Writing on the wild side

Escape. Whether it’s to a sandy beach in Cuba or a steep moun­tain peak in the Himalayas, every­one longs to get away from their day-to-day routine once in a while.

But as well as leav­ing some­thing behind, what about mov­ing towards

Me and Shannon after kayak­ing and hik­ing to the Grassy Knoll.

a goal you’ve held close to your heart for as long as you can remem­ber? Something you really want to do but some­how there’s nev­er enough time, inspir­a­tion or even just plain know-how.

That’s exactly what happened the last week in May when a small group of people brought their ideas and par­tially com­pleted manu­scripts to a Wilderness Writing Retreat at Seawatch Cabins in Nuchatlitz Provincial Park.

Surrounded by pristine wil­der­ness, we dis­cussed focus, point of view and act­ive voice. We debated ways to carve time out of the day to write and the best way to find a pub­lish­er. And we all cre­ated timelines for fin­ish­ing our pro­jects.

Nuchatlitz is a wil­der­ness area and wild­life is plen­ti­ful. The fawn with this doe escaped before I could take a photo.

While doing so, we watched a sea otter doing the back­stroke in the bay and a mar­tin scam­per­ing across the deck each morn­ing. We also saw five bear (from a safe dis­tance) and wolf sign on some of our walks.

I couldn’t have asked for more con­geni­al stu­dents. Everyone was totally com­mit­ted to tak­ing their manu­script to the next stage…and did. I’m sure some found the red ink on their work daunt­ing but when I saw the revi­sions they made, I was astoun­ded at the improve­ment.

Shannon and Yvonne col­lab­or­ate on some revi­sions.

A bal­ance of private time and group instruc­tion addressed indi­vidu­al pro­jects and skill levels,” notes Yvonne Maximchuk. “Paula gave me excel­lent and per­tin­ent instruc­tion in how to write to my best abil­it­ies and helped bring my mem­oir to a whole new level. I was thrilled!”

Yvonne leads the way on a kayak exped­i­tion.

As a new author I had no idea how to edit my work,” adds Dodie Eyer who is work­ing on a children’s chapter book. “It was a real turn­ing point for me. And Shannon made us all feel very much at home. The food was deli­cious, fresh, healthy and attract­ive. I loved learn­ing how to kayak!”

Yes, neither man nor woman lives by work alone. When not writ­ing, we feasted on sump­tu­ous homemande meals. Shannon Bailey, host for the retreat, wowed us with her flair for put­ting togeeth­er delight­ful blends of col­our, taste and nutri­tious cuisine.

Dodie admires wild flowers at the Grassy Knoll.

In addi­tion to cook­ing and work­ing on a young adult nov­el, Shannon also doubled as wil­der­ness guide and instruct­or. We kayaked sheltered lagoons, poin­ted our bows towards the white-cres­ted waves of the open Pacific Ocean and hiked gravel beaches and wood­land trails. At night, the silence was enorm­ous, the stars a cas­cade of light in the sky. 

Some ran­dom high­lights:
• yoga on a sunny deck
• the “Aha!” look on participant’s faces
• Shannon’s stun­ning back garden
• lively dis­cus­sions on writ­ing and life in gen­er­al
• sea­food bisque made with oysters picked off the beach
• the pro­fu­sion of wild flowers at Grassy Knoll
• chocol­ate brownies topped with rhu­barb-straw­berry sauce
• see­ing manu­scripts move from good to very good 


As well as work­ing on writ­ing, friend­ships were formed, ideas shared and pos­sib­il­it­ies explored. What a great escape! I can’t wait to do it all over again later this year.

The back garden at Seawatch Cabins. All pho­tos by Dodie and Paula.


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One Response to Writing on the wild side

  1. John Martin says:

    Hi. I found your page while search­ing for Dodie Eyer. If you are in touch with her please ask her if she’s the Dodie who was work­ing some­where near Kitimat in the early 1970s, and remind her of our last meet­ing in Montréal West about 35 years ago! Please feel free to pass on our email address if she wants to get back in touch. Best wishes, John & Di Martin in SW England.

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