Monday, July 28, 2014

A Writer's Paradise: A Guest Post with Laurie Smith Murphy

For my readers: My sister, Laurie Smith Murphy, recently spent a magical week at a writing retreat in Edgartown, Massachusetts. She is a middle-grade author with a new manuscript under her belt. Although her advice pertains to fiction writers, I thought some of her insights could also benefit poets. The Noepe Center for Literary Arts is open to all writers, poets and fiction writers alike. This post comes from Laurie’s blog: Random Acts of Writing.

I spent a week in Martha’s Vineyard in quaint Edgartown, participating in a children’s writing retreat at a lovely inn called Noepe Center for Literary Arts. I call it a writer’s paradise. Anyone interested in writing, at any point in their writing path, should consider spending time here. The offerings include residencies, workshops, poetry readings, and even book launches. The setting is idyllic, perfect for inspiration and muse finding.

“Noepe has a very simple mission to provide established and emerging writers with time and space to create, and the resources and community to support, encourage and inspire writers at all stages of their writing career.”

It was a small, intimate gathering of twelve women, all with works-in-progress in various genres and stages of development, and one wonderful mentor, Emma Dryden, of drydenbks. We spent each morning on a different topic, with hand-outs, writing exercises, and wisdom from Emma. Morning workshops focused on first pages, voice, world-building, and  revision.

Nuggets gleaned from Emma’s workshops:

  • The first line/page is the crystallization of the whole story.
  • What you leave off the page, can be as important as what’s on the page.
  • Most books use the home/away/home theme.
  • Allow space for the reader’s emotions.
  • Create rules for the protagonist’s world and a personal set for your protagonist.
  • In the first draft, write with abandon! Keep it messy and do not edit!
  • Paraphrase your story in ten pages, then five pages, then one page, one paragraph, one sentence.
  • Cut the first paragraph and the last paragraph of each scene.
  • List all the decisions your protagonist and antagonist makes. Do the same with supporting characters. The character’s decisions/actions should interfere with the protagonist’s.
  • List the first ten things each character does.
  • Ask yourself why you have to write this story.
My thoughts:
            I know what my protagonist really wants.
            I know why I have to write this story.
            Revision takes a long time and there are many processes to choose from.
            The scariest revision process is probably the one I should use.
            My beginning needed work, but I’m on the right track.
Children’s writers are bright, generous, and fun to be with. (Okay, I already knew that)
When you find a great mentor like Emma, feel fortunate. (I do!)

I feel blessed to have been part of this inspiring, emotional, week-long journey. For more info about this amazing place, check out the website at For more information, drydenbks, go to You can find Laurie's blog at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Robin. It truly was a magical week! By the way, I love your new look! Beautiful!