Writing retreat makes its mark


The Mirror

In an effort to give the literary arts just as much attention as the many other arts in Federal Way, the Federal Way Arts Commission held its first writer’s retreat April 27-28.

The two-day event was the idea of arts commission member Maggie Ellis, who grew up writing. Federal Way offers so much in regards to other art forms that Ellis felt it was time to shine a spotlight on literature and those who write it, she said.

More than 75 writers gathered last week to kick off A Writer’s Retreat with a wine and cheese reception at the Dumas Bay Centre in Federal Way.

The retreat took a year to plan and involved securing the Dumas Bay Centre on Dash Point Road as a location, Ellis said.

“We had never done this before, so we had to create the process as we went,” she said.

Getting started

Henriette Anne Klauser, Ph.D, author of “Writing from Both Sides of the Brain,” spoke Friday evening of the difficulties many writers face in getting the left and right side of their brain to cooperate in producing a satisfying piece of literature.

“We have this little critical voice inside us that keeps us from being the best writer we can be,” she said.

She joked freely using hand motions and pictures to demonstrate how the rational, detail-oriented left side of the brain can block ideas from the visual, creative right side of the brain. She explained that ideas sometimes get misplaced when they travel from one side of the brain to the other via a band of brain fibers called the corpus callosum.

Klauser gave the audience tips on how to trick the two sides of the brain into working together so those ideas remained intact. She advised writers to always be prepared for when an idea may surface and dedicate 15 minutes each morning to a free-write exercise.

Smiling, she admitted she carries a pen for almost every occasion — one attached to a spatula, one she wears around her neck, one with a light on the end for writing in the dark, even one that is capable of writing underwater.

Klauser also provided the audience with her list of the “5 R’s of Whole-Brained Writing:” Ruminate the information over and over again, rapid write each day, retreat from the writing once it is complete, revise it where necessary, and repeat these steps again and again until the writing has reached its full potential, she said.

She engaged the audience in a confidence-building exercise in which they wrote down everything they feared about writing, then countered each fear with a writing strength.

“When you write down your fears, it takes away their hold on you,” Klauser said.

Sharon Carr, Federal Way resident, said the retreat was the first she had attended. She vowed to wake early each morning for the next week to channel her energy into a 15-minute free-write. Carr, along with many other writers, left Friday night eager to continue their learning process Saturday morning upon their return to Dumas Bay Centre.

Building skills

Writers received tips, advice and encouragement on freelance, novel, narrative and poetry writing Saturday. The morning started early with an 8 a.m. breakfast and ended at 5 p.m. with an evaluation of the two-day event. Authors, journalists and poets alike all taught retreat participants a little something about their genre of writing.

Seattle Times staff reporter Nancy Bartley did an excellent job of educating her audience on how to turn bland facts into great stories with the use of embellishing details, Carr said. As a research and a short story writer, Carr plans on using her newfound writing knowledge in both areas of her work.

Like Carr, Ellis found the event to be a success and looks forward to offering it again. Planning for next year’s retreat has already begun, she said. Her goal is to provide writers with various sources of inspiration. Next year she hopes to explore other genres of writing that were not highlighted this year, Ellis said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565

Fast facts:

The retreat cost the Federal Way Arts Commission approximately $6,000, commission member Maggie Ellis said. The arts commission donated $2,000, another $2,00 came in the form of a grant from the City of Federal Way Lodging and Tax Committee and the remaining $2,000 came from private and corporate sponsors, including Sterling Bank and Top Foods, Ellis said.

A total of $1,300 was presented to the winners of the Federal Way Arts Commission’s essay contest. Fifty-four local high school students wrote on the topic of “The Power of Language” Nine of them were awarded cash prizes Friday evening. Two students received an honorable mention prize of $50. Three students were given a second place prize of $100. Three students received a first place prize of $200 and Decatur High School freshman Sarah Lin won the grand prize Musselman Family Award of $300 for her essay about the impact of a racial slur.

“Everyone wields the power of language and it is up to you to control that power,” Lin said.

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