Once you spend a week-end with Elaine Ambrose and friends, your head may feel like exploding with all of the inspirational gooses your creative soul will get, not to mention the laughter, tears and electrical surges.
Ambrose offers provocative insight into the work of participants and shares her own humorous take on just about everything. She has a background that gives her the right to poke about in a writer's notebook, having been a TV news reporter, university executive, magazine editor, author of 100 magazine articles, four books, co-author of two books and co-founder of Mill Park Publishing. She also has them laughing around the country as a popular keynote speaker.
The friends she invites along for Mr. Toad's ride add a rich palette to the retreat. This time around, a major jolt was administered to the group by prolific, financially successful and gifted writer, Anthony Doerr. He has authored four exemplary novels, won three O. Henry prizes, been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, among others, and his work has been translated into eleven languages.
Doerr spent a couple of hours sparking enthusiasm and then answering questions stirred up by his motivational remarks. He implored the writers to "shake up your habits!" regarding cliches and to "convince your readers they are 'not reading but there'". He is a master at this.
Amanda Turner, a Boise writer who produces and hosts "The Writer's Block" on Boise Community Radio, read tidbits of her humorous work throughout the retreat and advised the writers about building their platforms, creating the identities they want and networking with other writers and groups.
In an intense session by author Alan Heathcock, the writers were told that the most powerful place to write from is through the deepest understanding you have within yourself that makes what you write relevant to the human experience. Heathcock is currently a BSU fiction instructor and Fiction Fellow, as appointed by the Idaho Commission on the Arts. His stories have been published in Zoetrope, All-Story, VQR and Best American Stories, among others, and he won the National Magazine Award in Fiction. Look for his new book, VOLT, in March.
Gretchen Anderson writes award-winning humorous columns in several newspapers, including the Eagle Independent News, and she is a former television news reporter. She owns the PR firm, Communication Outsource. At three o'clock on a drowsy autumn afternoon, overlooking the Southfork River and sun-warmed fields, it is a tribute to Anderson's energetic story-telling and choice humor that all heads were upright and chortles filled the air.
Several local writers, many Boise residents and some out-of-staters were attracted to Ambrose's "Write by the River" retreat. In the near future, she will be holding small-group retreats and will provide a cabin/writing retreat for singles or couples.
If you are looking for some interesting reads, check out Doerr's new book, Memory Wall and his other books; Menopause Sucks, by Elaine Ambrose, humorously informs everyone of the facts about menopause--not just for "women of a certain age"; while you're at it, Ambrose's Waiting For the Harvest is recommended to anyone who likes to be charmed; Daily Erotica contains 366 poetic gems that are sure to arouse a certain feeling...penned by Elaine Ambrose, Gretchen Anderson, Rachel Hatch and Liza Long.
For information about Writing Retreats, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-890-8122.
Books may be found at Amazon.com
Photos: Top to bottom: Left, Alan Heathcock; right, Rita Roderiquez, Boise, listens to Dora Bean, Montana; left, Elaine Ambrose gives a dose of humor. Right, Amanda Turner on the move.
Center, Gretchen smiles for the camera before making people laugh with, "When we were kids, my mom used to boot us out of the car for farting. I think it was our way of getting back at her for correcting our grammar!"
Below Gretchen, center, Rachel Hatch accepts applause.
Tony Doerr and Bonnie Jemmett, Salt Lake City. Bonnie wowed everyone with her gift for quick response writing and her story and dialogue of an aged woman: "Not only has the world left you forsaken in its wake...you are not who you once were and the question is, when will it be over?"
Bottom, Luke does some serious writing during break.