on O‘ahu's North Shore
The O‘ahu Writers Retreat has been held for eight years at Camp Mokulē‘ia, on the island's North Shore. Typically we gather for six days and five nights of workshops, coaching, and connection. This may expand to one week in 2023. Participation is limited to 24 writers.
In the Hawaiian language, Mokulē‘ia means “a place of abundance.” The mission of Camp Mokulē‘ia is to offer a sacred place for reflection, gathering, and play. The mission of the retreat is to welcome writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and memoir and to foster an exchange in two directions—between islanders and visitors, published writers and budding writers, Native Hawaiian artistry and mainstream publishing. We are dedicated to providing rich resources for artists at the lowest possible cost.
With the Wai‘anae Mountains at our back and the open ocean at our front, we break bread with colleagues, gather in daily workshops, salute the sun in yoga, write in the shade of ironwood trees, and wander along the pristine beach.
We believe a sacred spot like this will inspire us to explore other places—whether in the heart, in memory, or in the moment.
We are also committed to reflecting the culture and values of Hawai‘i and providing an experience quite different from the typical tourist visit.
The retreat is high-level and professional—but also low-key and tuned in to art and beauty. Workshops encourage creative exploration and include readings, exercises, and feedback. We don't group writers by experience, but rather see each artist as on a personal path of discovery and mastery. Open writing time allows for diving deeper as well as polishing.
As always, our instructors, are all professional writers with many publication credits. We offer personal guidance and top-flight editing as part of the workshops. We also try to respond to particular needs of each writer.
Evening programs offer a chance to learn about the essence of Hawai‘i from writers, chanters, musicians, and other cultural legends. These programs are open to family and companions as well as members of the local community.
Other optional activities include yoga, hikes to sacred sites, swimming, turtle spotting, and endless beachcombing.
All our instructors are writers with many publishing credits to their names as well as serious teaching chops. (Except for Kaipo, who is a Hawaiian musician and storyteller beyond compare.) The faculty changes each year, but will include:
Constance Hale (director)
Kaipo Asing (music)
Stuart Coleman (nonfiction)
Tamara Leiokanoe Moan (book art)
Zoe FitzGerald Carter (songwriting)
Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Constance Hale, and Zoe FitzGerald Carter at Camp Mokulē‘ia
All rooms are in the Camp Lodge (Find a description here.) Rooms will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. All meals are included in the rates below. You will check in to your room Monday afternoon, checking out Friday at noon. [If we are able to expand to one week, the rates may increase by $200.]
The rate for workshops, lodging (private room), and meals: $1,300.
The rate for workshops, lodging (in a shared room with one other writer), and meals: $ 900.
The rate for a nonwriting companion is $ 800, added to the base shared room rate of $ 900.
The rate for workshops, lodging (share cabin room), and meals: $800.
The day rate, which includes lunch only, is $ 800.
Day rates will be available for those who do not wish lodging and meals. Individual meals for participants and guests can be arranged. Limited scholarships are available.
Connie writes children’s books, adult’s books, essays, profiles, and, every now and then, a poem. She is the author of Sin and Syntax, along with five other books, and she curates sinandsyntax.com, a place “for those who love wicked good prose.” Connie has been an editor at the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, Wired, and Health, and she coaches writers tackling their first (or fifth) books. She was born and grew up in Waialua, which makes this retreat a happy overlay of the personal and the professional. Her children’s book ‘Iwalani’s Tree is set in Mokulē‘ia.
Connie will not teach a formal session, but she is available for one-on-one coaching for writers with a completed manuscript and questions about next steps.
Linda is a poet, travel writer, novelist and popular workshop leader. She is the author of two poetry collections and winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. Her novel, Namako: Sea Cucumber, was named Best Book for the Teen-Age by the New York Public Library. She has written the short-story collection The Hand of Buddha, co-edited twelve anthologies, and published a zombie novel, Dead Love, which was a 2009 Bram Stoker Award Finalist. She is the founder of Left Coast Writers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linda's latest book, Navigating the Divide, honored as a Next Generation Indie Finalist, was published in 2019 by Alan Squire Publishing.
The Friction in Fiction: Creating Irresistible Stories
Conflict, controversy, cultural collision, action, suspense, and climax—these are the keys to creating magic on the page. In this workshop, you will learn how to use friction to create great fiction … and even nonfiction. Linda writes in every genre there is, so she welcomes writers ready to explore. Feel free to bring a work in progress to share. We’ll cover everything from inciting incidents, to plot, twists, turns, moments of truth, and grand reveals. We’ll use prompts and write and review until we uncover the secrets of that most powerful of all tales—the page-turner. Hold on to your laptops, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Kaipo is a virtuoso performer who has played across the islands and with many of Hawai‘i's great musicians. He will join us with his son Adam Asing and others. They play what is often referred to as “the Territorial style.” In the strains of their renditions of beloved classics, you will hear traces of jazz, swing, and even country, as well as echoes of the greats of yesteryear: Alfred Apaka, Jerry Byrd, David “Feet” Rogers, and Gabby Pahinui. They will serenade us, honoring requests and accompanying hula dancers in the crowd. The Asings play with the Royal Hawaiian Band, and all members of the group musicians have been regulars at many of Honolulu’s famous rooms, like The Halekulani’s Room without a Key and the Waikīkī Marriott’s Moana Terrace.
Maw’s poetry chapbooks are Ruins of a Glittering Palace (SPA/Commonwealth Projects) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press), as well as the volume Invisible Gifts: Poems (Manic D Press). Win is the first poet laureate of El Cerrito, California (2016 - 2018). Her full-length poetry collection Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn) was long listed for the PEN America Open Book Award, nominated for a Northern California Book Award for Poetry, and short listed for the California Independent Booksellers Alliance’s Golden Poppy Award for Poetry for 2021. She often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers and was a Spring 2021 ARC Poetry Fellow at UC Berkeley. mawsheinwin.com
Experiments in Poetry In this workshop, we will play with language, invent new work, and read our poems to each other in a supportive setting. What do we take delight in? How do we transmit the mysterious? How do we experience music in words? We will find inspiration from visual, literary, and audio prompts, ranging from word games to collaborative exercises to film soundtracks. By the end of this workshop, you will leave with new resources and practices to keep you moving forward in your writing life. This lively class is excellent for both poets and flash prose writers.
Stuart is a writer, speaker and environmental organizer. He has written three books, sixty articles and many poems and essays. The books are Eddie Would Go; Fierce Heart; and Eddie Aikau: Hawaiian Hero. He is a recipient of the Eliot Cades Award for Literature, the Hawaii Book Publisher Association's Non-Fiction Award, and several writing fellowships. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University and has taught creative writing at Punahou and ‘Iolani Schools, the University of Hawai‘I, and many writers conferences. www.Stuart-Coleman.com
Creative Nonfiction: New Approaches to True Stories
Creative Nonfiction can powerfully blend different genres. This workshop explores how the elements of fiction (plot, dialogue, character development, and scene) and poetry (symbolism, tone, and extended metaphors) can play a role in nonfiction, especially memoir. We will look at how journalistic tools (research, interviews and references to historical and current events) can help inform your writing. We will also discuss the concept of “truth” in both fiction and memoir and the challenges inherent in writing about people, places and events that are often too near and dear to see clearly. We will read examples of creative non-fiction and use brief writing exercises to transform our personal stories. Please feel free to apply exercises in the workshop to a manuscript in progress.
Tamara earned a BFA in graphic design in 1985 from the University of Washington and received an MA in literature and creative writing from the University of Hawai‛i. Tamara’s journalism has been published in Hana Hou, Island Scene, Generations Hawaii, American Artist, The Artist’s Magazine, and Pastel Artist. Her poetry and creative non-fiction have appeared in Bamboo Ridge and Hawaii Pacific Review. She lives and works in Kailua and exhibits regularly in Hawai‛i; you can find her artwork at www.tamaramoan.com and www.fineartassociates.com.
Drawing a Story
Explore drawing as a means to record observations, convey setting and tone, and acquire a mark-making vocabulary to express emotion. Freshen your verbal means for creating story, character, and plot by exploring the creative process from a visual art perspective. No experience required! We will construct a simple sketchbook that you will then be guided to fill with drawings and ideas. Let your non-verbal self guide you to new inspiration.
Zoe FitzGerald Carter
A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Zoe has written for The New York Times, The San
Francisco Chronicle, Salon, and Vogue. Her memoir, Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Loss and Letting Go, chronicled her mother’s decision to end her life after living with Parkinson’s disease. Today Zoe is fully engaged as a singer-songwriter and performer. She has released two albums of original songs, Waiting for the Earthquake, and Waterlines, and teaches songwriting at Left Margin Lit. More information about Zoe's writing can be found at www.zoefitzgeraldcarter.com.
Songlines: Turning Life into Lyrics This workshop is for anyone interested in exploring songwriting in a fun, inclusive gathering over two afternoons. Whether you’re a listener, a living room performer, or a pro, this class is for you—there are NO prerequisites. We’ll listen to some music, discuss the songwriting form—what’s a hook? what’s the purpose of a chorus?—and write a song together, which we’ll perform as a group on the last day of camp. Do you have instruments that are easy to transport? Bring them for impromptu jams in the evening. More information about Zoe's music can be found at: https://zoecartermusic.com.
The writing life is hard. It takes painstaking work and dealing with the pain of rejection. So it's important to take stock of successes and to celebrate them.
2022 participant Rachel Hoffman used the retreat to think about and work on an essay about the Four Questions of Passover. She writes, the week after the retreat (and Passover): "If I had followed my usual habit, I would have labored over it for months more before submitting it. But I was feeling so excited and positive that I just blasted it off to Jewish Journal the day I got back. To my surprise, they posted it the next day. The moral of the story: submit! Here's her piece: https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/347264/the-four-questions/
Sara Ackerman had three unpublished novels, and was working on a fourth, when she attended the retreat in 2013, 2014 & 2015. In 2017, her historical novel Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers was picked up by Mira/Harper Collins. Today she is a USA Today bestselling author with four books out, a fifth releasing in August 2022, and a brand new two-book deal. Her latest novel, The Codebreaker's Secret, earned a starred review from Booklist, the American Library Association's review journal. Sara chalks up her success to attending writers retreats and conferences, and having a whole lot of patience and perseverance.
It is so important for artists to get away from the world and create beautiful things. Alyssa Jarrett, a first-time participant in 2022, wrote a smart and incisive post about how to think through the value of a retreat like this one--and then get the most out of it: https://bit.ly/3vonzZc
I invite you to visit www.sinandsyntax.com for posts on stylish writing, updates on the world of publishing, suggested readings, essays on the writing life, and suggestions on classes and conferences. Noodle around! “Secrets for Sinful Prose” gives you grammar tips. “News, Reviews, and Interviews” gives links to articles and podcasts. "Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline" gives you insight into my writing process. And "Cool Tools" offers resources.
Want to know my thoughts about launching a writing career? This blog post, "My thoughts on breaking in," points you to some resources: http://sinandsyntax.com/talking-shop/breaking-in/
The post "Resources to Get You Started" is chockfull of ideas about how to join—or form—a writing community.
Lots of information about Camp Mokulē‘ia is available on the Camp's website.
For participants, we can provide an FAQ about the stunning location on O‘ahu's North Shore as well as some travel advice. However, we have our hands full, so we cannot be personal travel agents. Please avail yourselves of a good guidebook or the site of the O‘ahu Visitors Bureau.
Please write connie [at] sinandsyntax.com for information or to get on our mailing list.
As we say in Hawai‘i, a hui hou! (See you soon!)