a life-changing writing retreat

Join Jess Lourey, bestselling author and award-winning writing professor, and Allison Quaid, writing coach, on this week-long, women’s writing retreat held in a luxurious villa just north of Paris. Whatever your writing experience, prepare for an alchemy of escapism, creativity, and renewal at this grand location!

This retreat gifts you the dedicated time, space, and instruction that your writing deserves. Because our retreats offer two facilitators with four decades of experience between them, we are uniquely able to meet you where you’re at and take your writing to the next level, whether you are a beginning writer or have several projects under your belt. Mornings are spent in writing workshops while afternoons are given over to exploration and play, with optional one-on-one writing guidance always an option.

The workshop takes place in a stunning, luxurious five-star villa with a private pool near the Morienval Abbey, located in the Oise region, an area an hour north of Paris (and accessible by train). This section of France is sprinkled with castles and farmers’ markets and drenched in history and spiritual power.

Workshop Overview

During our week together, we’ll begin each morning with a nourishing meditation and a delicious, healthy breakfast. After we are focused and oriented, we’ll set our individual writing goal for the day. Jess and Ali will provide proven writing guidance designed to help you release writing blocks, organize your time, and find your motivation, with a special focus on the craft of writing a book, whether a deeply personal memoir, a nourishing nonfiction project, or a captivating novel. You will also pinpoint the heart of your story’s message so you have a true-north compass for your writing journey.

Your afternoon is free to structure as you wish. Nap, write on your own on the private deck overlooking a forest and an 11th-century abbey, research, receive individual coaching, explore the abbey and its world-famous rose gardens, take an inspiring hike through the woods or a dip in the private pool, bike to the nearby town on charming country roads, or exchange plot ideas with other women. We’ll come together after dinner to share our writing.

You’ll be shown how to:

  • Find the emotional heart of the story you need to tell

  • Call on personal experience to craft compelling characters

  • Build a page-turning structure using the foolproof Plot Box method (a personal plot box is included with registration; it creates a clear path forward for fiction, nonfiction, and memoir writing)

  • Create cinematic atmosphere in your project

  • Apply the foolproof ARISE Method to edit your work

  • Overcome blocks and make friends with time

  • Rediscover the joy of writing

This retreat is for women who want to:

  • Work with master instructors who value laughter, creativity, and community

  • Reconnect and re-center

  • Begin or advance a written project

  • Explore the world with a fun-loving community of creatives

  • Bond with interesting, joyful women

  • Honor, celebrate, and strengthen their intuition

  • Enjoy fresh and delicious local cuisine

  • Dedicate time for creativity but also for play

  • Be cared for in a safe space

  • Laugh until their stomachs hurt!

All workshopping follows the Amherst Writing and Artists’ model, a gentle, proven method that recognizes and nurtures the writing genius we all possess whether we are new to the process or experienced creative writers. This is a great writing retreat for beginners as well as advanced writers, offering a nourishing mix of personalized instruction, relaxation, and community. Most of the writing instruction will take place in the villa, with one or two workshops moving to the Abbey or the outdoors. To keep the setting intimate, registration is open only to women and capped at 15 registrants. Participants are encouraged to fly into Paris; Google Flights is a great place to find low-cost flights, and we’re happy to answer travel questions.

Retreat Leaders

Retreat leaders Jessie and Allison

Ali Quaid (CEO Creative Eco-Catalysts, rock star change-agent, 20 years experienced workshop facilitator, Reiki healer, storyteller) is an experienced writer and teacher who will offer you the support and instruction you need.

Jess Lourey is a TEDx presenter, Psychology Today blogger, creative writing professor, winner of The Loft’s Excellence in Teaching Fellowship and the bestselling author of 17 books. She wants to help you to write your best story.

*Allison and Jess’ retreats have been named to The Write Life’s Incredible Writing Retreats of 2019!

“When I signed up for Jessica Lourey ’s fiction writing workshop, I was at a low point. I was stuck. I longed to write a novel, but I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t think I had any stories worth telling. Jess helped me realize that I have a lifetime of experiences just waiting to be tapped into, a lifetime of stories, characters, settings and plot twists. Anyone can teach the mechanics of writing, but not anyone can inspire like Jess.” — Tina M., Minneapolis

"Jess Lourey is a rare double talent. She is an outstanding writer. Just as remarkable is Jess’ ability to teach writing to others. She clearly communicates the essence of good writing — whether it is giving a novice writer broad guidance on how to structure a novel or write sentences that grab the reader’s attention, or working with experienced writers on the fine art of wordsmithing to improve elements of pace, suspense or character development." — Stephen T., Indiana

“Allison, I felt you taught me to trust my creative ‘self’ and instincts on a very deep level through your writing class prompts. I found it confidence boosting, heart-felt, creative, thought provoking and a real learning process shared in a public, but very safe place which was fun and created a great writers’ pool.” — Rachel M., Ireland

“I found Allison’s feedback so encouraging and uplifting and appreciated the tips to go deeper into the character, the history, the sensorial impressions, and the emotions. She intuitively knows those vulnerable moments and is open for them. I liked that.” — Sara H., Germany

Dates, Times & Locations

June 2 - 8, 2019

60 minutes outside of Paris, France


Private Room with private bathroom:
Shared double room (two single beds, one bathroom):
Shared triple room (three single beds, shared bathroom):

Price includes:

  • all workshops, co-led by bestselling author and Excellence in Teaching Fellow Jess Lourey and globetrotting writing and life coach Allison Quaid

  • a personal coaching session

  • 6 nights of accommodation (Sunday night to Saturday morning)

  • breakfast and lunch each day plus 4 dinners (there will be food to self-prepare on site for anyone who doesn’t want to travel the other two nights) and all beverages

  • Internet access

  • all materials, including a plot box, handbook, and talisman.

  • an optional day trip to Paris

  • the guidance and courage to write that book you were meant to write

Email allison at cecatalysts.com with questions.

Sample Schedule

Day One

  • 8:00    Meditation/Yoga

  • 8:30    Breakfast

  • 9:00-12 Setting your story compass to create a powerful fiction or memoir journey; developing a gentle but actionable plan to finish your book in a year

  • 12:00   Lunch

  • 1:00    Writing and relaxing on your own. You can also schedule a 1:1 session with Jess or Allison to get vision/voice feedback or genre-specific (romance, mystery, magical realism, fairy tales, etc.) instruction.

  • 5:00    Community support session: share your daily progress, get encouragement and feedback

  • 6:00   Relax on the private deck or poolside with a glass of wine, or take a walk along the enchanting country roads, nap, read, or explore the gorgeous rose gardens of the next door 11th century abbey

  • 7:00    Dinner

Beautiful relaxing swimming pool