5OnFri: Five Reasons You Should Consider Attending this Retreat

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Community

Dear word nerd,

If you listen to DIY MFA Radio, you already heard me talk about Alexia Vernon’s Spotlight MasterTreat and her online program: Your Spotlight Talk. Last week I even ran a contest for tickets to this incredible retreat+course package. Note: DIY MFA is a proud affiliate for Your Spotlight Talk and Alexia’s Spotlight MasterTreat.

While the contest is now closed (and I’ve edited this post to reflect that) You can still sign up for the free webinar happening this Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 8am PT / 11am ET. Read on to learn more.

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During this live master class Alexia will share…

  • How to develop a spotlight talk, your way, and opportunities for getting booked to deliver your spotlight talk in front of your ideal audience
  • How to use public speaking to share your ideas, build your tribe and position yourself as a thought leader
  • Why introverts belong on stage (as much as extroverts) – and our top tips for managing “stage fright”
  • How public speaking can integrate with your writing practice and the rest of your life (even if you have young kiddos at home!)

Click here to REGISTER for the webinar.


Here are five reasons to attend the Spotlight MasterTreat:

1) You can’t win it if you’re not in it.

I’m not just talking about the contest, but life in general. How many times do we as writers give up on opportunities before we even try? How many manuscripts do you have hiding in your bottom drawer, just waiting for you to be ready to send them out? I’ve got news for you: Ready does not exist. It will never happen. No matter how much prep work or polishing you do, you will never  be ready to take a big leap.

I know because I’ve been there. Do you think I felt “ready” when the DIY MFA book came out? Heck no! I thought I was way out of my league and that at any moment everyone would realize I was a poser and had no business publishing a book. But I was determined to get out on the playing field, and if I benched then at least I could say I tried. And guess what? I didn’t get pulled off the field, but even if I had, that would still be better than sitting on the sidelines thinking. “If only I’d given myself a chance.” Even though the contest may have passed, you can still up your speaking game by watching the master class and (if it feels right for you) checking out Alexia’s programs.

2) Like it or not, writers must practice public speaking.

You might think as a writer and an introvert you have no business being up on a stage. But guess what: If you publish a book (and then another, and another, and another) at some point, people are going to ask you to get up on stage. Wouldn’t it be great if you had already built up your speaking chops at that point? The sooner you start practicing public speaking, the sooner you “get comfortable being uncomfortable” (as Alexia Vernon often says).

Also, if you completely flub it at a small speaking gig you do early on, that’s a whole lot better than being a hot mess while trying to deliver a keynote in front of hundreds of people at a major conference. If you learn how to handle those nervous jitters now, then once you reach the point of speaking to a big audience, you’ll be cool and in control.

3) The MasterTreat is like no other retreat or conference.

Last April, on a lark, I sat in on a webinar Alexia was giving to promote her Spotlight MasterTreat. She and I had taken a class together in the past and we had been friends on social media, so I knew her work was really good, but I wasn’t really sure I was “retreat material.” After all, while I had given some breakout sessions a few conferences, I didn’t see myself as a TED-style speaker who could get up on a stage and inspire people. I thought I was too nerdy, too left-brained.

By the end of the webinar, I realized that there were so many different ways to use speaking in support of my writing career. I signed up for the retreat right away and it was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made. My speaking skills improved by leaps and bounds. Instead of waiting until I thought I was ready, this retreat gave me the tools so I could make myself become ready. Since then, I’ve gotten opportunities—both in speaking and in writing—that I never would have dreamed were possible.

4) Alexia Vernon is like no other teacher in this field.

When it comes to my education, I have extremely high standards. (Don’t believe me? Just ask my college dean about the time I demanded my money back because my classes were too easy. But I digress.) As a student who expects a lot from her teachers and as a teacher myself, it’s not often I find a mentor or instructor who rises to the same standards I expect of myself. Alexia is one of these rare people. Rather than tell you what a great teacher she is, I’d rather show you through a story.

On the second day of the MasterTreat last April, she called a few of us to the stage to do an improv-style exercise. When my turn came up, I froze. And because I’m not used to things being “hard,” I started to freak out. I am unequivocally not okay with having a meltdown in front of my own solitary reflection, much less in front of a room full of people. To say this was a humbling experience would be an understatement.

During our break, Alexia spoke with me privately and said: “Don’t worry. You’ll have a chance to practice again. I’m coming up with another exercise.” Later that afternoon, she called up a small group (including me) and gave the assignment: One person starts singing a song, the next person chooses a word in the lyrics to “steal” the song and sing a different song (kind of like the riff-off in the Pitch Perfect movies).

At first I was terrified. We weren’t just going to improvise but now we had to do it to music? But when the first person started singing it’s like my brain clicked into a different zone. I could hear notes of another song—a song I could riff-off—before I even knew if the lyrics worked. Not only did I do the exercise, but I nailed it. And that breakthrough was something that I carry with me to this day. It reminds me that I can get in my own way when I overthink things, but if I let my instinct kick in somehow my lizard brain (or in this case my “music brain”) knows what to do.

Most teachers are good at delivering information, but not many are skilled at facilitating transformation in their students. Alexia was able to identify the hurdle that was getting in my way and create an exercise that empowered me to break through that hurdle. Most teachers can’t get this kind of transformation in a student through a 15-week semester, much less a 3-day retreat and with 20 other students who need guidance, but Alexia did that for me.

5) You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

Even now that the contest has closed, you can still get some great value just by attending the Master Class. I know from experience that Alexia always brings her A-game and gives tons of juicy, valuable information. Plus, if you’re curious about the retreat or Your Spotlight Talk, you’ll get to hear a bit more about these great programs.

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Here are some of the things you’ll gain from the retreat…

  • Learn how to create a spotlight talk for TED-style talks, keynotes, and more.
  • Discover how to tell transformative stories that inspire your audience and engage your audience.
  • Explore your vocal range and and learn how to bring your A-game on stage.
  • Develop a classy stage offer that makes your audience want to hear more from you (and buy books!).
  • Discover the key components of a speaker marketing kit and how to put one together right away.
  • Demystify your authentic stage style and explore how to present yourself so your audience wants to hear more from you.
  • Create an aggressive and achievable 90-day speaking plan so you can put what you learn into action.

To learn more about this retreat and Your Spotlight Talk, plus get some juicy insights about how to up your speaking game, join me and Alexia for a live master class on Wednesday, January 11 at 11am ET. The class is free and jam-packed with great, actionable info.


Click here to REGISTER for the webinar.


Contest Applications

Note:  The contest is now closed, but you can still attend the free Master Class.

To apply for the contest for Alexia’s Spotlight MasterTreat (April 28-30) and receive the Your Spotlight Talk course, send me your answers to the following questions (500 words or fewer):

  • What is your message?
  • Why are you the person uniquely poised to deliver this message?
  • How will doing the Spotlight MasterTreat and Your Spotlight Talk program help you get this message out into the world?

Email your answers to these three questions to gabriela[at]DIYMFA[dot]com. Make sure your answers are in the body of the email and include “Your Spotlight Talk Contest” in the subject line. Deadline is Monday, January 9, 2017 at 12 noon Eastern. And make sure you register for the webinar. You MUST be present to win!

What I’m Looking For:

Use those 500 words to paint a picture of who you are and how you will use what you learn at this retreat. You can be as creative as you feel inspired to be (if you want to write your application in verse, go for it), but don’t drive yourself crazy.

As you know, I’m a strong believer that writers should use their words for the power of good, but what’s more important to me is the WHY behind your message. Why do the stories and books you write matter, and why do you need to share them with the world? You don’t need to go out and change the world, but tug my heartstrings or make me smile.

Rules and Fine Print:

Winners will be selected at my discretion.

The Spotlight MasterTreat is a women’s retreat, so men are not eligible for this contest (sorry guys!). However, men can definitely attend the webinar and take the Your Spotlight Talk online course.

The prize is a ticket to the Spotlight MasterTreat and access to Your spotlight talk. It does not cover travel expenses or lodging. Prize value is $1,397.

No purchase necessary to participate and void where prohibited by law.

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