Virtual Writing Retreat

Give yourself this gift of time to focus on your novel.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern (New York) Time

Retreat "in the Shed" with Joan Dempsey from the Comfort of Your Own Writing Space

Imagine devoting the better part of your weekend to your writing.

Not by yourself.

Not paralyzed by the blank page or your blinking cursor.

Not revising the life out of a paragraph or wondering what to write next.

Instead, you're writing with new friends. 

You’re having fun! Making progress! Getting guidance from me, Joan Dempsey.

Give yourself this gift of time to focus on your novel.

Here's What We'll Do at the Virtual Retreat "in the Shed"

Meet each other via both chat and video.
Set our intentions for a great writing day.
Get inspired, get jazzed.
Write together (a lot) in our Zoom room.
Read to each other in small groups (no criticism).
Nourish ourselves with good food, drink and rejuvenating breaks.
Set our intentions for post-retreat writing.

What Other Writers Are Saying About Retreats With Joan


 I've been stymied in moving forward and now I know I can reach for the end of my novel and put it all together. I know it's better now than it was before the retreat.

Sheryl Fawcett


I feel much better about my novel, after talking to Joan. You can just be yourself and do what you love to do. It's going to be hard to leave the retreat, to be honest.

Gene Smith


I'm feeling comfortable now in believing that my novel is worthy of being written, and my work is really going to be enhanced by having worked with Joan.

Kista Tucker


This retreat has been life-transforming. I feel fantastic about my novel now. Do whatever you can to come to the retreat—it will change your writing life.

SK Lamont

Your Retreat Host, Joan Dempsey

I'm Joan Dempsey. I'm an award-winning novelist and experienced writing teacher. I've been working with writers for many years now, and I particularly love working with writers who are writing novels. I'm thrilled when what I've shared helps writers grow and transform their work from super rough draft to polished manuscript.

And I know it's not always easy for everyone to travel, take a full week off, or afford my retreats on the Maine coast. I wish you could all come to those, but I understand that's not possible.

That's why I'm offering this virtual retreat—to give you a similar retreat experience so you can focus deeply on your novel in a way that maybe you haven't done before.

Come and get a lot of writing done on your novel. Start a new chapter. Or polish a draft chapter. Come for the love of the craft. Or to restart stalled momentum. Or to gain insight into your characters or discover what's next in your story. Do come!


As soon as you register, you'll get an email from Joan with all you need to know to set yourself up for a delightful, productive writing retreat. 


All you have to do is show up in our Zoom room and let Joan guide you through the process of the retreat. 


This retreat is all about focusing on your novel, so enjoy this gift of time to write in the company of other writers working on novels.

This retreat is for you if ...

You're feeling stuck—come jumpstart your writing. 
You want to get a big chunk of work done in one burst.
You'd like some inspiration to get back to your novel.
You'd like the camaraderie and accountability of working together with other writers.
You want to practice "retreating at home."
You're interested in connecting with other writers who are also working on novels.

This retreat is not for you if ...

You can't set aside the time to participate live. 
This is a live and interactive experience, not something to watch at a later date.

Limited spots available to ensure a quality retreat.


Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the retreat take place?

The retreat takes place in the comfort of whatever space you choose to write in. All you need is a computer, laptop or tablet that has high speed internet or WiFi—we'll be meeting in my private "Zoom Room," using the online Zoom video conferencing platform so we can see each other, chat with each other, and speak to each other in small groups. I'll be in my writing space, fondly called "The Shed," and will meet you from there in our online Zoom Room.

What time is the retreat?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The retreat is 5 hours long. Find your time zone here for start and end times:

     8 AM – 1 PM Pacific (Los Angeles) 

     9 AM – 2 PM Mountain (Denver)

     10 AM – 3 PM Central (Dallas) 

     11 AM – 4 PM Eastern (New York)

If your time zone isn't listed here, use this handy Time Zone Converter.

What will I be doing during our time together?

First and foremost, you'll be doing a lot of writing. I will get you inspired and ready to focus on nothing but working on your novel. It's amazing how much more you can get done when you know other writers are right there alongside you, working on their novels, too—something magical seems to happen. 

You'll also have a couple chances to meet and talk directly with a few other writers in our breakout rooms, as well as read to each other from your work in small groups (no criticism, just sharing and celebrating). 

We'll also take enough breaks to make sure you're comfortable and productive.

What will happen during the small group reading?

Our retreat takes place in one large Zoom room (via the online Zoom video conferencing platform) and when it comes time to read your work, I'll give you specific instructions and put you into smaller rooms with several other writers. There, you'll read aloud something you've written during the retreat. There won't be any criticism or feedback, just a simple affirmation designed to feel energizing.

Do I have to work on a novel? What if I'm just getting started?

There's magic that happens when writers gather together with a shared interest and singular focus—in this case, the novel. I do ask that you come prepared to focus on either your novel-in-progress or on starting a new novel. I'll make sure to provide prompts to get you happily writing. If you're working on a memoir, other non-fiction, short stories or poetry, this retreat isn't the right fit for you.

Will the retreat be recorded?

No. This is a live experience, not something for you to watch at a later date. Think of the experience just as you would an in-person retreat, where you're coming together with other writers and actively engaging throughout the retreat.

I've been to your in-person retreat or I'm attending one this year. How will this be different?

Well, you won't have a personal chef to pamper you! No, seriously, the online retreat is different in the obvious way that it's virtual rather than in-person, and it's five hours rather than a full week on the Maine coast. That said, I'll be using some of the same techniques I employ in my Maine retreats, and will create as close to an in-person experience as I can. I offer a safe environment, prompts and inspiration to get you primed to write, a structure to ensure you'll get more writing done than usual, and a comfy environment in which to meet other writers who are also working on their novels. 

How do I register for the retreat?

All you have to do is click here to register and follow the instructions. Spots at the retreat are seriously limited, and with more than 9,000 writers on my mailing list, these spots will likely go quickly, so do register now!

What happens once I register?

Immediately after you register, you'll receive an email from me to welcome you to our retreat and offer you suggestions for simple ways to prepare so you have a wonderful and productive retreat. This will include simple tips on getting you set up to easily and effectively use the online Zoom video conferencing platform. Together, we'll prepare you for a great experience—it's that simple!

What do I need, technology-wise?

You'll need the following:

– a computer, laptop or tablet connected to a reliable internet connection 

– a video camera (either the camera that's built into your device or an external video camera that's connected to your device)

– a microphone or telephone (either the mic that's built into your computer, an external mic or headset, or a telephone connection)

Once you register, I'll also send simple tech instructions, including a link to test your computer in a test Zoom room so you can make sure you're ready for the retreat. At the retreat itself, we'll also take a few minutes to make sure you're familiar with our online retreat space.

Limited spots available to ensure a quality retreat.


Have Questions? Email [email protected].

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.