2017 Program

  • Mokule'ia Writers Retreat
  • Mokule'ia Writers Retreat
  • Mokule'ia Writers Retreat

The retreat is led by North Shore native Constance Hale, the author of five books, including Sin and Syntax. The daily workshops will be taught by writers and editors who bring deep experience in many genres. (See their bios below.) For those wanting to dip a toe in rather than taking a deep dive, it’s possible to join us for the afternoon workshops only.


Click here for a full schedule of the week. And here for the bios of all faculty, staff, and writers in attendance.

Arrival. We begin on of Sunday afternoon, May 7, as participants settle into the camp and explore the surroundings. Our first gathering will be a dinner for all writers, their companions, and some special guests.

Morning. The morning writing workshops begin on Monday, May 8 and continue through Friday, May 12. They foster creative exploration and include readings, writing prompts, and feedback.

Afternoons. From 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., we will have sessions open to all attendees staying at the camp, as well as to some local writers on an “à la carte” basis. The they will include sessions in fiction, poetry, children’s book writing, and breaking in.

Evenings. We invite family and companions as well as members of the local community to join us for our special evening programs, which are free. On Monday, there is a reading by retreat faculty. On Tuesday, Kumu Hula Patrick Mākuakane will visit after his performance of “The Natives Are Restless” at Hawaii‘i Theater (May 5 & 6). On Wednesday, some island writers will read from recent work.

Optional activities. Each day will include open writing time, to allow writers to dive deep and polish their pieces. Faculty will be available for personal guidance and editing. A local expert will guide us on a visit to a sacred site. (See photos to the left of our 2016 visit to Kūkaniloko, the birthing stones of the ali‘i, and the gifts of Hawaiian salt we received.) Writers—as well as family and companions staying at the camp—are welcome to join our opening pā‘ina (Hawaiian-style party), hikes, excursions to parks and Hale‘iwa, as well as swimming, beachcombing, and for the truly adventurous, skydiving at Dillingham Airfield.

Last day. We end the retreat on Friday, May 12, at 1 p.m. after a group reading (ending with singing—see right) and lunch.

Daily workshops 9 – 11:30 a.m. (each writer signs up for one only)

Life Into Literature: Discovering the tools of the writer’s craft. With Linda Watanabe McFerrin. Writing without the proper tools is like trying to build a house with a spoon.
 Humor, honesty, imagination, invention, attention, surprise, intent—these are a few of the tools used in creating literature. Join Linda, a published poet, travel writer, and novelist, in a workshop designed to acquaint you with the implements of the writer’s craft and to show how to wield those tools to create not just a publishable product, but literature. The focus here will be on creative writing, especially fiction and poetry, but nonfiction writers are welcome, too. Participants read a little and write a lot, gaining confidence, skill, and a clear picture of what they want to write, where they want to publish it, and how they can achieve this vision.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Art: Narrative nonfiction in search of a soul. With Bridget Quinn. This workshop focuses on reportage, personal essays, and criticism. We look closely at—and respond to—the blooming world around us, whether that be nature, painting, food, music, architecture, books or anything that captures our interest and fires our passions. Really: anything. It might be the fabric of your favorite shirt. It might be a piece of coral you find on the beach. It might be the old Sagara Store, boarded up along Farrington Highway. Or a shuttered gas station in the town you grew up in. We’ll begin each session with close observation and writing. We’ll read essays, features, and memoir. We’ll look at how we create a compelling narrative with the bones of what we’ve got—the conflict, action, and resolution that all good storytelling requires. Then we’ll fashion something with form and meaning. In other words, art.

Crafting Your Manuscript. With Zoe FitzGerald Carter. This class is for writers with fiction or memoir manuscripts underway. We will begin each class by discussing some aspect of manuscript, including the all-important issue of structure (beginnings and endings, timelines, plot). We will also explore theme, pacing, and scene and will consider examples from various published essays and memoirs. But most of the class will be spent discussing participants’ work. Each writer will submit 10 pages and will receive focused feedback from the class. To be considered for this workshop, 10-page samples of the manuscript or stories you are working on should be sent along with the registration form, so that we can ensure everyone is the right fit for the workshop.

Afternoon sessions 1 – 2:30 p.m. (one per afternoon, open to all attendees)

Side by Side: Literary language and visual art. With Lynn Young and Tamara Moan. (Mon. 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.) The first session, led by Lynn Young, begins with our making colorful rubbings from materials and objects in the Camp Mokulē‘ia area. This allows those who are unfamiliar with art techniques to get visual. Rubbings of found objects will be combined to form visual texture and compositions. The second session, led by Tamara Moan, focuses on using a published poem with “good bones” as a model for a poem or poems participants compose using the Mokulē‘ia setting and their rubbings as inspiration. The modeling format gives even those new to writing poetry a good starting point. We will also have a discussion of form, rhythm, sound, repetition, specific and vibrant language. The sessions close by turning the rubbings into a folded book with front and back covers. The writings are revised and refined and text added to the book pages using a variety of lettering/handwriting options.

Scene and Summary in Deeply Researched Fiction. With Shawna Yang Ryan. (Tues. 1 p.m.) This workshop focuses on a few linked ideas: integrating research into your story in a way that supports the narrative, and when to use scene versus when to use summary (there is a time and place for “telling”!). Shawna Yang Ryan will also share her experiences with writing research-intensive novels. Participants can bring a couple sections from a longer work that they would like to revise and would be comfortable sharing with others.

Rethinking That Narrative Arc. With Shawna Yang Ryan. (Wed. 1 p.m.) Beginning, middle, end—is this the best way to tell your story? How does the shape of a story influence its meaning? We will look at the building blocks of a traditional linear narrative, discuss the relationship between form and content, and explore the possibilities for mixing up story order. Ideally, we’ll discover ways in which nonlinear stories offer new avenues for approaching emotional truths in storytelling. Please bring a short story or self-contained excerpt of a longer work to play around with.

The Most Important Part of Your Manuscript: How It Starts. With Steven Taylor Goldsberry. (Wed 4:30 p.m.) In this pragmatic editing workshop, we’ll consider what makes for an irresistible first page, an opening that grabs your reader. Commit your title and first lines to a giant Post-It for the class to see. Steven will then dole out praise where due, make line edits and suggestions, lay down some ideas to give everyone a common frame of reference, and inspire you to go back and revise. This is a chance for you to emend what you’ll be reading on Friday. The workshop is for writers in all genres: fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry, songwriting. Free copies of A 3-Page Book on Writing will be handed out. Also “How to Design Your Opening Page” from Steven’s The Writer’s Book Of Wisdom.

Writing Around the Possibilities: Preparing the ground and workshopping your poetry. With Barbara Marsh. (Thurs. 1 p.m.) Using writing exercises we will knock through barriers and create raw material to use for new poems or to investigate and invigorate  existing work. There will also be an opportunity to share and/or workshop your poems.

Surviving and Thriving: Moderated discussion on kid’s books, adult books, and navigating the publishing world. (Thurs. 12:15 p.m.) Bridget Quinn leads a conversation with Connie Hale and guest authors Kate Elliott, Lavonne Leong, and Mark Schapiro. Bring your questions!

Read Me a Story: Children’s Lit. (Thurs. 2:30 p.m.) Writers read their children’s stories and get feedback. Listeners welcome.

Faculty leading morning workshops

Linda Watanabe McFerrin is a widely published poet, travel writer, and novelist. She is the author of two poetry collections and a winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. Her novel, Namako:  Sea Cucumber, was named Best Book for the Teen-Age by the New York Public Library. In addition to that novel, she has written the short-story collection The Hand of Buddha, co-edited twelve anthologies, and written a zombie novel, Dead Love, which was a 2009 Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Superior Achievement in a Novel. Linda has judged the San Francisco Literary Awards, the Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence, and the Kiriyama Prize. She is the founder of Left Coast Writers in the San Francisco Bay Area and has led workshops in Japan, Indonesia, Greece, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Central America, Spain as well as the United States.

Bridget Quinn is the author of Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art & Made History (in That Order), on the artwork, lives and legacies of overlooked artists (Chronicle Books, 2017). Publishers Weekly selected Broad Strokes as a Top 10 Pick in biography and memoir for spring 2017. Bridget is also the author of the memoir Home Team. Three excerpts have appeared in Narrative Magazine and two received Pushcart Prize nominations. Bridget’s essays can be found in the anthologies Solo: On Her Own Adventure (Seal Press), Two In The Wild (Vintage) and Brain, Child: Greatest Hits. Her essay “Back in the Pool” was a finalist for the 2006 Annie Dillard Prize in Creative Nonfiction, and her memoir “At Swim, Two Girls,” was included in Best American Sports Writing 2013.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Zoe FitzGerald Carter has written for The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, and Vogue. Her memoir, Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Loss and Letting Go, chronicled her mother’s decision to end her life after living with Parkinson’s disease for many years. Paula Span of The New York Times said, “I could quote from this book all day,” and People magazine wrote that Imperfect Endings “coaxes beauty from the bleak.” Zoe teaches writing at The San Francisco Writers Grotto and is currently at work on a book about race.

Faculty leading afternoon sessions

Constance Hale (director) writes children’s books, adult’s books, essays, profiles, and, every now and then, a poem. Among her books is the just-released The Natives Are Restless, about the history of Hawaii‘i and the evolution of hula. She also curates sinandsyntax.com, a place “for those who love wicked good prose.” Connie has been an editor at the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, Wired, and Health, and coaches many writers tackling their first (or fifth) books. She was born in Waialua, and her family lives in Mokulē‘ia, which makes this retreat a happy overlay of the personal and the professional. Her recent children’s book, ‘Iwalani’s Tree, is even set here.

Tamara Moan is an artist and writer who lives in Kailua, on Oahu’s windward sice. With BFA and MA (creative writing) degrees, she works as an editor, freelance writer, and instructor at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. Her non-fiction on art and Hawaiian culture topics has been published in Hawaii- and national-circulation magazines; her poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals including Bamboo Ridge.

Steven Taylor Goldsberry is a retired professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i and the author of fourteen books, including The Writer’s Book of Wisdom and the novels Luzon and Maui the Demigod. He has been teaching creative writing for thirty years and is listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. He lives in Lai‘e, at the northernmost edge of the North Shore.

Shawna Yang Ryan teaches in the Creative Writing Program at UH-Mānoa. Her debut novel, Water Ghosts, was a San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller and won the 2006 UC Davis Maurice Prize. Green Island, her new novel (Alfred A. Knopf,  February 2016) is set in Taiwan during its martial law era.

As artist, educator, author, and performer Lynn Young (aka Quala-Lynn) has been active in Hawaii’s art communities for over thirty years. She teaches visual art in elementary schools, museums and at the College of Education, UHM. Her book, “Where’s My Ritspik?” features original photographs and poems that deal profoundly and playfully with language, memory and loss. This hand-bound book was published by TinFish Press in 2015.

Special guests

The Bobby Ingano Trio: Kaipo and Adam Asing accompany Bobby Ingano on steel guitar, playing traditional Hawaiian music in what is referred to as “the Territorial style.” In the strains of their renditions of beloved classics, you will hear traces of jazz, swing, and even country, as well as echoes of the greats of yesteryear: Alfred Apaka, Jerry Byrd, David “Feet” Rogers, and Gabby Pahinui. They will serenade us , honoring requests and accompanying hula dancers in the crowd. The Asings play with the Royal Hawaiian Band, and all three musicians have been regulars at many of Honolulu’s famous rooms, like The Halekulani’s Room without a Key and the Waikīkī Marriott’s Moana Terrace. They also play every Monday night at Dot’s, in nearby Wahiawa.

Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakāne is a creative force in the hula world, known for his innovative choreography and for his halau, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu. His work is grounded in the traditions of hula, but he has developed a unique style, called hula mua, that uses non-Hawaiian music to provide a new dimension to the poetry of hula. Born and raised in Honolulu, Makuakāne began dancing at the age of 13 and went on to study with some of Hawai’i’s most recognized hula masters, including John Keola Lake, Robert Cazimero, and Mae Kamāmalu Klein, under with whom he achieved the status of kumu hula (hula master). His most celebrated work is The Natives Are Restless, which will be performed at the Hawai‘i Theatre May 5 and 6, 2017.

Island writers who will join us to read their work

Steven Goldsberry, Angela Nishimoto, Shawna Yang Ryan, and others.

Mokule`ia Writers Retreat, May 3–8, 2015