“I love Cary Tennis’s mind, and heart, and work.”—Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author of Bird by Bird
Cary is the ultimate host and leader. I’ve been in writing workshops for over twenty years. This one, by far, is the best. I would urge anyone to attend a series of these workshops and feel your soul begin to expand.— Julia Penrose, Half Moon Bay, California
Cary’s approach is flexible and supportive. The prompts take the work in interesting and unexpected directions.— Lorri Leon, Pacifica, California
Nobody waits with a red pencil, nobody judges. The comments are limited to what rings true, what strikes your imagination. After a while I noticed I was writing to feel that ring of truth for myself.— Leslie Ingham, Palo Alto, California
We write together. We’re all in the same boat. Now I’m a writer, because here I am, writing. I wouldn’t take a class from anyone else. I wouldn’t let anyone else see inside my head.— Judy Evans, Los Angeles
“A writer is someone who writes.” Hearing that line every week and reading my writing aloud, without fear, made it come true. I write. I am a writer. I want to be a surfer… A surfer is someone who surfs. I’ve been surfing since May 2010. I dance harder and smile while I’m moving and twisting my body, because that is what dancers do. I am a dancer. I took pieces of wood from the basement and painted them and hung them on a fence. It’s my gallery. Open studio is tonight. Or tomorrow. Or whenever anyone passes by. … I am an artist.— Shannon Weber, San Francisco writer, surfer, AIDS activist, founder of the LoveYou2 movement and author of Show Up Hard
Cary’s workshops are nothing but helpful, quietly and subtly leading writers to do their best in an open and welcoming environment.— Randy Osborne, writer, teacher, author of Big Pinch World and many other fascinating works of prose
The workshops led me to try more active, engaging and complex storytelling. I gave up some fixed ideas about what kinds of writing I do and what kinds of writing are worth doing. After a while a novel erupted.— Anonymous
Praise for the Finishing School book
“A must for every writer and artist of any kind, Finishing School belongs on the bookshelf right next to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. I can’t wait to tell every writer I know to buy it.”—Cole Kazdin, four-time Emmy-winning television news producer, writer, and performer
“Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton accomplish something remarkable in Finishing School—an actually useful book for writers (or anyone) about how to complete a project and not let their doubts, fears, or anything else interfere with successful completion of an article, a novel, or a dramatic play. And they do it in simple, easy steps that make sense and will resonate with anyone who writes.”—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Making of Donald Trump
“Finishing School is the ideal book for writers who are great at starting things but not so great at completing them. Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton know the reasons a piece of writing, begun with such enthusiasm, can languish on a shelf for years. With wisdom and compassion, they’ll inspire you to cross the finish line.”—Sy Safransky, editor and publisher of The Sun
“Practical and specific, Finishing School guides the writer who needs structure. It is for the writer who has abandoned a dream part-way through. ‘You did not keep your promise to your story,’ the authors say. ‘The project becomes your adversary. . . .The answer is Finishing School.’ For a great many writers, it will be so.”—Pat Schneider, author of Writing Alone and With Others and founder of Amherst Writers & Artists
“With warmth, humor, and a really personal touch, Tennis and Morton show you how to neutralize the emotional barriers that impede writing—including fear, doubt, and shame—and provide a great plan for the actual writing and finishing of your book. Even if you’ve read plenty of other creativity books, you’ll find lots of great insights here.”—Hillary Rettig, author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific
“This book insightfully pinpoints the importance of time budgeting and management, and of setting reasonable expectations for completion. … its advice and methodology will be useful for countless writers and would-be writers, and for people wanting to complete unfinished projects of any kind.”—Publishers Weekly
“Straightforward and realistic, Finishing School offers a viable option for anyone longing to complete a writing project.”—Booklist
Experiences at the creative getaways:
“Since then, I’ve never been afraid to write”
I’ve been to several of Cary’s Creative Getaways…the first one he ever held and then the second, and the third one, too, I think … and they were all wonderful, joyous, inspiring and quite amazingly productive … but the one I remember the most was the one where the Bear showed up. Not a real, live bear, of course. Not exactly.
Cary had given us a prompt which asked us to let that part of ourselves that is afraid to write — write. He said to let it say whatever it wanted to say. Which sounded a little too “woo-woo” for me, but then I got started and I found myself writing the words: “You don’t trust me, you don’t believe in me, you don’t feed me.” And then: “You put me on display—like a bear on a chain—and you expect me to dance for you, but you don’t own me.”
And then it was like the power of whatever it was that I had been afraid of for so long took over and these words just poured out:
“I’m a bear. I’m a huge, smelly, filthy bear. I have sharp, yellow, slobbery teeth. Don’t try to pretty me up. I have wounds that oozed. I have festering sores. But my eyes are clear and my great, soft belly is the color of ripe peach. Let me be what I am. Let me breath and drool. Let me claw through the garbage and break things. Let me roam and let me stumble in the dark. Let me stink the place up.”
Then I wrote: “You’re scaring me.” And then: “I know. Let me scare you.”
But the thing is, I wasn’t afraid. I was energized.
And since then, I’ve never been afraid to write.—Jan Rosamond, St. Louis, Missouri, writer, Mindfulness meditation teacher, and mayor of Dharmatown.org.
“It wasn’t like I felt the need for a writing workshop. With one novel published by a major publisher, I was confident that I knew at least the essentials of the craft. Even when I was in the Creative Writing program at Princeton, under the guidance of renowned, award winning authors, I found the workshop format frequently counterproductive. It was sort of the old swim or sink approach, with many drownings.
During the course of the Cary Tennis workshop I attended, virtually every single one of the participants were producing wonderful pieces. Maybe it had something to do with the teaching method, or Cary’s leadership, or the caliber of individuals he was able to attract, and or the way all the participants ended up feeding into one another’s creativity, or the synergy of all of these factors in combination. It proved to be one of the most rewarding creative experiences I’ve ever had, and that is saying a great deal.” —Stuart Hopen, North Florida author, artist, and creator of worlds
I’d been a huge fan of Cary Tennis’ advice column for many years. His prose was so humane, compassionate, and ultimately beautiful. So I was completely tickled when I learned that Cary had started offering writing workshops in exotic locations throughout the globe. So my husband and I decided to take Cary’s writing workshop in Tuscany, Italy last year. Although I am a lawyer and put pen to paper for a living, I was unconvinced that I had any real writing voice or style even though I felt desperately called to write my story. Cary’s workshop transformed my writing and was terrifically fun at the same time. The writing exercises were well-suited to writers of any experience level and, since only constructive commentary was allowed, all the participants felt buoyed and emboldened in pursuit of their craft. Of course, the Italian wine and trips to Florence and Siena also added to the elan of the experience. Would I do it again you ask? In a heartbeat. My life was truly altered by the experience. So if you want to practice writing and travel to a fun location too, Cary’s writing workshops are for you– regardless of whether you know how to write or not. Five stars all the way and two big thumbs up.—Stephanie Alexander, North Florida writer
Even from as far away as Australia, I could feel the relaxed, open atmosphere he created among us and found it surprisingly easy to get writing.— Alice Allan, Melbourne, Australia
It was a cozy place with all of us talking across borders. I felt charged, and my imagination took me to various lands. I could be myself. I had thought I was a certain kind of a writer and then suddenly I wrote about a Pterodactyl and I was like “Whoa… who wrote that?”
— Geetanjali Dighe, Mumbai, India
The structure is creative and supportive; I like it so much that I’ve been back every week. Writing is part of my life now. I look forward to those two hours of group writing each week, both to spark my own creativity and to hear the amazing things others write.
— Molly Mudick, Phoenix, Arizona
We write in warm surrounds of vibrant voices from far away places in an intimate cyber-circle. We write of things, ideas and stories that lure and propel. Cary guides us to ways of knowing each other and remembering ourselves. It’s where I breathe deeply and write.— Treva Stose, Annapolis, Maryland