The Way to Create Great Writing (hint: it doesn’t have to be hard!)


Guest post by author/editor Suzanne Kingsbury

Sometimes when you least expect it, magic happens. And that magic almost always starts with intention.

This weekend eight incredible women took the step forward to make space for a little luxury, some pampering and tons and tons of creativity. On Friday afternoon, I walked into literary agent and publisher, Dede Cummings’, light-filled post and beam house in the hills of Vermont, and felt everything in me exhale. A fire burned in the fireplace, the house smelled of fresh fruit, and, as the dusk sky turned a magnificent ochre, my beautiful retreat women started piling in.

We snuggled up. Margie massaged us through our blocks, and shared her secret for getting her book Fourth Uncle in the Mountain into all the indies; Katina explained her strategies for garnering top media attention for her book Out of the Woods, which sold out of its first printing this year; Diana shared the process of getting her first book contract for her fantastic new poetry manuscript, Wanting It which comes out in June! Becky Karush — who is the hidden power behind some of the most popular blog posts you see on places like — gave insight into areas of that world that would help other writers and brought to the table one of the best new protagonists in literary fiction; Massage therapist and healer, Susan Carbin-Hardee provided a surefire structure for the self-help how-to when she read aloud from her upcoming book; Rebecca Jones, MD, moved us to tears as she discussed how brave we often have to be to write the domain-changing truth; Dede read to us from her kick-ass memoir in progress Spin Cycle and, while she cooked for us, gave us free advice about agents, publishing and publicity.

We had tea and chocolates whenever we needed it.

But most of all? We wrote. And wrote again. We read aloud our new work, we closed our eyes and received what was strong in our writing, what stood out, what amazed others, what made readers feel connected to the piece. Yogi poet (and regular salonista) Diana Whitney led us in a powerful restorative yoga class while the snow squalls fell and the light turned a passion fruit orange. Later we got steamy in the sauna.

How did all this magic come about? Like most people, I had a dream. And like most dreams it started with a feeling dissatisfaction, of wanting more.

I love writing. I feel most alive when I am on the page. And yet hard edges define the world of writing and publishing. Workshopping deconstructs the work rather than building it up. There exists a feeling of fear and scarcity, the idea that without criticism and then nepotism the work is doomed. This status quo has been accepted and writers struggle to survive within it, many proclaim that tough skin is par for the course. Working hard (too hard) to thrive and feeling isolated, many writers turn to self-destructive habits, sometimes even to suicide.

I had a dream that we could create lasting work without this model. That creativity and world-changing writing might actually happen more readily if writers had a container in which they could nurture themselves and each other.

What if writers were fed great food, kept warm, given massage, and most importantly what if we had a chance to melt our creative blocks? Wouldn’t it be great if we felt safe enough to go into those scary places where great work lives? Imagine reading aloud to a group of supportive listeners? And then receiving feedback about the genius of our writing, the innate talent we bring to the page? During all this, I could pass my writers tools from over 20 years of experience in the field…
Scientists have known for a long time that the way to creative fire is to cease critical activity in the brain and the mind’s obsession with finding out what’s wrong. Focus on what’s right. Make the work flourish.

And so that’s what I started doing. I use this model to work one-on-one with writers, I use it in salon every Tuesday night and now I use it in weekend retreats, and I’m almost always accompanied by one of the most nurturing literary agents and publishers in the field, Dede Cummings.

Some dreams fail. We recalibrate. We figure out what went wrong and dream another dream. But once in a while? They actually come true. And this one did.

I’ve been using this model for almost seven years, and it has birthed some of the best writing in the field. It draws intelligent, compassionate, profound writers to its midst. And they succeed. They get book contracts, their books go to auction, garner six figure deals, they are winning awards and receiving major media attention.

I like to call this model Gateless Gate Writing, because there are no gates to get through, you don’t have to pander to a bigwig or be initiated into a special club. You don’t even have to slave away on the written word until blood appears. That’s the old model. This is a new way of approaching writing. And it works.

Retreat is the very best way to experience Gateless Gate Writing. Retreat is where a sweet strawberry-blond literary agent might take you under her wing, or you might find your best new writing friend who has already published and so can lead you through; you’ll get massaged by a nurturing shiatsu therapist who moves the old fears out to let your best writing in, and you may find yourself breaking into tears or laughing out loud because you finally finally feel free from those creative blocks that have kept you in a false prison.

And as you watch those old phantom gates lift into oblivion? You find your own limitless horizon.

If you would like to join Dede and me for a salon-style writing retreat and experience the power of your creative genius, come to St. Augustine April 25th-27th, 2014.

Retreats fill up fast, so hurry hurry and if you want more information on the details and specifics, feel free to email me:


5 thoughts on “The Way to Create Great Writing (hint: it doesn’t have to be hard!)

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  1. Reblogged this on Katina Makris and commented:
    From the moody hills of Vermont, a brilliant editor, Suzanne Kingsbury shares our wonderful writer’s retreat weekend process. Please read how deliciously we created new work and crafted a synergy of boundless creativity!!

    Katina I. Makris

  2. Hi Dede, I’m very interested in participating in yours and Suzanne’s workshops — they sound terrific and inspirational! I cannot attend the one in St. Augustine, but I would like to hear about others closer by, particularly in Vermont. Dede, I’ll be attending the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle July 17 and wondered if, by any chance, you might be going as well. I’d love an opportunity to see you there. I’ll be doing the dreadful “speed pitching” to about eight agents and one publisher, Kat Brzozowski with Thomas Dunne. Since we discussed my pitch in the BWW workshop, I’m dying for any pointers you could share to help me fine tune it. I did send you a hard copy of the revised pitch and novel DEATH AT SPIRIT LAKE, and I hope that sometime in your understandably busy schedule you may have a chance to take a look at it and perhaps give me feedback on the novel and names of other agents to whom you might be willing to refer me. I’ll be in touch with you in a week or two if I don’t hear from you with a tiny reminder (or the aforementioned roses). Thanks for everything, Dede. Best wishes, Catherine Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2014 02:06:41 +0000 To:

      Catherine!! It would be so great to have you on retreat! The Vermont retreat this summer might already be filled up, but there’s always always the Pond House in October in Dede’s house in Rhode Island, which is beyond magical. Tell Kat Brzozowski I said hello, she’s one of my favs, and it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch, but I think of her often. xxxooo, Suzanne.
      HERE IS MY REPLY . . .
      Catherine, I did receive your ms. and will try to take a look at it this weekend, so I can give you feedback! Come to my workshop in Burlington on April 1st if you can! Also, we ARE doing a Vermont Writers’ Retreat, looks like the last weekend in June at my home (again!), so it would be great if you could come. Best, Dede

      1. Hello Dede! I am just reading your note in 2015. That is the state of my website — it is just now getting set up, thank goodness. As to the novel, I’m overhauling it — change to 3rd person for one thing, and much more. I hired a book editor finally, and a good one. This new version is wow! Finally spreading my wings. Happy New Year to you and Suzanne!

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