A couple of hours from Athens’ port of Piraeus, you’ll find Hydra's magnetic beauty floating serenely between the Saronic and Argolic gulfs. Its glittering bay offers a view of the serene, intensely lit landscape of an Aegean island.
"the stuff of fairy tales …” said Jacquie Kennedy.
The small island, where scores of artists, over decades, have been enchanted and stayed to create a magnificent trove of novels, poetry, memoirs, paintings, songs… all with hearts open to ‘getting’ the deep and rich vein of art that this island holds.
The particular quality of light and stillness is what Leonard Cohen found in his house high on a hill. He arrived after the Australian literary trailblazer couple George Johnston and Charmian Clift who, in turn, were perhaps inspired by the great Nikos Gikas's beautiful paintings of his ancestral island.
In the 1930s, modernists Marc Chagall and Picasso and Nobel Prize-winning writer, George Seferis lived on Hydra, Lawrence Durrell flocked there, and Henry Miller wrote the 1939 travelogue, The Colossus of Maroussi' described the "simple pleasures on an aesthetically perfect island".
Alan Ginsberg, Peter Finch, Sidney Nolan and many more gravitated to this place of inspiration, peace and… kerosene lamps. In fact, in Cohen's 'Bird on a Wire' he celebrated the day electrical wires first appeared.
Our Writing by the Sea retreat carries on the fine tradition of creativity pouring from this place as we open our pages and begin our own stories.
Hydra lacks the frenzied chaos of some of the other Greek islands. Vertiginous, shaded steps still rise to the heavens and the peace is still palpable. It may be because vehicles are forbidden in the main town and traffic is from donkeys or people on foot. It may be swimming holes located amid rocky outposts and pebble-strewn bays. It has, and still does attract artists, poets and novelists.
When we read and learn to discern, notice, appreciate what other skilled, imaginative writers have created, something wonderful can begin. Perhaps it’s ‘just’ the relaxation that arises, knowing we have time, guidance and company of other writers to develop our own stories. Craft a beautiful image or sentence or character… write cracking dialogue!
Give ourselves goosebumps with a line!
Anna lived here for two years and will be our guide to Hydra, nearby Ermioni and this enchanted corner of the beautiful Saronic Gulf. With any luck she'll be able to tempt Don from his hideaway - Don is just one of the many characters who have made this incredible island their home, the man who possibly offered Anna the useful advice: "just look on the ground ... you can usually find most things you need there"; indeed, the same man who has penned some 200 books since he first arrived 50-odd years ago ....
Anna met Shelley at the Jaipur Literary Festival about ten years ago. they finally managed to get it together to hold a creative Living Retreat in Bali 2023, and now Hydra heralds a whole new vista for Writing by the Sea.
What’s the program
We’ll be carrying on the fine tradition of writing on Hydra. Each day, we’ll look at the craft underlying the writing in a range of pieces (in different genres). We’ll use these insights and tips and ‘Ahas’ for our own writing.
Consider the thrill of really ‘getting’ how a beautiful piece of writing works and how we can use/adopt/reshape those techniques in our own writing. The more we investigate ‘what’ we read and ‘how’ we read, the more comfortable we’ll feel to create.
With Shelley’s guidance, you’ll find the same evocative writing in your own hands. On your pages you’ll place new images, sentences; compelling characters can arrive… and there, a the thrill of a line you’ve made and love.
The wealth in a beautiful story lies in fine sentences, beguiling images, compelling placement (should I go on?) We’ll gather those every day’. Each day’s writing sessions will begin with considering a literary gem (covering different genres) already been penned on the island. Then… we’ll open our pages and start to make stories.
Come; let your imaginings of how to make stories, write and dream allow your creation onto the page.
“Coming here is a blessing if you can stay and work.
You really benefit from slowing down here”
Lawrence Durrell, author, writing on Hydra
What's included in the program?
This unique retreat includes:
33-hours of daytime workshop time with Shelley
occasional evening reading salons
Flying Dolphin hydroflight boat ticket Piraeus to Hydra
Your choice of accommodation for 8 nights -
Breakfast for 8 days
Welcome dinner on Hydra
a boat trip to Ermioni to work by the sea and swim
Visits to historic villas on Hydra
Lunch at Mandraki Bay
Farewell dinner on Hydra
Full Day Tour with boat and coach and all entrances, to the UNESCO sites of:
Epidauros and Mycenae
Farewell dinner on Hydra
You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them, and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. that is your role. Your gift.
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
Creative Living Retreats by Anna Kwiecinska
With a background as an art historian and art gallery owner, my collaboration with artists continues to be a fascinating career which evolved into specialist art retreats designed to combine seriously good art tuition with authentic cultural experiences.
The practice of yoga has underpinned Creative Living Retreats, as a source of focus for creative inspiration — so whether you join us as a novice or a yogi, each day presents a new yoga journey with our intuitive teachers to Live Creatively.
As an avid attendee of creative writing retreats, this collaboration with Shelley Kenigsberg is an especially exciting one!
Over a decade, many retreatants have returned for our thoughtfully curated weeks of supported creativity, and I genuinely look forward to welcoming you to experience the depth of wellbeing for which Creative Living Retreats have become known. More info
Ok, so here's what you lucky people going on this writing retreat need to know:
Shelley is great! She "grows" you as a writer. By showing. She makes your work
shine, she encourages you to break through your reserves, she helps you to be
the writer you hoped you would be,
I quite simply, cannot speak highly enough of Shelley.
Cathy Pete, Australia, 2023
Who will this retreat suit?
people who write or know they want to write.
writers seeking inspiration, possibilities and constructive advice
writers ready to find their project.
people who know they want to write and have inklings of a story.
readers who just know they want to write.
and anyone who is fascinated by 20th century literature, its stylistic development
and finally - those of you who would love to discover Hydra's allure through its literature and the lives of those of wrote here.
Retreat dates & extra nights
STARTS on ARRIVAL DAY (DAY 1) You will be met at PIRAEUS PORT (Port of Athens). We will all travel to Hydra together.
The Retreat STARTS with the fast hydroflight boat to Hydra. This evening we dine together - our 'Welcome Dinner'
ENDS after breakfast on DEPARTURE DAY (DAY 9). There is no program today and checkout time is 12 from your hotel
What's not included
airfare and travel before you reach the port of Piraeus
6 lunches and 6 dinners
return Flying Dolphin Ticket
Costs and accommodation
You have your very own room on this retreat, in a choice of beautiful hotels hand-picked by Anna - check them out HERE
extra nights may be available - enquire with Anna - please mention this on your booking form.
If you have a dream of writing a novel , a memoir, a poem ... take the time to gift yourself this retreat. You'll leave with new friends, sharpened tools, bright eyes, open heart, a notepad of writing and most importantly, you'll remember the pure joy of why you turn up to the page in the first place.
Amy Davoren, novelist, Sydney, Australia
In the three weeks since the retreat I've been writing — on average 1000 words a day — Writing in Paradise
gave me the confidence to get writing.
Quade Herman, non-fiction writer, Geneva, Switzerland
For anyone looking to be inspired again, to feel invigorated about their project, even if they don't have a project, if they want to find some sort of direction and be nurtured and encouraged in the process, as well as learn how to write well, this is perfect for you.
Sandy Fairthorne, playwright, Adelaide, Australia