In 2012, Moosebait hosted its first Writing Workshop Adventure. At that time, my friend Paul MacDougal and I had been hiking Coxheath Hills quite a bit and were looking to plan some events on the trail to help build its popularity and expose new people to the trail.
We had done some cabin reading events during Celtic Colours and some small group events but wanted to get some people on the trail who had never been on it before. I call it “cross contamination”, taking people fo one interest or group out of there element and exposing them to another circle of people or experiences.
Now what you have to realize is, Paul is a writer, also a teacher, but a writer first. He writes plays, has a published book, and gives writing workshops. Me, I am an “experience” person and love the outdoors. I would love to write but am not that great at it.
So why a writing workshop you ask. OK, you may not have asked but I am going to tell you anyway. As I said, we wanted to bring people to the trail who had never been there. Many writers I know sit in the coffee shop or their homes and try to write. And the ones I know who attend writing workshop usually boast of these amazing workshops in church halls, staring at white walls, and eating egg salad sandwiches which have sat there all day. THIS DOES NOT SOUND INSPIRING TO ME.
We thought about it for a bit and borrowed some inspiration from one of my passions, plein air painting. In plein air painting, the artist is out in nature, forced to be inspired by their surroundings and working quickly with no time to thinking about the mistakes they may be making.
Following this model we decided to take a small group up Coxheath Hills to Pitman Lodge and write for the day. This full day workshop, going by the name “Cabin Fever”, was just moments away from Sydney, NS but a lifetime away from all distractions. The participants hiked the one hour Coxheath Wilderness Trail to Pitman Lodge (an off-grid cabin built by the keepers of the trail) which would be home base for the next eight hours. Those eight house were crammed packed with writing, reading, exploring, and eating. The main focus for the day… overcoming the two major obstacles a writer has, distraction and inspiration.
Since then, we have hosted the “Castaway Writing Workshop Adventure” on Ingonish Island, “Join the Ranks” at historic Fort Petrie, and the “Encampment Writing Workshop Adventure”. Treading new ground, this overnight writing workshop dropped participants inside the walls of the Fortress Louisbourg for a night of writing, ghost stories, and fireside readings.
These injections of inspiration allow the participants to write prolifically, some producing 2-3 pages during a quick 20 minute exercise. I even get inspired to pick up a pencil while there. Here is a little something I wrote while on the Castaway adventure.
A single gull stands on the small pebble beach. Facing the sea, he orders the waves to come ashore and kiss his feet.
The water bows before him, daring not to challenge him. “I bring you food and shelter, please let me come ashore.” The lone sentinel does not move and the defeated wave retreats.
We like to keep our participants on their toes and not give them too much information about what the day will entail. This adds to the excitement and allows up to stray a bit from the master plan if needed.
The planning of these events are really quite amazing. Paul and I usually have one meeting once we have decided we are hosting another adventure, we decide on a location and then hammer out the only real logistics which change… our home base. You see, we always like to have somewhere we can duck into if a shower starts, a washroom, and a bbq for supper. This limits where we can take people, especially the washroom, but has never really posed a huge barrier so far.
In our fifth installment of outdoor writing workshop adventures, we are headed for Gabarus. Located along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, this small fishing village is wrapped in a landscape and tradition much like that which has inspired some of the Maritime’s greatest stories. Take in the smell of wild roses intermingled with salt air, the sight of an endangered lighthouse watching guard over a quiet fishing harbour, and the story of a community which dates back nearly 300 years.
This year's workshop will be hosted September 19, 2015 and will be sure to fill your head with ideas and inspiration to spark your writing. To find out the details or register, visit www.moosebait.com/saltswept