A few weeks ago, I took a walk through the abandoned playing fields of the high school near my home. Tender green leaves, gentle sunshine, and caressing breezes blurred and swept away thoughts of the invisible virus that seemed to lay in wait. The advent of spring and lack of maintenance had unleashed growth I didn’t believe possible on this once-manicured surface. Now, tiny three-petaled lavender flowers, golden dandelions, red and white clover, and leafy stalks obscured my running shoes. I recalled my grandma’s long-ago admonition to “mind where you put your feet––there’s snakes out there” as I ventured out to explore the forty acres of pasture and pines that encircled their small farm.
Ever the rule-follower, even now I watched where I put my feet, stepping lightly so as not to crush the novel, verdant carpet, and was gratified to see the tiny blossoms spring upright behind me. Looking down, all was kelly green and lovely and blooming. Then I looked up.
Ahead was a dilapidated storage shed flanked with broken boards, overturned buckets, and coiled netting caked with lichen. For writers, it’s where the main character would have found the body. I looked down at the field, then up at the shed, as if I were observing a vertical tennis match, then glanced around to see if anyone else was there and might be concerned about my mental health.
But no, I was still alone. I pulled out my phone and took a few pics of the disparate scenes, thinking of one of my clients, a gifted author who writes mysteries, and wondered how she’d describe this setting. Would her character look across the field, missing or ignoring the hundreds of tiny flowers, and run to the tatty shed that concealed the victim? Or would the author draw out the scene, distracting the reader with fragrant blossoms until the character caught the unmistakable scent of decomposition?
Of course, it depends on the author’s desires, the character’s arc, and multiple other factors. But I still wondered if the author would want her character to look down, or look up. As I pondered, I thought about perspective, such a useful word and concept, relating equally well to pandemics, life, and art. Here I am, out for a walk to escape the scourge, recalling happier times in my youth, and thinking about the craft of writing. Walking is a simple act that’s maintaining my perspective during a surreal time.
It occurs to me a blog post about perspective might be helpful to other writers. And I cringe. Throughout my career, whether public relations or editing, I’ve been behind the scenes, hidden, the ballast the public doesn’t see, making my clients look great—and I embrace that role. As an editor, I help other writers craft their best possible work, from resolving daunting developmental issues to correcting misspelled words. I love my work, past and present, more than I could have imagined.
What I didn’t imagine was that becoming an editor would shut down most of my own writing. At first, I thought it was the workload—after all, my priority is focusing on my clients and their writing. But after a few years passed and I still wasn’t writing, I had to admit it’s because I was afraid of not being “perfect.” After all, I’m an editor, dedicated to polishing and perfecting narrative until it shines. A few years ago, I came across an article where another editor had written about the importance of catching errors in blog posts, etc. There was an error in the first paragraph. I thought it was deliberate, but it wasn’t. There were a few more errors throughout. It happens, and it was another reminder that I didn’t want the public to catch my mistakes.
Sharing work is an invitation for metaphorical snakes in the grass to judge, criticize, and shame—all those fears that keep writers from enjoying the writing process, submitting their work, and discussing it with editors. This is why my entire business is founded on supportive, uplifting, honesty-with-kindness editorial guidance. I would never subject a writer to any comment or action that made them feel “less than.” I’ve experienced that horror myself, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Despite my fears, my first love was, and is, writing, and my muse is steadfast. Though I’m not writing on a keyboard or paper, I write in my mind and take notes. Still, I miss writing. I miss the bliss of my own writer’s high when the words whisper and flow as my fingers and heart race to capture their elusive beauty. I’m struggling to overcome the fear of sharing my writing, worrying it’s not my best work or it contains mistakes. The fact is, sometimes it won’t be my best work and sometimes it will contain mistakes. That’s writing, and I know that. I’ve coached many other writers through this very issue, so why can’t I do it for myself?
I looked at the images of the field and shed on my phone and typed in a note: Perspective. I put my phone in my pocket, then looked up. To the right of the ramshackle shed, I noticed a slim, steep, path. Shaded beneath pine boughs, it disappeared into the woods. Intrigued, I took a few steps for a closer look. For a moment, the past beckoned; once again, I heard my grandma’s loving warning. I hesitated, examining the path. It was blanketed with fragrant needles and dotted with small rocks. It would be a challenging climb, but it wasn’t frightening. Plus, there wasn’t a snake in sight.
It’s all about perspective. And mine, at last, had changed. Tentative, but resolved, I ventured forth to explore.
Retreat guests tell me the Writer's High Retreat is "magical," and they leave feeling energized in a way they’ve never experienced before—the writer’s high. It’s true—there’s this powerful alchemy that occurs when writers come together in a gorgeous, peaceful setting and are given the time, inspiration, and support they need to breathe life into their writing.
It's our sponsors who sustain this magic––this new life. Writers, if you're looking for a writing community that supports, energizes, and nurtures you, let me introduce you to Broadleaf Writers Association and its visionary founder, Zachary Steele.
Fascinating writers with intriguing life stories--they're the heart and soul of The Writer's High Retreat family. Join us and experience the writer's high® for yourself. Here's Jeff Shaw to share his story:
I'm Jeff Shaw. I had a great career in law enforcement, one that somehow gave me an interest in creative writing. I love reading and writing in many different genres. I’m a hobbyist first, but like many people, I write wanting my work to be read and for people to enjoy what I write or to get something from it.
My first attempt at a sci-fi novel ended in disaster, and I put it away for a year until a friend recommended I spend a weekend at the Writer’s High Retreat. That experience, and the encouragement I got from Mari Ann and all those that attended, was exactly what I needed to dust off my manuscript and make those hard changes it needed.
I’m retired now, but I feel I’m busier than ever: reading, writing, and living.
See you there!
Fascinating writers with intriguing life stories--they're the heart and soul of The Writer's High Retreat family. Join us and experience the writer's high® for yourself. Here's Kyle Ann to share her story:
Hi, I’m Kyle Ann, a retired physical therapist assistant with most of my education coming from raising four kids. My largest accomplishment to date: all four kids are out of college, happy in their own spaces, and paying their own bills!
Once I became an “empty nester” I wanted to do something for myself. I found my old writings (some published, some not) from high school and college and decided to take some creative writing classes to get my brain in gear to make my life-long dream of becoming an author come true. I joined a local writer’s group and at my very first meeting Mari Ann Stefanelli was the guest speaker. Can you say fate?
I went to my first Writer’s High retreat two months later. It was the first retreat, of any kind, I’d ever been to, a gift for myself. This newbie just jumped right in and was met with welcoming arms. Now preparing for my third year in a row to attend, I’m looking forward, once again, to catching up with all my Writer’s High family and feeding my brain with information about the craft and business of writing.
Since that first retreat and with the network of education and encouragement I received from my Writer’s High family, not only during the retreat but throughout the year, I’ve begun a fun blog called “If Corks Could Talk,” I’ve written a collection of children’s books that are now in the hands of an illustrator, I’ve gathered old and new poetry to co-author a book with photos taken by one of my daughters (a professional photographer), and I’ve written a full length women’s fiction novel, which is nearing publication.
You, too, will find a “home” at the Writer’s High Retreat!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DECEMBER 18, 2017
Contact: Mari Ann Stefanelli, The Writer’s High Retreat® Founder & Executive Director
New York Times Best-Selling Author Patti Callahan Henry Is Keynote Speaker for
The Writer’s High Retreat® 2018
Patti Callahan Henry, the New York Times best-selling author of 12 novels, is the keynote speaker for the fourth annual Writer’s High Retreat® March 9–11 at Amicalola Falls Lodge in Dawsonville, Georgia. Ms. Henry’s latest book is The Bookshop at Water’s End, which was released in July. Her work has received numerous awards, including a Townsend Prize for Fiction finalist, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year.
Joining Ms. Henry is Nick Chiles, a literary agent, bestselling author, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Mr. Chiles’ extensive body of work includes the New York Times bestselling memoir Every Little Step: My Story, which he co-authored with Bobby Brown in 2016, and Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System, which he co-authored with attorney Robbin Shipp in 2014. The book was an NAACP Image Awards finalist in 2015. Mr. Chiles is also a literary agent with Aevitas Creative Management.
The featured speakers are accomplished authors, well versed in fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir––and recognized for their warm, engaging personalities and willingness to share their wisdom with others.
The Writer’s High Retreat® at Amicalola Falls Lodge package includes two nights’ accommodations, all retreat presentations, workshops, and events; meals included are Friday and Saturday dinner buffet, lunch buffet Saturday, and breakfast buffet Saturday and Sunday (cost includes coffee, tea, and iced tea). Rates are $733/single and $579/double (per person). Prices include all tips, taxes, and gratuities. This is a small, intimate retreat, and space is very limited. To register or for more information, visit the retreat website at www.thewritershighretreat.com.
There’s a powerful alchemy that occurs when writers come together in a gorgeous, peaceful setting and are given the time, inspiration, and support they need to breathe life into their writing––it’s called the writer’s high®. The Writer’s High Retreat is designed to develop and rejuvenate writers at all stages in their journey, and retreat guests rave about their experiences. “Like the standing ovation showed… people who articulated something important that not all writers’ groups, conferences, and retreats convey––that no matter where you are on your writer's journey, your writing does matter, it deserves love and support, and it warrants hard work, positive but firm critiques, and a roadmap to publishing,” was how one retreat guest described his experience.
Patti Callahan Henry is the New York Times bestselling author of Between the Tides; Where the River Runs; When Light Breaks; The Art of Keeping Secrets; Driftwood Summer; The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story; Coming up for Air; And Then I Found You; The Stories We Tell; The Idea of Love, The Bookshop at Water’s End, and the upcoming historical fiction BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, the improbable love story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. A finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year, Patti’s work is published in nine languages. Her articles and essays have appeared in Southern Living, SKIRT, Writer’s Digest, Birmingham Magazine, Portico, numerous anthologies, and more. Patti is a frequent speaker at conferences, luncheons, book clubs, and women’s groups.
Nick Chiles has three decades of experience in publishing and journalism. He’s shepherded many bestselling books from conception to publication as a celebrity co-author, writing New York Times bestsellers with R&B icon Bobby Brown, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, and gospel legend Kirk Franklin, among others. He’s authored or co-authored 14 books, including five novels. Chiles served as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, and magazine and website editor-in-chief during his years in journalism, winning nearly 20 major awards—including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize as part of a New York Newsday team. As an agent, Chiles is deeply interested in nonfiction and fiction stories of individuals taking on entrenched institutions and original takes on American heroes—or crowning new ones—in areas like sports, music and the arts.
The Writer’s High Retreat is presented by The Writer's High®, LLC, which provides professional writing and editing services for authors and corporate clients. The retreat is sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club and Broadleaf Writers Association.
Author and Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Former Journalist Jedwin Smith Featured at The Writer’s High Retreat® 2017
The “Perfect Weekend Writing Retreat” Now in Its Third Year
Author, speaker, writing coach, and former journalist twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize Jedwin Smith headlines The Writer’s High Retreat® 2017. The weekend writing retreat, now in its third year, takes place March 17–19 at Amicalola Falls Lodge in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Smith is joined by Megan Sexton, award-winning poet and co-editor of Five Points, one of the top literary journals in the country; HarperCollins novelist Susan Crawford, author of the thrillers The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow; multi-genre author George Weinstein, who has published five novels, including the contemporary mystery Aftermath and the Southern historical novel Hardscrabble Road and is also the founder of the Atlanta Writers Conference; and professional speaker, storyteller, and instructor Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, who is the founder of the 70,273 Project, which commemorates each of the disabled people murdered by Nazis between January 1940 and August 1941.
The Writer’s High Retreat® at Amicalola Falls Lodge package includes two nights’ accommodations, all retreat presentations, workshops, and events; meals included are Friday and Saturday dinner buffet, lunch buffet Saturday, and breakfast buffet Saturday and Sunday (beverages included for all meals are coffee, tea, and iced tea). Rates are $733/single and $579/double (per person). Prices include all tips, taxes, and gratuities. Space is very limited. To register or for more information, visit the website at www.thewritershighretreat.com.
The Writer’s High Retreat is designed to develop and rejuvenate writers at all stages in their journey, and retreat guests are raving about their experience. “Like the standing ovation showed… people who articulated something important that not all writers’ groups, conferences, and retreats convey––that no matter where you are on your writer's journey, your writing DOES matter, it deserves love and support, and it warrants hard work, positive but firm critiques, and a roadmap to publishing,” was how one retreat guest described his experience. In fact, more than half the 2016 retreat guests are returning.
One reason for the retreat’s success is the featured speakers are not only accomplished authors, well-versed in memoir, fiction, nonfiction/memoir, poetry, and platform building, but also renown for their warm, engaging, and ground-breaking presentations––and their willingness to share their wisdom with others.
For full speaker bios, please click here: Speakers
The Writer’s High Retreat® is presented by The Writer's High®, LLC, a professional writing and editing service for authors, businesses, and individuals. It’s endorsed and sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club and Broadleaf Writers Association.
Many thanks to author Rona Simmons for featuring me on her Women and Word blog! Read the full post––and learn about Rona––by clicking on the link below.
I chose a seat beside the window overlooking the parking lot outside Mittie’s Cafe & Tea Room. From my vantage point I hoped to spot Mari Ann Stefanelli as she arrived. We’d met a couple of weeks earlier, briefly and in low light at a local book event. She had been surrounded by friends—some old, some new—and was all eyes and smiles as she drifted toward me and then effortlessly away through the crowd.
I wondered whether I’d recognize her in broad daylight. Distracted for a moment by the waitress, I turned back to the window in time to see a woman approach but too late to glimpse her face. Head down, the woman hurried up the steps and through the door, hurrying because she was late, or because she was anxious, or because as I soon learned Mari Ann is always in a hurry. She extends her arm and offers a warm hug, and her auburn locks flow behind her head and around her face as if she she’d come from sitting for Botticelli.
It was Mari Ann. Definitely Mari Ann. I could not have mistaken her.
Mari Ann takes her seat and offers an instant apology for keeping me waiting, though I’d only just arrived, a genuine thanks for agreeing to meet on short notice, and a warning that she might have to take a call, and gosh it’s so nice to get to know each other, and…
In minutes, it is as if I’ve known Mari Ann all my life.
Read more at womenatword.wordpress.com
New York Times Best-Selling Author Joshilyn Jackson leads the lineup for The Writer’s High Retreat™ 2016 at Brasstown Valley Resort September 9 – 11 in Young Harris, Georgia. Joining Jackson are the award-winning authors Jessica Handler, whose memoir, Invisible Sisters, was named as one of the “Twenty Five Books All Georgians Should Read”; Michael Morris, whose third novel, Man in the Blue Moon, was named a best book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly; and the poet Clifford Brooks, whose first book of poetry, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was nominated for two Pushcarts and a Pulitzer in Poetry.
“Many retreat guests told me last year’s debut was ‘magical,’ and they felt energized in a way they’d never experienced before––‘the writer’s high,’” said Mari Ann Stefanelli, retreat founder. “There’s a powerful alchemy that occurs when writers come together in a gorgeous, peaceful setting and are given the time, inspiration, and support they need to breathe life into their writing.”
The Writer’s High Retreat at Brasstown Valley Resort package includes two nights’ accommodations, all retreat presentations, workshops, and events; meals included are Friday and Saturday dinner buffet, lunch buffet Saturday, and breakfast buffet Saturday and Sunday. Pricing until June 30 is $754/single and $559/double (per person). Prices include all taxes and gratuities. Space is limited. To register or to get more information, including the full program schedule, visit www.thewritershigh.com.
The featured speakers are accomplished authors, well-versed in fiction, nonfiction/memoir, and poetry, and known for their engaging and ground-breaking presentations.
Joshilyn Jackson: New York Times best-selling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of seven novels: Someone Else’s Love Story, gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Backseat Saints, and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages, won SIBA’s novel of the year, three times been a #1 Book Sense Pick, twice won Georgia Author of the Year, and three times been shortlisted for the Townsend prize. Her new novel, The Opposite of Everyone, is a “must-read” according to the New York Times Book Review. Find out more HERE.
Clifford Brooks: Clifford’s first book of poetry, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics has been nominated for two Pushcarts, a Pulitzer in Poetry, and Clifford has been nominated for Georgia Author of the Year. With the attention his literary career has garnered, he has since The Southern Collective Experience and was invited into The Last Ancients. Both of these groups have given Clifford new energy and inspiration to complete his next book, Athena Departs, which will be released later this year.
Jessica Handler: Jessica’s memoir, Invisible Sisters, was named as one of the “Twenty Five Books All Georgians Should Read” in 2010. She wrote the acclaimed writers’ guide, Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss, to accompany her workshops about the challenges and rewards in writing well about difficult subjects. Her essays and features have appeared on NPR, in Tin House, Drunken Boat, Full Grown People, Brevity, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and More Magazine. Honors for her writing include residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences, a 2010 Emerging Writer Fellowship from The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the 2009 Peter Taylor Nonfiction Fellowship at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and special mention for a 2008 Pushcart Prize. Jessica is a Visiting Lecturer in English at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.
Michael Morris: Michael’s debut novel, A Place Called Wiregrass, won the Christy Award for Best First Novel. The Washington Post compared his second novel, Slow Way Home, to the work of Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor. It was nationally ranked as one of the top three recommended books by the American Booksellers Association and named one of the best novels of the year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Publishers Weekly named Man in the Blue Moon, a best book of 2012. It was also an Indie Next List book club selection – ranking number three on the independent bookseller association’s list of recommended reads. Michael was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, and his essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, Georgia, is the bookseller for the event, and FoxTale staff will be available all day Saturday for book sales.
The Writer’s High Retreat™ is presented by The Writer's High, LLC, a professional writing and editing service for authors, businesses, and individuals. Additional sponsors include Atlanta Writers Club, Tinderbox Writers Workshop, The Southern Collective Experience, Sensei Project, an award-winning group of social media experts; McCurdy Life Coach, an executive coaching service, and Crane Creek Vineyards.
Many thanks to Writers in the Storm Blog for featuring my post on May 18, 2016:
Blazing fear woke me. Suffocating, I sucked and clawed at the air. A cardiac intensive care nurse held my hand, murmuring it’s ok, it’s ok, you’re on a ventilator, remember?
Read more: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/05/the-gift-of-an-opened-heart/
Winston Groom Heads Stellar Literary Lineup for
Inaugural The Writer’s High Retreat at High Hampton Inn
April 24 - 26, 2015
Author Winston Groom returns to the tranquil mountain setting where he penned parts of Forrest Gump, this time as the guest of honor heading an all-star lineup of literary talent for the inaugural The Writer’s High Retreat at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC. The Writer’s High Retreat will be held April 24 - 26, 2015.
Joining Groom for two days of presentations, panel discussions and workshops will be a cadre of today’s top literary talent, including 2013 Georgia Author of the Year, Kimberly Brock; award-winning author, poet and founder of the acclaimed Zona Rosa creative writing workshop, Rosemary Daniell; best-selling novelist, Cassandra King; and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, author, writing coach and former journalist Jedwin Smith.
“High Hampton Inn has long been known as a destination that inspires people to reconnect – with friends, family, nature and their creative spirit, so when one of our longtime guests, writer and editor Mari Ann Stefanelli, approached me with the idea of a hosting a writer’s retreat, it was a perfect fit,” said Clifford Meads, General Manager of the High Hampton Inn.
“I wanted to share the writer's high I experienced during my many visits to High Hampton Inn with the writing community,” said Mari Ann. “The vistas, the altitude, the relaxed environment all come together in an almost magical alchemy to inspire effortless creativity – the writer’s high.”
In this informal, bucolic setting, writers will have plenty of free time to find their own writer’s high as well as learn from the panelists and speakers how to maintain it when they return to the real world.
Speakers, Panelists and Coaches for the event include:
Guest of Honor: Winston Groom, American novelist and non-fiction author who has written more than 14 books, is best known for his book Forrest Gump, which was adapted into a film in 1994. His latest work, The Aviators, has received critical acclaim for its portrayal of three extraordinary aviators – Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Jimmy Doolittle – and how they redefine heroism through their genius, daring, and uncommon courage.
Kimberly Brock, Kimberly Brock is the award-winning author of The River Witch (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. Attendees will get a sneak peek at the techniques Brock uses in her new Tinderbox Writers Workshop, a salon-like workshop designed to help reconnect writers with their creative self through awareness, movement, and an environment that encourages them to find their true north, and embrace their gifts and unique voice, while fostering resilience.
Rosemary Daniell, Rosemary Daniell has been at the forefront of the Southern writing community for over thirty years, with eight books and more than a dozen awards to her credit. Her recently completed third memoir is My Beautiful Tigers: A Maverick Mother’s Journey. Her earlier memoirs, Fatal Flowers and Sleeping with Soldiers, were forerunners of the current memoir trend. One of the country's finest writing coaches, she founded Zona Rosa, the creative writing workshop she leads in Savannah, Atlanta, and cities throughout the world. Over 150 Zona Rosans are now published authors.
Cassandra King, Cassandra King is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels: Making Waves, The Sunday Wife, The Same Sweet Girls, Queen of Broken Hearts, and Moonrise, as well as numerous short stories, essays and articles. In fact, Moonrise is set in the Highlands of North Carolina and follows a character who embarks on a tryst at High Hampton Inn. A native of L. A. (Lower Alabama), Cassandra resides in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Jedwin Smith, Jedwin Smith is presently working on a Civil War novel and teaching writer workshops. Smith is the recipient of 57 major writing awards during his 36 years as a print journalist. He was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize — in 1984 for his coverage of the U.S. Marine Corps peace-keeping force in Beirut, Lebanon, and in 1986 for his extensive coverage of Africa's longest and deadliest struggle, the Eritrea-Ethiopia civil war, for which he was a Pulitzer finalist. His poignant memoir, Our Brother’s Keeper, was recently republished.
About High Hampton Inn:
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, High Hampton Inn has welcomed guests since 1922. This Southern version of the famous Great Camps of the Adirondacks is located on a 1,400-acre estate in the Western North Carolina resort town of Cashiers, NC. The Inn has kept its rustic, relaxed quality with a focus on the great outdoors, making it a perfect place to focus on creative arts and rejuvenation. There are no distractions from the outside world, and while none of the lodge rooms or cottages contains TVs or telephones, guests are encouraged to partake in a host of activities. A sumptuous Spa, 18-hole George W. Cobb-designed golf course, miles of hiking trails, and a 35-acre lake for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and fishing make it easy to explore and escape. The historic inn exudes a rustic mountain atmosphere with cedar shingles, stone fireplaces and handmade twig and mountain-crafted furnishings.