Another great ARROW Retreat!

ARROW Retreat 2015 was a blast!

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Twelve participants from MDI, its outer islands, and Trenton gathered at Camp Beech Cliff during their April vacation for four half-days of writing and art workshops under the stellar guidance of Newbery Medal author Clare Vanderpool and Maine artist Rebekah Raye.

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Each day was a mash-up of group activities, workshops, and group sessions where participants shared with others the writing and art they created during the retreat.

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We all learned a lot about each other and ourselves during group activities, including (but certainly not limited to):

-It’s tough getting out of a human knot!

-Sometimes rappers write lyrics about the number pi.

-There are more fans of Star Wars in the group than Star Trek.

-A human wave requires trust, and is hard to pull off when most of the group is laughing!

-If you can’t catch a frisbee, dodging it is the next best option. Frisbees! Frisbees everywhere!

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During the first two days, Clare Vanderpool shared her story about how she became a writer and how long it took her to get published, what it’s like to be a writer, and some secrets about how she created her characters and the plot of Navigating Early, the retreat’s featured book.

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She guided participants through writing exercises focused on developing a character, and had participants interview each other’s characters so each writer could think more deeply about the character they created.

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We enjoyed the beautiful facilities at Camp Beech Cliff during group activities and breaks. Though we had one stormy day (volunteer Mel Rice, formerly of Texas, referred to it as a “toad strangler”), the rain stopped for the rest of the week and we were able to play outside and run around campus.

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Many of the participants also joined us and two Acadia National Park ranger interns on a hike up Beech Mountain before Day Three’s regular schedule began. The rangers demonstrated orienteering techniques, and challenged the hikers to write from a 360-degree perspective while at the top of the trail (don’t forget to think about what’s behind you!).

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The final two days were devoted to art, and Rebekah Raye (always a huge hit!) gave a presentation on her artistic practice and where she finds inspiration. She led them through a drawing and painting process using graphite pencils and crayons, tracing and transfer paper, watercolors and pastel pencils.

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Each participant had the option to create either a book cover for their story, or a scene from their story and, even though we added additional art workshops for this year’s retreat, they still wanted more art once the workshops were over!

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We concluded the retreat with a public exhibit of the participants’ artwork, with an opportunity for them to also share their writing. We packed the house with parents and friends!

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So what did the participants have to say about the retreat?

I really enjoyed being able to work with a real author.

I met really funny, cool, new people, and learned new things about my old friends. Also, I loved having Rebekah Raye and Clare Vanderpool as teachers.

Rebekah Raye brought the creativity right out of me.

It’s an invaluable learning experience.

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IRW is grateful for: the ideas, help, and expertise of Clare Vanderpool, Rebekah Raye, volunteers Debby Messer and Mel Rice; the participants’ fervor for honing their writing and art skills, and their contagious joy; parents for bringing their children to the retreat each day; and Camp Beech Cliff staff for assistance and use of their campus. The ARROW Retreat is possible due to grant funding, for which we are truly grateful!

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