... learning new writing skills on Old Cape Cod
For the last three years I have had a great summer vacation. Not that the camping trips of yesteryear were not wonderful. We had a chance to see forty of our fifty states up-close-and-personal by poking around in the summertime. We saw all of the tourist traps and found they were worth seeing. We heard so many accents and were amazed that everyone knew we were "from Boston" as soon as we opened our mouths. We saw such different scenery and the most diverse cities. Yes, the camping era of my life was great – but it is past.
The criteria I use for choosing my summer vacation are different now that I am not an adventurous, young, family woman. Where can I go alone and feel comfortable? How can I find a spot without incurring huge travel expenses? Can I find a place to go that will give me a different experience every year, not same old? Where can I go without depending entirely on good weather to have a good time? I have found the perfect spot for myself, and it may interest others – the Cape Cod Writers Conference during the third week of August.
The setting is lovely. CCWC uses the Conference Center at Craigville Beach. Originally an old-time church conference center, many of the cottages have been sold to private owners, enlarged and remodeled. But the "community" also includes a few vintage inns, a large dining hall and an old time tabernacle useful for group meetings. I feel very safe there. And across the road the center owns a piece of Craigville Beach, at our disposal for the week. That is inspiration!
The program is set up for students of all ages and types. Teens have a program of their own and we hardly ever bump into them. They are selected by an application process, so there is lots of talent in that group. The rest of us can choose from a very eclectic pool of topics and details as each ninety-minute course become available in the spring. Poetry and Memoir are offered each year with a different instructor. I have taken each twice and received a different slant each time – all outstanding. By taking three five-day classes each year, I have become introduced to Journalism, Writing for Young Readers, Creative Non-Fiction (no, you don't make things up; you use creative techniques!), and Biography. I have learned more about writing in three weeks than I learned in sixty years as a student.
The day begins with early breakfast buffet, two courses, lunch buffet, two or three other courses, dinner buffet, and an evening program each night. There is a fair amount of homework connected with each course, so I find myself limited to three and working very hard. Other people take more courses and do not do the homework, a mistake in my opinion. The evening presentations are excellent including guest speakers, readings by the faculty, and my favorite – poetry reading by anyone who signs up. The first year I was too shy, but I read the last few years. Although I'm not in the league of so many, I held my own with two carefully chosen pieces.
I have emphasized the meals because I find that is a place to connect with the faculty – your own and others who you did not get a chance to choose. The first year Claire Cook was an instructor, the author of "Must Love Dogs", a delightful current movie. Her book had just been chosen for filming and she was enthusiasm personified. What fun to have lunch with her! Sitting down with your tray, you are welcome anywhere and the connections are really fun. The conversation begins with writing and moves on to everything imaginable – people and places in common, current and not-so-current events, likes and dislikes. This is not a senior group, although seniors are well represented, so it is refreshing to eat with a variety of ages. And outside the dining hall is a lovely, lily-padded lake with many swans happy to let you watch them glide about.
Depending on your housing and where your courses are held, some walking is required but all on paved roadways. You have the opportunity to drive which I do occasionally at night when I am not housed at the inn. I chose gorgeous scenery over convenience this year. Using a backpack-on-wheels was a perfect solution. Most rooms have private baths and there is plenty of room for a roommate. Some people bring families; most do not.
There are many writing conferences offered during the summer, and I am sure that most run in similar fashion. I have heard there is a great one in Maui! If you sign up ahead, you can meet one-on-one with a faculty member and have your work critiqued. I do not have enough good writing to do this, but many friends say this is most valuable. All things being favorable, I shall save my pennies and participate once again in the Cape Cod Writers Conference in August of 2007. Heaven knows I have lots to learn!