NEKLogoSmallThe Writers’ Retreat Newsletter

January 2014, Volume 14, No 1


In This Issue







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Shape your Vision into Reality with The Writers' Retreat!




Dear fellow readers and writers,


Welcome new subscribers and thank you for your interest in our worldwide retreats. A warm welcome back to our current readers, and a Happy and Creative New Year to everyone!  


How are we to be creative when our busy life is one big to do list? The demands of our daily life seem so essential, so black and white. We’ve grown attached to the satisfaction of crossing things off our list, and we tend to resist writing because it interferes with our efficiency. The irony is that we desperately need to write to keep balance in our lives. How about letting efficiency take a backseat in 2014. How about ending the year with the satisfaction of having finally written that novel, script, or play that’s been tugging at us? 


Maybe it’s time to enjoy seven days of writing immersion. Think about attending one of our retreats while enjoying a well-deserved getaway!


The choice is yours. Many worldwide retreats await your reservation! Secure your space soon. It’s going to be a terrific and productive year for you, I promise!


Wishing you an inspiring writing journey,

Micheline Côté, The Writers’ Retreat.


Congratulations and welcome to Alessia Sonaglioni for opening a writers’ retreat in Fermo, Italy.


The retreat lies on a hill perched between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea and is surrounded by lush, fertile fields. It is located in the Le Marche region in central Italy on the Adriatic coast. This region is not as well known as other Italian regions, but boasts a similar landscape to Tuscany with less tourists and more authenticity.


Alessia, an Italian lawyer, lives in France where she works for a public fund that supports film production. She is from Fermo, and a few years ago, she bought Casa Collina. “For me, it is a magical place where one can genuinely be creative, rest, and enjoy the best of the region.” She’s on-site twice a year to write and find inspiration. “I am passionate about literature and cinema, and I have followed creative writing courses during the last few years. Professionally, I regularly read screenplays and give feedback.”


For more information, please contact Alessia Sonaglioni at or The Writers’ Retreat in Fermo, Italy.


We are proud to announce the opening of our first retreat in Berne, New York, and are delighted to welcome Rhonda Coullet as your host.


Located in rural Upstate New York, in the Helderberg Mountains about one hour from Albany, the rustic 1841 farmhouse is nestled on eighty private wooded acres and offers a one-hundred-mile view from the large front porch, a swimmable spring-fed pond, and plenty of wildlife.


Rhonda Coullet, your host, is a produced playwright, Broadway actress, keyboardist, and songwriter. “I am looking to spend more time away from home to get my play produced in New York City.”


For more information, please contact Rhonda Coullet via e-mail at or visit The Writers’ Retreat in Berne, New York.



By Adilah Barnes


One of my favorite times of the year is New Year’s Day because I see the start of each year as another opportunity to start anew, both professionally and personally.


So it is with 2014!


This is a wonderful time for writers to set new goals for the year.


Below are a few areas you may want to give consideration to jumpstart you into motion.



It may be more doable to set goals in achievable increments. For example, goals for the year, goals for six months and three months, and daily goals may make goal-setting less overwhelming.



Setting a goal a day that furthers your writing may be a wonderful way of gaining confidence and traction. If you feel you are making progress one day at a time, you may feel more motivated to move forward with your work.


For example, choose to write one page a day to get you started, read a chapter of a literary how-to book that offers valuable information, read a magazine article by a writer you respect, and make a journal entry that may keep your writing chops up and encourage you to receive inspiration from other writers.



Many of us have writings we never completed. This is a good time to dust off your previous work and see if any call you to complete them. Closure can allow you to exhale, and then pat yourself on the back for gaining completion.



Choosing people whose opinions you trust and those who have literary expertise are a valuable way of gaining feedback on your writings. You may want to schedule a reading with a small group of writers or friends. However, make sure you choose those who you feel will be supportive of you and your work.



You may want to Google writing groups in your area and join a support group of other writers. There may be many groups to choose from, so research to find the one that feels right for you in terms of size and focus.



This is another way of sharpening your writing skills. Again, writing workshops can be Googled for your area to find the one that seems to fit your genre of writing.



This is an excellent way to meet others who are either writers or who simply enjoy reading. If you have a published book, the group may even choose your book to read and discuss one meeting. (My reading circle honored me by discussing my book.)



Reading books by other writers, particularly those of your genre and/or those who interest you, is another way of improving your writing by exploring styles of others and by looking at how they structure their works. (i.e., language, voice, sensory choices, plot, characterization, dialogue, etc.)


Best wishes to all of you, and may this year satisfy you as a writer.


Magic and miracles to each of you in 2014!


You can reach Adilah Barnes by e-mail at or visit her website at (Georgia location).



By Inge Bremer


S. (age 63) was eager to get away from domestic problems, enjoy life, and be pampered. She was an accomplished organizer who had been providing for her family for decades. Whereas she could clearly prioritize when outsiders were concerned, she could not say no when family members—with Bambi eyes—appealed for help again and again without feeling the need to become independent. The situation had reached a point where S. was victimized, and she felt prevented from realizing her dreams—one of which was writing. Thus, she was eager, relaxed, recuperated, and searched for inspirations for the New Year.


Enjoying the peaceful, subtropical environment in the Bay of Islands, and supported by discussions with her hosts over organic meals with plenty of homemade Confidence Tea as well as sessions with the clinical hypnotherapist, S. realized that her interest in family history, her skills as an athlete, and her previous practice of writing letters to her nine grandchildren (all to be given to them upon turning twenty-one), could open a door to an exciting new period in her life as a writer.


S. stepped through that door and felt confident she could realize her ambition. She was happy to discover that the local writer’s mentor was able to coach her and even help her to learn e-publishing.  


S. felt safe and relaxed as well as appreciated and admired for her many achievements. Enjoying massages, going on accompanied walks, and taking a one-on-one yoga lesson made her feel alive and healthy. She was humming to herself as she outlined clearly what she wanted to achieve and which steps she needed to reach her goals. S. is now looking forward to 2014 with zest and confidence.


Zest for life, health, and contentment are the meaning of Ora Ora, The Writer’s Retreat in the Bay of Islands.


Inge Bremer is co-operator of Ora Ora Retreat in Kerikeri/New Zealand. She is an avid reader and mentor of all aspects of healthy life. She can be contacted by e-mail at or visit The Writers' Retreat in Kerikeri.



By Louise Page


Last autumn, one of the writers on retreat begged me to take her iPad away. “Just put it where I can’t see it,” she pleaded. As a writer, I go on retreat myself—sometimes to write, sometimes for solitude and stillness. If I only have a day, the place I visit is the local convent. There is a basket by the front entrance so people can leave their technology behind. However, as the retreat sister said to me, “Most people just can’t do it.”


One of the first questions I’m asked when people arrive at Heron’s Reach is “What’s the Wi-Fi code?” I’ve even had people busy on their phones while I showed them around and explained the house rules about writing time and respecting one another’s privacy.


A dramatist arrived with hundreds of sheets of downloaded research and sat in the middle of the paperwork as she desperately tried to find a structure for her play. Like most writers, I’ve fallen into the trap of too much research. Researching feels like writing, but one of the things I have learned over the years is to create a basic structure, and then research only on a need-to-know basis. My poor dramatist had a great premise, but completely lost track of it in snippets of fascinating, but not relevant research. I took everything away from her and asked her to write with a pencil on paper the story she wanted to tell. We’re all used to keyboards, and most of us take a long time to write by hand. Once I had slowed her down, and she couldn’t just cut and paste her ideas, she began to engage with the material in a different way. We then threw out any research that wasn’t relevant to the play.


I’ve also started using the handwriting and notebook way of structuring ideas with Advanced Business Writing courses. At first, many participants reject the idea. But gradually they realize that what they were calling structure was only moving ideas around, thanks to technology. Interestingly, many of them continue to use pens and paper after the course is over as a way of organizing their thoughts.


When you look at handwritten manuscripts from some of the great writers, it’s enlightening to see how few changes and alterations most of them make from their first drafts. Without the luxury of cut-and-paste, and because of the physical labor involved in writing, they had to organize their ideas.


I sound as if I’m saying writers shouldn’t use laptops or the Internet. What I’m arguing is that they are tools, and when endless checking of in-boxes and Tweets is getting in the way of working, they change from tool to tyrant. If you’re not convinced, the writer who did the most work and developed her ideas more than any other was the one who had no Smart Phone and wrote it all out by hand before typing it up. However, we were nearly driven mad because she didn’t answer our e-mails about arrival time, dietary requirements, and which room she preferred. We need to strike a balance.


This year, I’m going to get a basket for the hall table, and like the nuns did, invite people to leave their phones in the basket while they write. We’ll see if it works. I, meanwhile, with have mine turned on for inquiries about arrival times and booking details. You understand.


Louise Page can be reached by e-mail at or visit The Writers' Retreat at Heron’s Reach and The Nest, Dingle, Ireland.



By Rhonda Coullet


I have been retreating to my home in Berne, New York, since 1979. At the time, I was a Broadway actress in New York City with only a dream of becoming a writer. Now, thirty-three years later, I’ve had my play produced twice and angling for my New York production. I’ve written a memoir and lots of poetry, and I’ve composed all the music in my musical as well. So, I for one can vouch for the serenity and inspiration at this cosmic spot on earth.

The retreat is an old farmhouse perched atop a mountain with a vast, ever-changing view. There are eighty wooded acres to roam in privacy and a pond to skinny-dip with nary a thought of strangers. There is an old family cemetery where Mary Starr and her family have lay in repose since 1863, and surprisingly, two stones are cemented into the big front porch in the house.

I’ve speculated and written stories about life at this place from every angle, and the pristine silence never fails to bring new ideas in on the wind. And it can get windy, weatherly, and excitingly dangerous up here on my hill. During the winter months, it is not for the faint of heart. It requires wood toting and weather watching, but if you’re brave, there is an alternative life in the imagination waiting for you here.

Music reverberates through the halls. I have a Yamaha piano that begs to be played, and when I compose songs, I swear a chorus in heaven joins in right above my head. That’s how close heaven is to the farmhouse.

I know I sound like a crazy writer and I am. My brother and sister-in-law are writers as well, and they have a lake home ten minutes from my farmhouse. We live close to Rensselaerville where each summer many writers gather to inspire one another.

I now have to rejoin the New York City world, for theater is not like fiction, it requires collaboration. I can’t stand the idea of my house being lonesome and no one there to enjoy it, hence my offer of this rustic, old-step back into 1842 and traditional life in the country. A house with character is not for everyone, but the pristine eternal beauty of nature and the silence and privacy never fails to comfort my writer friends.

Here’s to every word to be written now and forevermore.


Have a great 2014 wherever you are!


Rhonda Coullet can be reached by e-mail at or via The Writers' Retreat in Berne, New York.




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