Our goal in Ashlar writing retreats is to create an environment where the Story that Wants to be told is held with care, kindness and where wounded, can heal.  This work builds resilience, well-being and greater creative expression and a richness in experience. You will develop skills that carry into everyday life beyond that of telling your story.

The Helpful Writing Spirits Are Here.  

Our retreats and classes began nearly 30 years ago as an experiment and challenge to disprove the common idea that nobody could be taught to write – that  you had to be, Lady Gaga-like, “born that way."  But wait a minute; it is never too late to be born gifted. 

I was and am a passionate writer myself and love the feeling, sensation and music of writing and over the years discovered  natural processes, those little creative voices, those hints, that I came to call The Helpful Writing Spirits. 

What I share here and in the retreats is what those Spirits taught me -- Writing Through The Body.  Writing in this way is powerful and believe it or not, simple.  This method will extend into your life in many useful, surprising and wonderful ways.

Surprise is an important element and one we look for.  The story that emerges may well be different than the story you wanted to tell. This is to be celebrated   Be curious about what comes to you and accept it.  Don't judge until you have written it all. And if  story that wants to be told is difficult, we can help you write your way from a dark place to a lighter place.  You will learn how to safely accept and heal the Darkness in your story.

As the stories take shape and you gain confidence, you will have an opportunity to participate in The Word Jazz Theater, where your stories are publicly performed.  Oh no, you say, I can’t do that.  I say, wait and see if this true.  For some people this is exactly what they want after they have some confidence in their writing and have healed the story.  They want to share it and the audience wants to hear it. For everyone this is an act of Witnessing that is a very valuable human experience.  

How The Word Jazz Theater came to be:  after years of facilitating Writing Through the Body retreats I had a hunch that there was more to do with the work the participants generated than just share it within the retreat or as a public reading of individual pieces.  So, the week before one of my 3 day writing retreats, the HWS/The Helpful Writing Spirits whispered an idea in my ear -- "...offer a collective theater piece..." use a method (the HWS offered): Resonance and Dissonance. I liked this and thought it was worth a shot. OK. So I rented a black box theater and at the end of the weekend retreat, I invited those writers who were ready to share publicly to  "perform" as the first collective improvisational theater piece.  Those who wanted to be involved invited friends and family to the theater.  I  had no idea if this process would be as interesting to others as it was to me.  The collective theater piece was divided into two sections of about 30 minutes ( in-case people got to wiggling in their seats, a sure sign of boredom and there was no wiggling).  The results were very exciting for everyone and a surprise all of us -- except the HWS.  Two more groups resulted from this -- in what we call The Wow If They Can Do that Well, So Can I.    And so the Theater aspect of the writing program was born and remains very close to the its origins.

Additionally, people, most often women, learn how to run a group themselves. This was part of the .  We encourage people continuing the writing groups after the retreat and give you a structure that carries the work.  One of our groups has gone on for over twenty years with different leaders and the last one, we were told was led by someone who used the methods I taught in the original workshop and yet, this leader doesn't know we exit. Validation we say.

So, if what you have read resonates with you or leaves you curious, come to a retreat.  Manifest the possibilities that are yours. What you will learn could change your life. 

And that is our point: Witnessing, creating, play and fun -- are quite possible even when the story is tough.  WE have ways of protecting the writer.

A wonderful thing about this kind of writing groups, is that you get to the depths in yourself by writing alone but you are alone together in a supportive community that you trust because you are doing the same Deep Diving for Story. And then you come out of that alone-ness to share. 

As a participant you will learn: 

  • To access the creative source from which Story emerges.
  • Writing through the Body.
  • The role of Curiosity and Surprise
  • To process stories of severe stress to resolution
  • Deep Listening and Presence in group members
  • Embodying the personal story -- how to help a reader free her voice when she is not inside of the story. 
  • Work through conflict -- in yourself or with others
  • Learn to lead, to become a Narrative Arts Facilitator
  • Create a structure through which the story writing/telling process continues beyond the workshop.
  • Word Jazz theater -- build a performance piece that integrates the stories gathered at the workshop, yours alone or as part of a group.
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