The Writer’s Hotel: Check in with your imagination

Gov. Mills to take part
Tue, 05/02/2023 - 9:00am

    So you’ve finally finished that first novel. Now what? Book yourself a “room” at The Writer’s Hotel, founded 10 years ago by Shanna McNair, TWH is a week-long, intensive series of workshops led by successful, well-known authors. This year marks the first time TWH is not being held in Manhattan or via Zoom due to the pandemic, but right here in Boothbay Harbor at Spruce Point Inn. And kicking off the free and open-to-the-public Faculty Reading Series will be Gov. Janet Mills, reading her own poetry.

    Said McNair, “Doesn’t everyone want to come to Maine?”

    Before the writers check in for the one-week stay, May 24-30, McNair and her fiance, author, scriptwriter and editor Scott Wolven, will have read every manuscript. In the past, TWH has drawn up to 80 writers. And these two accomplished writers always have a plot thickening on their own laptops.

    “It’s been a magic formula for a lot of writers,” said McNair. “We both read every writer’s manuscript making edits and writing tons of notes before we meet for TWH. We help writers develop the whole manuscript and talk about next steps. Half of the writers coming this year have been with us before and some of them are coming from Australia, Norway, and France.”

    All of the writers will need to show proof they are COVID-free. Writer workshops, led by guest authors, will be held in cottages on the SPI property – just the kind of intimate atmosphere McNair was after. All of the cottages will have air filters; masks are optional. Events will be held in other locations, too.

    TWH has always been rather intimate: Aspiring authors work on their 5,000-word book, snd share their work with other writers and well-known, highly regarded professional authors during writers workshops. They also attend craft lab workshops. These writers then get to pitch their books to agents following an “agent pitching practice session” via Zoom on June 10.

    McNair has also included plenty of time to explore Boothbay Harbor – and beyond, if they wish.

    The Wednesday, May 24 Faculty Reading Series, to be held in Pemaquid Hall from 6 to 7:30 p.m. begins with Mills, who will also read some prose by some of her favorite Maine women writers. Next up, Tess Gerritsen, Cathie Pelletier, Jeff Ford, McNair and Wolven; on Monday, May 29 from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. for adults only – readers are Elyssa East, Liz Hand, Jeff Ford, McNair and Wolven. Both events are open to the public and Sherman’s will be at both readings with works by these authors for purchase and signing.

    In addition to TWH, McNair is founding editor and publisher of The New Guard literary review. She was born with writing in her blood: Her father, Wesley McNair, was Maine’s poet laureate from 2011 to 2016. She recalls literary luminaries were always visiting the McNair home and, by 11, she had written and cast her first play, which was presented to the entire school. McNair’s love of writing goes on – in prose, poetry and scripts; she has been selected for several writing residencies in France, Ireland and Iceland and Maine. She has also been an award-winning journalist including at Village Soup; a playwright (“Fat Sushi” was chosen for Maine’s One-Act Festival in Belfast) ... the list goes on.

    Her partner in prose, love and life, Wolven, is consulting director at TWH, consulting editor of The New Guard literary review; editor and publisher of High Frequency Press, which will publish a handful of outstanding and overlooked books in the next few years, including some of his and McNair’s work; for seven consecutive years, his short stories have been included in the Best American Mystery Stories series; he was a staff writer for season two of “Hightown,” a STARZ and Jerry Bruckheimer show.

    Some of the authors on the instruction side are acquaintances, like Gerritsen who was part of the The New Guard once, while the others are lifetime friends. “We are being good literary citizens and making sure we treat writers well,” McNair said.

    Moving The Writer’s Hotel to Maine is not a one-off; it returns to Spruce Point June 4-11. This extraordinary opportunity for writers is $3,500. Visit the TWH website for details.

    The Writer’s Hotel was inspired by one of McNair’s romantic ideas. “You check into this hotel where you can just write in your own room ... and then you might stroll down the street and meet a publisher …,” she said as her voice drifted off. 

    What is The Writer’s Hotel experience like? Author Lyndsie Manusos has checked in a few times over the years. Here is the end of Manusos’ entry on friend Julie Carpenter's blog, Sacred Chickens: “The directors, Shanna McNair and Scott Wolven, are writers themselves. They are dreamers, warriors, and protectors of the craft. They see all the work, they see all the writers, and in turn urge them all onward. Pure authenticity: That is what The Writers Hotel is.”