, I'd interviewed the First Officer onboard the Thomas Laighton, who was gracious and giving about the daily operations on board the ferry. Once moving again, my pen never stilled.

The ancient graveyard and gazebo house on Star Island
When not workshopping -- and Dale kept us beautifully busy -- I communed with the Muse and thoughts of stories waiting to be penned. One new project in particular shadowed me about the island, filling me with enthusiasm.  I read a Space:1999 paperback novel I'd snagged at 2008's Camp NECon writer's conference, and could not put it down. I rocked in one of dozens of rattan rockers lined along the Oceanic's vast front veranda, flipped through the latest issue of Poets and Writers Magazine, dreamed.  But more than anything, I wrote. Through a moody, misty-gray Tuesday. Through a humid Wednesday.  Through bright and warm Thursday and Friday.  I wrote and recaptured much of the depleted energy I've expended during this incredible year of 2012.  In all, I put down nearly 16,000 words of fresh copy -- three story starts, all keepers, my pages of "The Ferry," and a complete new short story.

Me and MUSE on the Oceanic veranda, Credit: Frank Hochreiter
Meals at the Oceanic were amazing, most of the vegetables in salads, soups, and stews originating in the lush gardens tended on Star Island.  Rooms in the cottages and hotel lack air conditioning and fans but mostly I never noticed -- the Atlantic provided constant breezes. Everywhere one turns, views are spectacular. Dale really pushed us and kept us writing.  The constant momentum, near boot-camp in delivery, tapped into reserves.  The results were fantastic.  As for my fellow conferees, I could not have been surrounded by lovelier folk.

As the ferry again appeared, ready to return me to home and family, my backpack filled to capacity, my creativity fueled, I thanked my lucky stars that, long last, I took the plunge and committed to the Writelines retreat on Star Island.

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