Tag Archives: creative writing

News: Two Spaces Open for Women’s March Writing Retreat

We have been SOLD OUT for months, but today I received two cancellations for the 2015 Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat that starts March 6, 2015.  That means we have TWO SPACES OPEN now. If you have been thinking about expressing your creative self and escaping winter, this could be the workshop you are looking for.  Let me know if you are interested in registering!  We would love to have you with us.

Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing Retreat Gives Voice to Lee Schwartz

YogaFoodWriting-4Minerva Rising Literary Journal just published a piece written by Lee Schwartz on their blog that I want to share with you. Her voice is stunning, real, painful and alliterative. I love listening to her descriptions and following her words on the page. What she writes about has universal truth and especially resonates for me.

Lee attended the 2014 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat in Oaxaca. We encouraged her to submit her pieces for publication and seek a wider audience so that many can enjoy her writing. She is coming back again in 2015.

Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat — July 2015


Lee wrote a piece at the 2014 retreat called Why I Eat which was edited and will appear in the next printed issue of Minerva Rising.

Our March retreat is filled. Ninety percent of our participants in this workshop return year after year. Many of them stretch to find their voice. Some are novice writers and others are more experienced. We learn from Professor Robin Greene and are inspired by each other.

Won’t you join us in July?

Oaxaca Men’s Creative Writing Retreat: Putting Yourself on the Page

Men think and write differently than women. We’re offering a writing workshop for men only to encourage male self-expression without constraint or judgment. Whether you already write creatively or simply have a deep-seated wish to do so , this writing workshop will meet you where you are and take you to a place where you can best express what you want to say.

Arrive Wednesday, July 29 and leave Thursday, August 6, 2015. 8 nights, 9 days. Includes all instruction, lodging, most meals, private writing/coaching sessions and market tour. Plus add-on options for a pre-workshop Guelaguetza performance. Or take a local culinary-arts class. (Guys, you don’t need to be an experienced cook to attend, but you will get to enjoy some great traditional Mexican food).

Reserve Now! Limited to 10 participants. This workshop is held concurrently with the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.

We cannot promise literary fame and fortune, but many of our past creative writing workshop participants have had work they wrote or had edited during a retreat published after their time here.

With the expert guidance of a university professor, prize-winning novelist and poet, Michael Colonnese, you can explore genres with which you may already be comfortable, or you can stretch yourself to experiment with others: Fiction. Non-Fiction. Personal Essay. Screenwriting. Poetry. Memoir. Michael is a versatile writer and experienced Creative Writing teacher who, to his credit, has taught and published in each of these forms.


You may want guidance and support to continue an unfinished piece or publish it. The Men’s Creative Writing Retreat: Putting Yourself on the Page is your place to learn, to express yourself, and to develop your talent.

With expert guidance and coaching, you will engage in the art and craft of writing. You will receive writing exercises and triggers, participate in discussion and feedback sessions, and have the time to develop and refine your pieces.

  • We accommodate novices and experienced writers.
  • We limit enrollment to 10 men to guarantee personal attention in a small group.

2014LasCuevitas-19 ThreeKingsDay-17Welcome from Workshop Leader, Novelist/Poet and Professor Michael Colonnese.   I invite you to join me to explore the ways that men can express their unique voice and experiences, away from the daily distractions of family and work. The retreat is relaxed although we have daily morning workshop sessions. You are welcome to bring works in progress: journal entries, notebook ideas or nearly finished work. Or else start fresh. There is plenty of inspiration here and miles of hiking trails where you can think deeply and develop your ideas. I’ll give you prompts if you need them, offer conference time for individual coaching and feedback, and provide suggestions for marketing your work.


Because I’m a university professor and director of a creative writing program, editor of Longleaf Press, and published writer of short stories, fiction, creative-non fiction, poetry, and an experienced documentary film maker, I can offer you the tips and tools that can really make a difference.

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I cannot promise that you will win a Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, as did a past participant who wrote the winning poem at the retreat, or be published in The Sun Magazine as did another participant after attending. I CAN promise that you will explore, develop and deepen as a writer.

You’ll have an opportunity to write on your own during open time in the schedule.  And, if you choose, there’s also plenty to do here. You might take a walk, a hike, take a hot-air balloon ride, visit archeological sites, watch birds, and meet village weavers and artists, too.

Optional daily yoga sessions: You are invited to join daily morning yoga sessions with those participating in the concurrent Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. The yoga sessions are optional and included in your workshop fee. Many believe that by practicing yoga, the writer opens up to more possibility and writing is enhanced.  We tailor the sessions to fit each person’s physical level and needs. As you flex your body, you stretch your imagination. Yoga develops core strength to find words, inspiration, and creative center.  This is a perfect combination of the physical and spiritual, say past participants.

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What Participants Say

  • I learned I am fully capable of being the writer I imagined.
  • The location, teaching and program structure creates an uplifting experience of enormous value.
  • I was challenged and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.
  • Far exceeded expectations. Got many suggestions for how to write.
  • It was wonderful!
  • Oaxaca feels safe, safer than my hometown in the USA.
  • I identified a writing project that engages and excites me.
  • The balance of intensive writing workshops, cultural excursions and yoga lead to a powerful experience on all levels.
  • The feedback was so thoughtful.  I honestly can’t think of anything I would change.

We are based in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del ValleOaxaca. The location itself is an inspiration, ringed by 9,000 foot mountain peaks, fields planted with organic corn, adobe houses covered in flowering vines, and the activity of a daily market. Here you will enjoy a rich and rewarding experience. Our all-inclusive workshop is perfect for retreat and a productive writing experience.

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What the Retreat Includes:

  • 21-hours of group workshop and feedback
  • One-hour individual coaching session
  • Focused sessions to hone your skills: grammar, reading in public, publishing
  • Morning yoga sessions (optional) tailored to your skill level
  • Guided visit to Tlacolula regional market
  • Self-guided map of village
  • 8 nights lodging
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners

Here is In Oaxaca, Anything is Possible.

There are walking and hiking paths around the village, along the river and into the countryside near a local reservoir. You are welcome to venture out and explore on your own. Personal safety is not a concern.

About Your Workshop Leader. Michael Colonnese is professor of English and Writing, and director of the Writing Major and the Creative Writing Program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He is the managing editor of Longleaf Press, a literary press that publishes contemporary poetry. His work is widely published in literary journals. He received the 2014 Gell Poetry Prize, the 2013 Lawrence Durell Society Poetry Award, the 2012 Bloodroot Poetry Award, and in 2009 received both the Dark Oak Mystery Novel Award and the Southern Indiana Review Nonfiction Award. In 2010 his mystery novel, Sex and Death, I Suppose was published by Oak Tree Press. His work has appeared in Connecticut River Review, Old Mountain Press Anthology, White Pelican Review, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets, and many other notable journals and magazines. Colonnese holds the PhD. In English from The State University of New York at Binghamton.

Our Oaxaca-based yoga instructor will offer gentle practice each morning before we begin to write.

Norma Hawthorne produces arts and educational programs in Oaxaca, Mexico, operating as Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC since 2006. A published writer and photographer, she offers textile and fiber arts, tapestry weaving, natural dyeing, creative writing, and photography workshops that people attend coming from throughout the world.   During her 30-year university career, Norma organized national award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, and George Washington University.  Before she retired, Norma raised more than $23 million for The University of North Carolina School of Nursing. She holds the B.A. from California State University at Northridge and the M.S. from the University of Notre Dame.


What Participants Say . . .

  • “I better learned how to put together a writerly life.  The coaching session will help me stay on track.  I enjoyed listening to and evaluating each other’s work.  What a great group. –Writer from California
  • “The instruction was excellent. The personal coaching session offered me a chance to talk about my writing in a way I never had before.  The workshops are especially valuable because the feedback is so thoughtful.” –Writer from New York
  • “I discovered that my writing entertains people!  And I loved the cooking class.” –Writer from British Columbia, Canada
  • “There is amazing resonance in the teaching — vigorous, solid, and encouraging.” –Writer from North Carolina
  •    “The instructor’s knowledge impressed and guided me throughout the week. The week gave me the insight to reinvestigate life and write about it.”  –Writer from North Carolina
  •  “The week helped with my intention to write my book. There were too many valuable parts to list! This was an awesome experience.” — Writer from Ojai, California

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Preliminary Workshop Outline

  • Wednesday, July 29, travel day, arrive and check-in
  • Thursday, July 30, introductions, orientation, village walk, writing exercises, yoga
  • Friday, July 31, yoga, writing, weaving demonstrations
  • Saturday, August 1, yoga, writing, coaching
  • Sunday, August 2, yoga, market visit, writing
  • Monday, August 3, yoga, writing, coaching
  • Tuesday, August 4, writing, option to visit World Heritage archeology sites or spend afternoon/evening in Oaxaca
  • Wednesday, August 5, yoga, writing, reception and reading
  • Thursday, August 6, departure

Note: We are holding two concurrent creative writing retreats – one for women and the other for men. The two groups will join together for yoga, meals, and excursions that are included in the itinerary.

July 29-August 6 Writing Retreat Lodging/Accommodations Choices: To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at small, family-operated guest houses.  Local cooks prepare delicious meals from scratch, including corn tortillas, with organic ingredients. Vegetarian options are available.


  • $1,495 per person double occupancy with shared community bathroom facilities
  • $1,795 single room with private bath (sleeps one)Guelaguetza2013Best27-12Guelaguetza2013Best27-13

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Add-On 1: Oaxaca and Guelaguetza Folkloric Performance. Arrive Saturday, July 25, check-out Wednesday, July 29. Spend 4 nights before the writing retreat in Oaxaca City at a top-rated B&B, from July 25-29. Attend the outstanding folkloric festival Guelaguetza on Monday, July 27. Days and evenings on your own to explore and discover.  Includes breakfast and best seats for Guelaguetza. $1,095 per person double occupancy.  $1,395 single occupancy.

Add-On 2: Traditional Oaxaca Cooking Class, July 29: Arrive in Teotitlan del Valle one day before the writing retreat, check in on the night of Tuesday, July 28, and take a cooking class on July 29 with a noted local teacher and chef.  Cost: $125 per person includes lodging on July 28, cooking class, breakfast and lunch.  (2 people minimum)

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The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city.  We will arrange taxi pick-up and return from/to the Oaxaca airport at your own expense. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Reservations and Cancellations A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The final payment for the balance is due (including any add-ons) on April 30, 2015. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will  send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.  After April 30, refunds are not possible.  You may send a substitute in your place.  If you cancel before April 30, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you a map, instructions to get to the workshop site from the airport, and a document that includes extensive travel tips and information.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com  We reply quickly by email.


This retreat is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary. 


Back to Oaxaca, Mexico: A Brief Personal Essay

Next Friday I will be returning to Mexico for an extended stay. At this moment it is difficult to know for how long. By the time I return to Oaxaca, I will have been gone for almost two months.

Sunset at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

You have not heard from me in a while for many reasons. I have been in North Carolina to pack and move, and in the process sort through the collections of life — art treasures from around the world, family photographs, paintings and pottery, chef’s accoutrements acquired when I owned a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school and cafe so many years ago in South Bend, Indiana.

The accumulation of thirty plus years is daunting. There were boxes in the attic I hadn’t opened since two moves ago.  I found vintage La Grange County Amish dolls that I at once gifted to the Indiana State Museum and complete set of 1940’s Ohio-made Blair Gay Plaid pottery that I hauled to Replacements and sold.

I am the keeper of my son’s vintage Tonka trucks, infant clothes, and university diploma.  I am the keeper of copper cookware bought in Paris in 1984, every tax return since 1990, and every university program and proposal I ever developed and wrote during my career.  I made a pile in the yard and started a fire.  Friends came to help me push through, sort and eliminate. I couldn’t have done it without them. Then I drove a fourteen-foot U-Haul truck to a 5′ x 15′ storage unit and with the help of two wonderful Latino men who I picked up at the day labor gathering spot, completed my move.

Goodbyes are not easy, even as I look forward to spending most of each year in my beloved Oaxaca with friends there. I know that change is constant, nothing is forever, experiences matter, and staying open to possibility is essential.  I have closed the door to the home on the pond that I built and shared with another.  I have said goodbye to dearest friends.  North Carolina is still home, yet when I return, it will be to another place. Friends there and around the world are my constant source of caring and support.

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As all this was going on, I organized more Oaxaca workshops, wrote and published a personal essay in Minerva Rising Literary Journal, sold one of my photographs to a consulting company, had a skin cancer surgically removed and a pre-cancer treatment on my face as a result of too much youthful sun-bathing on Southern California beaches where I grew up.

Here, now, in this northern California beach town, I am with my ninety-eight year old mother who sleeps in the next room, and my dearest sister who lives just a mile away.  Each moment matters. It is a great lesson in how to live life.

See you in Oaxaca.

A Tribute to Mothers and Women Who Write

This weekend I am on the North Carolina coast with four other women who participated in our 2014 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. We have rented  a friend’s North Topsail Island beach house.  Here we look east over the Atlantic Ocean to write, share meals, tell life stories, renew friendship, drink wine and Oaxaca mezcal, and offer encouragement and gentle feedback.  This is not an organized workshop but an interlude to the next February 2015 workshop retreat (one space open), a coming together of writers and those who want to write in Oaxaca, Mexico.

In honor of the women who brought us into this world, we decided at breakfast to dedicate this morning to write about our mothers.  We will then share, listen and offer supportive feedback.  We are self-guided. There is no leader. Some of us write regularly, others less frequently. Some of us publish and others have not yet taken that next step. We all have something to say and want a place of retreat to get it on the page.

Beyond the second story balcony of my white-curtained bedroom is dune grass, their tassel tops wave in the wind.  The mid-day sun is already intense. Beyond the dunes, white caps fold over themselves. The horizon is hazy. Gulls, wings outstretched, ride the air currents.  On the floor below I hear muffled sounds of women who prepare lunch. We come together in friendship and mutual support to honor and remember our mothers, to write and to tell our stories, to renew our creative lives, and to enjoy each others’ company.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My own son is further south at Carolina Beach to attend a friend’s wedding. He will join us tomorrow night for supper and overnight before he returns to Los Angeles for his day job and creative life as a comedy writer.  Soon, I will return to Oaxaca after I continue to pack and store my belongings, move out of my North Carolina house, and prepare for a different future.