Work on Your Novel in the Desert

A week of writing. Seven spaces taken; five spaces remain available.

tahiti village nightDates: July 28-August 3, 2019
Faculty: Megan Kruse
Registration (Tuition and private condo):

The workshop takes place at Tahiti Village in Las Vegas. In order for each participant to receive maximum attention, registration is limited to twelve.

Live and write in the beauty of the Mojave Desert, near the pulse and energy of Las Vegas. Our desert writing retreats are where Kahini began, in 2014, and after six consecutive sold-out retreats, we’ve decided to add another one: the Desert Writers’ Conference in the Novel is all about craft instruction, community, inspiration–and results in your work.

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A half-hour drive from our lodging, Red Rock Canyon is one of the most beautiful areas in the American west
Kahini writing retreats put master teachers together with ardent students in a week of full immersion in writing and the writing life

Since our inception in 2014, Kahini participants have published over three thousand individual times in literary magazines; released over one hundred books; been featured in the Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Science & Nature Writing anthologies; been short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing; and received full university professorships in creative writing.

The Desert Writers’ Conference in the Novel is designed to get you to one new (or revised), completed chapter in your novel, whether chapter one, the ending chapter, or anything in-between.

“A novel is really like a symphony,” Katherine Anne Porter once said, “where instrument after instrument has to come in at its own time, and no other.”

Whether you’re working on literary, experimental, or genre fiction, your novel is shaped by the instruments you choose: the scenes you select and extend, the voices in which you describe them, and your treatment of narrative time.

At the Conference, we’ll discuss both the artistic vision and the craft technique that inspire long works of fiction.

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Soak into the writing life

We’ll discuss the forms of fiction and how to adapt them to a novel.

We’ll explore techniques like scene, character, dialogue and scene-by-scene construction–the building blocks of all novels.

In addition, we’ll discuss larger, structural issues, as well as sensory detail, setting, character & point of view, plot, structure, & pacing, tone, style, visual presentation, thought/theme, and the titling of your novel.

You’ll leave the Conference with a completed piece ready for advanced revision, with new connections and community as a writer, and with great memories and friendships to last a lifetime.


Sunday, July 28
Check-in and registration: any time after 5 pm
7-9 pm: welcome gathering at 17 Degrees South
Monday, July 29
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop
7-8 pm: evening craft lecture
Tuesday, July 30
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop
7-8 pm: evening craft lecture
Wednesday, July 31
Writing day
Thursday, August 1
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop
Friday, August 2
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop
7 pm-9 pm: celebratory final gathering at 17 Degrees South
Saturday, August 3

In our resort setting just south of Las Vegas, you’ll find both solitude and community celebration–whatever you’re looking for. You can draw inspiration from the silence of the open spaces of the Mojave Desert, or the hum and energy of the city, available only twenty minutes to the north. The blend of both options creates the perfect recipe: quiet, solitary writing retreat and/or energetic city inspiration, as you choose.

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Accomodations are a private, two-room condo to yourself, complete with bedroom bathroom, living room, and kitchenette.

Yes, it will be hot. The rooms are air-conditioned and delightful. The desert, though, is sixteen thousand degrees, roughly equivalent to the temperature of a bhut jolokia pepper buttered with extra capasaicin and eaten on the adobe roof of the sun. Bring sunscreen. Read by the pool under the palm trees. Hike at sunset 🙂 .

Workshop sessions happen from 10 am until 1 pm. Pick up coffee or your morning bagel, and come to class: our workshops are intensive and inspiring–you’ll leave full of ideas and ready to write!

In one of the most beautiful and inspirational desert locations on earth, spend your afternoons and evenings enjoying the best of what the area has to offer, including Red Rock Canyon, the Strip; or simply reading, writing, and enjoying the sun. Some evenings feature craft lectures, and on Friday night we have a celebratory final gathering and farewell.


mkMegan Kruse studied creative writing at Oberlin College and earned her MFA at the University of Montana. Her work has appeared widely in journals and anthologies; her debut novel, “Call Me Home,” was released from Hawthorne Books in March 2015, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Kruse teaches fiction at Eastern Oregon University’s Low-Residency MFA program, was the recipient of a 2016 Pacific Northwest Book Award, and was one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 for 2015. She currently lives in Olympia, Washington, with her twin baby boys, Harry and Julian.

Class Description:

“It’s such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself. This is hard to do alone.” ~Zadie Smith

In this novel workshop, we’ll begin to demystify the magic that makes a novel successful. We’ll identify the elements that drive a novel, as well as the specific craft techniques that novelists use to marry compelling plots to deep emotion. We’ll be generating new writing every day, reading texts that illuminate the lecture and our discussion, and supporting each other through the workshop process. 

In the first half of the conference, we’ll focus on characters, conflict, and desire. What do your characters want, and how will those desires intersect with the other characters and the setting? In the second half of the conference, we’ll examine the global structure of your novel, and how the threads of your characters’ desires will play out over the course of 300 pages. We’ll also work on developing some of the big moments of your novel–the crucial scenes that drive your story and shape your characters’ paths. By the end of the week, you’ll have a new chapter or several new scenes ready for advanced revision, and a plan for moving forward once your return home.


Because of advance reservations we need to make for this event, your tuition is refundable, less a $50 processing fee, through April 28, 2019, and non-refundable after that time.

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Saying Goodbye to 2018, Saying Hello to 2019!

To everyone who took part in Kahini programs in 2018–thank you!

Our writing programs in Kampala, Kolkata (already full for 2019!), and Kāpiti, along with writing residencies on the island of Kaua’i, exist to serve you, bringing us together across borders of all kinds through reading, writing, and community.

Thank you for being part of it! We wish you all the best for the start of 2019 and look forward to seeing you again soon. Let 2019’s writing journeys begin! 

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5 Quick Questions with Whiti Hereaka

Whiti HereakaNovelist and playwright Whiti Hereaka answers our latest 5 Quick Questions. Whiti will be teaching dialogue among other things at the upcoming Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat.

1. What is the starting point for you when you’re creating a new work?

I’ve found that each piece has its own starting point — its own will to be. Sometimes characters will talk and talk in my head until I exorcise them to the page. Sometimes an image will emerge that sparks the story. Sometimes I’m inspired by someone else’s work and I want to reply to it: it could be something I read, something I see or hear.

I suppose, then, the actual starting point for any project is being open to new ideas and to be able to recognise that there is a new work amongst them; something able to hold my interest.

From there I let the magpie in me to take over — collecting all the shiny, exciting bits that will make up the story.

2. You have written plays for radio and the stage and novels. Did you intend to write across different disciplines or does the story guide the final form?

For me the story guides the “final” form — some stories lend themselves more naturally to the stage or the page, although I think a story can exist in many forms!

What interests me lately is how the form can support the story: what is it about the form that will push the story further? What can a novel do that a play can’t?

3. What can novel or short story writers learn from scriptwriting?

The most important lesson I learnt working in theatre is that a story is never really mine alone — a play relies on the skills of many people to bring it to life. But even then, it’s not until an audience sees it that it is truly “alive”. When I write fiction, I try to keep that in mind: the story is an exchange, or a conversation with the reader — my aim is not to tell my story, but to tell ours.

4. What are you working on now?

Somehow I’ve always got a couple of projects on the go! At the moment, I’m working on rewriting a novel and starting a draft of a new play. The novel, Kurangaituku, retells the story of Hatupatu and the “bird-woman” from her point of view.

The play is a satire of structural racism and office politics. Its working title is Tin of Cocoa, Tin of Cocoa, Tin of Cocoa, Car Tow-er.

5. Can you tell us a little about what participants should expect from your workshop?

I think really great dialogue springs from a deep understanding of character, so we’ll be looking at creating characters: on the page and also doing a bit of “method” writing. But don’t worry! Not too much acting, I promise.

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