The Mokulē‘ia Writers Retreat
Nā Wahi Ho‘oulu
(Places That Inspire Us)
May 5 – 10, 2019
The Mokulē‘ia Writers Retreat is an annual gathering that brings three dozen writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and memoir to the North Shore of O‘ahu for a week of intimate workshops and coaching. The retreat is high-level and professional — but also low-key and tuned in to the beauty of the surroundings. We foster an exchange in two directions — between islanders and mainlanders, published writers and budding writers, Native Hawaiian artistry and mainland publishing.
With the Waianae Mountains at our back and the open ocean at our front, we break bread with colleagues, gather in daily workshops, salute the morning sun in yoga, write privately in the shade of ironwood trees, and wander along the beach. We even dance some hula. The theme, nā wahi ho‘oulu, acknowledges that a sacred spot like this will inspire us to explore other places — whether in the heart, in memory, or in the moment.
The retreat is led by North Shore native Constance Hale, the author of five books, the editor of more than three dozen, and a journalist whose stories about Hawai‘i appear on CD liner notes, as well as in publications like The Los Angeles Times and Smithsonian magazine. (Her most recent book, The Natives Are Restless, is about the hula.) Hale invites a mix of writers, editors, and agents from both the islands and the mainland to lead various workshops and appear on panels.
We gather at Camp Mokulē‘ia, a 40-acre facility stretching along a remote beach. Writers from Hawai‘i, the mainland US, and elsewhere come to work under the guidance of nationally known writers, editors, and agents. We coach writers in producing pieces worthy of publication through guided workshops, one-on-one meetings, and sessions on publishing. Writers are encouraged to draw from nature and tap their own creative wellsprings. This dovetails with one of the missions of the nonprofit Camp Mokulē‘ia: to raise ecological awareness and bridge Native Hawaiian and Western ideas of sustainability.
We provide a limited number of scholarships to emerging island writers, who are often cut off from resources available on the mainland.
In past retreats, writers have finished stories, taken manuscripts to the next step, landed assignments from editors, advanced their creative writing theses at UH, formed support groups for feedback, started to reach out to agents, and found creative writing teachers to continue working with. Here are some projects given a lift at the retreats:
- Sara Ackerman attended retreats in 2013, 2014, and 2015, focusing on fiction. “One or two writing activities we did at Mokulē‘ia resulted in scenes that I added to Sugarcane Train,” she writes, “and the first page changed with workshopping, too.” Sara recently signed a two-book deal with Mira; Sugarcane Train, a tale that explores the facets of love and loss (and is set on the Big Island of Hawai‘i during World War II) will be released in March, 2018.
- Alexandra Avery developed her story “Beyond The Reef” at the 2017 Mokuleia Writers Retreat. It was a winner at the 2018 Hawaii Women’s Voices Theater Festival; Alexandra reads it January 19, 2018, at Art at Marks Garage. Alexandra credits two of her retreat teachers, Bridget Quinn and Linda Watanabe McFerrin, with inspiring the piece.
- The master class at Mokulē‘ia affirmed Cara Guerrieri’s instinct that she had a good story in The Spaghetti Gang. Set in a rough Colorado coal town in the 1930s and ’40s, the book began as ragged notes her father had handwritten. They preserved his voice, added 130 iconic photos, and assembled the story into a cohesive arc. Thanks in part to the encouragement she received at Camp Mokulē‘ia, The Spaghetti Gang is finished and selling well. It’s a gorgeous, endearing book.
- Constance Hale read her children’s book manuscript ‘Iwalani’s Tree in 2013, and then brought it back to its Hawaii‘i roots in a poetry workshop in 2015. BeachHouse Publishing released the book, which features an ironwood on the beach in Mokulē‘ia, in October 2016.
- Jacqueline McMahon Smith has worked on a mystery novel at successive retreats, and submitted one chapter to the Brooklyn Bar Association Fiction Writing Competition in 2014. She won second place.
- Nancy Dickeman worked on the poem “The Hallway of Burst Safeguards,” at the 2014 retreat. It has been published on Pontoon Poetry.