My writing retreat at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony has come and gone. It was a spectacular week. For many days, temperatures hovered around 30 degrees Celsuis. The stillness and almost near solitude allowed me to ponder over different aspects of the book, and I came away with a solid draft of another story in my book.
I am sharing a few of the photos I took in the area. The first and last were taken on the grounds at Dorland, while the other two were taken at Lake Skinner, a park and water table for the region. I had an odd sensation walking on the grass at the park, which was stiff and springy, as if no other feet had walked on it before. Sadly, the park was deserted, perhaps because tourist season had passed and the locals found the temperatures "cool." The fact that visitors must pay $6 to access the park might have also played into the low attendance.
My stay at Dorland included an added bonus this time. I arrived in time to attend a writing workshop by Lisa Fugard. Five local writers and I spent a Sunday writing pages of material that explored the emotional dynamic at the heart of our stories. The workshop built on a master class I attended at the Surrey International Writers' Conference on the emotional craft of fiction. Literary agent Don Maass told the attendees that 99% of the manuscripts he reads are rejected and often it is because they do not arouse emotions in him.
We read stories to feel something. The best stories recall those emotions in us long after we have finished the book. But the alchemy of weaving life into fiction is not easy work. Just as the beauty of the Temecula Valley cannot be fully appreciated in the photos I've posted above, the rich tapestry of human emotions cannot be inserted into a story simply by adding a word here or a line there.
Lisa encouraged us to delve into the personal and private truths we've discovered in our own lives to bring forth those sometimes painful emotions as we write. "Go for the heat," she encouraged us. Don suggested we concentrate on secondary emotions in our writing rather than the obvious first emotion we experience during a traumatic or stressful event.
My thanks to both for their helpful tips and suggestions. I'm also grateful to Dorland, especially the on-site caretaker Robert and his wife Janice, for allowing me to work on these facets of my book over a stunning week. I have more work to do on the emotional depth of the story, but I now understand better the work that must be done to achieve it.