2024 Retreat: Southern France, Oct. 22-28

 

“A Room of One’s Own”:

A Writing Retreat with Janelle Hanchett

October 22-28, 2024

Corsavy, French Pyrenees

“I was sitting on the couch, writing with pencil, trying to think up something and remembering what I just described. And I was – the tablet was that legal pad, you know, yellow with the lines, and I had a baby. My older son was barely walking, and he spit up on the tablet. And I was doing something really interesting, I think, with a sentence because I wrote around the puke…I figured I could always wipe that away, but I might not get that sentence again.”

– Toni Morrison

Before we get started with my novella, a note: I am offering two retreats this year in October, at the same retreat center. The difference between the two is that the one occurring first in October is created for writers with a current work in progress; it’s almost totally craft-focused. The retreat described on this page is created for everyone looking to reconnect with or establish a writing practice. It’s for exploration of creativity, for looking into our fears, for returning home with a clearer sense of what sustained creative work brings to our lives, and why it’s an endeavor worth pursuing. Now, welcome to my novella. 

***

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.

In 2022 we went to a 10th-century castle in rural Catalunya. While there we learned that it was run by an

in fact built in the 900s lol

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 last year, we went to Tuscany. I AM NOT ABLE AT THIS MOMENT TO TALK ABOUT ITALY.

(It’s January in The Netherlands and I regret everything.)

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 October 2024 we’re headed to a very special, very old farmhouse and retreat center set in one of the most beautiful places on earth: the Pyrenees. Oh, but we’re not just going to the mountains. We are in actually far east and WAY south, almost in Spain — so we will, my friends, for the first time, be taking a day trip to the fucking Mediterranean Sea.

I normally don’t tell people about the outing but this time, I had to. Have you ever been swimming in the Mediterranean? Felt the warmth of the water and the way the salt holds you at the surface, rocks you in the pure blue? It’s pretty awful.

I need this place, in my bones, right now. La Taillede is a farm originally built in the 1300s, set among chestnut, oak, ash and pine trees. Unblemished views and landscapes. That incredible green. Hiking straight from the house — there’s a swimming hole, and donkeys. A family-run farm, with an actual yurt — we finally have a yurt again!, La Taillede will embody everything we need: authenticity, comfort, astonishing beauty, astonishing realness.

We aren’t affected. We aren’t gold-trimmed.

But there are two hot tubs, a pool, a sauna and cold-plunge pool, sun deck, and fresh croissants and baguettes delivered daily. Did I mention donkeys?

Friends, here we fucking go.

  

 

 

 

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. There’s a fire pit. We will definitely hang out by the fire.

Let’s go to the mountains.

Join us at October 22-28, 2024.

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 yurt –actual workshop space!

We will eat lunch, then have afternoons free for writing, exploring the area, sleeping, chatting. Staring off into the mountains.

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 there are lots of places for you to be alone to 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: 

This retreat is for everyone, wherever they are in relation to writing. From those who journal and are interested in developing a writing practice to published authors looking to get work done and reconnect to their own work and creative selves. 

We will examine the creative process from many angles, particularly addressing fear and the thought processes that block us from our work — or, perhaps better said, satisfying work. We will study the habits of other writers and I’ll share with you everything I know about “writing around the puke.” We will work hard on figuring out what brings you to the page and will keeps you there; we will help you define yourself as a creative person and writer, so you return home with a clearer sense of purpose and motivation.

While my other retreat is focused primarily on the craft of writing and created for those midway through a distinct work in progress, this workshop will address craft in a more universal way, intended for all levels of writers — those with a currently defined project and those without. (We’ll even work on helping you define a project for yourself!)

For example:

How do I get myself onto the page? My personality? (a discussion of voice)

How do I connect with an audience in a real and authentic way?

Why does my writing seem boring? How can I enliven it? 

What are the basic elements of storytelling?  

This is not a lecture/school retreat. This is a dynamic, fun, interactive time for you to get writing, explore your motivations, and go home with a clearer sense of yourself as a motherfucking writer. We are very serious and formal, though. So get ready for that. There is no swearing and no laughter. We all wear dinner jackets.

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. If you’d like to sign up, just send the deposit, and you’ll hear from me within a few hours to hear your room preference. Or you can just email me.

Getting there:

Best to fly into Barcelona. From there, you’ll take a fast train to Figueres. And from there, our drivers will pick you up. This transportation is an additional cost of €170. We will be chartering mini-busses to and from Figueres, but this will all be discussed and arranged on a planning call once the retreat is filled. It always works out so smoothly, promise.

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 fucking Pyrenees, with only kind Spanish 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.

“A Room of One’s Own” 
A Writing Retreat in France with Janelle Hanchett

October 22-28, 2024

Cost: €2500-€2900  (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 workshops 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, activities, massages and journeys into nearby villages (massages and some activities are an additional rate)
        • A full day outing. IT MAY INVOLVE THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA (any activities done here are included in your tuition)
        • 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.

As of February 10, there is one spots available in the retreat. Please note that I honor room requests in order of signing up, and sign-ups have been happening faster than I can complete room discussions. So, if you sign up, please know that the options I have left are: a single in a double-occupancy bed or a single bed in a triple-occupancy room, but I am unable to promise you which one I can offer you.

If you have concerns and very strong preferences, please email me before paying the deposit so I can give you the most updated information. Otherwise, join us and know you’ll have a space in one of those two options. 

Thank you so much!

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

Single bed in double-occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2600 (1 of 6 available)

Queen bed in single-occupancy room with en suite bathroom: €2900 (0 of 1 available)

King bed in single-occupancy room, shared bathroom (with one other person): €2700 (0 of 2 available)

Note: These rooms involve terraces, sun decks, access to hot tubs, fireplaces, living spaces, small kitchens. They’re all fucking wonderful. If you have mobility issues, please discuss with me options and needs.

HOW TO JOIN US:

France Retreat 2024 Deposit: 10/22-28
€400.00

*REFUND POLICY: The €400 deposit is non-refundable. The full retreat amount will be due July 1, 2024. If you cannot attend the retreat after you’ve paid the remaining balance, I will refund you only if I can fill the spot, but I must be notified by August 1, 2024. I’m sorry this is so strict. I had a very questionable man a couple of years ago 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 (just bad luck). I try to keep my tuition rates relatively low, and part of that requires making sure all the spots are filled! 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!