on O‘ahu's North Shore
The O‘ahu Writers Retreat has been held for 10 years at Camp Mokulē‘ia, on the island's North Shore. We gather for a week of workshops, coaching, connection. Limited to 24 writers.
Registration for April 24-30 is now closed.
In Nov. 2023, we will debut a two-day workshop for writers & artists.
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.
The retreat allows for an intensive creative experience with ample time to relax and recharge.
Saturday workshops allow island writers to join us for one day only.
We believe a sacred spot like this will inspire us to explore other places—whether in the heart, in memory, or in the moment. 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 offer sessions in art, music, and crafts to inspire and enhance our literary endeavors. We are also committed to reflecting the culture and values of Hawai‘i and providing an experience 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.
Extra 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.
This year's programs include music with Kaipo Asing and his trio (Monday night), a leimaking workshop with Uncle Herman Tachera, a talk on Native Hawaiian artimaking with Meleanna Aluli Meyer (Wednesday night), and visit to Hale‘iwa (Thursday afternoon).
Kaipo is a virtuoso performer who has played across the islands and with many of Hawai‘i's great musicians. His trio plays 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. All members of the group 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.
Other optional activities include yoga, hikes, swimming, turtle spotting, and endless beachcombing.
Our writing instructors are writers with many publishing credits to their names as well as serious teaching chops. Full bios and descriptions of their workshops are below. The 2023 faculty includes:
Constance Hale (retreat director and instructor in the craft of writing)
Chris McKinney (fiction)
Karla Brundage (poetry)
Stuart H. Coleman (nonfiction)
Tamara Leiokanoe Moan (book art)
Zoe FitzGerald Carter (songwriting and memoir)
Additional instructors include:
Herman Keko Ka‘oiwinani Mossman Tachera (leimaking)
Kaipo Asing (music)
Malcolm Ryder (photography)
Meleanna Aluli Meyer (Native Hawaiian art)
Kathryn Waddell Takara (creative writing)
Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Constance Hale, and Zoe FitzGerald Carter at Camp Mokulē‘ia
All rooms are at the Camp, either in the Lodge or in a shared cabin with one person in each room. Rooms each year are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Writers check in to their rooms Monday afternoon, checking out Sunday at noon. All meals are included in the rates for attendees staying at the Camp.
Day rates are available for those who do not wish lodging or breakfast and dinner. (Individual meals for day raters and guests can be arranged.)
Please note: The rooms at the Camp are sold out. If you'd like to be on the waiting list for a room, please email Connie.
The rate for workshops, lodging (private room), and all meals: $1,600. SOLD OUT.
The rate for workshops, lodging (shared room or room in shared cabin), all meals: $ 1,100. SOLD OUT.
The rate for a nonwriting companion, all meals: $ 900. SOLD OUT.
The day rate, including lunch only, is $ 900. SOLD OUT.
For the first time this year, island writers unable to attend all week are invited to join us for one day only, on Saturday April 29. A writing workshop in the morning, a workshop on composition and another on polishing your work in the afternoon.
The Saturday-only rate, which includes all three workshops and lunch: $100. SOLD OUT.
Limited scholarships are available; please email Connie (connie [at] sinandsyntax.com)..
You can register here. For our cancellation policy, please see below.
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, 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 teach two sessions.
Finding Your Voice: Putting Your Soul (and wit!) into Every Sentence
This session will open the retreat, allowing us all to tune into this special place, and then into each other and our deepest selves. Connie will share her thoughts on literary voice and the process each writer goes through to find it. Consider the workshop part meditation, part listening, and part writing warm up.
Sin and Syntax: Making Sentences Sing
This workshop is all about revision—how to bring to bear on your writing a sophisticated sense of how words work. At the close of our week together, Connie will lead you through some grammar games and madcap exercises. You will also have a chance to apply some of her famous techniques to manuscripts you brought with you or to writing you generated at the retreat.
Chris McKinney is the author of Midnight, Water City, book one of the Water City trilogy. It was named a Best Mystery of 2021 by Publisher's Weekly and a Best Speculative Mystery of 2021 by CrimeReads. Book two, Eventide, Water City, will be released summer of 2023. Chris has written six other novels: The Tattoo, The Queen of Tears, Bolohead Row, Mililani Mauka, Boi No Good, and Yakudoshi: Age of Calamity.
Tethering Fiction to Truth
No matter the genre, writing believable fiction is one of the biggest challenges novelists face. Chris will be talking about how to tether fiction to personal knowledge and experience while simultaneously creating something that may be unfamiliar or intimidating to approach. Whether a contemporary American setting or a galaxy far, far away, readers often intuitively know whether authors are trying to fool them. Tying fiction to intimate truths protects writers from creating stories that ring false.
Karla is a Bay Area–based poet, activist and educator. She was raised in Ka‘a‘awa, which she still considers home, and attended Vassar College and, for her MFA, Mills College. In 2016, she founded West Oakland to West Africa Poetry Exchange (WO2WA), to facilitate cross-cultural exchange between poets in the African diaspora. Karla is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of Swallowing Watermelons. Her book BloodLine_RaceTraitor will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2024.
Poetry in the Tides
The language of the senses is embedded in poetry. Nature speaks to us in the cycles of seasons and life, the wax and wane of the moon, the rise and set of the sun, the archetypes we embody. In this beautiful setting, Karla will rely on her deep connection to Hawai‘i, particularly Mokulē‘ia. She will encourage you to connect with elements of sun and sea, wind and sand, light and color—inviting these elements into our writing. As we are in a place with a deep cultural and social history, we will delve into myth and sensory memory to evoke content for the writing. Each day will consist of a reading, then generative writing prompts followed by focused writing time. You will be welcome to read work created here for critique or sharing.
Kathryn Waddell Takara
Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD, has served the public through years of teaching and transforming people through black history, culture, literature, and the written and oral word. She is a poet and the author of 11 books. As publisher of Pacific Raven Press, she supports and publishes emerging writers. She is the recipient of many prestigious awards including two Fulbrights, which allowed her to travel to China and France, as well as the 2016 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award. She also coordinated several seminal national conferences at the University of Hawai‘i, where she recently retired after thirty-one years.
Poetry (and Prose) in the Trees (Saturday workshop)
Whether we write poetry or prose, this workshop expands our writing styles, using movement, diversity in expression, and simple prompts. Kathryn Takara lead us as we wander into unfamiliar ways of seeing, listening, and imagining. We will start by going outside and tree watching. How can we see, describe, and experience a poetic dance between the trees’ seasons and our own, considering organic life processes such as birth, growth, digestion, corruption, healing, and regeneration? How might we relate these processes to trees, to ourselves, to our thinking, and to our writing? Does a muse or spirit figure in? Can we imagine a tree’s perspective and connect it with human and worldly events, issues, and time itself? How can we bring in the five senses to our observations, descriptions, and poems? We will share our work for discussion and feedback.
Like mother, like daughter? Karla (top) and Kathryn (bottom) are both poets and educators.
One of Princeton University’s first graduates in Photography, Malcolm Ryder has been a working artist, commercial photographer, art teacher, and arts writer, on the East and West coasts over several decades. He currently runs a niche international artists collaborative creating visual arts exhibitions online and offline. Now based in Oakland, California, Malcolm’s current solo and collaborative work is found at www.malcolmryder.com and www.oaktown.pictures.
The Art of De-Composition (Saturday workshop)
Making art that touches an audience demands that we figure out how organizing our "material" creates meaning and transmits it. Composition is a cascade of selections that does this work for the viewer or reader. We will explore this process by upending it: using de-composition to explore something made versus something found, necessary versus unnecessary, and dependent on precedent versus independent of it. We will also ask whether the artist is or is not the actual target audience of any work.
Meleanna is an advocate for culture and the arts, having spent her life as a practicing artist, arts educator, documentary filmmaker, social justice advocate, and creative visionary-in-community. Her roots and family support are pivotal to her professional path. Beyond her formal training at Stanford under the likes of painter-printmaker Nathan Oliviera, photographer Leo Holub, and arts educator Dr. Eliot Eisner, she returned home to learn from esteemed kumu J. Keola Lake, Hale Makua, and many others. After receiving an M.A. in Educational Foundations at the College of Education–U.H. Manoa, she further developed her interest in educational pedagogy, hermeneutics, and community outreach. Meyer’s work and interest include murals, theater design, architecture, linguistics, mythology, cooking, writing and philosophy. She considers herself a life-long student in all things creative, of Hawaiian culture, of spirit, and of the world.
“ ʻIke Kanaka, Hana Noʻeau: Hawaiian ways of knowing, from an artist’s point of view.” (Wed. evening)
In a special session open to the local community, Meleanna will present a portfolio of work that illustrates how Native Hawaiian artists are integrating ideas of cuture, place, and identity in their art. Her presentation will include a sharing of work, discussion and Q & A. Please join us Wednesday, April 26, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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.
Faced with a new or unfamiliar task, most of us are grateful for a helping hand. We'll work with partners to jump start visual and word-oriented ideas, then move on individually toward completion. Our end product will be a book-like object that contains writing plus color and style.
Zoe is an author, journalist and songwriter who has played in numerous Bay Area bands. She’s released two albums of original music (Waiting for the Earthquake and Waterlines) and is at work on a third. You can find her on Spotify and on her website: https://zoecartermusic.com/. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and has written for numerous national magazines (The New York Times, Newsweek, Vogue) and, in 2010, published an award-winning memoir, Imperfect Endings.
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.
———SATURDAY BONUS BEATS———
We are offering an additional day of workshops on Saturday, April 29. All participants in the weeklong retreat may attend. Island writers may register for Saturday only, for $100. There will be two writing workshops in the morning—poetry and memoir. After lunch, photographer Malcolm Ryder will teach a class on composition/structure using photography to open minds and methods. And we’ll wrap up with Connie Hale's uplifting “Sin and Syntax” workshop, which shows innovative ways of polishing your work.
10-12 “Generative Writing” workshop, with Kathleen Takara or Zoe Carter
(a chance to follow writing prompts, generating short writing and sharing it)
(and time to swim, walk on the beach, or just chill)
1 to 2:30 "Decomposition" workshop with Malcolm Ryder
(try out a new way to think about conceiving, composing, and restructuring your work)
3 to 5 "Sin and Syntax" workshop with Connie Hale
(tips on perking up your vocabulary, refining your sentences & enhancing your voice)
You can register here.
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.
Angela Nishimoto published a a literary romance this year, Isabella's Daughter, with Pueo Press.
2022 instructor Maw Shein Win published poems in mumber mag and Swwim. She was also featured in a July installment of "Bay Poets" on KALW public radio. Listen to Maw read her poem, "Still," here.
Alyssa Jarrett completed the novel she was workshopping at the 2022 retreat, and is submitting it to literary agents. Meanwhile, she's working on a new romance title, the third in her four-book standalone series. She has also published several posts on her blog, including the essay she read at the retreat, "A Brief Reflection on Why I Write Romance."
2022 participant Rachel Hoffman used the retreat to think about and work on an essay about the Four Questions of Passover. She writes, "I just blasted it off to Jewish Journal the day I got back. To my surprise, they posted it the next day."
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 more books that we can track. 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, as well as 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 chockful 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.
All cancellation requests must be made in writing - no exceptions. Because the retreat sells out each year, and because it is hard to fill slots at the last minute, we do stick to a strict cancellation policy:
--If you cancel before March 24, you will receive a full refund minus a $150 administration fee.
--If you cancel between March 24 and April 10, you will receive a refund of 50 percent.
--If you cancel after April 10, there is no refund, but Connie will work with full enrollees to provide two to three hours hours of private instruction or coaching.
--if you registered for Saturday only, the low price of the ticket is actually less than our administrative costs. But we will refund 50 percent of the fee for those who cancel before April 10.
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!)