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Durham, NC 27701

Writing Workshops & Retreats - France, Italy, North Carolina

What is a Writeaway?


What is a Writeaway?

A vacation with your muse—at a weeklong writing workshop
(in a stunning location)

Writeaways are weeklong writing workshops designed to liberate you from your day-to-day responsibilities so you can devote your full attention to writing.

Our goal from the beginning has been to find beautiful, exotic places and fill them with thoughtful writers devoted to each other’s success.

In France, Italy and New Mexico, we facilitate the kinds of discussions that encourage you to keep writing, and indulge you with fabulous food and wine along the way. We believe that the combination—stunning locations, relief from daily cares, marvelous comforts and a supportive community—inspires you to produce your best writing.

Writeaways helped me get out of my own creative way, by showing me that I am a writer and not merely a woman who has a private drawer of papers written to make sense of her world. Mimi and John (and the talented writers who attended) gave me the encouragement, critical input and tools that will allow me to build my skills and my confidence.
— Lisa, Bridgewater, Virginia

I write all the time…when inspiration strikes…only in my dreams

Is Writeaways right for me?

Here’s the best news: because Writeaways workshops are project-based, they are designed to work for writers of all genres and ability levels.

Many people have come to Writeaways not thinking of themselves as writers, but have left with a project to continue and the confidence to pursue it. Others have arrived with a deep well of experience and left with a renewed passion for their writing.

Our workshop model works equally for those still figuring out how to pull on their boots to black diamond skiers through the landscape of language. It allows everyone in the workshop to be of smart and practical use to everyone else.

Getting away from ordinary life and writing under the guidance of John and Mimi is a gift for any writer at any stage of experience.
— Candace, Victoria, British Columbia

How do the workshops work?

Project makes perfect.

The Writeaways workshop model is project-based. At the beginning of the week, John and Mimi meet with you individually to help you figure out the project of your dreams: memoir, poetry, fiction, children's book, nonfiction—whatever genre of writing engages you. You do not have to come with a project in mind, although some do—and some change after they arrive.

Workshops generally take place between breakfast and lunch, and everyone attends. Each writer reads aloud a portion of work from the previous day, which is then discussed by the group. We do not ask that work be printed and critiqued by each writer in advance. We want you to be free to spend your time writing.

Unlike the standard workshop model, in which the writer is silent, we encourage you to take part in the discussion of your work. We achieve comity by striking a deal with each other, which we call the Two Hats Deal.

Hat #1: When you wear your writer hat, we ask you to be open to suggestions, to “what-ifs” offered by your readers, who may see things you missed. But writers are not required to take suggestions at face value, because we don’t assume that the reader is always right. We encourage you to ask questions of your readers, even challenge their ideas. We do everything in a spirit of searching for answers: What has the writer gotten right? What has she or he overlooked? How can the writing improve?

Hat #2: When you wear your reader hat, we ask you to be constructive without assuming you have all the answers. The best service readers can provide to other writers is to help them see their blind spots. We subscribe to Neil Gaiman’s writing advice: “When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” We ask you to be rigorous in your attention to craft, with the intention of improving the work. Our goal is to help each person’s writing be what it wants to be when it grows up.

Mimi and John were fabulous with their feedback. Coming from an MFA background and environment, the way they run their workshops was so supportive and encouraging. It really got me excited about getting my project where I want it to be. This was definitely the experience I had hoped for.
— Jean, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What does a typical day look like?

Not like they do at home!

All Writeaways include three meals a day. We also offer optional outings (see below), cooking classes, and consultations with Mimi and John. Otherwise, your time is your own: to write, wander, read, think, and talk with interesting people.

The details of each day are a little different, depending on the location. For example, in New Mexico we are not, unfortunately, able to provide fresh croissants every morning, as we do in France. But the pattern in each place is the same. It goes like this:

• 8:00-8:45: A la carte breakfast
• 9:00-noonish: Workshop. The first full day will include consultations with John and Mimi to plan your project.

• 12:30-1:30pm: Buffet-style lunch
• 1:30-6:00ish: Spend your free time writing, conferencing with Mimi and John, chatting with friends new and old, or taking a walk in the countryside. Two-three optional excursions in the course of the week may include:
Italy: A day in Siena; wine tasting in Chianti; trip to nearby outdoor market
France: Tour of the Cointreau factory; wine tasting; explore local market
New Mexico: Tour of Ghost Ranch; hike in Plaza Blanca; visit the O’Keeffe house in Abiquiú; visit to local market

• 6:00-7:00pm: Cocktail hour (“Prosecco hour” in Italy). We are nothing if not civilized.
• 7:00-9:00pm: Out of this world gourmet dinners (see below)
• 9:00pm on: After-dinner drinks or writing time.

John and Mimi work well together, encouraging and teaching in tandem. The readings, the workshop sessions and the personal attention to each writer’s style make this workshop stand out. I further developed my own writing voice, as well as learned new writing techniques. I look forward to participating in another Writeaway soon.
— Melora, Dallas, Texas

Mimi Herman

transforms lives. As a poet, fiction writer and Kennedy Center teaching artist, she has engaged over 25,000 students with her warm and insightful teaching. A Warren Wilson MFA alum, her writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Crab Orchard Review and other journals. She is the author of The Art of Learning and Logophilia.


John Yewell

is a writer and editor with an MFA in fiction from San Francisco State University and twenty years of experience in journalism. Through his brilliant eye for plot and ear for dialogue, John has mastered the art of engaging readers and helping other writers discover their own stories.

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Mimi and John

have been collaborating as writers, teachers and editors for over a decade. As teachers, they'll help you shape your writing project and improve your technique. As editors, they’ll help you make your writing as compelling on the page as it is in your imagination.

John is a master of story, who sees possibility in story arc and character relationships as well as identifying plot holes, red herrings and pitfalls you might not have seen yet. He also is a finesser of word choice. It’s been a joy to live for a week in the presence of Mimi’s artistic spirit, which expresses itself in teaching, mentoring, writing, cooking, baking and the most gracious happy hours and dinners. She models a life of gracious, simple, grounded creativity in everything.
— Lee Ann, Cupertino, California

It’s hard to exaggerate how fabulous the meals are—but we’ll try.

Breakfast - Wake each morning to rich, fresh coffee, fruit, juice, cereals, yogurt, eggs and other fare. In France and Italy, look forward to fresh bread.

Lunch - Enjoy a buffet-style meal, including soups, sandwiches, fresh fruit. Breakfast and lunch can be enjoyed indoors or out.

Dinner – Sit in your fabulous dining room and enjoy multi-course  gourmet meals with bottomless bottles of wine. Our chefs—Anne in France, Gabriella in Italy and Mimi and John in New Mexico—will dazzle you!

Evenings – Indulge yourself with an after-dinner drink with friends, take a walk under the stars, or spend hours scribbling. The choice is yours.

Note: With advance notice we can accommodate most dietary restrictions, including vegetarian and vegan menus, gluten restrictions, nut allergies, and others.



In Italy, we frequently take our lunches al fresco. Our dinners are created by our cook Gabriella, and served Italian family style. From antipasto to dolce, Gabriella provides you with an extraordinary changing array of fresh pasta dishes, bistecca, agnello, scallopine, salads and local vegetables, followed by desserts, and accompanied by Italian wines. Push back your chair after dinner and enjoy relaxing conversation with your fellow writers over limoncello or Vin Santo.



Your dining room table awaits you in France. Our chef, Anne, is tiny in stature, but mighty in culinary genius. A veteran of the Paris restaurant scene, she grows many of her own ingredients. She prepares lavish, plated, four-course dinners, including three to four local cheeses nightly and decadent desserts. She wields a powerful crème brûlée torch—and her beurre blanc is to die for.

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New Mexico

When you have perfect weather, and a perfect screened porch overlooking the gardens and the Chama River, why eat indoors? In New Mexico, you’ll find fresh granola and cheesy eggs for breaktast, and dinners ranging from gnocchi gratin to gallo pinto to build-your-own tamales, made by your very own Mimi and John. Oh, and did we mention the signature cocktails each evening before dinner?

The wine is plentiful, the food delicious, the company divine. This is a magical time of the year, the chance not only to practice craft, but to grow with others also.
— Gayle, Singapore
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You’ve seen the photos: A fairytale castle in the Loire Valley, two Tuscan villas side by side, an adobe in Abiquiú, New Mexico.

Rooms—Our policy is not to ask strangers to share a room. All accommodations are either single-occupancy or, by your choice, shared with someone you know. Beds are roomy and comfy. There is no maid service.

Wifi—Available in all our locations. In France and Italy it can be spotty, thanks to the thickness of the old walls.

Heat and A/C—Our spring dates do not normally necessitate heat, and thick walls tend to keep temperatures comfortable. Heat is available in all locations, but rarely used. A/C is unavailable, but similarly unnecessary. 

Laundry—All our locations have washing machines. New Mexico also has a drier.

I’m shocked and surprised at how confident I suddenly feel as a writer.
— Heather, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Here’s what people say about Writeaways.


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Sometimes you need to travel to find yourself.