Got questions? Cool! I’ve done this retreat many times now, and have probably thought of answers to questions you didn’t even know you had! Here goes…
Where do I fly in?
Connecting flights are usually from San Francisco or Los Angeles. This darling, easy to navigate airport is roughly 8-10 minutes from us, so you can easily take a taxi to the house. (Be sure to bring the address/directions with you.) I always drive to the retreat, and we usually have several other ladies who do as well (and therefore have plenty of room for everyone). Every once in a while, however, I’m the only one not flying in from all corners of the globe. In the event you think you may want the freedom to go off on your own to adventure through town or drive down this glorious coast, you might want to consider renting a car so you’ve got the wheels should the inspiration strike. Use your gut on this one.
San Jose Airport
About 90 minutes from the house, so you’ll definitely want to rent a car!
If I want to come early and stay in Carmel for a few days, or stay the weekend following the retreat, where should I stay?
GREAT idea! About 20% of our ladies arrive early or stay in town following the retreat. Come early and find yourself rested + blissed out by the time we get together on Monday evening. If time & resources allow, come a day or two early (or a week!) and give yourself the gift of time to unwind, breath in the sea air, and think without distraction (other than the tempting aromas & baubles of the local restaurants & shops). And/or, if you don’t have to race back home, staying a day or two after your retreat is a terrific way to let the week sink down into your bones and honor your creativity. Ahhh!
There are so MANY fantastic places to stay in town. You’ll find loads of options online; costs vary, but most offer seasonal deals, so make sure you call for rates. Also: be sure to clarify when you call that you’re booking a room IN the town of Carmel—in case they have sister hotels in the Valley or elsewhere—so you can easily walk wherever you need to go.
A few local faves (by no means all of them):
Vagabond For years, the Vagabond’s House was a haven where artists would stay for weeks and months at a time, writing or painting, or relaxing in the shade of the large oak tree in the courtyard. Don Blanding was one author who stayed here. In 1928, he wrote the poem “Vagabond’s House,” from which the inn gets its name. I can’t describe how honored I was to learn they wanted to recommend (and now do) my retreats on their site. Wow! The Vagabond’s House, an English Tudor Country Inn, is nestled in the heart of the village within easy walking distance of anything in town. This Bed and Breakfast has a courtyard of cascading waterfalls, camellias, rhododendrons, hanging plants, and ferns + flowers everywhere. My clients love it here! So does Merry (that’s her head, popping up above the bedspread).
Cypress Inn When my marriage ended, I grabbed 2 boxes of tissues, filled up my car, drove to Carmel, and finished the final chapters of Generation Green over an eleven-day period in this nurturing haven of a boutique hotel, owned by movie star + animal activist, Doris Day. It’s a dog-friendly establishment, so the puppies in the dining room were worth the price of admission by themselves! The staff took unbelievable care of me, bringing me iced and hot tea around the clock to keep me awake (and on on my delivery schedule), and I still go back and visit them years later. Despite the stress of my unexpected impending divorce, this was as close as I’d ever come to the writer’s fantasy of time & locale come true. I’ll never forget it, and will be forever grateful for this gift of luxury love I gave myself. (Added bonus: it’s across the street from the most beautiful little old-world church, Church of the Wayfarer, where I spent most Easters as a child. Even if you’re not the praying type, I swear the street feels touched by angels!)
Svendsgaard’s Inn My parents celebrated their honeymoon in this hotel. How cute is that? Mom and Dad are gone now (huge bummer!), but my little sister, Carol + Mom, Dad, and I shared many happy memories in this sweet place. Still do. The prices are affordable, and the environment darling!!!
The Pine Inn The first hotel built in Carmel-by-the-Sea (in 1989!). This historic landmark is very dear to my heart (you guessed it, the childhood stuff again) and houses my favorite restaurant in town, Il Fornaio (where we feast together on Monday night). The perfect location on Ocean Ave., you’re only a three-minute walk to the beach.
Carmel Inn & Suites (a great bargain, and cute!)
What time do we arrive/leave?
Arrival time: The Monday of the retreat, between 4 & 6 PM (the house is VERY popular—we’re so lucky to have it so often—and 4:00 pm is the earliest the maids can have it ready for us on Mondays following weekend rentals).
Our chef sets up hors d’oeuvres around 5:30 on that Monday night, and we leave for town for our group dinner around 6:45. (Paid for by Linda.)
Departure time: Around noon on Friday, following a light breakfast and our final writing & group brainstorming session.
What should I be working on before I get there?
Whatever feels up for you. There are no rules, no right or wrong way to get ready. If you worry that you’re merely getting ready to get ready, you’re not alone. This is NORMAL!
If you have time to listen to the audios or read the downloads for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan (my gift with your deposit) before you come, terrific. (Even if you’re not writing a proposal, it’s packed with invaluable info on all things writing & marketing.) Sometimes just the act of signing up and getting started jotting down a few ideas will help you clarify what you want to work on while you’re with us. Some ladies come with whole manuscripts (two or three even!), and some come with nothing but the ideas in their head. We see the gamut, and it’s all good. It all works. A good way to think of your process is this: You’ll be reading snippets to the group for feedback & brainstorming. If you don’t have anything to read, you can just talk out those rambling ideas in your head (until the next day when you DO have something written). Think about what you’d like me and the group to know, and start there. If you’re stumped, no worries, we’ll help you! It’s proven priceless to come at the start of your process so that we can help you prioritize and avoid wasting time while you’re at the retreat, and once you venture back into your everyday life.
Listen to your gut! If you’re writing furiously in anticipation of your retreat, go with it. If you’re in zombie mode and have no motivation whatsoever (I hear this a lot, especially after holidays and in the summertime), that’s common. Trust that it’s all within you—cooking away—and that wherever you are in your process will transformation once our mystical little gathering gets together and sprinkles its fairy dust on you and your project! ;-)
Can you explain a bit more about what I need to do + be… For instance, do I need any writing experience?
Not at all! People come at every level. And, because the brainstorming is fast and furious,
projects naturally evolve—sometimes to unrecognizable (better!) levels. Meaning, you can speed up
your process by brainstorming with the group before you get too far along in your project. Or, if
you’re nearly finished, you never know… you could nail that ending that’s been running away from you for years! Happens all the time.
Wherever you are in your process, you’re going to get what you need. And then some.
What’s our daily schedule exactly? (See a link to hour-by-hour details at the bottom of this page.)
What do we work on WHILE we’re there?
People work on EVERYTHING! Plays, memoirs, novels, self-help books, biz books, romances, cookbooks, websites, even a resort business plan!
This is a week dedicated to the work you’re called to do! Bring everything and anything you want to tinker with and/or finish. Any idea, rant, or chapter you want feedback on. If it’s creative, we’re all ears. The impact of the learning, brainstorming, and innovating is impossible to explain or predict. And always awe-inspiring.
Since Your Big Beautiful Book Plan is available to retreat participants at no cost, if you’re not sure what to work on, pick an area that gets you smiling, goobumply, or down-right nervous and start there!
Everyone seems pretty spiritual. What if I’m working on a no-fluff business book?
These are some of my favorites! I’m a business girl at heart, and spent many an afternoon growing up in my father’s stock brokerage office listening to his deals goin’ down. I collaborated with the conservative, decidedly non-woo-woo publisher of SUCCESS magazine, Darren Hardy, for his recent business bestseller, The Compound Effect. I live in both worlds and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve also lived through some nasty stuff and learned you can’t deny the shadow. That’s life in the big city, sweet cheeks. In other words, we’ll speak your language, whatever it is.
Past projects all seem so inspirational. Mine’s on the darker side. Is that okay?
Oh, yeah. Each retreat usually has at least one project that’s INTENSE, all caps. Suicide. Schizophrenia. Incest. Adultery. Divorce. War. You name it. (If not related to the project itself, someone present’s surely been touched by the above.) Life is MESSY. Writing reflects that. The best writing reveals the heart, the humor, and the humanity of any subject. We’ll get there with you, and supply hugs as needed. Don’t be surprised if a few prayers get launched your way, too, which never hurts!
I’m not a joiner. Shy, even. A bit of a loner. Will I fit in?
Not a group person? Me either! Seriously. Case in point: I got “most dedicated” pledge in my sorority at USC and quit two years later. Groups used to make me queasy. Hide in the bathroom stall nervous. But not these groups. They’ve relaxed me in untold ways, softened my heart and judgments. Expanded my world view, my writing view. I hear the same thing over and over from our non-joineresque participants. Still hesitant? Check out these testimonials. They speak volumes. You’re human, and as such, can’t help but long for connection, community, to be seen and heard. For whatever reason, this lucky introverted extrovert somehow stumbled onto a group format that just works. Phew.
The photos on your site show two beds per room. Must I share?
Yup. Uh huh. And, you’ll be amazed that you’ll miss her when you leave. I bet ya. (Bring ear plugs, though, in case you’re a light sleeper.) Actually, I now cap all retreats at 5 women instead of 6 (so it’s more intimate and energizing), thus one woman WILL get her own room. If this is important to you, let me know ahead of time. But keep in mind, it’s fun to have a roomie! I’ve held that room for women who were sure they didn’t want to share before, and you know what? They come to me during the retreat and say they WISHED they hadn’t been afraid of sharing a room. “I hear the others laughing in their rooms and I want a roommie,” they tell me. Again, we’re tribal creatures. Connection is king, er, queen. Either way, it always works out:)
How do I know I’ll like the ladies, and be in the “right” group?
This is part of Big Mystery, as my medicine man in New Mexico used to say. I can’t totally explain it. Yes, I interview each person by phone before promising anyone a spot. I’m listening to make sure that you’re going to get a ton out of the retreat, be of value to the others, and be elated you came. Just like the guru in Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, who doesn’t allow people in crisis to enter her ashram, I listen to each woman during our call to make sure she’s in a good place.
That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be working on emotional projects or delving very deeply (and crying, sometimes every day, which is normal). But I look to make sure you’re able to feel joy, get lots of work done, and be part of a beautiful brain trust for your new writing buds. (Also, I’ve found that the price of the retreat and the commitment of travel is a wonderful pre-screener and attracts women who are excited about and ready to work seriously on their art.)
And yes, after years working with writers, I can usually tell within the first minute if you’re a strong candidate, and with whom you’ll bond during your stay. However—and this is the part I’ve learned to trust—I’m always amazed by the synchronicity of who shows up and how much each person’s projects and life experiences support the whole. While the projects widely vary, there always seem to be themes and sub-themes. Last year we had a retreat where 4 of the 5 ladies were ex-military or married to military vets! One group was writing all about relationships. Another was nearly all memoirists. One coming up is filled with health-related projects. Interesting, I’ve never found the ladies compete in any way, but rather align to add incredible value to each other, which continues long after the retreat, as they share resources and connections and editorial feedback. I find out later (and see in their facebook groups) that they’re doing regular group calls, have buddied up to stay on track (for those who still aren’t done or are working on their next book), sending each other writing, and even traveling to one another to keep the magic alive. Wow. Wow. Wow. I never could have seen this ahead of time, and I’m so grateful. xx
How much does the retreat cost?
The price is broken down on the main retreat page, but in case you missed it, here it is again: Price: $8,000 for the week: $4,000 due upon sign-up (to hold your spot) & $4,000 due 30 days before departure. This covers all of your expenses (lodging, food, & all instruction) except travel. Plus, you’ll receive a private two-hour editorial session with me when you’re ready, after we return. My goal is to help make you agent ready, and to facilitate those introductions when you are!
Can you guarantee I’ll get published if I come to Carmel?
I can’t know what destiny holds for you or your book’s future, and I cannot guarantee that you’ll get an agent or editor by working with me. Ultimately, your talent, work ethic, follow through, and overall career are up to you—in your hands. However, you WILL have the best of me while you’re here (not to mention the brilliance of the other ladies), and a forever ally and fan in the industry who will do her best to see that you’re as qualified and connected as possible to make your publishing dreams come true! That sounds like a lofty goal, but it’s working! Book babies are being born, signed, and published. I’m in awe, and believe, truly, that I have the best job in the world. xx
Has anyone ever disliked their experience or asked for their money back?
Not once. Thank God! (If they didn’t love their experience, they hid it VERY well.) I ask lots of questions and am very empathetic, so in the few instances we’ve had ladies feel insecure about their skills or feel shy—once getting feelings hurt—we get through it in minutes, not hours. This is a SAFE place with good vibes galore where everyone wants to do beautiful work. Not to mention, my success depends on you being happy and fulfilled. This is my favorite place on earth, doing my favorite work. I’d like to do this for many, many years to come, so it’s all about win-win with me.
I should give you my La-la land disclosure, too (after all, I do live in L.A.): I ALWAYS check in with my famous Vedic astrologer sister, Carol Allen (seen recently on Extra, Life Changers with Dr. Drew, and Lifetime & Bravo networks) who gives me a list of blessed weeks each year that are conducive to writing love + success + safety. I ONLY book the house for those weeks. So far, sooo good. Everyone says they get just what they needed. Usually more than they expected.
On a practical level (as if astrology’s not practical… ha!), there are a few important things going on. First off, my pre-retreat interview in combination with the price, and the fact ladies have to travel to joins us, keeps people who might otherwise be in crisis or not ready to do the work from even wanting to come. Next, my chef, landlord and I all work very hard to make this the trip of your lifetime. With lots of behind-the-scenes work, past experience, pre-screenings, and a little luck (oh, and my sister’s star readings), this will be a fulfilling adventure for you like none other. One in which you’ll gain new writing & marketing skills + increased confidence & focus + a tribe of passionately creative soul sisters + and memories you will forever treasure!