by Diana Osberg
“It was a great week. Diana put together a very informative and enjoyable journey for us all. She put the “Treat” in retreat.” –Rory O’Connor, screenwriter at Writers on the Water Screenwriting Retreat
On September 14th, I set off on a voyage to Catalina Island with award-winning screenwriter Bill Boyle and six intrepid screenwriters. It was the Writers on the Water Screenwriting Retreat that I’d put together through my company Mia Terra Retreats. After months of preparation, the day was finally here, the first of a 5-day voyage on board a 110’ brigantine sailing vessel called Irving Johnson, owned and operated by the Los Angeles Maritime Institute.
From the moment we departed the dock in the Port of Los Angeles till the moment we disembarked at the end of the voyage, everything flowed naturally as though it was meant to be.
The writers helped the ship’s crew raise sails. Some got to helm the ship. Others climbed aloft and out onto the bowsprit. We saw dolphins, sea lions, pelicans and Garibaldi. Opaleye and Wrasses swarmed around our boat. One night, a young sea lion played under and around our boat for hours. We think he was showing off for us.
The brilliant Bill Boyle conducted screenwriting classes every day on his Visual Mindscape method of screenwriting and helped the writers with their scripts.
Because we were a small group, they got lots of one-on-one time with Bill to discuss their writing.
On our first night, we anchored in Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors. Some of us jumped off the boat and spent time swimming in the refreshing sea.
Day two, we hiked to the other side of the island to Cat Harbor, the narrowest point on Catalina.
Then we returned to the beach at Isthmus and wrote, played in the water and socialized. This location had picnic tables, restrooms, a store and even a restaurant/bar.
On the third morning, we raised anchor and headed to White’s Cove, the place where the Sea Hunt TV show was filmed.
There was enough wind so we could set sails, cut the engine and actually sail for a few hours before we put into our new home for the night.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect day. Bill Boyle was at the helm. He was in his element here.
I took a group of writers onto the bowsprit. This is my favorite spot on the brigantine, and it was fun to share this with the group. They were joyous. We rode the swells, enjoyed the refreshing breeze, talked, laughed and let the ocean environment blow away our cares.
Evenings were a special time for us at Catalina. After dinner, we gathered in the “Jacuzzi”, a seating area forward of the ship’s helm, and had informal discussions with Bill about the business of screenwriting and the entertainment business in general.
These talks were always informative, and they gave us a chance to ask questions and work out issues with our writing careers.
There was entertainment, too. On our first evening aboard the ship, we screened the documentary film “Around Cape Horn” about Irving Johnson the sail training pioneer after whom our ship was named. We even had popcorn for the event. One evening, a crew member led the group in a round of sea shanties.
From White’s Cove, we motored to Emerald Bay. This is my favorite location on Catalina Island. The water here is turquoise to green, and there’s a small, pebbly beach protected by a reef.
We took the small boat into the beach and did a wet landing. Everyone had to jump out into waist-deep water and wade to the beach.
Though there are no restroom facilities, stores or other human structures at this beach, there are so many things to do here. We swam, kayaked, climbed the bluffs, hiked and relaxed on the beach.
Another writer and I kayaked out to the kelp beds around the reef. We saw orange Garibaldi swimming among the kelp. Garibaldi are the California state fish and are a protected species.
The crew joined us on the beach and played, too. One of them searched for unique rocks and shells. I heard him exclaim that he hadn’t done this since he was a kid.
In fact, we all felt like kids that day. It was a chance to shake off our old patterns and renew our spirits, a chance to find a new way of seeing things in ourselves and our writing.
On our sail back to civilization, I took time to observe the writers and realized something remarkable — a change in their expressions. When they had joined the ship, they were pensive and perhaps burdened with issues from home. In the course of the week, their spirits soared. By the time we were sailing back, they were all smiling. It was as though they had been lit from within.
Isn’t that how life should always be?
What’s next for me? A two-week trip to Ireland in a few days. I’ll post photos and stories after I return.
What’s next for Mia Terra Retreats? The Visual Mindscape Screenwriting Retreat on February 5-7, 2016. Award-winning screenwriter Bill Boyle will help screenwriters learn to create a powerful, visual narrative and connect to their readers in a visceral way.