Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Monday, September 18, 2006


This will be my underlying theme for the writer's workshop I'll be conducting at the Oaklea Mansion Writer's Retreat, Jan. 19th and 20th, 2007.

Here are my reasons:

A novel consists of scenes. These are the basic building blocks for any novel. The scene is also at the heart of a short story, which may be a single scene, or a series of scenes.

The short story itself can be a novel in miniature. In fact, I have turned many of my short stories into novels over the course of my writing life. So, too, many memorable motion pictures have evolved from the short story form. Movies such as THE KILLERS, HIGH NOON, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and many others, come to mind. Some of James Warner Bellah's short stories, published in the Saturday Evening Post, originally, were turned into motion pictures.

I take a "no fear" approach to my workshops. I see that most courses, or books on writing, focus on rules, and most use a technical terminology, that present barriers to creativity. What I give my students is a methodology that eliminates all obstacles to writing. The biggest obstacle that many beginning writers encounter is the blank page. Most do not know how to start a scene or a story. I will show them how, and we will all prove my points by actually writing a scene that can be developed into a short story or a novel.

I will not tell you how I do this here, but my methods involve a philosophy about writing that anyone wishing to write can tap into and use all the time, for as long as one lives and writes. This philosophy has enabled me to write and publish poetry, essays, articles, short stories and novels for nearly 50 years. And, I've never experienced what is called "Writer's Block." In fact, I don't believe in such a condition. If there is such a thing, it is just one of those obstacles that are easily eliminated by using my techniques.

There is more to writing than this, of course, and I will cover those elements which lessen the power of prose. So, there will be some succinct focus on language, how to avoid weak writing and lazy writing. We will cover imagery and the use of methapor and simile. But, don't be frightened by these terms. I will show my students how to elevate the quality of their writing and employ techniques that will separate their work from the pedestrian prose encountered in many many a manuscript.

The retreat is a day-long affair, but it will not be a grueling experience for anyone. Oaklea Mansion is an idyllic place and we will make use of the lovely grounds and facilities there. It is a place where we can all dream and create, and find our true centers, break the bonds of obstacles to writing and emerge with something beautiful and saleable.

That is my hope, and, if past experiences are any indication, this is what will happen. Those attending the retreat will come away with lifelong tools that will carry them to success.

I believe this retreat, short as it is, and with limited space for overnighters and one-day attendees, will continue for many years, perhaps with different instructors. I conduct this one by myself, because I have been involved in all aspects of publishing, but I'm sure future retreats may employ a small staff which will include a writer, an editor, an agent, and perhaps, even a publisher. And, perhaps, such a retreat will last for several days.

For now, this is a dream come true for me. I wanted a beautiful setting, a comfortable setting, for writers to gather and learn something new and exciting. I believe Oaklea Mansion in Winnsboro, Texas, fulfills that desire and dream.

I know it will be a memorable experience for all who attend. And, that's what we writers use most often, memories.

So, I offer you a memorable venue for this retreat, and memories, the very DNA of storytelling.



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