We are grateful to the magazines and newspapers that have covered this retreat over the years. Here are some links to our favorites:
- San Francisco Chronicle (2013)
- Hawaii Book Blog (2014)
- “The Conversation,” Hawaii Public Radio 2 (2014)
(Scroll to the bottom — Connie Hale was the last guest)
- San Francisco Chronicle (2015)
- Honolulu Star-Advertiser (2015)
- Honolulu magazine (2015)
In advance of the 2015 retreat, Misty Sanico of Hawaii Book Blog, interviewed Constance Hale. Here is the text of their exchange:
HBB: What inspired the Mokulē‘ia Writer’s Retreat?
CONSTANCE HALE: I’ve long nurtured a vision of inviting writers to Hawai‘i, where I grew up. I have run writing conferences in San Francisco, at Berkeley, at Harvard. But I’ve never really done anything at home. I was a speaker way back at the Maui Writers Conference, but still, I wanted to contribute in a meaningful way to the literary community in Hawaii—the place that carved the capacity to write out of me, place that allows me at once to be at peace and fired-up creatively. When I returned to California after a stint at Harvard, I wanted to think about this.
Then, at a class reunion, I learned that an old friend was Executive Director at Camp Mokulē‘ia, a 40-acre property designed to provide “rest, recreation, and renewal” to the Hawaiian community. I loved the idea of working with him, of holding a retreat on the beach I grew up on. I thought about how I dream of being on that sea, looking at those mountains. How lucky am I to have grown up there, to have that as my imaginative foundation. Could I share that with others?
We started talking and dreaming and scheming and came up with something in line with the mission of the camp: provide a retreat for creative renewal, for relating to nature, for exploring the notion of place in our histories, our memories and our work. Then, make it affordable for real writers and artists who cannot pay for luxury retreats or expensive writing conferences.
Another idea was to think about how to serve two communities—writers on the mainland and writers in the islands. How are their needs similar, how different? How might they feed each other, or help each other, in complementary ways? Might there be a way to help each grow?
And, finally, how can you make a Hawai‘i writers retreat truly Hawaiian—in spirit, in gentleness, in appreciation of Native Hawaiian ideas and poetry and relationship to nature?
HBB: Would there ever be an option just to attend the workshops and not stay at the camp, although the retreat environment is integral to the experience?
CONSTANCE HALE: Absolutely! That is part of the design. There is a day rate for those who want to fully participate but either can’t or don’t want to stay at the camp. Locals can fully participate and break bread with us for $500-600 for the week. And for those who can’t afford the time or money for a weeklong retreat, we’ve added special sessions in the afternoon so that folks can sample things “a la carte.” An inexpensively. And we have evening programs free and open to the public.
HBB: What about Hawaii, or the North Shore in particular, inspires you?
Why do you think it inspires others?
CONSTANCE HALE: In some of my favorite dreams, I am on a canoe on a crystalline sea, looking at the volcanic cliffs of Mokule‘ia. In these dreams, the ocean is cobalt, the beach white, the lava rock of the mountains covered in a velvet that goes from sage to emerald. I feel indescribably free.
So, number one is nature, and the abundance of nature here. A writer, an artist, can just be and just breathe and he or she is inspired. But you have to get beyond the traffic! On the North Shore, specifically, in addition to sea and mountains and fields and colors, we have the slow pace of life. Writers need to quiet the mind, we need to get stimulated by nature and by characters, not by iPhones and iPods and noise and crowds. Also, the music! Hula! The gentleness!
HBB: How important is it to be surrounded by other writers and artists?
CONSTANCE HALE: Very very very very important. I belong to a community of writers in California, the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. As we say on our Web site, the idea behind the Grotto was to pioneer an office environment for creative, self-employed people who by definition don’t need to punch a clock. From its beginnings, it’s been a place where narrative artists—writers, filmmakers and the like—welcome the discipline of structure in their work lives, and build a community of peers.
(Our mission statement is here: http://www.sfgrotto.org/about.)
Writers need solitude, but they also need society. A few of us are introverts, but most of us are extroverts. We like to talk some things out. We want an audience. We need feedback. And we want to be among our peeps—others who are smart, wordy, deep, funny, nerdy.
HBB: As a fan of your books, I wonder if you can offer any advice for aspiring writers without vocabulary muscles?
CONSTANCE HALE: Read read read. Read The New York Times and The New Yorker and look up words you don’t know. Use a dictionary and thesaurus all the time when writing. Push yourself to be more clear, more precise, more poetic. Hang out with people who use big words and don’t look down on you for doing the same. Read Sin and Syntax and Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch. Come to my workshops at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival—that’s what we’ll be playing with.
But more than anything, delight in language, read children’s books out loud, memorize song lyrics, have fun with words. I believe that language is a sandbox—or should be. And like children we know instinctively how to play in it, if we let ourselves.