Karen Evans (with Melanie Bishop)Alumni Retreat, December, 2017Prescott College graduate, 2002
“The Writing Our Lives Retreat in Prescott, late October, was like the best medicine ever for this exhausted writer. In fact, I have been renewed!” —Mary Holden, Phoenix, AZ
“I met Melanie during the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Early on, I admired her wordsmithery when she read an excerpt of a riveting short story. It wasn’t until after we left the residency that I asked her to read one of my works-in-progress and benefited from her expertise as a writer, editor and teacher. Melanie’s insightful suggestions and incisive edits polished my writing in a butter-smooth way that also respected my voice. Score! I especially appreciate her ability to tap into the emotional truth of a project and strengthen it. Her deft touch elevates your prose, whether it’s an essay, residency application, fiction manuscript or poem. Gifted and encouraging, Melanie is a writer’s dream. I trust her with any work I love and need to refine.” –Robin Farmer, Virginia
“A Lexi retreat isn’t about lolling on a beach while your journal gets margarita stains, or strolling Italian vineyards with a hopeful pocket notebook (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). It’s not about hobnobbing, networking, or schmoozing. It’s about giving yourself a focused few days or week or however much time you crave where the focus is you & your writing. And about giving yourself a generous, talented guide.
What Melanie offers is keen insight, intuition, compassion, hard truths, empathy, new ways of seeing your work, and of opening possibilities.
These are the reasons you go, the reasons you read and sit still and listen. From afar, such a time can appear to be a luxury, especially in these tumultuous times, when the world can feel like it’s unraveling before our eyes, and there is so much work to do. And yet, you’re a writer. This is your work. It’s time to get started.” –Andi Werblin, MassachusettsMy week-long bespoke screenwriting retreat in Prescott was nothing short of transformational. With very little writing experience, and only the nugget of an idea, I travelled 7800 miles from Sydney, Australia, to this quaint little Western town, in the hope of finding a little guidance and a lot of inspiration. And I did. In spades.
Melanie’s experience as a writer and teacher was evident from the moment we met. She has a cunning ability to distill your needs, and structure a relatively short period of time into productive action. Her vision and ideas, enabled me to develop a single thought into a story filled with more depth and drama than I ever anticipated.
Prescott (and the surrounding area) is like a land lost in time. The charming town square is steeped in history and ghosts. You can feel the past under your skin as you potter by Saloon Bars, Native American wares and cowboy boots. It really is like the movies! Not a bad place to find yourself writing one.
All in all, I couldn’t recommend Melanie’s Prescott retreat enough. For me, it was like a dream come true. One that has allowed me to continue pursuing a dream, long after I waved goodbye to the desert. –Pia Chaudhuri, Sydney Australia
“Melanie Bishop is a pleasure to work with–helpful and encouraging, with a great touch for constructive criticism. She had to be one of the most popular professors on campus. More importantly, she points out things that need to be filled in, winnowed out, and reorganized in my plot and characters, and has the kind of judgment, skill and knowledge that you can’t get from your friends and relatives who aren’t in the business of writing. However my book turns out, I am grateful for Melanie’s input in making it the best it can be. ” –-Andrew Hamilton, Attorney, Tampa, Florida. Author of Bullet 59: A Ruthless Calculation
“I found myself in Melanie’s classroom during a directionless time in my life, when I desperately wanted to be a writer but didn’t have the courage or confidence to try. Melanie believed in me and took me under her wing—as a student, a friend, a mentee. Her detailed feedback on my early writing, her unwavering encouragement, her incisive suggestions, her seasoned expertise, her boundless wisdom—all this changed the course of my life. Because of her, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could be a writer. I applied to grad school and earned an MFA. I started my own literary journal. I taught my own writing courses. And now, on the brink of publishing my first book, the one person to whom I own the biggest debt of gratitude is Melanie. I still return to her teaching, her voice, after nearly 20 years, when I plan my classes, give students feedback, and undertake my own work.” —Rachel Yoder, Iowa City
Rachel Yoder’s debut fiction collection, Infinite Things All At Once, is forthcoming from Curbside Splendor in August 2017. She is a founding editor of draft: the journal of process and the creator and host of The Fail Safe podcast.
I hired Melanie Bishop to help me with the task of grant writing for a highly competitive Research and Develop Grant through Arizona Commission on the Arts. I started with a mishmash of writings, including descriptions of my proposed performance project, my body of work and my perspectives on dance, feminism and land-based art. She helped me clarify and sharpen my language to communicate the intentions for the project. She gave me bite-sized assignments that helped me to focus and not be overwhelmed by the multifaceted nature of the grant. She encouraged me to research the ways my project connected to and furthered the discourse of existing work in my areas of artistry, which helped me write with more authority. She challenged me to stay with my writing until it told the story it needed to tell. I worked with her for a couple weeks and felt excited and (sometimes exhausted) by the way her expertise as a teacher and editor shaped and polished my ideas. When I turned the grant in I was proud of it, and in the completion I was more inspired by my proposed project than ever. The happy ending is that I was awarded the grant! I know the time and investment with Melanie coaching me was a significant part of my success. She is a gifted teacher and writer. She’s patient, but she’s also a fast worker, she nurtures, but also pushes, and gets the job done on time. Since my art is in the nonverbal realm I sometimes struggle with finding the words to describe what I do. Melanie helped me communicate my imagined project with poetic precision. I cannot recommend her services highly enough. –Delisa Myles, Dancer/Choreographer, Arizona
This retreat helped me in ways I didn’t expect. I had imagined criticizing and molding my sentences one by one, but this was much, much better. Seeing and reading different authors’ work opened my mind to my own self-expression. Like viewing many different types of interior designs then choosing from the unique variety of sentences, details, and introspection. It has already improved my own personal style of storytelling. Your teaching proved to be expansive and valuable to my craft. Your feedback was gentle and specific which also helped me to trust you in writing on the fly. You are a mindful teacher! I tend to be quiet and reserved when I meet new people, and you were confident and comfortable over Skype, which made the newness disappear fast. I appreciate your feedback! I can’t wait to write more. Retreats are wonderful. I’m hopeful for my future in writing, more than I used to be. Thank you!–Allison K., Easthampton, Massachusetts
“I’ve been a big fan of Melanie’s writing for years but even that didn’t prepare me for how outstanding she is as an editor. Her feedback on my New Adult novel was like a Master class in writing. Her comments were invaluable– insightful and supportive– the kind of notes that make you want to rush over to your keyboard and immediately implement. Her examples, guidance and advice have already made me a better writer and I intend to have her read and critique everything I write in the future. She brings passion, creativity and a sense of humor to her editing and her love of writers and their work couldn’t be more apparent. I’m grateful for her expertise and if I’m lucky enough to get my book published, she’s the first person I will thank, in print.” –Douglas Wood, California
I used to share space with Melanie once a week in the Advising Center at Prescott College, where she was a professor and I was an academic advisor. On days when it was quiet up front in my area, I could overhear bits of Melanie’s meetings with her students. They would go over the student’s writing together, discussing details, reading bits aloud, and brainstorming how to re-shape or re-word sections to perfect the piece. Part of me, the self-conscious part, was horrified – how could these students stand to put their pieces under the microscope like that? But another part of me, long-buried and never listened to, desperately wanted to be the student, working out a piece with an expert’s guidance.
Several years later, that repressed writer inside me is finally coming out, with Melanie’s patient direction. We started with a quick crash course in memoir (designed for five weeks, which I dragged out to five months), then rolled into working seriously on stand-alone chapters of a book-length memoir project. I was amazed (and relieved) at how easy, fun, and encouraging it was to work with Melanie. She has a real gift for providing critique (suggestions for revision) that never feels like criticism. Her comments on my manuscripts feel like a conversation we’re having, one that just happens to include guidance about what to build on, what can be left out or understated, and what to consider adding in that could be relevant.
With Melanie’s tutelage in the craft of writing and revising, as well as her gloriously encouraging comments, I feel I’m beginning to be able to recognize good writing when I produce it. This is the mark of the very best kind of teacher – one who equips the student to become her own coach and expert. –Heather Knowles, Prescott, Arizona
“I have had a book bouncing around in my head for years, but every time that I sat down to “write a book”, the task was too daunting and I couldn’t figure out where to start. Melanie took the time to correspond with me in the week leading up to my retreat so that she could best individualize the lessons included in my retreat. She taught me the basics that my craft was missing, helped me find inspiration, and started me on my way. I returned home refreshed, rejuvenated, and with the start of a manuscript that makes me very proud. I recommend this experience to anyone who needs a little time away to get in touch with his or her muse.” –Karen Happel, Orange County, California
“My retreat with Melanie in Carmel was both encouraging and inspirational. Her gentle but consistent guidance was crucial for my re-entry into creative writing. There is such tender authenticity and nurturing in her coaching; her “classroom” feels like being invited into her heart. I thank Melanie for being an integral part of me finding my voice (a work in progress!) and for being a catalyst to self-expression.” — Claire Costanzo, Atlanta, Georgia
“Immediately after I began my undergraduate studies at Prescott College, there was talk about Melanie Bishop and her famous Memoir class. My peers in the writing program would say, “have you taken a class with Melanie yet? Have you taken Memoir?” in this tone that suggested that taking a class with Melanie was a rite of passage. When I finally took Memoir I knew what all the fuss was about. Melanie’s passion for the subject matter, for writing and books in general, and especially for her students and their success, felt palpably strong, as our class united under the rigor of the workload and Melanie’s ability to promote lively, intelligent, and meaningful class discussions. Memoir was one of the few classes at Prescott College in which I enjoyed everything we read and felt comfortable enough to talk to Melanie about personal stories I was exploring in my memoir.
“I recently turned to Melanie for help editing my graduate school application essays. Her generous feedback and meticulous editing skills undoubtedly improved my essays. After a few rounds of emails back and forth, Melanie took the time to call me over the phone and offered more generous feedback and support. One of the things I appreciate most about Melanie, in addition to her talent as a writer and teacher, is the way she advocates for her students and fellow writers. She believes in the work of writers and is enthusiastic, gracious, and precise as a teacher and editor, and simply as a friend who wants to see you succeed.”–Brooke Sahni
Two of my clients, Madeleine Head and Gillian Duffy. Gillian came all the way from Dublin, Ireland for a writing retreat in Carmel.
“Meeting Melanie has been one of the highlights of the past year for me. Not only is she funny, down-to-earth and intelligent, she’s a writer, too, so she knows exactly how the process feels.
As an editor, I found her to be honest, open and extremely supportive. Her astute critical analysis, attention to detail and direction are just a few of the reasons why I look forward to finishing my novel under the supervision of her keen eye over the coming months.” — Gillian, Dublin, Ireland
“I would enthusiastically recommend a retreat with Melanie Bishop. Not only is she highly skilled as a writer and editor, but she also has a great sense of what each individual needs. I didn’t have concrete goals going into this retreat, but came away with a sense of accomplishment and inspiration to continue my writing. She was thoughtful and knowledgeable in her instruction of memoir, and pointed me toward new writers in this particular genre. She also gave me excellent feedback on my writing, and I will use her editing skills in the future.” –Melissa Evans, Journalist, Long Beach, California
“I have attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, the workshop in Spoleto, Italy and the New York Writers Institute. I can say hands-down that working with Melanie has been the most inspiring of them all. She is an excellent educator and an exceptional reader. She helped me to move forward on my project and to do some of my best writing ever. It is my full intention to come back next year to Carmel-by-the-Sea and continue to work with Melanie.” –Dr. Linda Meyers, writer and psychologist, Manhattan
“Mel has been my memoir writing coach since June of 2014. Not only is she highly technically experienced as a writer, an instructor, and a published author, she is wonderful mentor and is the type of writer that I aspire to be. I love reading her work – it draws me in, it resonates with me and in return, she tends to ‘get me’ which encourages and strengthens my authentic voice. She is supportive and understanding (particularly in regards to highly personal scenarios and associated feelings) and continually helps validate and draw-out scenes that will best support and structure my memoir. She is approachable with a great sense of humour as well as dynamic and responsive (you can follow her structured guidelines or follow your heart) en-route to your end goal. She is generous with her feedback and constructive comments. With her expertise comes a resourcefulness; providing ongoing learning tools and examples to enhance your writing skills and with her publishing connections encourages submissions to writing contests or calls for content for practice and exposure. I honestly cannot imagine doing this with anyone else by my side! If you are currently writing or considering writing memoir, I would highly recommend connecting with Melanie as your writing coach.” — Michelle Hohn, North Vancouver, BC Canada, Aspiring author and Wildflower Organizer
“My experience at the Lexi Retreat was life changing. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and was very anxious. I had not really had much writing experience and Melanie was the perfect person to guide me through and to put me at ease. She was very helpful, providing different tips and methods and was also very patient. The one-on-one that I was able to have with her was what I needed to help me to start writing on a regular basis and to start taking it seriously. I would highly recommend this retreat to anyone who wishes to improve on their writing, whether they are just testing the waters or are already published. It was very beneficial to me and that seemed to be the consensus among the others in our group, all of whom were more experienced than I. And finally, I would like to mention the Vagabond Inn. It was such a lovely place with an atmosphere that was conducive to concentrating on your work. The bubbling fountains were meditative. The breakfasts were amazing and the staff was very gracious.” –-Sarah O., New Orleans, LA
“My experience in Carmel at Lexi Retreats was the perfect blend of writing discipline, inspiration, guidance, and spiritual renewal. I have attended other writing retreats and none have elicited the degree of focus and serenity as this one. Melanie Bishop’s aura of tranquility coupled with her writing and teaching style enabled all the aspiring and experienced writers to explore a deeper part of themselves, in the classroom and during the individual meetings. And, having the luxury to be able to create amidst the beauty of Carmel and the intimate setting of the Vagabond Inn was an added gift. I invite anyone wanting to revisit past writings or delve into a new writing adventure surrounded by the perfect setting, to reserve your spot now with Melanie Bishop at the next fabulous Lexi Retreat!” —Bonnie H., Nantucket, MA
“I found Melanie Bishop through a mutual friend and teacher of mine, the novelist and academic Kenny Cook. He recommended her highly, and his rec counted a great deal. The mss came back with suggestions covering a range of topics from word choice, to improving a scene or a chapter, to, in one case, suggesting that a chapter be eliminated for lack of verisimilitude, among many other things. She provided a detailed analysis separate from the margin notes which made mention of specific issues as well as larger patterns, and enlarged the scope of the work she had done on my novel-in-progress. Melanie liked the novel and was very encouraging. Sharing as I do what I presume to be the almost universal insecurity of writers, this was something I needed to hear to help build energy for the next steps in completing the piece. Also, some few weeks after I received the mss, we had a conversation about the book and her work on it. During that conversation she made at least one very significant suggestion as to something I might build into the novel that would help deepen its thematic content. She “got” what I was writing about, this despite that it has to do with a religious world (the Jewish world) which I presume she only knows slightly. I’ve had many things published over the years, mostly non-fiction and have always enjoyed the process of being edited for the simple reason that it almost always improves the piece. In this case, a much longer work than I’ve ever had edited, the process was that much more enjoyable, as it confirmed the general quality of what I’ve crafted and has set me intelligently on to the next step and level of preparing this thing for (hopeful) publication.” –Rabbi Phil Cohen, Hendersonville, NC
“Taking Melanie Bishop’s writing class was the best choice I’ve made in years. I had started writing my memoir several times and each time I would quit. I needed guidance, someone who knew what they were doing and could answer my questions. Melanie was just who I needed. She gave fair and insightful criticism, suggestions, ideas and was always accessible to give feedback and reassurance. I’m looking forward to taking more of her classes in the future.” —Madeleine Head, writer, Carmel, CA
“I hadn’t done any writing in over two years when a friend suggested this memoir class. The first two weeks I thought, “What was I thinking?” But by the third week, that changed to, “I can’t wait until Tuesday morning!” I was learning so much and feeling stimulated. I treasured my time writing. When my memoir progressed and I turned it in for editing, the encouragement was huge and Melanie’s edits were so in tune with my intentions that I was ecstatic, knowing I had the tools now to make the memoir better. I couldn’t wait to get back to work on it. This has been an exciting and joyful eight weeks!” —Marian Clemens, writer, Carmel, CA
“I got a lot out of this memoir class. It got me going on something I’d wanted to do, but just didn’t know how–or even how to start. Melanie’s class proved to be an excellent springboard. Her classes were instructive and fun. I’d do it all over again. I highly recommend Ms. Bishop–she is an excellent teacher and mentor.” –-Tom Winant, writer, Carmel CA
“Melanie knows how to put a story together and she will confidently help you to put your story into words. She gives positive feedback on what you write and specific suggestions to make it better. She is flexible, down-to-earth, and a pleasure to work with.” —Diane Winant, writer, Carmel, CA
“No other teacher–from high school through graduate school–has had as much of an impact on me as Melanie Bishop has. She critiques with both a critical and compassionate eye, asking the questions that push a manuscript to the next level. Nearly twenty years after the first class I took with her, and after publishing my first book and becoming a writing teacher myself, I still turn to her for help and inspiration.” —Eliot Treichel, author, Close is Fine
“I don’t know anyone who delights more in the teaching of writing than Melanie Bishop. Melanie taught me that when we bring our whole selves to our sentences and stories, the rewards—whether through publication or the writing process itself—far surpass the inevitable challenge of facing the blank page. Almost twenty years after my first workshop with her, I have numerous publications, grants, and fellowships at the most prestigious artist colonies in the country. I simply can’t take all the credit. Melanie has been cheering me all along, pushing me to be the best writer I can be.” —Laura Didyk, writer, editor, teacher
“I would not be a writer if it weren´t for Melanie. In my first class with her (2007), she was such an inspiration to me that I went on to take every class she taught. Through her love for the emotions that combined words can evoke, she encourages her students to dig out stories they didn´t even know they had.” —Evan Belknap, writer
“Never having written a book before, I began my memoir late in life. I needed guidance with structure and language, so that my story would be interesting to others, interesting as literature. I sought help from Melanie Bishop, and that made all the difference. She was sensitive to my goals and her guidance was both clear and kind. I would highly recommend her to anyone thinking of writing a memoir. “—Felicia Altman Gilbert, age 95, author, Of Many Houses: a Young Woman’s Journey from the Third Reich to the New World (2005) and It Was Long Ago, It Was Yesterday (2011)
“Melanie Bishop is a phenomenal writing mentor. I took her Fiction and Memoir Writing classes in 2003 and 2004. She dedicates herself to her students, giving painstaking attention to their work through generous, thoughtful comments. She gives assignments with intriguing challenges that invariably reward the writer. The discussions she leads–lively, relaxed, and illuminating–draw students on to their own realizations. At all times, her teaching radiates understanding and love of good prose as well as her contagious wonder at the human species. Teaching writing is Melanie’s calling, and she is one of the best at what she does. Her warmth and wisdom, years after I took her classes, inspire me to this day.” —Sam Reed, writer, MFA Iowa Writers Workshop, Fellow, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown
“Melanie is a stellar instructor who pushes students to exceed their own expectations. She demonstrates a love for learning, the writing craft, good humor, and compassion. I was already a skilled business writer before going to Prescott College (1996), but Melanie taught me the craft of creative writing and all aspects of publishing an award-winning, national literary magazine. She engages and inspires budding writers with respect and compassion.” —Michael Belef, Sr. Technical Writer, Nutanix Inc.
“Melanie is the kind of teacher writers dream about. Invested in each of her students, she has the vision to recognize potential and a gift for inspiring growth. Melanie knows the territory of the heart well and that is where she teaches from. I never had a teacher who has cared as much about me and my writing as Melanie has.” —Jessica Roth, writer, student of Melanie’s from 2008 to 2010
“It was my first writing class with Melanie Bishop—Memoir in 2008–that inspired me to declare writing as my major. As a teacher, Melanie is undoubtedly among the best I have ever encountered . She has perfected the precarious balance of making her classes both challenging and enjoyable. She is passionate, not just about writing, but about teaching. As a student, your successes become her successes. I cannot commend Melanie enough.” ––Allie Field Bell, writer
“I began loving Melanie years ago. When I act selfishly, I think of her generosity. When I loathe how artificial the writing world can be, I think of the community she inspires. If I ever create something beautiful, I will think of her.” — Loryn Isaacs, writer
Melanie’s gift to unveil a student’s inner voice is ontologically essential. Her guidance awakened my literary responsiveness, wielding of authorship, and principal restorative practice. My writing IS and an author I AM because of “Mama Mel”. (Courses taken with Melanie: Advanced Workshop in Fiction and Nonfiction, Screenwriting, and The Memoir.) –Viggy Alexandersson, writer, editor, mentor, tutor, instructor