2023 Writing Retreat


“He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself.

The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness,

blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing,

lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all,

to make the world a more human dwelling place.

–  James Baldwin


The Role of The Artist: 

A 6-day writing retreat with

Janelle Hanchett


September 17-23, 2023

Agriturismo Le Pianore

Tuscany, Italy


All slots have been filled as of May 2023


In 2015, I held my first writing retreat with eight women. They were all from the first writing workshop I had ever taught, and we had been working together for a year.

In a word, it was magic. And you know how I feel about words like “it was magic.”

Only it was, in fact, magic.

The following year, I held my first retreat with 12 people who weren’t in that writing group, and it was, again, don’t make me say it.

We spent mornings on a sunny deck drinking coffee under the coastal redwoods, then headed off to the yurt with a roaring wood stove to discuss various aspects of the craft of writing. We ate lunch together at a massive, ancient wooden table, enjoying food prepared by my best friend, Sarah, who also happens to be a chef.

In the afternoons, we spread out around the retreat center and wrote or read or napped, sat in the hot tub or took a dip in the pool. In the evenings, we (well, they, since I don’t drink) sipped wine on the deck and after dinner, gathered around the enormous fireplace in the main ranch house to workshop one another’s writing.

We left as friends and better writers. And possibly crying.

These retreats have been transformative, and since we now live in the Netherlands, we figured we’d better take advantage of, well, Europe. So in 2021, we headed to southern France.

We hiked in the Pyrenees (look, I’m sorry the hike was longer than I thought it would be), got attacked by wild goats at lunch, recovered in ancient Roman baths deep in a valley under the soaring mountains. We visited the local market, laid down on the country road in the middle of the night to look at the stars, and ate croissants every morning from a local bakery.

This summer we went to a 10th-century castle in rural Catalunya. While there we learned that it was run by an order of women for 100 years during the 11th century, which is absolutely unheard of. A whole community of women developed and thrived in the valley, until the Pope decided they had grown too powerful and shut down the order.

And when two guests (one of whom is my husband) literally heard women’s voices singing, the proprietor said “Oh, those are the women in the stones. They are happy you are here, a group of women writers.” I got chills again just now.

We walked to a very, very old hostel where the menu consisted of eight choices, handwritten, and every item came from the farmers in that very valley. We walked home at midnight under a night sky you wouldn’t believe.

We took a rack rail train into the Spanish Pyrenees and spent an afternoon at high-mountain lake with cafes and a very friendly Spanish dude renting little boats to paddle around in the sunshine. I can’t make this shit up.

And through it all we write, study writing, laugh with and learn from each other.

What I’m saying is this: My retreats are as much about living as they are about writing. They are about experiencing this world in a vivid and authentic way. They’re about just enough adventure (I do about 9 billion hours of research for our activities, but I have never been, so we are up for adventure). They are not curated perfection.

They are about being awake to this life, the people on this earth, the characters, the stories, the beauty and annoyance and wildness we encounter every day. How else can we write? How can we make art?

Somebody said writers are people who pay attention to things.

Real people, real food, real locations, real friendship.

And, at times, real wtf. We’ll pay attention, and we will remember.

In September 2023 we’re headed to a very special 12th-century farmhouse and retreat center set in the heart of Tuscan Maremma, surrounded by woodlands, vineyards, olive groves and mountain streams. Unblemished views and landscapes as far as you can see. In the words of Elena, the founder:

“When we came upon Le Pianore for the first time back in 1990, there was no way to reach it by car, so we wrapped our feet in plastic packets and crossed the icy stream standing between us and our future home on foot.  We must have been quite a site walking through that wintry forest, as I was heavily pregnant with our second child and my husband Francesco was carrying our young son in his arms, trying to protect him from the falling snow with piece of torn-off cardboard.

Villa Maladina appeared at the end of a small dry stone-walled path, and I had a tremendous feeling of déjà-vu: I had dreamt of this very moment the previous night, and it felt to me as though we had finally come home.”

Please let’s look:

“For me Le Pianore has alway been a place of freedom, joy and possibility. That is what I want to share with people. I want to give my guests a space in which they can explore and express themselves, where they can play, experience real emotions and be moved by beauty.” – Elena, owner



This is an organic produce and winery owned by a family for 22 years. Grandparents to grandchildren. Babies born and raised here. A family–did I mention that?

Apparently there are white horses that run through the hills near the property. I am not joking.

Forest, streams, miles to wander. A wooden deck in the side of a hill on the property where you can do yoga in the mornings, read, or, and this is what I will definitely be doing: Lying on blankets at night to stargaze in the pitch dark.

This is not tourist Tuscany. This is family, food, nature, life.

Join us at Le Pianore September 17-23.

We will wake up, eat a lovely breakfast (and consume a lot of coffee and tea), then we’ll have 2.5 hours of craft workshops in the seminar (yoga) room –actual workshop space!

We will eat lunch, then have afternoons free for writing, exploring the area, sleeping, chatting. Staring off into the mountains and looking for the white horses, which apparently exist. I am not joking.

You can hike to neighboring villages, take a swim if it’s warm enough, or find a private nook to write in. Most bedrooms have their own bathrooms, and desks, but there are lots of places for you to be alone and write or read and think.

In the evenings we’ll enjoy dinner prepared by Sarah with locally sourced ingredients. We will reconvene in the evening for discussions and/or workshop writing.

As always, my approach is this: I want us comfortable, content, friendly, mellow, and having A LOT of possibly raucous fun while also writing and seriously considering our relationship to writing.

Forgive the cliche but we work hard and play hard. I remind writers always that they are spending money on this—and so we shall write. I take my commitment to you very seriously and am honored you trust me as a teacher and mentor.

I built my writing career from 40 blog readers while raising three, then four kids. I published a book in 2018 and have a Master’s degree in English. I see writing in realistic terms and work from a place of pragmatism and honesty instead of airy declarations of the muse: I won’t insist you find “your jewel within” (simply because I don’t know what the fuck that means), but I will remind you how Toni Morrison wrote her first book on a yellow legal pad next to a toddler, who then vomited on it, and how she “wrote around the puke.”

I’m a write-around-the-puke kinda writer. But the thing is, in my opinion, that is the jewel, and it’s one I know well. It’s the one that has in fact changed my life.

We think. We discuss. We get deep into the grit of it. And then we pull back and enjoy our surroundings, food, each other, and life.

I want you to leave with a feeling of experiential transformation. As in, the experience itself adding as much to your writing as the workshops.

Here’s a sample daily schedule: 

So, this retreat is for the writer looking to improve their craft, get writing done, and hang out in Tuscany.

While we will talk about creative work generally, and focus some on fear and the thought processes that block us from writing, our main focus is on improving our skill in writing. That said, this is not a lecture/school course. This is a dynamic, fun, interactive time for you to hone your craft and learn how doing often affects thinking.

In other words, the act of writing often systematically deconstructs our fears about writing. I will explain this more, but for now, you’ll have to trust me.

This is why I focus mostly on craft. Because if we focus on becoming the best writers we can become, a lot of the mental bullshit will fall away. Or, perhaps better said, it simply becomes irrelevant.

Sleeping Arrangements:

This retreat is open to 12 writers. There are many room and bed options, ranging from single to triple occupancy, twin to double or queen-sized beds. Below I have listed the room options and prices, but once you send me the application and we’re good to go, I’ll ask you to choose a room. If you know immediately what you’d like, just let me know in the email and I’ll reserve it.

Getting there:

You can fly into Rome or Florence. The retreat center is 2 hours from each (smack in the middle of the two). We will be chartering small busses from Rome or Florence, or possibly one to each, but this will be arranged on a planning call once the retreat is filled.

Transport will be an extra €170, and I AM SORRY ABOUT THIS. You can definitely rent a car with other writers if it’s cheaper, but given inflation and the cost of rental cars and fuel, I kinda doubt it will be. Not sure how aware you are of the inflation in western Europe, but holy shit. And the energy and fuel crisis. It’s fun.

Anyway the key point here is you will not be left alone to figure out how to get to a farm in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, with only kind Italian farmers to help you. Wait. Why does that sound fun.

We will have a Facebook group and then a WhatsApp group closer to the event. We will have planning calls and discuss all the things.

I truly hope you join us.

P.S. If this is not a fit for you, we will also hold retreats as I’ve done in the past.


The Role of the Artist: 
A Writing Retreat in Italy with Janelle Hanchett

September 17-23, 2023

Cost: €2500-€2850  (can be paid in installments; please email me to discuss)

Anyway, here’s what that cost includes:

        • Six-night accommodations
        • All of your meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, all prepared by Sarah, a professional chef. Healthy, expansive, and locally sourced.
        • 2.5-3 hours of writing craft instruction each morning (Again, if you’ve attended my retreats/workshops before, don’t worry, the content will be NEW.)
        • 1 hour of evening time together, either in a writing roundtable (where we receive feedback on work submitted), or have a discussion on writing process
        • Optional hikes, yoga, and journeys into nearby villages.
        • A full day outing. I usually make this a surprise but I will offer a HINT in the form of the photo to the right. Everything else, though, I ain’t mentioning.
        • Afternoons and evenings around free for writing, reading, staring into the distance. We often we end up hanging out, drinking wine (well, I don’t), listening to Mac and Sarah play guitar and sing. Somehow this seems to be everyone’s favorite feature of these retreats. DON’T WORRY I’M NOT OFFENDED.

Here are the rooms available. I cross them off as they fill but leave them here for my own bizarre, boring reasons.

Single bed in large triple-occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2500 (2 of 3 available)

Single bed in double-occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2600 (1 of 5 available)

Queen bed in double-occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2650 (1 available)

Single bed in large double-occupancy room with en suite bathroom & private terrace: €2700 (1 available)

Queen bed in large double-occupancy room with en suite bathroom & private terrace: €2750 (1 available)

Queen bed in single occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2850 (1 available)

Double bed in single-occupancy room with adjacent bathroom shared with one other room: €2700 (1 available)

Note: This retreat is fully booked as of May 2023. However, you can sign up for my mailing list to receive information regarding upcoming retreats!


*REFUND POLICY: The €400 deposit is non-refundable. The full retreat amount will be due June 1, 2023. If you cannot attend the retreat after you’ve paid the remaining balance, I will refund you if I can fill the spot, but I must be notified by July 1, 2023. I’m sorry this is so strict. I had a very questionable man last year announce to me one week before the retreat that he wouldn’t be paying. Just flat out invented a story and expected to come anyway, for free. One of the most astonishing things I’ve ever experienced. I also once had three people cancel two weeks before the retreat. Frankly I don’t charge enough to accommodate this sort of thing and my laidback ways tend to bite me in the ass. Is this the longest refund policy ever, and the most ridiculous? I sure hope so. Anyway, by paying the deposit you agree to this policy. Thank you!