The initial installment of this series will be a general overview of the retreat, which was created and organized by author Ezekial Tyrus (Eli, Ely and the forthcoming follow-up, My Dirty Books). Then I will offer profiles of every individual participant, because each brought a uniquely compelling backstory to the table, which will be of benefit to any aspiring writer that happens to be reading this.
This format will also help me construct a properly comprehensive record of an event that was very special on several levels, not least of which was the journey of self-discovery undertaken by each of us in search of our own individual muses.
The exotic expedition into the jungles of our creative sub-consciousness is not only an exploration of ourselves as writers, but as human beings. And there is nothing quite like assembling an eclectic group of word-slingers from all corners of the country, ranging widely in world views and agendas, bonded by a common love of literature, to help make such a soul-searching safari successful.
The retreat was collectively cathartic mostly due our interaction with each other. The courses taught by Zeke were also extremely useful from a practical standpoint. He shared a daily regimen, based largely in his own formal and self-education, that is sure to stir the artistic spirits residing beneath layers of self-doubt and stubborn stasis.
I can’t share the particulars of these exercises because they’re essentially trademarked. But hopefully you will feel vicariously inspired by the sheer joy of each participant engaging in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, empathize with their life stories, and relate to each of their paths, even if yours never leads you to a tropical paradise.
We can't all be that lucky.
"It Takes a Village..."
The retreat – the first of many already in the works, the next one happening this June – was Zeke’s brainchild, but it couldn’t have happened without the support, financial and otherwise, of Minneapolis business consultant and entrepreneur Nick Halverson, who owns the property at Las Villas de San Buenas.
It was the ideal location for such a gathering, although frankly it was so far outside my personal comfort zone it might as well have taken place on the moon. I moved to Seattle largely because of my disdain for heat and sunlight, both of which Costa Rica famously boasts in spades.
But defying my own inhibitions, phobias and self-restrictions allowed me to take advantage of an offer I could not refuse, at least not for any sane reason. Conquering one’s fears and loathing is actually a significant aspect of our growth both as human beings and as authors.
This retreat proved that the two "conditions" are more intrinsically linked than any of us thought going in. The combination of nuts-and-bolts discipline with more visceral, esoteric self-reflection resulted in a week loaded with epiphanies and emotional emancipation.
In the following blogs I will focus on each author separately, since they all have something vital to share with the rest of us.
"Don't Forget About Me"
But first I’ll directly quote the retreat's most famous participant, successful actor/musician John Kapelos, perhaps most recognized as Carl the Janitor in The Breakfast Club. Here is part of his farewell workshop assignment, which unintentionally (?) paraphrases Anthony Michael Hall’s narration at the end of the movie, as he pegs each of us via his own perceptive prism:
The Lad from Long Beach, The Lady from Minnesota, The Poet from North Beach, The Pugnacious Floridian, The Seattle Searcher, My New Hero from Stockton, The Gentle Giant from Bloomfield Hills all with sinewy stories and sublime spirits. Thanks so much also to Nick Halverson. It was a great week and well worth it.
You will meet all of them in the upcoming installments. Stereotypes were a major casualty of this retreat, along with other useless barriers to self-awareness and social harmony such as anxiety, anger and anguish.
Basically, as a writer, one learns to mine each life experience for material, whether it’s something mundane like walking a dog, or something profound like a hike through the jungle. You can then combine "Dreams, Memories and Imagination" into something relatable and even commercial. That was the general theme of my workshops, which were more like group therapy sessions.
By the end of this series, I am confident you will feel compelled to re-examine your own rich internal wellspring as a resource of creativity and self-empowerment.
Hasta las vista.
PHOTO: NICK HALVERSON