The Writing Room Creative Writing Retreats, Lesbos, Greece
Space to write your book with expert help beside the sea
The Writing Room offers a Creative Writing Retreat and a Creative Writing Retreat Residency each year in June on the relaxed and beautiful Greek island of Lesbos. Led by two enigmatic, energetic South African authors – literary agent Sarah Bullen and life coach Kate Emmerson – they are aimed at writers of all levels who want to tell their story or finish their book. The retreat is for memoir and non fiction writers only. The residency is for all writers, including those of fiction. Your base is a simple, serene, family-run B&B with balconies overlooking the sea in the laid-back, friendly coastal village of Skala Eressos – the birthplace of poetess Sappho. Our founder absolutely loved it.
Both Sarah and Kate emanate huge enthusiasm and energy and it’s a joy to be around them. The holistic twist of their retreats makes them stand out – they support your personal journey in whatever way you need, and mornings till 10 am are kept silent to give you space to write. Skala Eressos, the birthplace of the poetess Sappho, is a joy to be in, a mellow, friendly village where you can do a little bit of shopping for cotton dresses and crafty stuff and which feels like a budding writers’ enclave of creativity and inspiration.
The retreat is only for memoir or non fiction writers, and while the residency welcomes all types of writers, this means that you might not be amongst people writing the same kind of book as you. On our residency, there were 3 fiction writers – 2 novelists and 1 playwright – while all the others were writing memoir or non fiction. Whilst the creative shared energy was high, ask ahead if it’s important to you to be amongst those writing the same kind of material.
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Choose the 7 night retreat if you are writing non fiction or memoir and need help with technical writing techniques, working through your personal and writing blocks and finding ways to access your memories and plan your story, or the 10 night residency if you are in the middle of writing a novel, memoir, biography, non-fiction or e-course and you need a focused space to write and help structuring a publishable book. Sarah and Kate arrange unexpected writerly events, such as a magical evening in a flower-strewn garden courtyard listing to a Greek storyteller tell you the traditional folk tale of King Valemon the White Bear, or visiting authors and poets to talk to you about their own work and writing journeys.
This Retreat is a seven-night immersion into the craft of personal narrative writing and story. Join us and write your life story, memoir, biography or non-fiction. This retreat is a powerful combination of group writing sessions on the craft of writing and one-on-one personal feedback and coaching sessions. No writing experience is required. We meet daily for structured writing time, technical writing techniques and seminars as well as life and heart sessions. During the eight days we work through your personal and writing blocks, find ways to access your memories and plan your story, understand how to structure a publishable book and dive deep into writing your story.
What do you learn?
* What is your story? Let’s find it together.
* The basics of planning a compelling book
* The key elements of structure
* Researching and remembering your life
* Hook, genre and message
* Including characters and events
* Handling point of view
* Working with dialogue
* Working through personal blocks
* Adding depth and layers, tone and voice
* Sourcing tips and techniques
* Understanding what an author brand is
This is for writers who have an existing work in progress (WIP) or just need dedicated time to totally immerse in a creative environment to write. You can be working on a novel, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, workbook, online course, photography-based book, life legacy story or just a creative writing project. The ten nights are both a deep-dive into your own book and a task-based programme to get your word count up, or finish your book ready for submission. Expect daily writing sessions, group and personal feedback, one-on-one sessions, classes by visiting authors, technical writing skills advancement. Both advanced and novice writers welcome.
What does it include?
* Daily connection with your mentors and fellow writers
* A structured programme to advance your project and your writing craft
* Daily feedback on your work
* Pitch your book to professionals
* Personal book structure sessions with Sarah
* Personal growth session with Kate
* Workshop your synopsis / proposal.
* How to present your book to agents and publishers
* How to make your book your brand.
Sarah Bullen has worked with authors and publishers for over 17 years as an international writing coach and now literary agent. She teaches personal narrative writing at Masters level. Sarah is a published author, oral storyteller as well as a professional book editor. She is a frequent guest on talk shows, at literary festivals and a contributor to magazines internationally. As an agent, Sarah represents authors of non-fiction, commercial fiction and celebrity or breathtaking memoirs. As a coach she will show you the different types of stories you can tell and how to move them out of your heart and onto paper.
Kate Emmerson, know internationally as the Quick Shift Deva, is a multi-published author and transformational life coach with a focus on clearing your clutter to getting you to shift and create the life you love. Kate has been coaching for 16 years. Her motto is ‘live light, live large’ and she offers her ideas globally, as a best-selling author, international speaker and frequent TV guest. She shares her obsession with productivity, leveraging and de-cluttering through online coaching, unique mastermind groups as well as travelling globally for speaking engagements. She has a unique way of ensuring writers’ hearts and souls are are looked after to ensure maximum life shifts.
Sarah and Kate help you work on what’s blocking you and support your personal journey in whatever way you need. You have a personal session with Kate during the week, who brings her coaching and decluttering skills to the table, and there are optional activities throughout your stay to help you too.
Kate leads morning walks in silence – one up to the ruined citadel at the top of town, when she suggests we consider who protects us, who we protect, and what we need to protect – and a longer walk out to a gorgeous white church perched in isolation looking out to sea. She also suggests you all swim out to the amazing rock each day, advising you to dedicate your swims to something or someone to make them more powerful.
There are holistic sharing sessions – such as a ‘letting go’ ritual on the beach – and various oracle cards laid out at the B&B to pick and peruse at your leisure. Kate can advise you on booking up the local British osteopath, and there are other treatments to be had locally too.
Skala Eressos, the birthplace of the poetess Sappho, is a joy to be in, a mellow, friendly village where you can do a little bit of shopping for clothes and crafty stuff and which feels like a budding writers’ enclave of creativity and inspiration. Swim out to the rock or just across the bay to start your day or rid of any negative energy, write in one of the oceanside cafes over a snack or drink, light a candle in the local seaside church, or enjoy an optional day trip to the hill town of Molyvos.
Most people stay at Hotel Kyma, a relaxed, serene and simple family-run B&B right by the sea in Skala Eressos. The 4 top floor rooms with their own balconies overlooking the sea are the best and most private, though all rooms have balconies looking over the sea or the village street. The whole place feels quiet and serene, and you’ll be looked after well by the family who own it, grandmother Andromachi and her son Panagiotis. Writing Room guests have the run of the place for the whole of their stay.
You can expect wooden furniture, white washed walls and sheets, blue cushions and curtains, and pretty blue seaside pictures and decorations on the walls. Everything is simple and impeccably clean, and every room has air con, a desk and chair, a fridge, kettle, little cafetiere and simple cutlery and crockery, and an ensuite shower room. There’s also a table and chair on each balcony. Bring your own toiletries, and any creature comforts you might need.
If you prefer somewhere inland, Paradise Studios is run by the hugely friendly and helpful Afrodite and her husband, and offers simple and quiet self catering studio rooms with cooking stoves about a 10 minute walk from Hotel Kyma.
Bring your own toiletries, any creature comforts you might need, snacks you might not be able to get here, plus walking shoes or trainers. Consider arriving a few days early or staying on later to make the most of your writing time. The easiest way to get here is to fly direct to Mytilene, but you could also stay a night or two in Athens and explore this ancient city. Visit the ruins and the beautiful Plaka, climb up the Acropolis Rock where you can still “hear the marble breathing” and then visit the New Acropolis Museum. Catch the overnight ferry to Mytilene from Athen’s ancient port of Pireaus and book a berth in a cabin. You can watch the lights of Athens fade and wake up as the boat docks at the island as the sun rises. This is a great way to arrive at your retreat rested and ready to immerse in your project.
When to Go
June is hot summer in Greece, so pack light and ready for a balmy summer. June is a great season to visit just before the temperatures climb and high season hits in mid-August.
Apart from breakfasts, most your meals are eaten out in the intriguing string of coastal restaurants in the village. During workshops at Hotel Kyma, Kate and Sarah offer delicious local snacks to eat and there’s always water with lemon, tea and coffee available.
If you’re staying at Hotel Kyma, a simple tasty breakfast of yoghurt, fruits, eggs, feta or cheddar cheese, ham, toast and jam and homemade cake is included, cooked by mother of the house and served by her friendly son Panagiotis – most people choose to have it served on their balconies. There’s fruit too – expect buckets of fresh apricots grown on the family’s own ktima (piece of land) from their trees in summer, and figs and pomegranates as the weather cools. If you’re at Paradise Studios, it’s self catering, and you have a simple stove if you want to cook some eggs.
A few traditional greek themed group evening meals at local seaside restaurants are included, with mezze, fresh sardines, Greek salads, stuffed vine leaves and various meats. Otherwise you sort yourself out for lunches and dinners according to your tastes and appetites, and this works well.
We favoured veggies and noodles with home made lemonade at Dolce Dharma, and the mango and turmeric smoothies with chicken satay and salads at L’Etoile, but there’s a vast array of chic, cheap or traditional places to choose from – be sure to try the frozen yoghurt at the little place opposite Dolce Dharma.
There are also local vegetable, fruit and grocery shops if you want to prepare yourself a simple lunch or supper – all rooms have their own fridges, kettles, small cafetieres and simple cutlery and crockery, and at Paradise Studios there are stoves.
Hotel Kyma is a small family-owned and run hotel. The host family live in the hotel and cook and clean themselves, plus employ one local cleaner. The village is small and all fresh produce is locally sourced from the village’s subsistence farmers. The island has a strong recycling initiative and all goods are collected daily and recycled in the large municipal bins supplied the the principality. The hotel boilers (water) is powered by solar energy and the island has a progressive solar and wind farm energy programme. On our visit Hotel Kyma were still offering toiletries and water in plastic bottles but they have told us that they will stop doing this next season (2020). The water here is perfectly safe to drink.
Πλατεία Κύπρου, Sami 280 80, Greece
Transfer time: 1.5 hours