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The Writers' Retreat

JAPAN: Hida Furukawa

Origin Stories: A Creative Writing Retreat and International Diversity Project at Fab Cafe in Hida Furukawa, Japan

March 22nd – 25th, 2018

Application period: through March 15th. Space is limited.

Escape to a tranquil Japanese mountain town alive with artisan traditions and ancient beauty, and find, connect with, and explore the origins of your own creativity.Where, who, and what you come from plays a tremendous role in how you write, and where your words can go. This very special retreat, lead by writer, MFA and AWA Affiliate, Leslie Fierro in the celebrated Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) Method, invites you to discover the power of your origins and your original, important voice, as well as the captivating way in which writing with others can strengthen your own writing.

During our retreat at Fab Cafe, in the snow-laced town of Hida Furukawa, (the inspiration for the setting of Makoto Shinkai’s popular anime film,”Your Name” or Kimi no Na wa), we will explore the ways in which writers of numerous cultures have mined their origins to create their art.

We’ll also be drawing inspiration from our culture-rich surroundings, as this retreat will include bundling up for riverside ambles to peaceful shrines and temples, and strolls through old-growth forest, or along the canal in the Sanmachi “old town” district of traditional white-walled store houses.

You’ll be reminded of the warming food and drink of your own home, practices and traditions, as we sample hot sake from the Watanabe Brewery, and enjoy traditional mountain teas and artisan coffee from our hosts at Fab Cafe. You will breath in the heady, pine-scented tradition of lumber and master woodcraft at the Takumikan Craft Museum, along with other sensory prompts to reconnect you with your origins and deepen whatever style and method of writing practice you enjoy most.

Throughout the retreat, in our exercises and responses, we will uphold the AWA core practices:

•Everyone’s writing, including the group leader’s, is treated with equal respect and value.
•Writing is kept confidential and is treated as fiction or story to instill freedom and trust in the group.
•Writers can refrain from reading their work aloud.
•Responses to just-written work reflect only what is strong, memorable and successful.
•Responses and exercises support the development of literary craft.


You’ll also be mentored in how to submit your work to no-fee, international literary journals, and encouraged to contribute your writing from this workshop to an international happening: the “I Am From Project,” created by American poet George Ella Lyon, whose famous poem, “Where I’m From,” has inspired writers and teachers around the world.

The event, planned for October 2018, will be a “celebration of the diversity and beauty of who we are,” and will include a peaceful march in Washington, DC to unfurl a massive scroll full of writing and art inspired by worldwide meditations on origin. The march will be accompanied by recitations from the scroll, and performances near the White House. The scroll currently includes work from Europe, Asia and South America, as well as from voices of all ages throughout the United States. The goal of this project is for the scroll to include work from every country in the world, and you are warmly invited to add your words and experience to this. We’ll be Facebook Live-recording the march to share with all.

Lastly, a hand-bound booklet, featuring a contribution from each retreat participant, will be created and given to you before you go, as a beautiful reminder of Hida and a keepsake from our wonderful retreat experience.

This writing workshop is best suited for mid to high level English speakers. Writing prompts will be both spoken, and handed out in printed English text, and will strive to be simple, clear and direct. Most of the prompts will be tactile and sensory, things that you can see, feel, smell, hear and touch, though some will include very short passages of written work. Basically, if you can understand the main request of the prompt, you can write. Writing can even be done in Japanese, or whatever your native language might be. As this is an AWA workshop, sharing what you write is optional, and your inspiration to write doesn’t even need to directly respond to or engage with any of the prompts. Having a decent grasp of English will be helpful in listening to the shared work, but what is really important in this workshop is your quiet discoveries within yourself, the strengthening of your writing voice (which need not even be spoken aloud), your “ear” for daily inspiration, and your feelings of mutual understanding and shared experience amidst the peaceful, historic surroundings of Hida Furukawa.

There will also be ample free-time for exploring, writing on your own, or even trying one of the many wood craft and 3D printing projects at Fab Cafe.


Daily Schedule:

Day 1 (Thursday)

Afternoon arrival and check-in
Dinner on your own to allow for
relaxation and late arrivals
Evening meet and greet

Day 2 (Friday)

Breakfast – 9:00 AM
Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon – includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
Lunch/free time – Noon – 2:00 PM
Afternoon writing – 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, two writing prompts, sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 3 (Saturday)

Breakfast – 9:00 AM
Morning writing – 10:00 AM – Noon – includes two writing prompts, sharing, responses
Lunch/free time – Noon – 2:00 PM
Afternoon writing – 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – writing excursion, two writing prompts, sharing, responses, and one optional takeaway prompt.
Dinner – 6:00 PM

Day 4 (Sunday)

Breakfast – 8:00 AM
Morning writing -10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – includes 2 writing prompts, sharing, responses, one takeaway prompt
Farewell lunch – 12:00 PM
Checkout and departure – 2:00 PM

More info at:

About Leslie Ann Fierro

I always feel like a lousy puppeteer just waggling myself around on strings whenever I have to write my bio in the third person. So let’s just forego all that, yes? Great. Hello there!

Perhaps most relevant to your stopover at this little anchorage in the wide, wild blogosphere, is the fact that I am an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press–a great read for writers and aspiring workshop leaders, and I’m not even being paid to say that (in fact, I had to pay to say that)!

All joking aside (but never that far aside), I’m truly excited to introduce others to this warm, welcoming, validating approach to getting writers together to write–and to feel great about their writing–whatever level of experience they might have. It’s been a transformative experience, meeting writers from all over the country, hearing their work, sharing my own writing, and discovering first-hand that the core beliefs of AWA hold true: that writing is an artform available to all, regardless of economic class or educational level, and that we were all born with creative genius that can be lead out and nurtured in a safe, supportive, constructive space; the kind of space I hope that Cast Off! will provide for folks like you.

I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School, I am a contributing editor to the literary journal, Statement of Record, and I’m a juror for the annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. I’ve had my writing published in places such as The Brooklyn Rail, SF Reader, Volume Magazine, Tom Tom Magazine, Performer Magazine, Under The Radar, The New Zealand Herald, and the illustrious Zinester’s Guide to NYC.


Your Host and Retreat Operator:  Leslie Fierro.

Region:  Hida Furukawa, Japan is a beautiful mountain town rich with old-world craft traditions, art and design, and a slow, friendly, easy pace.

Location:  The retreat, running Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon (with the writing happening Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning), can fit in nicely with a longer visit to Japan, or can be a relaxing weekend experience for those already in Japan. Fab Ca

Closest airport:  Nagoya / Osaka

Tourism information:  Fab Cafe offers tourist information


Studio Name Description Weekly Rates
Tatami rooms Traditional Japanese tatami rooms right on site of the retreat meeting spaces and cafe. Price includes workshops fees, meals and accommodation 860


  • High Speed
  • Wireless
  • Refbook
  • Lunch dinner
  • SBathroom

Payment terms:  Tuition Fee: $860 USD Tuition Breakdown: Program and Administrative Costs: $543 USD (equivalent to 60,000 Japanese yen) Meals and Accommodations: $317 USD(equivalent to 35,000 Japanese yen) Includes accommodations for three days, happy hour the first evening, breakfast and lunch for days 2, 3 and 4, and dinner for days 2 and 3. Payment Deadline: March 15th*

Cancellation policy:  Please note that the retreat must meet minimum capacity to run. In the unfortunate event of cancellation, a full refund will be given by March 22th. *Payment is not refundable after March 15th for any other reason but cancellation by the retreat hosts.

A sampling of memories from our residents

J. Bethel, CT “Leslie created a supportive environment where writers of all levels could feel comfortable. I love her energy and humor and smarts! She definitely made me feel welcome and like I was in a playful, creative zone where I could really get into the flow, explore, go all kinds of places with my writing and not be judged harshly. She gave me great feedback on my pieces and made me feel like she was truly listening, truly interested in my stories.”

L. ,Grand Rapids, MI “The workshop I took with Leslie was a delight! Leslie is a creative genius–she took an ordinary object and turned it into a prompt that got me writing a scene for a short story. Leslie kept the group focused and encouraged all of us to share our writing–scary for some, but made easier by her warm smile and supportive personality. Whether you are a beginning writer or an experienced one, a Cast Off! Workshop will steer you in the right direction.”

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