Note: This post was originally emailed on August 13, 2018, as one of Sarah Aronson’s “Monday Motivation” emails (if you want to receive those, you can sign up on Sarah’s website.) Sarah wrote this while she was teaching our Whole Novel Workshop in August. Thanks, Sarah, for letting us reprint it here!
“Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else…Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?”–Eudora Welty
Greetings from the Highlights Foundation!
This is my magic place–the setting of all my best ideas. It is the place where I began writing The Wish List, and tomorrow, it will be the place where I press SEND on my first pass pages.
It is the place that I return to and find community, comfort, and creativity!
It has all the right ingredients:
1. A beautiful setting. Quiet. Lush.
The Foundation in Honesdale offers everything a writer needs to be productive. There are places to walk and think and be with yourself. The first night I got here, I took a short walk on the grounds and let myself listen to the world around me. No distractions. Nothing except me and my story.
(Sometimes that can be scary. But here, I know I will find the answers.)
2. Great programs and people!
The Whole Novel Workshop (as well as the Get to Know Your Novel and every other workshop) bring together like-minded people to study the CRAFT of writing. We think about every aspect of the process. Participants are real. We meet. We workshop. We talk. We explore and dig and come up with a plan. I learn SO MUCH!
3. The Quiet Room
I LOVE community writing. I am inspired being in the same room with other writers hard at work. Normally, writing is a solitary process. In the quiet room, I do not feel alone.
4. THE FOOD!!!
The chefs take such good care of us. EVERYONE takes such good care of us. We are nurtured in every way. The chefs love the process of creating great food. (Tonight we had baked peaches for dessert.)
I have been so lucky to make so many friends on my writing journey. When we work together in this idyllic setting, we feel SAFE. We can be honest. We are friends for life! I am so grateful to Kent Brown, George Brown, and the entire staff here. They go out of their way to foster a feeling of safety. This place is one giant permission slip for creativity.
And of course, there’s Molly (the neighborhood beagle)!
Are you ready to stretch?
Setting is one of the most important elements of any story. What makes yours unique?
How does it add tension?
Describe your world. Describe your neighborhood. If it helps, make a map. Jot down what makes it special. What does your protagonist love about the place in the story? What does the protagonist wish were different?
Have a great writing week!