For visitors who travel near and far to our sandy shores, it doesn’t get much better than a day at the beach with a good novel. Recently, the second annual Salt Cay Writers Retreat took things up a notch with a week of writing workshops, panel discussions, structured writing exercises and one-on-one feedback sessions with international and New York Times bestselling authors and their agents – all on the shores of a crystalline lagoon.
The successes of the 2013 inaugural Salt Cay Writers Retreat made the decision to return to Salt Cay – better known as Blue Lagoon Island – an easy one for retreat administrators Karen Dionne and Christopher Graham. The organizers know their stuff – and they ought to, given the fact that they coordinated the notable Backspace Writers Conferences in New York City for nine years.
“This is something that we would absolutely love to be doing every year,” said Graham.
“The setting is fabulous, and the students are eager to learn,” added Dionne. “Nothing but positive comments is what we’ve heard for the teaching and the fun activities, free time to swim in the lagoon, writing instructions – it’s been just wonderful.”
Returning among the seven faculty members this year were Robert Goolrick, Jeff Kleinman and Erin Harris. New instructors included authors David Ebershoff and Téa Obreht and literary agents Jill Marr and Erin Niumata.
Niumata, a Bahamian, expressed her excitement about the opportunity to return home for the retreat.
“I was thrilled because it is The Bahamas, and I’m a Bahamian, and I get to come home and talk to Bahamians about the craft of writing and spread what knowledge I have to the Bahamian people, which makes me happy,” she said.
Thirty students traveled to the retreat – which has been acclaimed across social media as a refreshing source of guidance and inspiration – from as far away as Australia.
Caroline Graham flew more than 20 hours in total, all the way from Down Under, to hear what the pros had to say on her novel.
“I think it’s paid for itself already a hundred times over,” she said. “Getting so many perspectives on my writing has been incredible, as well as solving different problems in the manuscript and making contact with other writers. I think the other lovely thing is I feel like I’m leaving really inspired to go back and write and work on it.”
This year, the retreat offered its single-day registration for Bahamians on Saturday, and 10 local wordsmiths showed up to share and receive feedback on their works. Ria Newbold, a self-help and inspirational writer, was one of them.
“I’m hoping to get some further insight into the publishing dos and don’ts,” she said. “I’m just excited and I’m grateful for the opportunity, as a Bahamian author, to be able to learn from international professionals, because I’m sure there’s so much that they can offer us.”
Reaching out to the Bahamian community, this year the Salt Cay Writers Retreat partnered with local organizations to benefit local adult literacy program, Project Read, in an evening of readings by David Ebershoff, Robert Goolrick and Téa Obreht. Held at the Old Fort Bay Club, the event, titled A Novel Evening, was an outstanding success with approximately 115 literary enthusiasts turning up in support.
Robert Meister, managing director of Dolphin Encounters, Blue Lagoon Island, expressed his pleasure at hosting the 2014 retreat. “Blue Lagoon Island (Salt Cay) has a long history with writers, and several books have been authored here, including ‘Sophie’s Choice’ by William Styron,” he said. “Hosting the retreat was a return to our writing roots and we hope to continue this tradition.”
For more information on the 2014 Salt Cay Writers Retreat or to stay up-to-date on news about future retreats, visit the Salt Cay Writers Retreat website at saltcaywritersretreat.com.
Salt Cay Writers Retreat Panel Discussion: Salt Cay Writers Retreat Students attend a panel led by faculty members. (Photo: Karen Dionne)
Salt Cay Writers Retreat A Novel Evening Signings: (From left) Robert Goolrick, David Ebershoff and Téa Obreht sign copies of their novels at the A Novel Evening event hosted at the Old Fort Bay Club. (Photo: Karen Dionne)
Salt Cay Writers Retreat Group Workshop1: A group of Salt Cay Writers Retreat students exchange feedback on their respective works in a small group workshop led by Robert Goolrick.