Writers of every level and genre are welcome to our weeklong gathering on stunning Hydra to spark new material, deepen your craft, or know when to release your work into the world.
As Socrates put it, “Wisdom begins in wonder”, and what better place than the beautiful Greek island of Hydra to journey into wisdom. Led by bestselling author, documentary filmmaker, radio and television scriptwriter Phil Cousineau, our gathering will combine the spirit of a workshop with the contemplativeness of a writing retreat. You will be encouraged to spend time developing your manuscript rather than critiquing others’ work, and there will be opportunities for one-on-one consultations with Phil, as well as inspiring excursions. READ MORE
Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 30 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
If you would like to immerse yourself in the art of crafting stories and if you are looking for a way to reignite your passion for the written word, then join our Writer’s Retreat on the breathtaking island of Hydra in Greece. Writers of every level and genre are welcome to our weeklong gathering of kindred spirits looking to spark new material and/or release current work into the world.
Instead of spending our valuable workshop time by critiquing each other’s work, during this writer’s retreat you will be encouraged to spend your time developing your current manuscript or writing new material in a safe and invigorating atmosphere. Every day will begin with a reading from Greek literature, followed by a writing session designed to help you find and refine your own natural writing voice. This will include creative writing games, visualization exercises, experimentation with story structure, interview techniques, dialogue practices, writing outdoors, and optional evening sessions that will encourage revision.
During our workshop, your Writer’s Retreat leader, Phil Cousineau, will combine his popular mythopoetic (literally the making of stories) approach to writing with the nine-stage creative journey model presented in his book, Stoking the Creative Fires. Every afternoon during the workshop he will offer one-on-one consultations at one of the outdoor tavernas, and every evening we will gather to discuss your work over dinner and traditional Greek music. Over the course of the week you will enjoy the opportunity to replicate the ideal writing life, which is a dynamic balance between creative solitude and social immersion, and learn how to best present your work in the ever-changing world of publishing.
Since teaching screenwriting at the American Film Institute in the early 1980s, Cousineau has mentored and tutored hundreds of writers in a wide range of genres from novels, poetry collections, and non-fiction books to radio, television and movie and gaming scripts. For the last several years he has been a consultant on the mythology of movies at Warner Brothers, Twentieth-Century Fox, and Pixar Studios. He is a founding mentor at the Path to Publishing Program at Book Passage Bookstore, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the last thirty years, he has helped hundreds of writing students publish their work in a multitude of formats.
Our base for this retreat will be the charming Bratsera Hotel, a lovingly restored former sponge factory just a two-minute walk from the port. The hotel has a beautiful courtyard, outdoor swimming pool, and all the amenities you would want from a modern establishment without sacrificing any of its authentic character. Beyond the classes and tutorials that will be held at our hotel, there will be ample time to experience the breathtaking island of Hydra and modern-day Greek culture, and revel in the golden opportunity to make friends from around the world.
Our writing retreat is limited to fifteen participants so sign up quickly.
Thanks to participant Chris Franek for the use of his photo of Phil Cousineau in Greece
Sun, Oct 7
Hydrofoil to Hydra; Guided Tour (D)Read more
“There are only two colors, blue and white, and the white is whitewashed every day, down to the cobblestones in the street. The houses are even more cubistically arranged than at Poros. Aesthetically it is perfect, the very epitome of that flawless anarchy which supercedes, because it includes and goes beyond, all the formal arrangements of the imagination.”
~ Henry Miller
Participants will be met at Athens airport at 7am or from their pre-trip hotel at 8am for transfers to Piraeus for our onward journey to Hydra. Please note that participants need to arrive at Athens airport by 6am on Day 1 to ensure they make their transfer. It is therefore recommended that you arrive on Oct 6th – please contact us to arrange your pre-trip hotel in Athens. At Piraeus we board our “flying dolphin” (hydrofoil) to Hydra (journey takes apx. 2 hours).
After checking into our charming hotel and taking a little time to refresh after our travels, we will meet for a guided walking tour of “Hydra port”, the main town on the island. This picture-perfect town set against a backdrop of deep blue sea has houses with terracotta roofs leading up from the crescent-shaped harbour. No motor vehicles other than garbage trucks are legally allowed on this small, tranquil island, making it a walker’s – and writer’s – ideal retreat!
This evening we will enjoy a Welcome Dinner together at one of the island’s oldest tavernas, the beautiful, family-run Xeri Elia, formerly known as the Douskos Taverna, made world-famous by being Leonard Cohen’s favourite meeting place when he lived here. Here we can relish a traditional Greek meal as we get to know our fellow travellers. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Mon, Oct 8
Writing Class: “The Secret Strength of Storytelling” (B)Read more
Enjoy a full Greek breakfast buffet at the Bratsera, followed by the first session of our writing classes in the intimate Virani Suite, our theme being: “The Secret Strength of Storytelling: from Homer to Nikos Kazantzakis – and You.” This morning we will begin with the inspiration stage of the writing journey, with includes an exercise in bibliomancy (divination through books) with the goal of writing the first draft of an original story or essay.
Follow the class with a light lunch (own expense). Enjoy an early afternoon revision session in the poolside garden, in the spirit of Justice Brandeis who said, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” In the late afternoon the instructor will be available for the first of his one-on-one consultations.
Free evening on Hydra. Optional group meeting to discuss our manuscripts at the popular local taverna, The Pirate Bar, a short walk from our hotel, along the harbour. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Tue, Oct 9
Sacred Time, Sacred Space (B, L)Read more
Enjoy full Greek breakfast at Bratsera, followed by a writing class in the Virani Suite with Phil Cousineau on the role of time and space in the life of a writer. Following our discussion, we will employ an innovative “Reverie” writing exercise that helps explore the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s notion that, “We have not fully experienced something until we have dreamed it.” These exercises will provide you with a life-long practice of turning your experiences of sacred time into stories and essays.
We will then enjoy a light lunch together at the hotel (included in tour price) before a brief visit to the Historical Archives Museum, founded in 1918 and housed in an elegant stone mansion overlooking the port. The fascinating collection will provide you with a contemporary example of how museums (House of the Muses) have served as sacred spaces and writing prompts for millennia. Afterwards we will gather in one of the many tavernas on the harbour (refreshments at own expense) to write about a single object that seized our imagination in the museum in a way that will amplify whatever writing project we are engaged in.
Free evening. Phil will be available for one-on-one consultations. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Wed, Oct 10
The Labyrinth (B, L) Read more
After breakfast today we will have a brief gathering to discuss the labyrinth stage of every creative person’s journey. To help us gain some powerful perspective on the frustrations and anxieties of your writing project we will embark on a guided hike to the Agios Konstantinos Church. Unmistakably modern, the church is named for Constantine the Hydriot, Hydra’s patron saint. From the terrace here you can enjoy a stunning view over the island and down to the port. You will be encouraged to take a notebook or journal and to write about your work from a different perspective.
After some time to rest and take ample photographs or write in your journal (apx. 30 mins), we walk back down to Hydra port for a well-earned “ouzo and meze” lunch at one of the picturesque seaside taverns (included in tour price), and then enjoy a free afternoon for relaxation or writing.
Phil will be available for pre-arranged private consultations all afternoon at one of the harbourside tavernas. A free evening to enjoy the fabulous seafood and harbour lights of Hydra. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Theudbald
Thu, Oct 11
Muses and Mentors (B, L)Read more
This morning we enjoy breakfast at the hotel followed by our on-site writing class on the exciting theme of inspiration and guidance in the writer’s life. Our session will focus on a “portrait writing” exercise designed to evoke a lifelong writing practice for you based on conjuring up a memory of the mentor or muse who first recognized the creative spark in you.
After a light lunch together at the hotel (included in tour price), we will visit the Lazaros Koundouriotis Mansion, a branch of the National Historical Museum, and use the experience as a writing prompt about time. The rest of the afternoon and evening are at your leisure.
Your teacher will be available for pre-arranged private consultations all afternoon at the harbour-side Pirate Bar. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Fri, Oct 12
Focusing On The Real Work (B, L)Read more
After breakfast this morning, our writing class will explore two vitally important aspects of the writer’s journey. First, how do we develop a discipline of focus in our modern world with its unrelenting distractions? Second, how can we be sure we are doing what the poet Gary Snyder calls “the real work,” the work we are meant to do? There are so many ways to waste our time and energy, so many false starts and fool’s errands as writers. To help you develop a discipline that combines deep attention with a commitment to courageous writing, the goal of this class will be to write an autobiographical piece that will help you develop what is real in your work.
Light lunch at hotel (included in tour price) followed by an easy walk from the harbour to the village of Kamini, where we will dine with the locals at Pirofani, an intimate courtyard restaurant. There we will have dinner (at own expense) and discuss our day’s writing.
The remainder of the evening will be at your leisure. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Sat, Oct 13
Writing Class – Bringing Back the Boon (B, D)Read more
After breakfast at the hotel this morning we meet for our final writing class with Phil in which you will review the work you created over the course of our week together in the spirit of the ancient Greek notion of “Bringing Back the Boon.” This strong mythic metaphor can provide you with an image for the gift or wisdom that you have gleaned from your various writing projects. It is also designed to help you visualize who you are writing for, and what kind of impact your writing will have on your readers. Finally, we will discuss the changes that are revolutionizing the publishing industry, and the myriad choices you now have for releasing your work into the world.
Follow the class with a light lunch (at own expense). This afternoon we will gather on the grounds of the Bratsera Hotel for final revisions of the six pieces of original writing you have created over the course of your work on Hydra, with the opportunity to read and discuss any portion of your new or revised work to our Writer’s group.
Tonight, we gather together for our special Farewell Dinner at Techne, the award-winning cliffside restaurant a short walk from the harbour. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Sun, Oct 14
Farewell to Greece: Depart Hydra for Flights Home (B)Read more
We gather for our final breakfast at the hotel this morning before check out. We then make our way to Piraeus pier for connections to either a hotel in Athens or the airport.
Please contact us for recommendations of hotels in Athens if you would prefer to book your flight home for Monday, Oct 15.
*Lecture themes, excursions, and exercises subject to change.*
(B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner)
Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.
The Hydra Writer’s Retreat with Phil Cousineau
October 7 - 14, 2018
7 nights accommodation at Bratsera Hotel
Breakfast daily at the hotel
1 Welcome and 1 Farewell Dinner
3 light lunches at the hotel; 1 lunch by the sea
Roundtrip transfers from Athens airport or hotel to Piraeus pier
Round trip hydrofoil tickets Piraeus to Hydra
Transportation of luggage in Hydra
Travel, workshops, and daily opportunities for one-on-one consultations with your instructor, Phil Cousineau
Quality time for your own writing with an emphasis on developing your current manuscript and moving it toward publication. This is a profoundly supportive workshop, a "no critiquing" retreat, meaning that class time will not be used for criticizing students' work
Local excursions to inspirational sites
Guided walking tour of Hydra Port
Guided hike to Agios Konstantinos Church, ending at a seaside restaurant
Visit the Lazaros Koundouriotis Mansion, a branch of the National Historical Museum
Tour Does Not Include:
Airfare to and from Athens, Greece
Pre-trip hotel in Athens (if flight does not arrive Athens Airport by 6am on Day 1)
Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
Meals and drinks not specified
Cost to obtain valid passport
Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls
Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary