1st PSA Writer’s Retreat February 18-19, 2023
by Beverly Nault


“Writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course, there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation the writer…moves into a realm where he has never been before — perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.” Rachel Carson

One of the strengths of the Phoenix Screenwriters Association is the intentional focus on bringing writers together to exchange ideas, learn from teachers and each other, and fellowship with others who share in that lonely venture called writing. Audiences, readers, judges, producers, and directors benefit from the final product, but writers who spend hours in isolation at the keyboard can benefit from the energy, feedback, laughter, and ideas of others.

All that was abundant in a conference room at the Hilton Sedona Resort on February 18th and 19th, 2023. Organized and taught by John McCarney and Jessica Brown, 21 writers (also filmmakers and producers) gathered for a day that flew past because of the rich information, participation, and writing time.

John began the day with a discussion on sources for ideas, both for the story and down to the scene level. Whether a life story, from our imagination, or from an outside source, writer’s block doesn’t have to win the day.

Jessica led an informative and detailed discussion on the rewrite process. From the nuts and bolts of breaking a project down into accessible parts to monitoring for consistency, theme progression, and application, she offered tidbits and tricks to tackle what can be the most daunting task of writing. From stating the theme in action to applying MEGs (mutually exclusive goals), her advice was on point, important for a satisfying read, and very practical.

Throughout the day, the Fishbowl provided fun interaction. Everyone was encouraged to fill out a slip of paper with a particular challenge they were facing in their projects. Whenever a slip was read, everyone had a chance to weigh in on strategies and ideas, and one comment would inspire another for creative solutions. These fishbowl moments became a class favorite, and at least one humorous remark became our comic throughline for the day.

The Hilton provided an excellent hot lunch, and Jessica and John built in two hours for lunch and writing time. We were invited to find a quiet spot in the lobby or around the lovely grounds to read, reflect on the morning, or work on a project.

On Sunday morning, three writers met with John and Jessica for a table read of ten pages each for feedback and discussion. They were able to dig deep and take home lots of ideas for their next rewrite.

I understand more retreats like this are planned, and I totally recommend attending. As in Rachel Carson’s quote, stimulating and happy associations with friends and colleagues can prevent, or at least lighten, those lonely and frightening moments we writers often face.

About Beverly Nault: Beverly Nault was a technical writer for an aerospace software company before she began writing creatively for publication. In 2011, her first novel, Fresh Start Summer, and memoir Lessons from the Mountain, What I Learned from Erin Walton, written with actor Mary McDonough, both released. Since then, Bev’s had ten novels and several short stories published. She’s been a freelance editor for fiction and non-fiction writers, a first reader for a literary agency, and staff acquisitions editor for the literary journal, Eastern Iowa Review. Bev lives in Mesa with her husband Gary where she dabbles in tennis, and excels at spoiling their three grandchildren.


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