The 2018 Desert Writers’ Retreat

The fifth-annual week of writing and desert living. This event is past. Registration is open for our Conference in the Novel.


Dates: May 20-26
Facilitator: Jordan Hartt
Contact [email protected] for details.

Taking place at Tahiti Village, just south of Las Vegas, the Desert Writers’ Retreat is a full-immersion week of writing, reading, and inspiration.

Workshop Description: “Fire”

“She’s on fire,” “he’s smoldering,” “it really sparked their interest”—the language of fire, of flame, fills our literatures. Consider those with a “burning” passion/love/anger/obsession, or how often we hear such words as “scorch,” “heat,” “fuel,” or “incendiary”–to name just a few–used in describing human actions.

In addition to metaphor, fire—or the threat of fire, or the aftermath of fire—can play a verytiki literal role in the lives of our characters. Fire can destroy a house and lives; fire can renew a field for planting the following spring. Fire is warmth, but can also burn. Fire is necessary for life, but has the potential to end life, as well.

Fire as destruction, fire as cleansing, fire as re-birth (think of a phoenix rising from the ashes).

From farmers to Faulkner, from Austen to Alexie, from George Eliot to T.S., literary uses of fire–and fire’s relationship to water, to air, to land, to character–have shaped the characters, narratives, and language styles of some of our best-known stories.

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves”
~Laura Esquivel, “Like Water for Chocolate”

Open to poets and prose writers, we’ll begin the Retreat by sharing a true story from our own lives involving fire—whether a house fire, a match or a lighter, a campstove or campfire, or maybe a metaphorical fire of some kind. We’ll draw inspiration from these discussions, as well as from existing works of literature.

Very short fictions are nearly always experimental, exquisitely calibrated, reminiscent of Frost’s definition of a poem—a structure of words that consumes itself as it unfolds, like ice melting on a stove.
~Joyce Carol Oates

lvHow can literal uses of fire both reveal and change the internal thought and emotion of our narrators and characters? We’ll also discuss how fire metaphors are used, and how we can artistically engage in conversation with these metaphors to deepen our work.

“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”
~Edward Abbey, “Desert Solitaire”

This discussion and freewriting will comprise the first half of the week. Then we’ll switch focus to our own writing: we’ll each write a short piece of up to 1,000 words (a complete piece or excerpt from a longer work) and we’ll do a full, one-hour discussion on your new, raw draft to help you get it to its next inspiration or draft earlier. Kahini’s leisurely one-hour discussions of each piece are famous not only for how quickly they advance each individual piece, but for the richness of the craft discussion.

You’ll leave the workshop with a completed and workshopped piece ready for advanced revision, with new connections and community as a writer, and with great memories from a week in Las Vegas to last a lifetime. 


Sunday, May 20:
5 pm-evening: Welcoming and introductions. Getting settled in.
Monday, May 21:
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop.
Tuesday, May 22:
10 am-1 pm: morning workshop.
Wednesday, May 23:
Writing day.
Thursday, May 24:
10 am-1 pm: workshop sessions.
Friday, May 25:
10 am-1 pm: workshop sessions.
Saturday, May 26:
Departure by ten am.

jordan copy
Jordan Hartt is a reader, writer, and writing-retreat leader. Participants in Hartt’s writing programs have published in thousands of literary magazines, over two hundred books on nationally ranked presses, and been featured in the Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, and Best American Short Stories anthologies. Hartt’s own writing has appeared in about forty literary magazines and journals. His collection of stories, “Leap,” appeared in 2015. He is currently at work on a new collection.

In our resort setting just south of the Las Vegas Strip, 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 Mohave Desert, or the hum and energy of Las Vegas, 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.

tahiti village nightMornings
The workshop takes place at Tahiti Village (pictured); you’re obviously welcome to stay in whatever housing works best for you. There are many options within walking distance of the workshop; nearly anywhere in the area is within driving distance. If you stay onsite, kitchens are included for you, you simply arrange your own food.

In one of the most beautiful and inspirational desert locations on earth, you can spend your afternoons enjoying the best of what Las Vegas or the surrounding desert has to offer, including Red Rock Canyon, the Strip; or simply reading, writing, and enjoying the retreat experience.

Register: contact [email protected]