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Mediterranean Writing Adventure 2012

July 29, 2011

Our European writing adventure this spring was better than ever.  We had more than a dozen writers in our group this year.  We wrote an average of 57 pages per person over the course of our 16 days together.  For me personally, this meant half a play written from scratch.  (Well, actually written from King Lear, so not exactly scratch.  More on this later.)

Every evening we read out loud to each other.  This was sometimes critique and sometimes pure entertainment.  One of our writers, Beryl, a lovely English lady, started writing after retiring from a prestigious career as a university professor.  And she turned up with a new short story almost every night.  She writes horror stories.  Totally fun.  Her husband Richard is a dignified and admired poet, and we heard his poems as well in the evenings.  Gary (from Eugene) and Roxanne (from Alaska) read us their murder mysteries on the installment plan.  Peggy read from her memoir about her husband Keith and how he came to write Free Willy.  We also had real-life lady pirates, Nova Scotia fishermen and a Haitian earthquake.  We were doubtless the only people in the dining room who were anxious for the gorgeous five-course dinner to be over so we could get back to our writing adventures.

In Dublin we encountered Oscar Wilde’s statue and childhood home, a fabulous Yeats exhibit at the Dublin Library, and the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  Great pub food and drink.  And a world class hat shop where half the gang bought tweed caps.

When we docked at Liverpool, Beryl took us to one of her childhood haunts, the medieval city of Chester which is a perfectly preserved town inside an intact Roman wall.  Luckily we no longer need 35mm film or we definitely would have run out in Chester, one of the most photographically gorgeous towns in Britain.

In France we went to Bayeux to see one of the world’s oldest and longest tapestries.  A hundred and fifty -seven feet long, telling the story of the Norman conquests and the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  Apparently they are still arguing over whether it was sewn by women or the men of the weavers’ guild.  A thousand years and counting.

In Dover six of us hired a van for the day for 30 pounds apiece and had a fabulous day touring the white cliffs, the Queen Mum’s castle and some amazing historic sites, including both the oldest church and the oldest pub in England.

Brugge, Belgium, had a completely different look from anywhere I have ever been.  The architecture was like ornate doll houses with tranquil canals and swans.

After disembarking in Amsterdam, I spent nine days in London with three of our group.  I saw eleven plays.  And since I booked them by phone (thank you, Skype) months ahead, we were in the first or second row for almost every one.   I call these the nosehair-viewing seats.  At War Horse, the puppet horses were grazing right at our heads.  If they’d been real they would have nibbled our hair.  We saw Lord of the Flies outdoors at Regents Park Theatre.  With trees, and darkness and wind and little feral boys scrabbling at our feet.  Totally scary.

Best moment in the theatre this year?  Billy Elliott, the Musical.  Since I saw it two years ago, I didn’t have to wait to cry.  I could just start at the beginning of the overture and sniffle through the whole thing.  Killed me.  Again.  Those little English boys can really dance.  And they’ve got perfect Yorkshire accents to boot.  Heaven.

Now for the really fun news.  (And thank you for indulging in my travelogue.  Your true friends are the ones that will sit through your photos of Brugge, and you are my TFs.)  Next year it’s going to be a whole new adventure.  In response to requests by Writing the Waves alums over the last three years, in spring 2012, we will have two trips to choose from, and you can do either one or both.

Part One is Trans-Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale on April 28, on the Crown Princess ship, with eight At Sea writing days with class in the mornings, writing afternoons, dinner together and critique group in the evenings.  This cruise is 14 nights and docks at Gibralter; Alicante, Spain; Barcelona; Spain; Marseille, France; Florence/Pisa, Italy and ends in Rome on May 12.  Prices start at $1,655 for an inside cabin ($1,155 for non-writing roommate.)  This is only about $100 per day.  Meals included, though not airfare.  Balcony rooms start at $2,155 ($1,655 NWR).

Part Two is a Mediterranean cruise of 12 nights.  We depart from Rome, spend 2 days in Alexandria, Egypt, a day each in Mykonos, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Kusadasi (Ephesus) Turkey; Athens, Greece and ends with 2 days in Venice, Italy.  This cruise includes four At Sea writing days in the blue Mediterranean.  Part two prices start at $2,540 for an inside cabin ($2040 NWR).

But here is the great news.  You can do both.  You can book a 26 day Tran-Atlantic and Mediterranean Cruise with Cynthia!  We already have four of us signed up for the whole thing.  If you can swing it, it’s going to be the writing adventure of a lifetime.  For the near-month-long cruise prices start at $3,620. ($3,120 NWR)

Even if you’re not 100% sure you can swing it, you can book now for 20% deposit which is fully refundable until next January and these low prices will be locked in.  For a flyer email me at and I’ll send you one.  We’re also offering the $500 writing class portion of the cruise at the silent auction at the conference.  (Where you can also see the actual photos of our trip.)

If you have always wanted to see the great pyramids and the sphinx but were afraid to go on your own, take my hand.  We can do this.  Seriously.  Go for it.  Let’s do it.


Writing the Waves 2010

August 11, 2010

We have returned from the high seas, fat wads of new pages clutched in happy fists, waving high.  This year we had the added excitement of being mid-Atlantic when we heard that 17 European countries’ airports (including the ones we had plane tickets home from) were closed.  Hordes of travelers were apparently stranded in airports worldwide while the most dramatic volcano since our dear Mount Saint Helens sent a dark cloud over all of Europe.

Somehow the thought of being stuck with each other indefinitely, struck no fear in our collective heart.  Stranded with our projects and our fellow writers?  This actually sounded good to us.

This year there were twenty of us.  Seventeen writers and three non-writing friends/spouses.  Our ages ranged from early twenties to early 80s.  One flew in from Bangkok to join us.  One broke a hip five weeks before and worked like hell to rehab at high speed so she wouldn’t miss this, and she made it!  We came from all corners of North America, from Vancouver B.C. to Nova Scotia, from Oregon to Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nashville.

We had writers in all genres.  And we were a colorful, eclectic bunch.  A couple of retired college professors, one a poet, the other writing sci fi/ fantasy, who met romantically on a slow boat from Brazil decades ago.  A couple of screenwriters who live in a rock star tour bus, traveling North America and writing full time.

Our group was fully engaged in creating novels, screenplays (comic, sci fi and thrillers), plays, biographies, memoirs, zen journeys, children’s books and how to books.  Murder mystery and true crime history.  Like Shakespeare, we had comedy, tragedy and history in equal measure.  Needless to say we found ourselves wildly entertained.

The format on our nine “At Sea” days turned out to be the perfect balance of camaraderie and quiet writing time.  I taught a writing class from 9 to noon each of the nine days which included screenwriting, playwriting, novel writing (from Laura’s book Novel Shortcuts) and Writing Non-Fiction Book Proposals (using Elizabeth Lyon’s terrific book as our text.)

The cruise line gave us their gorgeous Executive Boardroom for the duration of the two weeks, so in the afternoons people could plug in at the mahogany table and write silently from 2 to 5 pm.  We had dinner together at two adjoining tables for 10 and sat beside a different new friend each night.

Then from 8 to 10 p.m. we met again in our boardroom to read aloud and helped each other polish our work.  After which some of the younger among us would then go out dancing and drinking into the wee hours.

The top five highlights:

#1.  For me it was thrilling to hear how in the course of two short weeks, everyone’s work markedly improved.  The drama became more impactful and emotionally moving.  The humor sharper.  The language clearer and stronger.  We became better writers.

#2.  We wrote a massive amount of pages.  Our group goal was 1,000 pages.  We wrote 1,074. This is an average of 63 pages for each of our 17 writers.

#3.  I got most of the rough first draft of my new play written during the cruise.  It’s called The Seven Wonders of Chipping.

#4.  The travel.  Exploring Barcelona with my daughter Molly, 24.  Discovering the medieval mountaintop village of Eze, a one-Euro bus ride up above Nice and Monaco.  Stunning.  Ending up in Venice for four days.  All of the sight-seeing adventures however, turned out to be icing on the towering, white paper cake.

#5.  But best of all?  Having twenty new friends that will last my lifetime.

One night at our evening salon, our poet Richard, got tickled while reading one of his poems, and started laughing so much he couldn’t finish the line.  And we, trying to imagine what word could possibly come next that would paralyze him with giggles, started laughing so hard that soon the room was convulsed with laughter.  I had forgotten how much better than laughing or crying is laughing until you cry.  Runners have got nothing on these endorphins.

Something about working hard, laughing hard and playing hard has unexpected health benefits.  After eating three and four course dinners every night, eating gelato, pasta and cappuccinos daily in Italy, somehow when I got home I had lost a pound.  Has someone written a book on The Joy Diet?  This is one of my new favorite types of magic.

By the time we were scheduled to check out of our gorgeous four star hotel with balconies on the canal in Venice (Costco Travel deserves a plug for this, by the way), the airport was open and we stepped onto a plane.  Arriving home, we discovered that spring had sprung.  Lilacs and dogwoods were blooming.  And Laura’s little 8 pound Binny baby (nickname for little Robinson) had blossomed into a peachy ten pounder.

It’s good to be home.  And so good to have a play in my hot little hand that a month ago was nothing more than an idea I have been fond of and idly musing about for more than ten years.  That is a miracle of manifestation.  From nothing to something real in 20 days.  You know, it seems to me all you need to do to believe in magic is pay attention.  Magic is real.

Next year, if you can make it, the Writing the Waves Cruise will depart on Holland America’s ship The Rotterdam from Fort Lauderdale, FL on May 17, 2011 and cross the Atlantic in a 16 Night cruise with 8 At Sea writing days followed by 8 ports:  Dublin and Cork, Ireland; Liverpool, Devon and London, England; Cherbourg, France; Brussels, Belgium and Rotterdam, Netherlands.  Prices start at $1,999 ($1,499 non-writing roommate/spouses.) not including airfare.  Start planning.

See you all at the conference.  And it’s not too late to get your project in marketable shape.  Go for it.  Make it happen.  I have recent proof that you can do it.  And do it brilliantly.