Tag Archives: Linda Wyss

Hemingway in the Spring

Longtime visitors here will recall my association with the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center located in Piggott, Arkansas. The Pfeiffer home is where Hemingway lived for a short time while married to Pauline Pfeiffer and where he wrote parts of A Farewell to Arms. I have a great affection for the place not just because they invite me there, but because it’s in Piggott, my second home of sorts.

The museum holds three annual retreats. Writing retreats are different from writing conferences in that the object for the writers (most of them) is to get away and just write. At a conference, the writers play more of a student role and sit in on lectures and presentations. While there are fun writing exercises for the writers at the HPMEC retreats, the goal is to WRITE! My function as mentor is to lead them in the short exercises, provide feedback and comments to them on their writing, and to generally encourage them to get’er done! I very much enjoy reading the work and offering the encouraging feedback. Writing is work, yes, but it should also be fun!

HemingwaySpring2014 copy*Pictured: Bethany Mallett Stephens, Linda Wyss, Anne Winchester, Barbara Taylor, me (in all my bearded glory!), Susan Hemingway, Ethan Baker, Doug Hemingway, Fay Guin. Yes, we did have a couple who shared Ernie’s last name and Doug even looked the part of Ernest!

I’m not sure exactly when the retreats started, probably 2002, because 2008 was the 6th Annual. Initially they were weeklong summer retreats led by Dr. Rob Lamm from Arkansas State University. I learned about the retreat when I was editor of The Piggott Times in 2007. The very next year, 2008, one of the mentors couldn’t make it and they asked me to step in to to help out, which I gladly did!! The retreats had become so popular that they decided to begin an annual Fall retreat and I was asked to lead the first one. It was an abbreviated version (three days), but was no less packed with writing! In April of 2011, I was then asked to lead the first ever Spring retreat, a near-mirror image of the Fall version (meaning, it’s just a little shorter).

During my association there, I’ve worked with three different directors, but it’s a testament to them and the staff there—who are fantastic!—that the retreats continue to grow and flourish. Last week, five of the nine retreating writers had never been to any of the retreats before (and I specifically mean the HPMEC retreats, not retreats in general…because I don’t know the answer to that).

Writers come from all over, but mostly from the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee area. I understand there was a New York writer there this past fall.

If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a retreat, the Hemingway Writers Retreats are excellent ones to attend. They’d take great care of you and you can write where Hemingway did—maybe even channel some Hemingway in your writing.

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The 2nd Spring Creative Writers Retreat

The Second annual Spring Creative Writers Retreat was held at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Arkansas. Once again, I was honored to serve as the mentor/instructor. This marks my fifth year to be involved as a mentor/instructor. As always, it was an incredible experience.

Some have asked how I got involved with a Writers Retreat in farming country Arkansas. Well, I’ll tell ya! When I moved to Piggott to become editor of the then Piggott Times, I worked hard to get to know the people I didn’t already know. Keep in mind, my family has been there for 150 years and has a long history there so I’m kin to about one-third of the folks there. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I know how I think it did: Deana Dismukes, who was then the Center’s administrator, had been delivering press releases to me. The summer of 2007, she asked me to come up and talk to the writers at the retreat. It was in the 5th or 6th year. She bribed me with lunch…and so I went. I did a story for the paper on the retreat and the writers there.

Then, in 2008, after I’d moved to Oxpatch, Deana asked me to come be the assistant mentor for the week long summer session. It seemed the mentor who’d help get it all started, Dr. Rob Lamm, had responsibilities elsewhere and his assistant was stepping up. I gladly accepted!

The retreats were so popular with the writers they demanded a Fall version. Thus, that November, a three-day Fall retreat saw its inaugural session with me as the only mentor. The others had regularly scheduled school responsibilities and I was available! The next year, 2009, the Fall retreat expanded to a weeklong event. Last year, 2011, writers demanded a Spring retreat. It was—and still is—a three day event. I’m honored to have been the only mentor at all of the Fall and Spring Retreats, and I love to see the continual flow of new writers coming to get some of Hemingway’s ambiance (he wrote parts of Farewell to Arms in the barn studio there on the grounds).

Generally, I give the writers a mini-lecture followed by writing exercises both in the morning and then after lunch. Many of them come with projects they’re working on (like novels) and just want some time to get away and write! I know of about three novels that have been at least partially finished—or at least worked on—while at the retreat.

This year was no exception with a slightly smaller—but no less talented group. Pictured are: front (l-r) Dr. Adam Long – Associate Director for the Museum and Ed. Center, me, Mary Lou Moran; back (l-r), John Achor, Shannon Richards, Linda Wyss, Jane Gatewood, Jerry Davis. Not pictured are Anne Winchester and Brett Thielemier.

If you’ve ever considered a retreat, let me encourage you to consider the Creative Writers Retreats at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center. I don’t think you’ll regret it. Tell’em Roland sent ya!

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Once again, Writers Retreat at HPMEC

Those of you who’ve been around this blog for at least 7 months know of the Hemingway-Pfeifer Museum and Education Center and the awesome writers retreats. I’ve just come away from another week of retreating writers in the small town of Piggott, Arkansas, where Hemingway penned portions of his famous Farewell to Arms.

While I’ve known about the Pfeifer home and the museum for some time now, I wasn’t aware of the writers retreat until the summer of 2007 when the contacted me to do a story for the paper where I was editor. They fed me lunch, I listened for a bit, and did a story on it for the paper only to find out it was the first time the paper had ever even been there (I wasn’t editor there for the other retreats!). Needless to say, that shocked me, but one of the goals I had as editor was to make it more of a local paper, something it hadn’t really done before then.

The next summer, 2008, I’d already moved on from the paper but kept in contact with a lot of the people there, and the kind folks at HPMEC contacted me about being one of the Writing Mentors there. I jumped on the opportunity. It must have gone well, because they invited me back to be the sole Mentor in 2009 partly because Dr. Rob Lamm, the regular summer Mentor, couldn’t make it that year. Interest in the retreat had been growing and they were looking for ways to enhance the experience for writers, so the now annual Fall Retreat was created and I became the Mentor for that. This past April they put on the first (and abbreviated) Spring retreat. As I’ve said before, writers should consider doing something like this—if not the HPMEC retreat.

There were 14 writers in attendance this time, 10 of whom were first timers! Pictured are: front row, l-r: Brinda Gore, Dorothy Johnson, Cristy Phillips, Monica Moore, Teresa Lee, Kayla Dean; back row, l-r: Freeda Nichols, Elizabeth Foster, Richard Collum, Linda Wyss, Shannon Richards, Sue Whitmire, Barbara Collier, me, Evelyn Clark, Diana Sanders-HPMEC Assistant Director.

As usual, the writers came from all over and had a wide variety of interests. It is the first time, however, that I’ve ever had one bring part of a working dissertation for comments!

As usual, the writers left both full exhausted from the long week of writing and fully energized at the same time. Teresa Lee was so much so that she began her very own blog the very following Sunday. Check it out here: Close To Home

I am beginning to wonder, though… Two years ago Deana Dismukes, who was coordinating the retreats and putting together the anthologies, retired to many tearful writers and joyful grandchildren. At this retreat, Diana Sanders let us know she was about to retire and spend time with her grandchildren. A retirement party was thrown in her honor and her presence will be greatly missed.

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Retreating Writers

For the second year in a row, I had the incredible pleasure of mentoring/instructing a very talented group of retreating writers at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Ark. Part of the ASU system, HPMEC has had success with the writer retreats as this past summer was the 7th Annual, and the one just finished was the 2nd Annual Fall Retreat.

But the writers weren’t actually “retreating,” at least not in the military sense. In fact, they were very much advancing, taking full advantage of the beautiful Fall weather on the HPMEC grounds, which features a “barn studio” where Ernest Hemingway penned parts of A Farewell to Arms. Catered to by Deanna Dismukes and the staff, the writers are able to spend the entire week focused on writing, whether that be finishing a project, trying new ideas, or searching for an elusive muse. What a cool idea.

The neat thing is that the writers came from all over the state of Arkansas and Missouri just to spend the week writing. Some of them know each other from other writing groups, some were first timers, and some were even first-time writers. But they were all treated equally.

So what is it we actually do at the retreat? Each morning begins with a writing exercise, something with the intention of loosing up the writing muscles. Writers aren’t required to do the exercises—they can immediately tackle whatever project they want to tackle—but most end up participating in them each day. At lunch the morning exercise work is read, and often (though not every day), an afternoon writing exercise is given. Again, the main purpose is to hopefully inspire creativity for the writers. Those exercises are they read by the writers before the group leaves for the afternoon.

At the end of the week, the writers turn in those exercises along with other writings they’ve chosen, and a special Retreat Anthology is created. I’m the lucky owner of two thus far and I’ve enjoyed the works in both. I’m looking forward to receiving the one just created.

The picture was taken in the barn studio—that’s Hemingway’s typewriter (or rather, one of them) in the bottom right of the picture. From L-R; bottom to top: me, Ethan Baker, Bob Jones (looking a little like he’s channeling Hemingway), Wanda Jones (red), Linda Wyss, Monica Moore, Chris Henderson (who’s commented on some of my blog posts in the past), Carol Griffin, Rita Dortch, Joseph Hargrave, Pat Laster, Phyllis Rhodes and Elizabeth Foster.

On Friday, Faye Williams Jones signed copies of her new release: Erasing People. It can be ordered online here! Though tired and ready to get back home, I think many of the writers—like me—hated to see the week come to an end.

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