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seascape writers retreat
Seascape "Escape to Write" Writers Retreat
September 27-29, 2013
Guest House Retreat Center
Chester, Connecticut

Devote a weekend to reinvigorating your creativity and revising your manuscript in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley. Tune out distractions from the outside world as you spend time brainstorming, critiquing, revising and setting goals with other talented, committed crime fiction writers. Authors Hallie Ephron and Roberta Isleib will guide you in assessing and improving two essential components of your writing. Writer and TV investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan will join the group Saturday afternoon and evening.

This is not a conventional lecture-style conference. Each participant will submit in advance the first 20 pages from a work-in-progress. In the course of the weekend, you will rotate through two focus groups, which will examine this sample of your work-in-progress from two different perspectives:

  • Drafting a Compelling Opening led by Hallie Ephron
  • Creating Memorable Characters led by Roberta Isleib

The SeaScape Writers Retreat is limited to 18 participants.

Here’s a preliminary outline of activities.

Friday, 9/27/13
3:00 - 5:00 PM: check in.
5:00 - 6:00 PM: introductions and discussion of goals.
  • Who we are and where we are in our writing and hopes for the weekend
  • Rules of the road: positive feedback first, be as specific as you can; for critiques—don’t interrupt, take notes, ask clarifying questions, summarize, restate
  • Seascape goal: take each writer where she is and move her forward
6 to 7 dinner:
7:00 - 9:00 PM: First critique session

Saturday, 9/28/13
8:00 - 9:00 AM: Breakfast
9:00 - 11:00 AM: Second critique session
11:15 - 12:15 AM: Session on character-driven plotting with Roberta Isleib
12:30 - 1:30: Lunch
1:30 - 2:45 PM: One on one meetings with instructors and time to revise
3:00 - 5:00 PM: Using Techniques from TV Journalism to Pump Up Your Novel,
Hank Phillippi Ryan
4:45 - 5:45 PM: Break and/or revision time
6:00 - 7:00 PM: Dinner
7:00 - 8:30 PM: Elevator pitch session and query letter roundtable with Ephron, Isleib, and Ryan

Sunday, 9/29/13
8:00 - 9:00 AM: Breakfast
9:00 - 10:00 AM: Session on Pumping up Suspense with Hallie Ephron
10:15 AM - 11:15 AM: One on one sessions and time to revise
11:15 - 12:30 Share your AHA moments and best tips from the weekend, read revisions,
where do you go from here
12:30 PM: Evaluations, lunch and good-byes
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seascape instructors
Hallie Ephron is author of suspense novels COME AND FIND ME and NEVER TELL A LIE which was made into a movie for The Lifetime Movie Network. She wrote the Edgar-nominated WRITING AND SELLING YOUR MYSTERY NOVEL. She is an award-winning crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Roberta Isleib is the author of nine published mysteries, most recently AN APPETITE FOR MURDER (NAL) written as Lucy Burdette. The second in the Key West food critic series, DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, will be published in September. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She is the past president of Sisters in Crime International.

seascape instructors

Hank Phillippi Ryan is an Emmy-winning investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate and the best-selling author of four mystery novels. Her books and stories have garnered Anthony, Macavity and Agatha awards. Her newest thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN, debuts 2012 from Forge.


Seascape will be held this year at the Guest House Retreat Center in Chester, CT. Guest House offers spacious guest rooms with private bathrooms, home-style cuisine, and amenities that range from a grand piano in the lobby to wireless internet in every room. Guests can focus on their work without distractions, while enjoying a nurturing and comfortable environment.

The facility is a renovated country inn on private wooded land, adjacent to a state forest with hiking trails and two neighboring lakes. Conveniently located midway between New York City and Boston, Guest House is easily reachable via major highways or by train.


Registration price includes program and all meals, from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

Retreat w/ single room and private bath: $650
Retreat w/ shared room and bathroom: $550
Commuter (meals and workshop only): $450

To reserve your spot, contact Roberta at

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Students will send in the first 20 pages of their works in progress by August 1. You will receive the writing samples of the other students in your group and come prepared to offer constructive feedback. (Tips and advice on how to read will be provided in advance.)

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Please email Roberta Isleib at to check on availability. Once an opening is confirmed, we will tell you where to mail your deposit check.

The remaining portion of your fee must be received by July 1, 2013.

Cancellation Policy. Cancellations received before July 1 will be fully refunded. After July 1, your money will be refunded only if your spot is filled. No refunds after August 1.

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"I had a great time at Seascape and want to thank everyone for great advice and critiques. I was more lost than I realized and now I have a writers compass to help steer by. I know I have much more to learn but the weekend at Seascape was a giant step forward. Thanks everyone."
-- Debra Overton, Seascape 2012 student

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"I had such an amazing and enlightening time this past weekend. You are all inspirational and have given me such motivation!"
-- Michele Clark

"I've been to other writers conferences that were very good, but none could compare in excellence to Seascape 2011. My weekend with all of you was one huge AHA, and also fun. "
-- Marcelline Jenny

"This has been such a wonderful experience and one I can't wait to repeat next year. I feel that finally I'll be able to get that first book ready to resubmit all over again after getting nowhere with it for the past ten years. Thank you."
-- Gloria Alden

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"Roberta, Susan, and Hallie: What can I say? Seascape was perfect. That everything went so smoothly and efficiently, and so much learning was packed into one weekend while still feeling fun and exhilarating and inspiring--well, it's a huge tribute to the enormous amount of hard work and planning I know that went into making it feel effortless. After only two days, I feel like I've taken a huge bound forward with my WIP, and my writing in general. Thank you for giving us that opportunity (and in such a gorgeous setting, to boot!)"
-- Tracy Hurley, Seascape '09

"Thank you, Hallie, Roberta and Susan for a great Writers Retreat. The location was gorgeous, the accomodations and food were great. As a result of the workshops, critiques and discussions, I feel that my own abilities have been bumped up to a new level."
-- JM Reinbold, Seascape '09


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"I can't begin to tell you how much this weekend helped me as a writer. I learned so much. It seems as if ideas that were locked in my head are now able to get out. As a result, I am really working. Thank you so much. I hope we can meet again some day."

"Talking about other people's writing cemented what needs to be done with my own. The Mercy Center is a wonderful setting for the retreat. There's something about the water that does good things for me. All in all, it was an intense and fruitful period of time for me."


"I wish to thank you all for not only the well crafted weekend but more importantly, for the careful and deliberate thought each of you gave to our work."