Patricia Lee Lewis is a writer and workshop leader who lives in beautiful New England, my spiritual home. I have been on a number of her writing retreats and experienced the gift she has for drawing the very best out of her writers. If I had all the time in the world, I would spend my year hopping from one of Patricia’s retreats to the next: she never fails to inspire me to write with energy and truth. Patricia is a very, very special teacher and human being.
Who are your international retreats for?
All writers and all levels.
What makes your international retreats special?
In our writing circles, beginning and experienced writers find a supportive, encouraging context from which to write from their deepest selves. Participants will include people with a wide range of writing and yoga experience, from very little to professional. The groups are always enriched by the diversity.
In all of our retreats and workshops, we encourage the use of certain guidelines in responding to new writing.
New writing that has not been edited is like a new baby: it’s vulnerable and easily damaged by negative judgments. We maintain a safe, confidential, sacred space in which to write.
Give us an overview of a typical day on the retreat?
Our retreats generally begin with yoga before breakfast.
The practice of yoga, the joining of body and mind, can open pathways for your writing into the feelings, memories, stories and images embedded in the tissues.
You will be encouraged to use your yoga practice to develop a deeper relationship with your body as well as to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of practice. The sessions are, of course, completely optional.
For 3-4 hours each day and several evenings, you will have opportunity to write in an encouraging, confidential and inspiring setting, in response to exercises I suggest. You will be invited to share what you have just written, and to respond to the writing of others with what is fresh, what you like, what you remember.
Afternoons are free for activities, more writing or other adventures. We also plan a few daylong adventures. While we will offer a daily schedule of suggested activities, all sessions are optional: your time is your own.
Where is your next international retreat taking place and what will make it uniquely wonderful?
I and Jane Mortifee will be taking 12 writers to South Island New Zealand in February 2016 for 10 days/9 nights. There we will combine creative writing and yoga while immersing the group in the splendid and surreal scenery, local culture and outdoor activities. We will be writing near Lake Wanaka at Mountain Lodge, where the group will have exclusive use of the lodge, including an outdoor 8-seat hot tub and mountain bikes for exploring. There’s an acre of native gardens, spectacular mountain views, and relaxing hammocks. The double rooms are spacious and ensuite.
Toward the end of the retreat, the group will travel to Milford Sound and spend the night aboard ship in one of the most breath-taking places in the world. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. The fiord’s cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards, some thousands of feet. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect. Aboard the Wanderer, writers will enjoy an inspiring nature cruise and a chance to kayak. After a gourmet dinner, all will retire to compact and cozy staterooms for the night.
From Milford the group will enjoy a scenic drive to Te Anau for our final night. We will stay at a lakeside hotel and the final writing circle will be combined with a celebration dinner.
In Te Anau, and because the experience is like no other, writers can book an optional excursion to the world famous Glow Worm Caves.
Which aspect of running international retreats do you look forward to most?
As with all of the other participants, I love writing, thinking, playing, listening and exploring a place on earth of particular and sacred beauty. Some are places in other countries that we have returned to for years—Yelapa, Mexico, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala; the west coasts of Scotland, Ireland & Wales; the tiny Spanish Caribbean island of Culebra. Some we have been to only once or twice—Zimbabwe in sourthern Africa; Aqua Pura in Costa Rica. Always they are new—as New Zealand truly will be for me.
Tell us about one of the most special experiences you have had on one of your international writing retreats?
This is a tough question, as there have been literally hundreds of special experiences over the years in other countries; but here’s one. It was in 2006, during our first retreat at Villa Sumaya in the village of Santa Cruz la Laguna (on Lago de Atitlan) in Guatemala. This being a Mayan village, our hosts invited local weavers to set up a market at the retreat center for their beautiful, unique textiles and beaded jewelry. I was drawn to the weavers, especially to Manuela, a grandmother about my age. Despite my slow Spanish, we became friends and over the years I’ve come to know her six daughters and many of her 50 grandchildren. It has been a gift to be welcomed so warmly into her family—and through them into the life of the village. (I’ve also come home with suitcases laden with gorgeous hand-woven textiles, many of which grace the tables during writing workshops at Patchwork Farm Retreat.)
Give us some practical details: cost, room arrangements, food…
In New Zealand, at Lake Wanaka, our retreat will be 10 days, 9 nights, with shared accommodations. Most meals are included and will be specially catered, primarily vegetarian, healthy and delicious.
Your tuition includes daily writing and yoga sessions, all instruction and materials, workshops on the craft of writing, overnight aboard a sailing ship on Milford Sound, and transportation to both Milford Sound and Te Anau.
Cost: $3580 with a discount of $100 if you register before October 15th.
One final plug – how will the retreat make a difference to the life of a writer reading this recommendation?
Writers tell us that more than anything else, our retreats bring them away from their inner critic and home to themselves. It’s from that center that our writing can flow.
What I notice nearly every time? Participants limp in under the stress of their daily lives. At the end of the retreat, Writers leap out!
You can find out more about Patricia on her website and Facebook Page and follow her on Twitter. Or, better still, book yourself into a personal writing retreat in her beautiful Hermit’s Hut in New England.