The Writing Room retreats, Greece

Space to write your book with expert help beside the sea


On Lesbos, the creative writing retreat runs once a year for 7 nights; the creative writing residency runs once a year for 10 nights – both usually run in June.

It costs €2800 per person for both the 7 and 10 night retreats and residency in a single sea-facing room, including breakfast, select dinners, workshops, retreat materials & snacks, two private sessions & one follow up session and airport transfers. If you share a room, it’s €2300 per person. During a retreat, 4 meals out of 7 are included. During a residency, 3 meals out of 10 are included.

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Best for: Beginners and experienced writers serious about progressing or finishing a creative work or book.

Not for: Anyone who wants 5-star luxury or is under 18.

In a nutshell: 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.

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Writing retreat in Greece

Destination: Skala Eressos, Lesvos, Greece

Date: 17 Jun 2021 - 5 Jul 2021

Price: From €2800 pp

Experience: Creative writing, Journalling, Life coaching

Retreat Page:69618

Company Page:76411

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What’s Queenly?

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.

What’s Lowly?

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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Retreat Activities


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.

Personal spaces

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.

Insider Tips

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.

Shared places

Most workshops take place in the simple, air conditioned dining room of Hotel Kyma, where you can also help yourself to drinks, and there’s also a terrace where you can sit, chat and write. The beach is a step away just beyond the walkway that runs infront of the hotel, for swimming and sunbathing. Sometimes you’ll meet Kate or Sarah or as a group in one of the delightful cafes or eateries that run the length of the bay.

Sustenance

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.

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Sustainability

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.

LOCATION

Πλατεία Κύπρου, Sami 280 80, Greece

Airport: Mytilene

Transfer time: 1.5 hours

14 Reviews
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Julian Cowburn
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

I was so lucky to scrape in at the last minute on a course in June 2018 due to a cancellation. It was meant to be. Sarah and Kate bounce off each other with excellent advice, coaching, organising, really listening, cajoling and putting together a programme that gives a good all round balance.

You can’t help but love the location of Skala Erissos. There are many places to eat, have a drink or buy snacks for a working lunch back at the hotel. The village has such a community spirit. The locals start recognising you after a few days. After the course I returned with my wife for a few days to share a little part of what I had experienced there. She wanted to take away the owner of one of the restaurants on the town square (Kate’s “office”) because she is such a warm and lovely person.

The hotel is nothing fancy, but is very comfortable, has stunning views right on the sea in the front rooms, super clean and run by a family who can’t do enough for you. Highly recommended. It’s very conducive to spending time in your room writing and doing homework.

The subject of the course is what I really went for. The practical “how to”, where do I start, how do I find a publisher, a work plan and many useful pointers. You are pushed to spend time writing and make a start and with hindsight I can see why and only wish I had done more. You have the opportunity without life’s other distractions, can share the work in classes with writers for valuable input, and simply get it done.

What I would call the environment was very well balanced between a formal programme of classes to learn and share ideas with experienced course leaders, individual sessions with Kate using her life coaching skills and Sarah guiding one on specifics about one’s own book. There’s time on your own or in the group to explore, walk, swim or meet up with fellow writers over a meal. Some meals are in the group, while other meals you sort out yourself, which is also a good balance.

There’s loads of fun, emotion, a few tears and above all learning. As others have said, the course really is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.

Jay Badenhorst
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

I came to Greece not knowing exactly what to expect. I started tinkering with my story over the years and never imagined that I would put it down in any tangible format or structure. With Sarah’s unyielding insight, knowledge and guidance and Kate’s support and ability to unlock deep emotion and memory, the retreat was a turning point for me. It helped set me on the path to finish my first draft within 6 months. The overwhelming support from all the writers, each with their own beautiful story and soul, was the best takeaway. Not to mention, the magical setting and the quiet, intoxicating atmosphere. x

Di Atherton
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

I gifted myself Kate and Sarah’s June 2018 retreat after a year and a half of recovering from a serious accident which left me immobile for over 6 months. I knew there was a book in my experiences, I just didn’t know how to make it happen. Their diverse strengths and talents make them a dynamic duo as facilitators, bringing technical skills as well as practical and emotional support. Oh, and a whole lot of fun!
I loved the balance between the writing sessions and time out to explore Eressos. What makes this retreat special is the one-on-one support, Kate and Sarah celebrate your breakthroughs and commiserate with your challenges. They are also very good at gently – but firmly – nudging (OK, sometimes kicking!) you out of your comfort zone. I would not be sitting here with a completed first draft if I hadn’t gone on that retreat because, with the best will in the world, life gets in the way. Their Greek writing retreat was life changing in many ways for me, and was an amazing investment in myself. You don’t need to be an experienced writer to attend and even if you just have an idea for a book and never written a word, you will get a lot out of this retreat. It was without a doubt the best gift I have ever given me.

The Writing Room
Reply to  Di Atherton

You are such a delight Di and been so wonderful to witness your journey… and remember you reading out your precious ODE to all the writers on our closing night! Every week is a step closer to your dream coming true xx

Ann Wanless
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

My husband had all but given up on finishing his book, and I was battling to know where to begin with mine. Then, in 2017 we joined two friends and went to the retreat on Lesvos! The location was idyllic, the accommodation was simple but comfortable, the company was stimulating, and the work seemed like it was easy, but evoked emotions and ambitions that had been lying dormant. Kate egged us on, Sarah gave us much useful advice, they both provided new angles and approaches. Their guest speakers were wonderful. We were inspired! Roger ended up re-writing and self publishing his book “Chasing Gods and Heroes” (and it is good-check it out on Amazon!). And I got stuck in and am half way through mine. If you have the opportunity to go on one of the Writing Room Retreats take it! You will be changed for ever.

Bonita Field
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

I have attended a number of retreats since I believe it is one of the most generous gifts you can give yourself. When I booked this specific retreat, I had no idea that the gift would far exceed any of my expectations. The beauty of the location cannot be described in mere words, the energy that vibrates from the core of Skala Erresos connects to ones soul and magically unlocks creativity you never realised you had hidden deep inside. Sarah and Kate both hold the space in such a light and enabling manner that the magic unfolds naturally.
When it comes to food, the restaurants lazily spread across the shoreline, serve meals dazzling ones tastebuds and the ocean enfolds ones body with the freshness that only water from the earth can offer.
The opportunity created to meet and engage a group of amazing people from across the globe only adds to the richness of the experience, leaving one with friends who often see more of your soul than people close to you ever get a glimpse of.
Personally, the retreat is certainly one of the most memorable experiences of this life.

I unreservedly recommend it for all souls willing to dance to the rhythm of synchronicity.

Bonita

The Writing Room
Reply to  Bonita Field

even when life, work and passports tried to derail your plans, we got your unicorn magic to the island. Your words are powerful and have such an impact and your book needs to be read! It will change the way people speak!

Ani N
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

A really wonderful retreat, I went there with one project in mind & came out having written a quarter of a memoir instead. The hosts are AMAZING & the energy of the group was so encouraging, inspiring and uplifting. I have changed for the better since the retreat and attribute these positive changes to the wonderful time I had here.

This is a place of growth, inspiration & hope. I would highly recommend it if you’re thinking of doing it. Sarah’s energy is warm, her manner direct and encouraging, and she gives you constructive feedback on your writing as well as writing techniques to help you drive your book forward.
Kate has a no-nonsense attitude, she’s Miss Organiser Extraordinaire & is the glue that binds everything together. Together they support you on your journey safely and warmly.

The Writing Room
Reply to  Ani N

you tried your best to miss the plane ha ha – but we needed you on the island to spread your light and your story. Cannot wait for a london, Shri Lanka book launch soon!!

Beverly Pimsleur
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

If you can only go on one writing retreat in your lifetime, this is the one to choose. Sarah is a truly inspired coach, seconded by Kate. They create a caring, trusting atmosphere conducive to making progress on your own writing. A truly galvanizing experience!

The Writing Room

Oh Bev – your energy, life force, humility and wisdom touched us all. Love you x

Mary-Joe Emde
How many stars would you give this retreat? :
     

I attended this retreat in June/July 2019 and have never been on a more profound experience in my life. Kate and Sarah unlocked my creativity with their gentle guidance and their expert knowledge. It is more than just a writers retreat – it is a journey into discovery of self and your potential. I highly recommend this retreat to any one who wishes to write something or even just want to explore their own thoughts. Swimming to the famous rock was a highlight for me and I overcame my limiting beliefs in a very safe environment. Give yourself this gift at least once in your life.

The Writing Room
Reply to  Mary-Joe Emde

You came and you conquered in so many ways – no matter what, you got to us on our little piece of paradise worked its magic on you. Can;t wait to see you next year too xx