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.”
“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”
~ 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. Each participant will have the opportunity for one-on-one consultations with Phil Cousineau. Over the course of the week you will enjoy the chance 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, 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.
Thu, Oct 6
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 10:00am or from their pre-trip hotel at 11:00am for transfers to Piraeus for our onward journey to Hydra. Please note that participants need to arrive at Athens airport by 9:00am on Day 1 to ensure they make their transfer (please contact us for hotel suggestions in Athens if you need to arrive Oct 5). At Piraeus we board our “flying dolphin” (hydrofoil) to Hydra (departure is at 12:00pm and the 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. 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)
Fri, Oct 7
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 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)
Sat, Oct 8
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 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 for millennia. Afterwards we will gather in one of the many tavernas on the harbour 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)
Sun, Oct 9
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 peak of Profitis Elias, the highest point on Hydra (apx 80 mins walking time). Starting at the Church of Saint Konstantinos, we make our way through the fragrant pine forest passing by an old nunnery, the Palaion Kalograion, before reaching the Monastery of Prophet Elias. The monastery was built in 1813, and during the revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1821 the revolutionary hero Theodoros Kolokotronis was imprisoned here. Today the monastery and several other striking buildings as well as a vegetable garden within the grounds are cared for by a small group of monks. As we reach the summit we can enjoy fresh water from a cistern while we gaze at the spectacular views over the Argosaronic Gulf. You will be encouraged to take a notebook or journal on your journey up and down the mountain and to write about the experience in a story or an essay.
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, 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
Mon, Oct 10
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, the rest of the afternoon and evening are at your leisure. Optional visit to Mandraki, considered to be the most beautiful beach on Hydra. There we will gather for a delightful outdoor session that will challenge you to write a ten-minute, two-person play, which is intended to help you develop your ear for writing dialogue. (Note that the session may be offered at an alternate site depending on weather and availability.)
Your teacher will be available for pre-arranged private consultations all afternoon at the Mandraki Elias Beach Taverna (or similar location). (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Tue, Oct 11
Focusing On The Real Work (B)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/snack (own expense) followed by an easy one-hour cliff-side hike from the harbour and through a few lovely villages to the gorgeous Four Seasons Hotel, a trellis-covered outdoor restaurant that specializes in locally caught seafood. There we will dine (at own expense) and discuss our day’s writing.
Our evening return trip to the harbour will be provided by the Four Season’s private boat taxi. This evening will be at your leisure. (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Wed, Oct 12
Writing Class – Bringing Back the Boon (B, L, 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. 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 the beautiful Sunset Restaurant (or similar). (Overnight on Hydra at the Bratsera Hotel or similar)
Thu, Oct 13
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 Friday, Oct 14.
*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 6 - 13, 2016
7 nights accommodation based on double occupancy
Breakfast daily at the hotel
1 Welcome and 1 Farewell Dinner
3 light lunches at the hotel; 1 lunch by the sea
Transfers to and from Athens/Piraeus
Round trip hydrofoil tickets Piraeus/Hydra
Transportation of luggage in Hydra
Travel, workshops, and one-on-one consultations with Phil Cousineau
Quality time for your own writing – this is a “no critiquing” retreat and you will not be asked to critique other writers’ work, and vice versa
Local excursions to inspirational sites (including entrance fees)
Guided walking tour of Hydra Port
Guided hike to Profitis Elias
Private taxi boat from Four Seasons hotel on Day 6
Tour Does Not Include:
Airfare to and from Athens, Greece
Pre-trip hotel in Athens (if flight does not arrive Athens Airport by 11am 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