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From the Writer's Perspective

by Jill Murphy Long

Each year, I eagerly anticipate the start of the Art for the Soul, an arts camp for adults in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. On the first day, as I step from the parking lot onto the dewy lawn, I'll pass a small crowd of photography students, each dangling a different camera from their necks, all wearing smiles. They follow instructor and professional photographer Jim Steinberg, off on a visual odyssey to the Flat Top Mountains, Fish Creek Falls or maybe to historic downtown. At an open patio door I hear the string students playing their cellos, violins, and bass instruments, their beautiful music as uplifting and stirring as a summer morning high in the Rocky Mountains. I'll pass by another open door where the choir students meet and practice collective pieces that they will sing to us one evening later in the week.

I round the corner patio of the condominium complex that houses all the students to find the plein air artists enjoying the weather and view of the Steamboat Springs ski resort in all of its summer green, which lasts only a few short months before returning to white. Their canvases capture their own unique perspective of the Yampa Valley under the guidance of instructor Mary Levingston, a professional painter for more than 20 years.

The next patio contains my class of ambitious, shy, and humble writing students. I am here to give them "permission to risk, write, and publish" the fiction or non-fiction book they hold inside them. From the hesitant novices to those secretly writing to finish their first book, these individuals continue to surprise themselves and me.

This year, the weekly Arts for the Soul Workshops will begin August 19th with three weekly sessions through September 9th. After mornings of intensive instruction in music, painting, photography or writing, Students and instructors share time exploring the many activities offered by the small towns and surrounding mountain forests in this beautiful, unspoiled part of northern Colorado. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, tennis, golf, or floating down the Yampa River all constitute "active play," an important ingredient fueling the creative process. Of course, students also find time to reflect by soaking in the local hot springs, napping in a hammock, or lounging poolside. Another afternoon includes a personal tour of local artists and instructors' galleries and studios.

What I enjoy most about this synergy of skills and talents gathered at Arts for the Soul is our dinners when we entertain and enrich each other. For example, the founder and Artistic Director of Emerald City Opera, Keri Rusthoi, both sings and speaks with boundless enthusiasm and dedication to her art, as she leads the choral workshop in spirited song. The Director of Arts for the Soul, John Sant'Ambrogio, teaches and leads by example with his love of music. With his 37 years as the principal cellist of the St. Louis Symphony, he leaves the audience spellbound by the harmony produced alongside his musical students and fellow instructors. Other nights of shared talents include poets and writers reading their writings, and residence artists such as NEA-grant recipient Richard Galusha, who paints portraits of the musicians as they play.

This tingling of anticipation and dream of accomplishments for my writing students-no matter how small or lofty brings me back each summer as an instructor. The energy and encouragement provided in this all-creative camp amazes and inspires. I believe the opportunity for any writer, artist, photographer or musician will new intensity and enthusiasm to their creative disciplines. For information about the Arts for the Soul, call: 1 800 299-6811 or (314) 308-3831 or visit:

Jill Murphy Long is the best-selling, award-winning author of the Permission to...Book Series and TV host of Books & Company. She'll be teaching the "Permission to Risk, Write, and Publish" Workshops at Arts for the Soul for aspiring writers. For more information, visit:

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