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Writers Retreat Workshop

Kimberly Frost, author of the Southern Witch series of books and a graduate of the Writers Retreat Workshop, gives advice to the participants on June 23.

Kimberly Frost first attended a Writers Retreat Workshop in 2002. This June, the published author was back at the workshop, now in its second year at the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center, as one of the speakers.

“I’m back to help other writers,” Frost said. Four years after her first experience with the workshop, she got an agent in 2006, and sold her first novel in 2007, which was published in 2009, “Would-Be Witch.” That was the first in the Southern Witch series of books, which includes “Barely Bewitched,” and her most recent, “Halfway Hexed,” which was published in February.

Cecile Somers, left, from Luxembourg, and Sally Shires, from Cleveland, Ohio, smile at a comment made by Jason Sitzes during an afternoon breakout session.

Frost is an emergency room doctor in Houston when she’s not writing. The workshop helped her fill in gaps where she was weak, she said. The feedback the writers receive is invaluable, Frost said.

“This is a safe place, people are respectful of each other’s work,” she said. “The comments are kind and fair, people don’t take it personally.”

This was Frost’s first visit to Maple Mount, and the scenery was a big hit. “We took a walk and the sunset was so fantastic, we just stopped and stared,” Frost said.

Robin Yaklin, center, makes a point to other participants during a critique session.

“It takes an average of four or five years to write at a publishable level,” Sitzes said. The participants in the workshop receive daily classes on structuring scenes, effective description and dialogue, and also on the business aspect of publishing, Sitzes said. Visiting speakers this year include an editor from Random House, and an agent from Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, an agency that represents current writers Dan Brown and Nelson DeMille, and got its start in the 1930s representing Franz Kafka and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Published authors giving talks other than Frost included Carolyn Wheat, author of the Cass Jameson series of thrillers, and short story writer Matt Brock.

Darcy Cleaver Maloney and Jason Sitzes listen during Kimberly Frost’s talk the morning of June 23.

Sitzes said the Conference and Retreat Center is a great venue and the writers hope to return every year. About 30 participants from all over the country and one from Luxembourg, Cecile Somers, are attending this year’s retreat, which lasts from June 17-27.

Somers is in her second year at the workshop, but first in Maple Mount. “I like that it’s caring, nurturing, and gentle, like a family,” she said.

Somers learned about the workshop from the author Les Edgerton, who recommended she participate if she was ever in the United States. “Once you do it, you want to come back,” she said.

 

This year’s workshop attracted 30 members, many of whom gathered in the large conference room to start the day on June 23 to listen to Kimberly Frost.

She finds Maple Mount “charming and pretty,” and says the people are so friendly. “I like talking to the nuns, there’s a sense of continuity.”

Sally Shires, of Cleveland, Ohio, is making her 11th Writers Retreat Workshop, with her first one in 1989. “It becomes like a big family,” she said. “The review is always great, I’m always learning something.” Shires has two novels completed, but is looking for a new agent to see if she can get them published. “I’m pre-published,” she said with a smile.

Some participants decide to take advantage of the sunny weather and move their breakout session to the piazza on the Motherhouse grounds.

Darcy Cleaver Maloney is a sixth-grade English teacher in Louisville, who began coming to the workshop in 2009 after winning a scholarship to attend. She is “half-student, half-staff” for this workshop. She’s been writing seriously for eight or nine years, and had an excerpt of her novel “Southpaw” published in the London Times. “It’s a young adult story about girls on a lacrosse team who shape shift into coyotes,” she said. “It’s just as funny as it sounds.”

Robin Yaklin, from Dallas, is at the workshop for the second year. “The energy, the enthusiasm, the helpfulness of people, I love the collaborative brain that occurs,” Yaklin said. “I love seeing the progress. A lady who was here last year had never been published, and she will be published next year.”

Participants in the workshop share their critiques of each other’s work during a breakout session in the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center.

The only way to grow as a writer is to be around people who offer a challenge, Yaklin said. “It’s like playing bridge, you never get any better if you play with the same people all the time.”

She loves the scenery at Maple Mount. “The views out my window are just marvelous,” Yaklin said. “I exit with a smile on my face.”

To learn more about the Writers Retreat Workshop, and to consider registering for next year’s workshop, visit http://www.writersretreatworkshop.com A scholarship is available.