Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Writing Life

The Writing Life at Esalen, Big Sur, CA January 24-29, 2009
Esalen itself perched on a mountainside sweeping down into the sea is gorgeous. The blue-gray sky and the green blue sea seem to stretch to eternity. The grounds are green grassy, winter flowers of red and lavender peek out here and there. The sound of the sea and nattering of birds are a constant background noise.
The lodge and cabins are gracefully ageing but comfortable and warm. The food is superb, heavily vegetarian. (I rushed home and bought a Safeway steak for dinner last night.) I did buy the Esalen Cookbook, as the soups are splendid.
The writing workshop was well taught by the delightful Ellen Bass, poet, novelist, and fine teacher. She has curly graying hair, slender build, ready smile and encouraging style inspiring us to want to write more. She lectured for an hour in the morning at 10:00 AM and we learned about writing details, scenes, dialogue, description, “show, don’t tell,” surprise the reader, action, story and lots more. Then we were free to write and then at 3:45-6:45 PM we read some of our work and listened to feedback from members of the group and then Ellen always had something to say about our short pieces. Her concentration on each of us and her insights into our works were remarkable and very helpful.
There were twenty in the group, five men and fifteen women. Stories of dying parents, abuse by an RC priest, tyrannical mother now with Alzheimer’s, murdered brother, divorces, crazed children – all heart rending and emotionally charged. I had never written any poetry before so I wrote three poems. It was rather fun and made me think about writing in some new ways.
We had two days of rain and three of sunshine, not bad for late January. The 172-mile drive down and the same back to San Francisco were easy and fast. The last hour of the journey yesterday was in drenching rain so it was slow going.


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