Upcoming in January: The 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.

Dates: 22–24 January 2016
Location: El Rancho, Kāpiti Coast, New Zealand
Registration:  Register securely online or contact kirsten@kahini.org with any and all 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 morning workshops, afternoon panels, discussions and space and time to write, relax and engage with topics critical to your work.

Seven established New Zealand and international writers – Pip Adam, Gary Copeland Lilley, James George, Helen Lehndorf, Renée, Sam Orchard, and Anna Taylor – will host the retreat. Each writer will teach morning workshops: three in fiction, two in poetry, one in memoir writing, and one in the graphic novel. (Read descriptions of the workshops and teachers below.)

In the afternoons the same teachers will lead panels and discussions on topics pertinent to craft and literature in Aotearoa. Guided free-writing sessions will be offered for those not attending the morning workshops and we welcome writers who wish to work on their own projects over the weekend.

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. Families, partners and children are welcome to accompany writers and join us for meals. El Rancho has a great range of facilities for children. Please contact Kirsten at kirsten@kahini.org for more information.

Register for the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat!

daily schedule

Friday, 22 January
5:30 pm: Welcome
7 pm: Barbecue

Saturday, 23 January
8 am: Breakfast
9:30 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop or freewriting session
12:30–1:30 pm: Lunch
2–4 pm: Afternoon sessions (open to all)
4–6 pm: Time to write, relax or continue conversations.
6 pm: Dinner
8–9 pm: Optional freewrite 

Sunday, 24 January
8 am: Breakfast
9:30 am–12:30 pm: Morning workshop or freewriting session
12:30–1:30 pm: Lunch
2–4 pm: Afternoon sessions (open to all)
4 pm: Closing

morning workshops

Morning workshops offer writers the space to delve into a specific topic or genre with one of seven established writers. Six hours of workshop are spread over two mornings, allowing participants to engage, reflect and practice learnings. 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 atkirsten@kahini.org for more information, suggestions, or to have questions answered.


taylorAnna Taylor

‘Talent is a long patience’: Revising short prose

‘Talent is a long patience,’ Chekhov said, deftly describing the concentrated process of reworking and reworking a piece of writing until it shines. In this workshop we’ll explore how to move forward once the first rush of inspiration has put words to paper. How do you unearth the heart of a story? What does ‘re-envisioning’ a piece actually entail? The workshop will be focusing on short fiction and short-form creative non-fiction, but all prose writers are welcome. During our sessions together we’ll workshop your existing drafts (you’ll email these out to the group beforehand), compare early drafts and final versions of published works, and try applying revision techniques that you can then integrate into your own writing practice.

Anna Taylor’s collection of short stories, Relief, won the Adam Prize in Creative Writing and Best First Book of Fiction at the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards. She’s been the recipient of a Louis Johnson Bursary and was a Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow in 2012. Her short fiction has been published in Sport, Hue & Cry, Turbine and translated into German. She teaches creative writing in the classroom and online for Whitireia New Zealand

gary-lilleyGary Copeland Lilley 

What Does It Mean to be a Poetic Witness?

In this workshop we will examine that question through looking at the aesthetic choices of a select group of poets whose works document the societal turbulence in the times in which they live. The poetic witnessing seeks universality. It is a poetic speaking out for the individual: the under-served, those commonly known as well as those who are mostly unseen. The politics reflect a personal choice of the poet, but it is in partnership with the poet’s artistic aesthetic. That merge, that intersection, is what I find most interesting in that it is a point of tension and heat that carries throughout the creative process in writing poetry of witness. The intention of this workshop is for the participants to generate new works.

American author Gary Copeland Lilley is the author of four collections of poetry: Black Poem, Alpha Zulu, The Reprehensibles, and The Subsequent Blues. Lilley has been poet-in-residence at WritersCorps, Young Chicago Authors, and The Poetry Center of Chicago, and received the DC Commission on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry.

helen lehndorfHelen Lehndorf

To Look at the Stars, Darkness is Necessary: New Nature Writing

We will look at new nature writing in poetry and prose and write some of our own. We’ll explore how the new field of eco-psychology affects creative responses to nature (ambivalence, cognitive-dissonance, earth-grief, yearning, etc.) What does it mean to write ‘nature’ and how do associated contemporary tropes around nature (language of threat, decline and degradation) change the way we view nature? The workshop will be a combination of weighty ideas and playful, experimental exercises. We’ll poke around at theory so we can leap off into imagery and meaning.

Helen Lehndorf is a writer from Taranaki who lives in the Manawatu. Her first book, The Comforter, made the Listener’s ‘Best 100 Books of 2012′ list. Her poem ‘Wabi-sabi’ was selected for Best New Zealand Poems in the same year. She writes poetry and non-fiction and has been published in Sport, Landfall, JAAM, North & South, Hue & Cry and many other publications. She works with the Palmerston North City Library on ‘Kupu’, an ongoing poetry project taking poetry off pages and into the community. She wrote a commissioned poem for Te Manawa’s 2014 project Black River in which poets and print-makers collaborated to create work around the theme of the Manawatu river. She recently collaborated with Nga Taonga Puoro musician, Rob Thorne on a poetry/sound performance, Tohu.

james georgeJames George

Perspectives on Focalization

Focalization is one of the foundational facets in creating narrative. It includes key issues that include point of view/perspective, apparent subjectivity/objectivity, and character voice, and also touches on focus/proportion (why and in whose mind does the reader see what they see) and the proportion of mimesis/diegesis in a text. Choosing the most suitable focalization strategies in long-form prose is one of the most important issues a writer faces, and getting clarity on focalization can make further development work more focused and fruitful. This workshop will go through the different strategies and options a writer can take, using examples from published work as models, then explore options in group discussion. Examples will be worked on in the session, then discussed in the group environment.

James George is a novelist and short story writer of Ngapuhi, English and Irish descent. He is author of three novels:Wooden Horses (Hazard Press, 2000), Hummingbird (Huia Publishers, 2003, a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2004 and for the 2005 Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize,) and Ocean Roads (Huia, 2006, shortlisted for the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, South East Asia/Pacific region, and the New Zealand Book Awards, 2007.) James has taught and mentored on both AUT and University of Auckland’s Master of Creative Writing programmes and taught at the University of Auckland’s Continuing Education programmes and at Unitec. James is in the final stages of his fourth novel Sleepwalkers’ Songs, to be published by Huia.

pipPip Adam

Strong and Flexible Shape: Testing the Structure of Your Novel

I was talking with the poet Lynn Jenner once about how, when my novel reaches a later stage, I begin to become incredibly protective of its structure. In my mind it has become a vulnerable house of cards – if I move this scene, or look at an event from another vantage point, it will collapse. Lynn said, there was another way of looking at it, that the work was actually robust and flexible and forgiving, that it could stand any shift I could push on it and had the ability to bounce back if I didn’t like its new shape. With this in mind, this workshop allows us to explore the structure of a novel which is in a later stage of development and in supportive environment test and play with this structure in bold ways. There will be very little writing in this workshop. Instead, we will be looking at several techniques we can use to identify and play with structure in book length works.

Pip Adam’s first collection of short stories, Everything We Hoped For won the New Zealand Post Best First Book Award in 2011. In 2013, her second book, the novel I’m Working on a Building, came out with Victoria University Press. Adam received her MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Victoria University in 2007, and a PhD in 2012. Her work has appeared in such magazines as Sport, Glottis, Turbine, Landfall, Lumière Reader, Hue & Cry, Metro and Blackmail Press. Adam teaches writing at Massey University, Victoria University, Whitireia Community Polytechnic, and Arohata Prison.


Your Life, Your Story

You may want to write stories from your life for your own pleasure, for friends and family or to publish your work. Whatever your motivation you will be faced with questions important to all writers of memoir: How do I get started? How do I make this story interesting? How do I handle writing about other people? How do I keep it up? How/when/where do I finish? And the biggest and possibly the most important one – How do I manage being the writer and also the hero of this work?

Renée is a writer and a teacher. She has written plays (including the Wednesday To Come trilogy), novels and non-fiction. She taught creative writing, both fiction and nonfiction at Whitireia New Zealand and teaches memoir-writing workshops all over the country.  Her book Your Life, Your Story, A Practical Guide, was launched in 2013.  She is the 2015 editor of the online journal, 4th Floor.

sam oSam Orchard

Telling Our Stories

This workshop examines the ways in which we tell the stories of ourselves and others to reflect the diversity of the worlds we inhabit. Whose story are you telling? How do we move beyond stereotypes to reflect the richness of our lives? How do we tell stories that reflect diversity? How do we tell diverse stories ethically? This workshop is about examining the role of diverse representations in writing and art, inquiring and questioning who’s stories we should (or, perhaps, shouldn’t) tell, how we tell them, why, and our obligations. This workshop is for people are interested in having conversations about diverse representations, telling stories from the edges, and examining marginalisation in storytelling. This workshop is a combination of conversations and writings. Please bring a project, idea, character, or setting in mind: this can be a new project, or one that you are reviewing. All writing styles and mediums, including comics, poetry and screenplays, are welcome.

Sam Orchard is a queer, transmasculine Pākehā man who draws comics about and for the queer community in Aotearoa. He posts regularly at Rooster Tails (http://www.roostertailscomic.com/).


In place of registering for the core morning workshops, writers are welcome to attend the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat in-residence, to work on their own writing projects or to join in the morning/evening freewriting sessions, facilitated by poet Jordan Hartt. The freewriting exercises will feature writing prompts designed to get your creativity and writing juices flowing!

afternoon sessions

Each afternoon we will host discussions on topics pertinent to craft and our writing lives. Open to all the sessions on both days will be led or sparked by the workshop teachers, and then picked up and responded to by audience members. We will be shaping these workshops closer to the time to enable us to draw on topical issues relevant to participants and the writing community in general.

Topics such as getting to the publishable place, approaches to writing the other, how is the other related to the self, approaches to landscape and politics in the world and on the page are possible themes. Incorporating aspects of open space technology, we will ask for suggestions for topics from participants when they register. Sessions will be announced as they are developed.

accommodation and logistics

The Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat will be held at El Rancho: a large camp 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.

Writers can register for morning workshops or free writing sessions. The seven workshops run over two mornings and whether to stay onsite.

We have booked several units which house between 4 to a maximum of 18 people/unit. These units have bathroom facilities, a kitchenette where you can make coffee and tea and a lounge.

The facilities are clean and simple and come with bed linen and blankets. If you would like to book out an entire unit (for a minimum of 4 people and where you would have private facilities) please contact Kirsten (kirsten@kahini.org) Alternatively, there are many baches and bed and breakfasts in the area.”

Families and children are welcome to accompany writers. El Rancho has a great range of facilities for children. Family members and children are welcome to join us for meals.

Getting There
El Rancho is situated at 25 Kauri Road, Waikanae, Kāpiti Coast. You can drive or take public transport to the area.

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 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.)

If you are driving or cycling the location is signposted. 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 (kirsten@kahini.org).

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.



Whole Retreat (one workshop spread over two mornings, afternoon discussions and meals*) $300
OR Residency-Only (free-writing sessions, afternoon discussions and meals*) $200
Plus accommodation: Accommodation (two nights + two breakfasts), in a private room with shared facilities $120
OR Accommodation (two nights + two breakfasts) in a shared room with shared facilities $70
Partners (accommodation and all meals for any partner who wants to attend but not participate in the retreat) $130
Children (accommodation and all meals for children aged 5-12 years. Under 5s are free) $80

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

Registration for all options is available securely online here. Want to pay on installments? Contactkirsten@kahini.org.

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 (kirsten@kahini.org) to find out more.

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