Writing Retreats


I got more value out of 30 minutes with Joanne on the phone than I did in a 6 week writing course.


A huge, heart-felt cyber hug and much appreciation for the Discovery Session, thank you soooo much!! It was like catching up with an old friend and I felt my cup being filled to over flowing in the aftermath.  Your passionate encouragement and support have been very motivating and I am into my “early morning pages” with every intention of keeping up the practice.


Those who write, are writers.
Those who wait are waiters.
-Lee Martinez.

I turn waiters into writers.

Each year I take a small group of aspiring women authors on a writing retreat – sometimes to Fiji, Bali or Tuscany.Why not join me for an experience that will transform all you believe about what you are capable of achieving with your writing?

You will leave with words on the page, a map of the next steps to take, a deep connection to why you’re writing and a bonfire in your heart that’s been waiting for you to light it.

For 5-8 days (depending on the retreat) you will have the time, focus and support you need to work on your writing, whether it is still just an idea, a work-in-progress or a draft.  My job will be to create and hold a safe space for you while you do.

You get five intensive power workshops with me as your guide – that’s 10 000 hours of my writing experience in twenty hours of your time (I save you years of hassle, research and trial-and-error learning).

You escape from your life for five perfect days, where it is all about you and only you – no guilt, no cooking, no distractions that pull you away from your writing.

You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commit to the writing process – which, as you know, in turn inspires the universe to open up new possibilities for you.

You get a workbook of materials it has taken me ten years of teaching and reading to accumulate (it’s the distillation of hundreds of books I’ve read on the writing process).

Keen to join me? That’s awesome.

When last did you tell your story?
Native American question when someone is ill
Have you always wanted to write?
Do you long to put words on a page and bring a story you’ve been holding in the cradle of your heart to life on the page?
Do you love the way words wrap their arms around a thought or feeling, and hold it steady?

So many of us long to create this way. So few of us ever actually do.

We’re too busy looking after others. We don’t have the time. We don’t know how to start. Who’d be interested in anything we have to say anyway? Our lives are nothing special, we’re just ordinary. What if we have no talent? Who do we think we are, wanting to write?We’re afraid it will be terrible, that people will laugh, that we’ll be humiliated, that it will never get finished, or published or read by anyone…what were we thinking?

So another year goes by when we don’t invest in ourselves or our dreams.

But still… there’s that little whisper inside us that keeps annoying us, reminding us, ‘I’m still here… don’t forget about me…’

I know just how you feel. I’ve walked that path too.

In 1996, I was a young law lecturer, overburdened with first year law exams to mark, and I looked longingly at an application form for a residency at Hedgebrook (a womens’ writers centre on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Seattle) that had been hanging patiently on the board above my computer for over a year.

I’d been secretly writing stories late into the night after I’d finished preparing for my lectures. But on that day, something in me yielded. I yanked that form down and filled it in like I was applying for an organ transplant.

One friend I confided in said, ‘That’s brave. You’re not a writer… are you?’ ‘No,’I conceded. ‘Not a real one.’

But I wanted to write so badly it verged on the obsessional. Sometimes I’d look in the mirror and say out loud to myself, ‘I’m an author, yes, thank you, I’m so pleased you enjoyed my book.’ It felt dirty and delicious. I kept writing late into the night.

Some weeks later when the letter arrived offering me a spot at Hedgebrook, I cried and kissed it, because there it was: the moment that changed everything. I don’t know how destiny works, but I know I curved the arc of my life that day when my longing to write out muscled my fear that I couldn’t.

I spent six weeks at Hedgebrook in the spring of 1996 writing the first draft of what would become my first published book, The Dreamcloth.

Since then, I’ve written many books, some of which have been translated into different languages and become international bestsellers. Fairytale stuff.

Now when someone says ‘I’m not a writer,’ I know that like me all those years ago, they just haven’t taken the risk that could turn that around.

So how about it? What if you just ignored those voices inside you, trying to keep you small, stifled, comfortable, and ‘in your place’?

What if you decided to honour that part of yourself? What if you put yourself first and invested in your dreams? (Even if you think they’re ‘silly’ – they are still YOUR dreams).

Because there is nothing more beautiful than witnessing someone find her voice, her passion and the language to share it.

Why not come with me on my next writing retreat for an experience that will transform all you believe about what you are capable of achieving with your writing?

You will leave with words on the page, a map of the next steps to take, a deep connection to why you’re writing and a bonfire in your heart that’s been waiting for you to light it.

*inside your head* … But Joanne, I’ve never actually written before…
Fabulous, I’ll show you where and how to start. All you need is the desire to write. I can’t give you that. The craft of writing, well, that’s what I know and that’s what I’ll share.

What if, I … suck at it? What if I’m really really bad at writing? Will you tell me?
I don’t really know what it means to be ‘bad at writing,’ in the same way that it’s hard to be ‘bad at life.’ I can show you how to take your thoughts and feelings and work them onto the page so that they become a story that you might like to share with others. I can teach you what makes a piece of writing ‘work’ and what weakens a piece of writing. Sound good?

I will never ever tell you that your writing sucks. I might say, ‘that’s a cliché, let’s find a fresher way to express that,’ or ‘your tenses are muddled here, let’s even them out,’ or ‘I didn’t really understand what you meant here, can we unpack it so that it’s clear to the reader.’

Does that mean I have to read my writing out aloud? In front of others?

No-one ‘has to’, but here’s the deal – by the end of the week, I guarantee, you’ll want to. Why? Because the space is a non-judgemental, loving, supportive environment and if it doesn’t feel this way to you, please let me know. I strictly set the boundaries on how feedback is given. It’s not just a free-for-all. I treat everyone’s writing as sacred and the act of sharing our writing should free us, not censor us.

I’ve tried writing before, but I didn’t finish it because I thought it was rubbish, or I felt like there was no point.
Oh, I know that feeling well. There are so many aspects to writing I wish I’d had a grip on much earlier on in my writing career.  I’ve had to learn through my mistakes. Now I feel like I deeply understand this process – and am on intimate terms with the fears, insecurities, resistance and obstacles that imperil its path. There’s no need for you to struggle like I did. Writing is hard enough – we can all do with the support and assistance of others who have walked that road. A few shortcuts never hurt, right?

And besides, if you think you might write rubbish….

But I don’t really know what I want to write about…
That’s perfectly okay. Like dreams, our stories emerge when we rest into them and allow them to come through us. My retreats are designed to help you dream up your stories, and ask all the questions you need to ask so that you can write with confidence and clarity.

Gawd that sounds like so much work. When do we get to chill out?
You have most afternoons free to write, walk, snorkel, swim, sleep or lie in a hammock. Entirely up to you. Do whatever you need to support yourself and your writing (which sometimes means leaving it alone for a while).

What can I expect at the end of the five days?
Your writing will undergo an exponential transformation (you might too).

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