The Influence of Place: a writers’ workshop in South Berwick

On Saturday, I ran my first workshop in America. As regular readers will know, I spent 5 years running writers workshops in Britain from 2010, but this was my first one in my new life, on this side of the Atlantic. And it was a great way to start.

Even before we moved into our house in South Berwick, my family and I got to know the Jewett House when we took our daughter there last summer for some fabulous art workshops. It wasn’t long before I was talking to Brooke, the manager, about my work in England, especially the classes I ran at Winchester Discovery Centre and the Jane Austen House, and we soon concocted some exciting plans to get writers writing inside the Jewett House, for the first time since Sarah Orne Jewett herself. The first part of the plan was to run a monthly writers’ group; that has been going strong since January, with a dozen or so regular members. The next step was this workshop.

The topic was “The Influence of Place”, the title drawn from a Jewett story. We chose this topic partly to honor Jewett’s own ability to convey the spirit and influence of southern Maine in her books, and partly because we wanted to use the Jewett House and Hamilton House—two wonderful properties of Historic New England in South Berwick—as locations and inspirations. So in the morning, Brooke took eight enthusiastic writers around the Jewett House, where they looked and listened and made many notes, before I took them through some exercises on how to evoke the mood and tone of a place, and how to use it as inspiration.

Hamilton House

In the afternoon we went to Hamilton House, where we ate a delicious lunch courtesy of The Catered Event, absorbed the glorious surroundings and perfect weather, then wrote about how places and people can interact in a piece.

It was a lovely day and we got many compliments on the locations, on the teaching—and the weather! Sadly for us (but excitingly for her), Brooke is leaving us to manage events at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA, so it’s not possible to plan any more workshops just yet; but I am confident that there will be more before long. I will look forward to them.

(If you’d like to be kept informed about workshops and other events run by me (and occasionally others) in the Seacoast/Southern Maine area, please use the Contact page to email me and I’ll put you on my news list.)

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