About Me, Joan Dempsey

I've dreamed about being many things in my life: professional baseball player; graphic designer; psychologist; anti-nuclear activist; poet; advocate for animals; lawyer; university professor; and novelist.

(Can you guess which of these dreams have come true?)*

Today, I'm a novelist and writing teacher.

The great thing about being a novelist is that I get to be whoever I want to be! At the moment, I'm a male firefighter, a wrongfully convicted woman newly released from prison, and an 87-year-old former state attorney general . . . I love writing novels!

The great thing about being a writing teacher is that I get to bear witness to writers like you as you become whoever you want to be, too. I adore working with women like you who write novels.

My debut novel This Is How It Begins, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards, the Sarton Women's Book Award, the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award, and won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. I won the Maureen Egan Writers Exchange Award from Poets and Writers and was thrilled when Poets & Writers Magazine named me one of "5 More Women Writers Over 50 to Watch." Whoa . . . you can make dreams come true!

I hold advanced degrees in fiction writing and creative writing pedagogy (from Antioch University LA), certificates in adult education and facilitation, have provided feedback to more than 300 writers on their manuscripts, and have taught online writing classes to thousands of writers from all over the world.

*And . . . drumroll, please . . . here are the other dreams I've made come true:

Yep, I've been an anti-nuclear activist and advocate for animals. I studied psychology and graphic design, took poetry classes, and drafted new laws while working as a lobbyist for animal welfare issues. If I'd been twenty years younger when I tried out for a short-lived, pro women's baseball team, I could have played second base at Fenway Park. Instead, I got to talk about it on NPR's "Only A Game," my first exposure as a professional writer, which was pretty damned sweet.

Still have questions about me? Learn more here.

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An Exclusive Retreat on the Maine Coast for Women Writers

Brought to you by award-winning novelist Joan Dempsey

April 25 – May 1, 2020

With Special Guest Monica Wood

Writing Retreats - Retreat House

Give Yourself the Gift of Time to Finish Your Novel

Meet Our Special Guest, Monica Wood

Writing Retreats - Monica Wood

"There is no such thing as wasted writing."

Our guest for dinner one evening at this retreat is Monica Wood, novelist, memoirist, and playwright. Her most recent novel, The One-in-a-Million Boy, has been published in 22 languages in 30 countries and won a 2017 Nautilus Award (Gold) and the New England Society Book Award. She is also the author of When We Were the Kennedys, a New England bestseller, Oprah magazine summer-reading pick, and winner of the May Sarton Memoir Award and the 2016 Maine Literary Award. Her novel Any Bitter Thing was an ABA bestseller and Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark, which has been excerpted on NPR's "Selected Shorts" and selected by several towns and cities as their "One Book, One Community" read; My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award; and Secret Language, her first novel. Her widely anthologized short stories have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on public radio. Her nonfiction has appeared in Oprah, The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Parade, and many other publications. Her first play, Papermaker, debuted at Portland Stage in an extended run, its bestselling play ever. Her second play, The Half-Light, debuted at Portland Stage in 2019. Monica is a lifelong Mainer and lives in Maine with her husband. 

Writing Retreats - One-in-a-Million Boy
Writing Retreats - Any Bitter Thing
Writing Retreats - When We Were the Kennedys

Imagine!

The gift of uninterrupted time to focus solely on your novel.

Powerful inspiration to jumpstart your confidence and ignite your determination.

Unequivocal support to banish any doubts and fears.

Feedback to get you over the finish line.

Intimate connections with five other women, all of us determined to finish our novels.

The magical beauty of the Maine coast—those ocean ions will lift your spirits.

Any of that sound good?

Read on!

Writing Retreats - Joan Dempsey

Hello! I'm Joan Dempsey.

I am fortunate enough to call the state of Maine "home," and I want to share the magic of this place with other women who, like me, are writing novels.

I love, love, love working on novels (mine and yours)!

And I adore retreats. Many of my most cherished writing experiences (and—no surprise—best work) happened while away from home.

Plus, I'm an experienced fiction editor and writing coach.

So, I got to thinking . . . why not combine these passions and invite some gutsy women novelists to join me so we can retreat together?

What kind of fun would that be?!

Want to find out?

Come spend a productive and pampered week in our private retreat home on Brickyard Cove, looking across three Maine bays and numerous islands, one of which is the appropriately-named "Sister Island." Our retreat home has its own private beach complete with beach chairs and kayaks. The salt air is divine!

Our focus?

Helping you finish your novel.

The Gutsy Great Novelist Writing Retreat – Is It Right for You?

Writing Retreats - Women Laughing

Five Women Only

You're right for this retreat if you . . .

  • are actively working on a novel;
  • want to write THE best novel you can possibly write;
  • are prepared to tackle the tough emotional work that could be necessary to conquer your doubts, fears or resistance;
  • are willing to hear honest, direct feedback, even if it's not what you were hoping to hear;
  • are committed to being an engaged group member;
  • are determined to invest significantly in yourself as a novelist; and
  • are ready to have the time of your life with a bunch of gutsy, like-minded women.
Writing Retreats - Private Beach

Freeport, Maine

When you choose to surround yourself with natural beauty, and get utterly pampered inside a gorgeous modern home, and have only supportive people who are also writers as companions, it’s easier to focus entirely on your writing in all the best ways.

Think about it. You’re so busy taking care of everything (and everyone) else in your life, who has time for much writing? 

This retreat gives you the luxury of time to write.

You’ll have all sorts of wonderful spaces for writing—in your own private room, in the garden, on our private beach, out on one of the decks overlooking the ocean, at one of several large tables both inside and outside the house, or in front of the fire on a cozy couch.

Writing Retreats - Retreat House

April 25 – May 1, 2020

We begin with a reception early on Saturday evening (April 25).

We'll have all day Sunday through Thursday for your private writing time, private coaching sessions with Joan, group gatherings and downtime.

All meals are prepared by our personal chef. Breakfast and lunch are available whenever you wish, and we'll have dinner together in the evening, including one dinner with our guest, the award-winning novelist Monica Wood.

Wednesday is a "free" day with no organized gatherings—head off to the beach, for a hike, or into town (Freeport, Brunswick and Portland are all a short distance away).

Friday morning we'll have a farewell breakfast together, then send you on your way.

What Other Writers are Saying About the Writing Retreat 

Here's What You Can Expect from Your Writing Retreat

Hours and Hours of Uninterrupted Writing Time

Inside your room at your private writing desk, or with your personal lap desk on the deck, shore, or by the fire, or at one of the many spacious tables inside and outside our retreat house, you'll have ample time to do what you wish. This is your time to apply what you’re learning in the way that works best for you: write, revise, journal, reflect, think, plan, write some more. All of what you do during creative time will inform your Writing Contract, which is the tool you’ll take home to ensure your success.

Writing Retreats - Woman Writing
Writing Retreats - Writing Room
Writing Retreats - Adirondacks on Deck

Three Private Coaching Sessions with Joan Dempsey

Come on up to what's become fondly known as "Joan's Tower" for two, 30-minute private coaching sessions, and enjoy one session post-retreat via Zoom video conferencing or phone. I’m here for you, so we’ll plan our sessions according to what you most need. Got a character who needs further development? We’ll bring her to life. Feeling concerned about whether your writing is really any good? We’ll turn that concern around so fast you’ll forget you ever worried about it. Need to find time in your schedule to focus on your novel? We won’t just find time, we’ll create it! Whatever will help you finish your novel, we’ll tackle it.

Writing Retreats - Joan Dempsey
Writing Retreats - Writing Room
Writing Retreats - Joan Dempsey with dog

Feedback on Your Novel

I will provide detailed feedback on your full manuscript or whatever you've drafted by the time you attend the retreat. If you send your manuscript a month before the retreat, I'll have feedback ready and waiting for you and we can discuss it in person during our private coaching sessions. If you aren't able to get the manuscript to me a month before the retreat, you can bring it with you and I'll provide feedback within a month after the retreat.

Your Personal Writing Contract

Before you leave, you and I will privately assess all you’ve learned during the retreat, and use it to create a Writing Contract that will set you up for post-retreat success. Capitalize on your momentum from this week and finish your novel.

Several Hours of Group Time

You’ll have an opportunity to sit in the optional Retreat Seat—a safe environment in which you can share your concerns and toss out your ideas, all of which will be heard by me and your generous and wise retreat companions. We’ll put on our best thinking caps and respond with constructive observations, suggestions, questions, celebrations, resources and whatever other ideas we believe will help. We'll also have two optional Gutsy Great Readings—a secure environment in which you can read a brief excerpt from your novel-in-progress and hear readings by your retreat companions. Finally, we'll have two Q & A Sessions in which you can ask me anything about the craft or the business of writing.

Writing Retreats - Women Writers
Writing Retreats - Women Novelists
Writing Retreats - Women Writers

Amazing Meals Provided by Our Own Personal Chef

All you have to do is eat when you’re hungry . . . no need to decide what to make for a meal, no cooking, no cleanup. Isn’t it time someone catered to you? Our own Personal Chef, Tara Bombardier, will make us nourishing and scrumptious food that will leave you feeling both energetic and pampered! Fair warning . . . you might not want to go home.

Writing Retreats - Personal Chef
Writing Retreats - Personal Chef
Writing Retreats - Personal Chef

Downtime

Creativity takes energy, and energy needs to be rejuvenated; this week is all about what you need to be your best creative self. Hike the nearby trails at Wolfe’s Neck State Park, head into Freeport to visit LL Bean and myriad outlet shops, kayak from the front yard in Brickyard Cove, take a nap in your room or in an Adirondack on the deck, read a book from our retreat library (lots of novels by women authors and books on the craft of fiction), play a game of horseshoes . . . whatever works to support you!

Tuition

Writing Retreats - Writing Room
Writing Retreats - Maine Coast
Writing Retreats - Retreat House

Your tuition covers these expenses:

Deposit: $2875
The balance of $2875 is due one month later.

Or, save $750 by paying in full when you book your room now.

This is a sizable investment, maybe more than you’ve ever spent on yourself! We women are so busy taking care of everyone and everything else that it’s rare and life-changing when we give ourselves such a gift. Because I keep the group so small—five writers plus myself—and because this luxury retreat is expensive to run and takes a lot of my own time and energy, not everyone can afford to spend a week with me. But for those who do, I work extremely hard to make sure the experience is priceless.

My goal is to get you past any obstacles that stand in your way and provide you with the support and tools and feedback you need to realize your dream of finishing your novel, all while feeling inspired and confident.

The price is also valued as it is because I want to ensure we have a great group of dedicated and determined women; the price and the fact that women have to travel to join us attracts motivated and talented writers. 

Join us for this inspirational retreat—you’ll increase your confidence, focus, and productivity, and join a new circle of passionately creative literary companions! Let's make memories with new friends, shall we?

Why a Writing Retreat? Because . . .

You deserve some uninterrupted, luxurious writing time.

Time away from obligations is restorative (not to mention a big relief)!

A Zen-like oceanfront space will calm your spirits and inspire your best work.

Personalized guidance will melt away any remaining self-doubt and fear.

Women working together always create magic that can't be found in isolation.

Six smart fiction writers can solve any thorny issue.

Being on retreat with a bunch of gutsy women is an absolute blast!