The 2018 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

Immerse yourself in writing and conversation this summer. There’s something for everyone–whether you’re new to writing, an established writer, or somewhere in-between. Read feedback about the 2018 event here

Dates: 23-25 February 2018
Location: El Rancho, Kāpiti Coast, New Zealand
Registration:  Register securely online or contact with any questions or for additional information.

Join us for the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat and renew and recharge your writing and your life. The Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat is an immersive, two-day gathering for writers, happening on the Kāpiti Coast. The retreat includes intensive morning workshops, lively afternoon discussions and space to write, relax and engage with topics critical to your work. Read about last year’s event here.

Kahini is delighted to host six established New Zealand writers–Airini Beautrais, Anahera Gildea, Pip Adam, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Queenie Rikihana-Hyland and Victor Rodger–at the 2018 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat. Each writer will teach morning workshops: in fiction, poetry, memoir writing and mixed genre. In the afternoons they will lead discussions on topics pertinent to craft and literature in Aotearoa. (Read descriptions of the workshops, afternoon discussions and teachers below.)Talking

All writers are welcome, at whatever stage you are in your writing life. You’ll find community, encouragement, and a safe place in which to take artistic risks. Please contact Kirsten at for more information. Register for the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat!




Friday, 23 February
5:30 pm: Welcome
7 pm: Dinner
8:30 pm: Freewrite with Helen Lehndorf (optional)

Saturday, 24 February
7 am: Gentle morning yoga with Helen Lehndorf (optional)
8 am: Breakfast
9 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop (morning tea break included)
12:30 pm–1:30 pm: Lunch
2 pm–3 pm: Afternoon sessions: Moving at the Speed of Creativity & The Sum and its Parts
3 pm–4 pm: Afternoon sessions: Audio Storytelling & The Litmus Test
4 pm–5 pm: Workshop check-in
5:30 pm: Dinner
8 pm–9 pm: Open mike readings (optional)

Sunday, 25 February
7 am: Gentle morning yoga with Helen Lehndorf (optional)
8 am: Breakfast
9 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop (morning tea break included)
12:30 pm–1:30 pm: Lunch
2 pm–3 pm: Afternoon sessions: The Poem Sequence & How Do We Tell Our Stories 
3 pm: Closing

Morning Workshops

The Retreat is centred around core morning workshops which offer writers the space to delve into a specific topic or genre with one of six established writers. The seven hours of workshop are spread over two mornings and include an afternoon check-in, allowing participants to engage, reflect and delve into the writing. There are no minimum requirements for attendance. Workshops will have a maximum of twelve participants. Select your workshop when you register.

Interested in coming along but not sure which workshop would best fit with you? Email Kirsten at for more information, suggestions, or to have questions answered.

Teaching Writers

Airini Beautrais (sold out)

Telling Stories Through Poetry

We’re used to thinking of a poem as a short lyric utterance, favouring perception over action. But how might a poet utilise the ancient arts of the storyteller? In this workshop we’ll look at examples of short narrative poems, lyric/narrative interplay, and excerpts from longer sequences. We’ll consider what makes a poem narrative, including elements such as plot and character. We’ll brainstorm ideas for story poems and begin work on some drafts, with opportunity to combine this with exercises that provide scaffolding. We’ll share our drafts with each other and provide feedback for development and revision.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui. She is the author of four collections of poetry, all published by Victoria University Press, most recently Flow: Whanganui River Poems (2017). She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Airini’s thesis looked at narrative in contemporary long poems and poem sequences.

AnaheraAnahera Gildea (sold out)

Alternate Structures – Working with a Trauma Narrative

Trauma is a tear in the fabric of your life.’ – Cathy Caruth

The act of storytelling for trauma is an act of survival. It is not a game, or an argument, or an intellectual endeavour. What if your story doesn’t ‘fit’ the usual parameters of structure, character, time?

In this workshop we will explore the ways in which the technical aspects of a story can determine or reinforce the content of the story itself. We will use story starters to generate a narrative, or you can bring an existing piece that you want to work on.

We will discuss the familiar arc of Freytag’s Pyramid with its inciting incident, climactic moment and inevitable denouement, and how this structure does not necessarily work for trauma narratives. In life there aren’t really inciting incidents and trauma is not often conveniently segmented into meaningful unfolding stories. We will be interrogating story architecture and asking the central question, how do you chart a story about characters that avoid, evade, and escape aspects of their lives that are too troubling to consider?

Through a variety of techniques we will rework and reshape your piece in order to find the form that most effectively captures the sentiment of a traumatised character – that ‘once something bad happens, it happens every minute of your life and it can’t be undone.’ (Adam Johnson)

Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-tonga, Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Āti Awa, Kāi Tahu) has worked as a drama teacher, an art teacher, a visual artist, a performing artist, a florist, a stilt walker, and a journalist.  She has had her poems and short stories published in multiple journals and anthologies, and has won both the Takahe Short Story Competition and the Huia Best Novel Extract in English.  She welcomes working with difficult questions and tries to move through her life at the ‘speed of creativity’. Her first book ‘Poroporoākī: Weaving the Via Dolorosa’ was published by Seraph Press in 2016. She holds a BA in Art Theory, Graduate Diplomas in Psychology, Teaching and Performing Arts, and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Victoria University. 

Pip Adam

Weather the Weather

Now more than ever it is hard to just ‘be’ in weather. ‘Is it warmer?’ ‘Is the wind stronger?’ ‘Did it rain this much last year?’ We’re in a moment where the act of being warm or cold, blown about, or rained on, is intensely inciting and politically-charged.

Weather in fiction and poetry is often relegated to background or put to use symbolically. How can our experience of the elements be a spring-board for new writing, rather than an after-thought or metaphor?

In this workshop we’ll write new work based on the weather of the day. We’ll explore what happens when we take the weather as it is and create work generated from a close study of the elements, their effect on our senses and the environment around us.

We’ll discuss approaches to writing weather by looking at the work of Jack London, J.G. Ballard and others. We’ll workshop our first, raw drafts. This workshop is open to people who write in all forms, and you are welcome to work in a form you don’t normally work in.

Pip Adam has published a collection of short stories, Everything We Hoped For (VUP, 2010) and two novels, I’m Working on a Building (VUP, 2013) and The New Animals (VUP, 2017). Her work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas. In 2012 Pip received an Arts Foundation of New Zealand New Generation Award and her first book Everything We Hoped For won the NZ Post Best First Book award in 2011. Pip facilitates writing workshops in universities and other settings including with people affected by crime in prisons and communities. Pip makes the Better off Read podcast where she talks with authors about writing and reading.

Photo credit: Victoria Birkinshaw

Rajorshi ChakrabortiRajorshi Chakraborti

The Complexities of Caring 

How do we write about those we love? This workshop explores the complexities and dilemmas involved in turning personal or family history into rich and truthful narrative. We will discuss the options, and risks, that confront a writer as they decide how best to turn intimate material, testimony offered in trust, and above all cherished family and friends, into complex, deeply-probed characters, in both fiction and non-fiction.

As an in-class exercise, we will write about one such person from our lives, and discuss the challenges that come up, on the page as well as in the world and the heart.

Rajorshi Chakraborti is an Indian-born author who lives with his family in Wellington. Before moving to New Zealand, he taught Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. He currently teaches creative writing at Rimutaka Prison as part of the Write Where You Are collective. Raj has published four novels and a collection of short fiction so far, as well as stories, reviews and articles. Two of his books were nominated in different categories of the Crossword Book Award in India. You can find out more about his work at Raj’s new novel, The Man Who Would Not See, which draws on his own family history, is due out in New Zealand and Australia with Penguin Random House in March 2018.

Queenie Rikihana-Hyland

Te Whenua: Writing from/to the Land

Do you know a place with a story that needs to be told? A little known place or a famous place with a hidden past? In this workshop we will writing our own stories that speak to the history and peoples of these places. Bring any writing – whether fiction or non-fiction – you have done so far on the topic and we’ll work together to further develop and refine your stories.

Queenie Rikihana-Hyland is of Ngāti Toa/Raukawa/Te Ati Awa descent. She is a trained journalist and has written extensively about Te Ao Māori. Her book Illustrated Māori Myths and Legends (2003) has been adapted into many different forms including a series for children. Her more recent works include Manawa Hine: Women Who Swam Against the Tide, which tells the stories of four Māori heroines who swam between Kāpiti Island and the mainland. Rikihana-Hyland is working on her latest book Te Whenua: The Land (to be published in 2018), which captures the very personal 20-year fight to preserve land for her own whānau. Rikihana-Hyland is very active in the Kāpiti community, has worked for the Listener, been on radio and taught journalism at Whitireia.

Victor RodgerVictor Rodger (sold out)

How to Speak Your Truth Without Being a Slave to It and the Power of What If

Sometimes it is necessary to leave the absolute truth behind in order to follow the story. Sometimes we need to let go of the reality of our experiences, to let go of what ‘happened’ and allow the story to take the lead. This workshop is geared towards writers who are working on something autobiographical and who wish to learn some tools to help slide off of the absolute truth and into the world of fiction. In this workshop participants will be able to discuss the story they want to tell in order to find the story that they should tell.

Victor Rodger is an award-winning writer of Samoan and Scottish descent whose plays include Black Faggot, My Name is Gary Cooper and Sons. A former script writer for Shortland Street, he also wrote This is Piki alongside Briar Grace-Smith. His first short story, Like Shinderella was included in Black Marks on the White Page, an anthology of Maori and Pasifika writing, edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makeriti.His essay A Voyage Round My Father was also recently published in The Best of E-Tangata. He has held various writing residencies such as the Fulbright Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in Residence at the University of Hawaii and was the first Samoan to be named the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago.. He is currently the Writer in Residence at Victoria University.

Retreat Director

Kirsten Le Harivel

I established the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat to meet a need I saw for writers like myself to get together to talk writing and do writing away from the grind of day-to-day life.

This comment from participant Janis Freegard who participated in the inaugural Retreat in 2016 sums up the experience I hoped people would walk away with:

‘My Kahini Writers Retreat experience was a perfect blend of structured workshops, walks by the river, talking with other writers and having the time and space to write…. There were some lively group discussions and I came away with a couple of first drafts to work on further. The retreat was a great opportunity to connect with other writers and produce new work. Oh, and the food was great!’ (You can read more about last year’s event here.)

Alongside the Retreat I run all Kahini programmes in New Zealand, write poetry and short fiction which has been published in various New Zealand and international journals, contract in the NGO sector and take care of my one year old. I have an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters and have worked as a programme, comms and stakeholder manager in the youth and community sector for over ten years, particularly with young people and former refugees.

Any surplus funds from the Retreat will be put towards establishing creative writing programmes for young people from refugee backgrounds.

Afternoon Sessions

Each afternoon we host discussions on topics pertinent to writing and our writing lives. These sessions are chaired by an experienced writer and provide the opportunity for you to ask questions, discuss ideas, and engage in contemporary writing issues.

Moving at the Speed of Creativity with Anahera Gildea, Saturday, 24 February, 2-3 pm

Sometimes a gruelling work ethic can dehumanise us and derail our creative process. How do we locate our own unique sense of play and discovery, all the while striving to come up with stories, poems, paintings and products? Māori culture is inherently process oriented so what insight can we take from matauranga Māori? What is the long dark night of Te Pō? And how can it help us find new ideas or fresh approaches to existing work? Join Anahera Gildea to explore our stumbling blocks and find new ways through them.

The Sum and its Parts with Rajorshi Chakraborti, Saturday, 24 February, 2-3 pm

What are the qualities that keep us reading, especially, but not only – in the case of literary fiction? Why do different readers give up on books that are doing many visible things well? What relationships might exist between quantifiable aspects of skill – at the level of individual sentences and observed details, for example – and the other qualities that make an extended piece of prose feel alive, gripping, and vital?

Join Rajorshi Chakraborti to discuss how such an awareness – of our various, simultaneous priorities as writers – could feed into our own practice, as we attempt to strike a balance between expressing ourselves with as much integrity as possible, while also hoping to reach and connect with unseen, unknown others.

Audio Storytelling with Pip Adam, Saturday, 24 February, 3-4 pm

Radio has been called the most intimate of broadcast media and with the spread of smart phones audio story-telling is experiencing a resurgence. Smart phones make it possible to subscribe and listen to audio-storytelling but also contain simple and powerful sound-recorders and editing apps which mean audio story-telling is democratised in a way that makes it possible for many of us to adapt our writing into podcasts. We’ll look at how the technology of audio-storytelling effects the relationship between ‘author’ and ‘listener’. We’ll explore some innovative audio storytelling being created and broadcast around the world, and discuss how we might write and produce our own podcasts.

Join Pip Adam to talk about what it means to tell stories in this medium and her experiences setting up and running Better off Read, her popular podcast about writing and reading.

The Litmus Test with Victor Rodger, Saturday 24 February, 3-4 pm

Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) gave a controversial speech at the 2016 Brisbane Writers Festival where she “hoped the concept of cultural appropriation was a passing fad.” Victor Rodger believes there is a simple litmus test when it comes to writers who are writing about races or cultures that are not their own: would they be prepared to read out what they’ve written in front of a room full of the people they have written about?

Join Victor Rodger as he discusses works that he thinks would fail the litmus test and invites participants to discuss different ways to approach writing about race and cultures outside of your own.

The Poem Sequence with Airini Beautrais, Sunday, 25 February, 2-3 pm

New Zealand has many great examples of poem sequences from writers such as James K Baxter, Jenny Bornholdt, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Robert Sullivan and Anna Jackson. In this afternoon session with Airini Beautrais we’ll discuss what makes a poem sequence ‘work’ and different ways to approach writing one.

How Do We Tell Our Stories? with Queenie Rikihana-Hyland, Sunday 25 February, 2-3pm

As writers we sometimes struggle to convey the intensity and emotion of our work when we are asked to read it aloud. In this afternoon discussion with Queenie Rikihana-Hyland we’ll practice telling our stories. Bring a page of a piece of work you have written and would love to share aloud.

Note: all sessions are open to all.

Accommodation and Logistics

The Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat will be held at El Rancho: a large conference and retreat centre situated near the Waikanae river. All workshops, discussions and meals will be provided onsite. When you register, you can let us know any dietary requirements you have.

Onsite accommodation is available in units with between four to ten rooms. Each unit has a bathroom, lounge and kitchenette where you can make tea and coffee. Beds come with linen and blankets. Sole occupancy or shared rooms (maximum three occupants) are available. If you would like to book out an entire unit for a group (minimum 4 people) please contact

Campsites are also available. Alternatively, there are many baches and bed and breakfasts in the area.

Getting There
El Rancho is situated at 58 Weggery Drive, Waikanae, Kāpiti Coast. You can drive or take public transport to the area. If you are coming from Wellington, you may want to catch the train, as the traffic heading out of town on a Friday can be quite heavy. We will have a shuttle that can take you to and from the station. See below for more details.

Coming by public transport
If you wish to come by public transport, from the south it is easiest to catch the Tranz Metro train service heading to Waikanae. From the north you would need to travel by bus. The Intercity travels through Waikanae.

We will provide transport to take participants, who book beforehand, from the Waikanae train station to the venue, departing at 5:15 pm on Friday and returning to Waikanae Station at the close of the event on Sunday. (If you are travelling on the train from Wellington you may wish to purchase a 3-day Weekend Rover Ticket as it is cheaper than two single tickets.)

Coming by car or bike
If you are driving or cycling follow the expressway to Waikanae Beach, then follow the signs to El Rancho. Drive through the complex and turn right just before the office into Elm Lodge, where we are staying.

If you have any questions regarding getting to the venue, or you wish to offer seats in your car to others in your area, please get in touch (

What to Bring
Please bring all the materials you need to write. If you are staying onsite your accommodation includes bed linen. You will need to bring a towel and your own toiletries. If you want to join in the morning yoga bring a mat and a light blanket or shawl.


Early Bird Rate available now until 31 December 2017. Book now! 

Retreat (workshop, discussions and meals*) $300 or ($330 post 31 Dec 2017)
Accommodation (two nights + two breakfasts), in a private room with shared facilities. $140
OR Accommodation (two nights + two breakfasts) in a shared room with shared facilities $80

*Meals include morning and afternoon tea, lunch and dinner on both days.

Any surplus funds generated go towards setting up creative-writing programmes for young people from refugee backgrounds.

Registration for all options is available securely online here. Want to pay in installments? Contact

Scholarship and Volunteer Opportunities
If you would like to assist in organising the event we are looking for several volunteers.

We’re aware that cost may be a barrier for some people. We are offering limited discounted and free tuition places for writers who would like to attend but for whatever reason are unable to afford the full fee. These options are not available through the online system.

Please contact Kirsten ( to find out more.