By Beth Terrell
Last week, I told you I was going to be spending this past weekend at a writer's workshop near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was really a workshop/retreat at One Writer's Place, founded by bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard. You've probably heard of Jackie. Her first adult novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, released in 1996, was the first Oprah selection. It was made into a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Since then, she's written seven other acclaimed novels for adults, as well as a number of YA and children's books. She wrote the first chapters of that first novel at the Ragdale Foundation retreat, and it was that experience that led her to create a retreat of her own. She credits Ragdale with helping her achieve her dream and wanted to do the same for other writers.
One Writer's Place offers workshops, residencies, and manuscript critiques. The workshops, like the one I attended this past weekend, bring three to four writers together to discuss their work with Jackie and with each other. The master's workshop (the one I attended) was for writers who have a completed manuscript. Before the retreat, I sent a copy of my manuscript to each of the two other participants and another to Jackie. I read the other two manuscripts before I left for the retreat. Then, when we got there, we discussed each person's manuscript in depth. Jackie offers encouragement, but also has a gift for diagnosing a story's weaknesses and seeing what needs to be done to improve it. I went home with pages of notes and three copies of my manuscript complete with notes from Jackie and the other two participants. Jackie has said that most authors submit their manuscripts one edit too soon. Thanks to my weekend at One Writer's Place, I know mine is close to ready. According to the website, One Writer's Place offers six workshops a year, some of which are masters' classes and some of which are for writers whose manuscripts are not complete. There is no way to go through a One Writer's Place workshop and not come out of it a better writer.
One Writer's Place is also available for residencies of from one to three weeks. Residencies are free, except for a $150 cleaning fee for a one week stay ($250 for three weeks). Residencies are open to published and begining writers, but three letters of character reference are required. Application deadlines are June 1 for fall residencies and December 1 for spring residencies.
No time for a three-week jaunt to Cape Cod? No budget for the intensive weekend workshop? Jackie also offers critiques for a limited number of partial and full manuscripts. Each critique includes marked pages, written suggestions and observations, and a 40-minute phone consultation.
Thanks to Jackie Mitchard and her wonderful assistant, Pam English, my weekend at One Writer's Place included three ultra-healthy meals a day, a trip to the bay and another to the Brewster tidal flats, and some of the best writing advice I could have asked for.