A dream come true
Three nights and three days of writing, and workshops with Carmen Aguirre
The story behind this retreat
In June 2017, I went to my first Writer’s Adventure Camp organised by Zsuzsi Gardner. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but I took the memoir track thinking I’d at least pick up some hints about how to write in this genre. I hadn’t yet started seriously writing my memoir and it’s a complex, tricky story, so I needed as much help as I could get.
I was a little unsure about the introductory exercise, but once I engaged with the process, I could see how well it worked. I was captivated by Carmen’s approach to storytelling, and seriously impressed by her experience. She has an incredibly sharp mind and her answers to every question were not just vague generalities; they were specific, intelligent replies that were valuable to the questioner (and everyone else!).
Since the Writers Adventure Camp, I’ve written 60,000 words on my memoir, and I heard Carmen’s voice almost the entire time. With the concepts of objectives and superobjectives in mind, I had a much clearer idea of why I was writing my story, and what I wanted it to do in the world. Carmen also helped me figure out the difference between a journal and a memoir. Her wisdom was so valuable that I’m organising this workshop 😉 – Ali
Who is this retreat for?
This retreat is aimed at memoirists, because many of us are working in this genre; because Carmen has excellent advice for memoirists; and because Carmen has published two excellent memoirs.
However, if you are writing fiction and really want to come, don’t be put off that we are aiming this at memoirists. Fiction and memoir have a lot in common, including constructing a story arc, dramatic moments, building tension, and resolution of the tension. Carmen’s expertise in storytelling and guiding writers through the process of scaffolding their story will translate across genres. I’m writing memoir and fiction at present and will use the lessons from this retreat for both projects.
Last week I listened to a podcast about the similarities between fiction and memoir and was really taken with the message: “if your memoir doesn’t read like a novel nobody will want to buy it”. No matter which genre you are working in, we all need more of Carmen’s wisdom about how to tell our stories!
What will we do on the retreat?
Carmen will jump start the writing process through a theatre exercise from the Theatre of the Oppressed canon, designed to push you beyond your safety zone and provide access to your deepest, often untold stories. You may bring along a story you’ve been working on, or you may wish to come with a fresh slate and see what stories come up. In working on your stories, we will focus on theme and counter-theme, characters’ objectives and super-objectives, structure, and plot.
We will discuss the difference between writing memoir for personal catharsis as opposed to universal experience, and how to choose the content for your memoir once you know your theme and your character’s super-objective.
You’ll spend time writing, sharing the writing, and receiving Carmen’s feedback. You will walk away with content and organising principles towards completing a draft of a chapter of your memoir, and enough information for the arc of an entire book.
What if I have taken previous workshops with Carmen?
Some of us have worked with Carmen before, and will want to work with her again. The good news is that the workshops will offer something for everyone, and Carmen can meet you where you are. Those of us further along in our writing will gain a lot from Carmen talking about plot, structure, and character development (at WAC we focused solely on theme/countertheme and superobjectives).
“The feedback I give to those who have been at WAC (Writers Adventure Camp) will probably be different. I still believe that doing Song of the Mermaid to jump start the writing process is very helpful, for example. For those people who have been to WAC or have a draft of something already, that exercise can help excavate a moment, an image, a chapter, a key unit, of the story you are trying to tell. We can get as specific as we want. The structure I used at WAC is one that I’ve refined (and continue to refine) over years of doing this. Much like a creative writing department, it’s not so much about doing something different every time, but rather continuing to write, continuing to get very specific feedback, and continuing to write again. The big secret to writing is endurance and the ability to integrate constructive feedback. That’s all.”
With a maximum of 15 participants, space is limited to ensure a rich and valuable experience for everyone