“It was like a holiday!” Impressions from the November retreat


“I came here thinking I was going to write… which I did, but it was also a social and cultural experience!”


At the end of a chilly November in Helsinki, eight writers came together to prioritise their writing. Travelling from Jyväskylä, the UK and the local area, retreat attendees varied broadly in age, background, nationality, education and career.

One thing shared across the group was desire to write!

The writing projects that each participant worked on during the retreat were also highly varied:

  • book reports

  • blog posts

  • article for a professional journal

  • second-language emails

  • PhD thesis

  • op-ed article

  • travel memoir

  • children’s book

  • creative short stories

  • performance poetry

  • translation of a Christmas carol

  • scientific paper

  • experimental novel

  • job position descriptions

  • event review article

More writing projects than participants…! When we surprised ourselves and met our writing goals early, we had time to switch to other tasks. Some of these had been sitting at the end of a To Do list for quite some time!


For an evening and two full days, we met in the cellar of the old prison, Hotel Katajanokka, to write, talk, eat and do yoga together. The closeness that comes with working in a shared space with shared (yet individual) goals fostered a sense of community, and our very diverse backgrounds sparked new ideas between us.


Those in the group who were used to working from home offices appreciated the difference of a shared working space; those who typically worked around others relished the chance to step into a quiet and focused zone.


An unexpected result

During the retreat, one participant decided to pivot from a travel memoir to a travel podcast. Discussions with the group about her specific writing obstacles led to a suggestion to deliver the same content in a more conversational, spoken format. This resonated immediately! The attendee was able to use the rest of the retreat time to capture the key details of stories that she would share later. A creative breakthrough!