What Writers Say
about Working with Robin McLean
Robin’s led several day-long retreats on sunny Vermont Saturdays for the Burlington Writers Workshop. They're always wonderfully stimulating, every writer has come away feeling newly acquainted with their work, transfixed with possibilities and encouraged. I’m not sure how she does it; her prompts are witty and oft times startling. She’s funny, perceptive and genuinely in love with words, experiences, stories and writing them. We love Robin here and wish she’d come live with us.
— Riki Moss, author, artist, workshop leader. author of An Obese White Gentleman in No Apparent Distress .
The July Writers Workshop at Ike’s Canyon Ranch with Robin McLean imparted the clarity I was seeking to develop my writing skills. Robin is a master teacher, encouraging me to delve into my subconscious mind to bring forth ideas, tales, and anecdotes. Her readings and writing exercises provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the various styles of the written word. The quirky setting of Ike’s Canyon Ranch furnished me the peace and serenity needed for uninterrupted thought. I encourage all wannabe and published authors to attend these workshops. Robin’s teaching methods and encouragement will lead you into the deep recesses of your mind, producing outcomes you never thought possible.
— Anita Goetz, Stream biologist and new writer
“The [Burlington Writers Workshop] retreat was better than anything I’d imagined. Our instructor was so much more than that; a mentor, our guru, our spiritual leader; leading us to the hidden wells of inspiration and creativity tucked away in our unconscious minds; teaching us to banish the gatekeeper/censor and go forth like cowboys exploring deep caverns… wow.”
"I attended Robin McLean’s writers’ workshop in Chania, Crete. It was the experience of a lifetime. The workshop was well planned and ran according to schedule. Robin brought together participants from various countries and our first writing task was designed to help us reveal our authentic selves. Every day she brought inspiring new ideas and exercises, which helped me write with a new honesty. Every afternoon I looked forward to hearing other members of the group read what they had written. Robin’s encouragement and guidance gave me the confidence to know I am a writer.
"The workshop and the retreat I had with Robin were both transformative for me, and for my approach to writing and revising. The first focused on essence--how to home in on the emotional core of the story--and the second focused on voice--how to find a voice, a narrative approach to material, that distracts from any conscious intention. Both were incredibly clarifying and freeing--enabling me to step out sideways from my own work and making me feel the immense range of possibilities for language and story-telling. I don't think I will ever be able to feel "stuck" again. And on a personal level, Robin is incredibly engaging, generous of her time and ideas, and flexible in her approach, with a sensitivity to the mood and needs of the workshop members."
"The [workshop] changed the way I look at my writings. I have started enjoying the process and believe in everything I write. I was an amateur among better writers in the workshop but never felt sidelined for my work. The workshop helped me to appreciate my writings and find the beauty in my piece; additionally, the techniques and methods gave me means to realize my potential. Both the mentors were experts in the field; they constructively criticized my mistakes as and when needed which significantly improved my writing and pinpointed my strengths which helped me build confidence. The confidence achieved during the workshop still pushes me to write, and I know that there are people who would always support me for this. It was an experience which I will cherish all my life."
— amay singh, Writer, Writing on the Edge, Crete
“When it comes to a class like this [Novel 1} that taps students' creativity, I notice that most teachers tend to be ambiguous in their comments and opinions probably for fear of suffocating the class, but Robin doesn't do that. In fact, she was clear, concise, and to the point... far from ambiguous, but in no way suffocating either. because of that, she imparted a lot of her knowledge to us....I am still amazed by how much I took away from this class this semester, and how much I enjoyed it.."
Cordelia Shee Toh, Novelist, Clark university, 2018
“Robin is a phenomenal teacher who has been instrumental in my growth as a writer. Her class was always a highlight of my day, as she always picked interesting pieces to discuss and challenged us to delve deeply into the material and approach it from different angles. Her sense of humor and relaxed, approachable demeanor made class a welcoming environment that was an ideal space to share work. Her feedback on writing was incredibly insightful and well thought out, and she is fantastic at identifying the key, small details that will make a piece shine.”
— Abby Mulhern, screen writer, etc, Clark University, 2018
"As perfect as all of the external components of [the retreat] was, I'd like to stress that what I learned and experienced from the excellent leadership skills of Robin McLean is hands down, the take away from the day. Probably most of us writers have our specific styles and methods to produce our work which is why we sometimes are either blocked or not entirely satisfied with our writing. Robin showed us how to create stories by taking unrelated characters and events to see where they would take us. I know I will often experiment with this exercise and I can't wait to see the results. In addition to showing us unconventional writing tools, I am always astounded at Robin's knack to listen to any writer's work and quickly discern the qualities and meaning of a piece. Her feedback is always positive and helpful."
— Lorraine Ryan, writer, Burlington Writers Workshop
“Robin McLean is one of the most intuitive and generous workshop leaders I've ever encountered. She has a remarkable ability to zero in on what writers are trying to express, and help them work toward that goal. She encourages writers to cut through to their core and free themselves of their fears. You can tell, in her workshops, her goal is to try to help everyone become a better writer."
— Natasha Mieszkowski, author and workshop leader / workshop leader of Burlington Writer Workshop and Woman's Voices
"Thanks to Robin for her openness and ability to gently prod us into new ways of thinking about our work. [Robin's] was the best short term workshop I've ever attended... I frequently go back to my notes for inspiration..."
— Cynthia Close, Journalist, fiction writer
"I would like to note that though the class was three hours, it always flew by. Robin's presence in the class was always very casual and calming, and it felt more like a group of friends or work associates gathered in a circle, as opposed to a class. I enjoyed the two writing prompts we did every class, as they were always provocative in some way. In terms of teaching style as a whole, I think Robin treated us as equals and built an environment for us to share our work which, as I'm sure you understand, is essentially an extension of the soul, and therefore very vulnerable...[The class] reminded me that I loved to write."
— Nora McIntyre, Novelist, performer, Clark University, 2018
Robin’s gifts extend well beyond her own brilliant writing. She is a thoughtful workshop leader, who challenges writers to go bolder and deeper, encouraging each participant to develop and express their own unique voice. Robin’s keen insights and thought-provoking exercises create an atmosphere that is challenging and supportive. Not every great writer can teach, but Robin is a gifted writer, teacher and workshop leader. I cannot think of a better person really, to spend time with – if you want to grow as an artist.
— Rose Eggert, Novelist, writer, Producer, director
"Anybody can give you a first read. However, Robin is one of the few writers that not only enjoys working from her own headspace but wants to get into the headspace of other writers too. Robin endeavors to see your writing through your eyes, while simultaneously helping hone your message, delivering the impact you envision. Working with Robin is intense, strategic, and her feedback is always on point."
There are two true things in the life of a writer: 1) it’s a solitary existence and 2) it’s a team sport. Robin taught me the second one. She read The River, not once, but twice. (twice!) And she saw things that I, in my solitary cocoon, hadn’t seen. And I’m not talking about catching pesky details. She picked out themes I had only been vaguely aware of, and she wanted to know more. Her enthusiasm was Red Bull to the process.
— Kara Lindstrom, production designer, novelist, fiction writer, screen writer., Author of Sparkle Life, and many others
"Robin has the kind of deep insights that I never would have gotten anywhere else. A writer’s writer. She brings a most original perspective—that rare talent to “see” into the totality of the work completed as well as the work emerging. At the same time, she never leaves for a moment the specificities of paragraph, of sentence, of word. A writer’s writer. I'm grateful for her understanding, encouragement and patience."
— Michael Carolan, novelist, investigative journalist, radio essayist, professor of English @ Clark University
To work with Robin on a story is to find someone who cares as much about your writing as you do, but who has the experience and perspective to see through whatever morass you've fallen into. She's amazing not just for moral support and encouragement, but for black-belt technical advice. Somehow, she deploys this instinct about stories and their authors that helps you wring the maximum out of your idea.
— Rob McLean, Editor in Chief Roberts Publishing Media Group Prague, journalist, fiction writer, photographer.
Robin supported me extensively throughout the later stages of writing and editing my first novel, and the experience not only made the novel far better, but made me a far better writer. She has a delicate yet incisive instinct for what is or is not working, and is truly a master at understanding the deeper layers of a story, layers I didn’t even realise were there until she pointed them out to me. By doing so, and by asking the right questions at the right time she enabled me to turn an unwieldy and often clichéd manuscript into a focussed, consistent and satisfyingly complex piece of work. And, when my confidence or energy flagged, it was Robin’s guidance and enthusiasm that kept me going. Quite simply, I wouldn’t have finished the work without her. I cannot recommend her highly enough.
—Sandra Jensen, novelist, memoirist, flash specialist, teacher