Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty & Change

A Weeklong Retreat with Laura Davis & Evelyn Hall in Watsonville, CA

August 1-7, 2023

If you're grieving a loss or moving through a period of uncertainty and change in your life, this weeklong writing retreat, in a serene setting of incomparable beauty, will help you harness the power of story as a healing, transformative force.

Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California

Is This Retreat For Me?

Writing in community - and being deeply witnessed - is a gentle yet powerful tool for change.

This retreat will provide you with a transformative week of writing, in the embrace of nature, within the safe harbor of a supportive community.

During our seven days together, you will be guided on a creative, healing journey designed to help you find your bearings while grappling with the messy, uncomfortable, inevitable life challenges we all face as human beings.

Are you:

  • Coping with the death of a family member, friend or someone close to you?
  • Grieving a significant loss of any kind?
  • Facing a major transition in your life?
  • Feeling ripe with uncertainty?
  • Dealing with significant change in a major relationship? Or the loss of a major relationship?
  • Experiencing changes or shifts in your relationship with a child? A grandchild? A parent?
  • Experiencing serious illness? Or have you been the caregiver of someone who is ill or incapacitated?
  • Dealing with losses due to aging or disability? Facing your mortality in a new way?
  • Starting a new job or career? Moving into retirement?
  • Letting go of an identity that defined you to yourself and to the world?
  • Dealing with financial uncertainty, changes or setbacks?
  • Facing fallout from a betrayal?
  • Questioning your faith or core beliefs?
  • Feeling like your current life doesn't fit but uncertain about what is ahead?
  • Reeling from a loss of security or safety in life? In the world?
  • Would you like to find more presence and joy in your life?

If you answered "yes" to ONE OR MORE of these questions, this restorative retreat is for you.

Our week together will provide you with a healing oasis in the midst of uncertainty, loss and change. You will walk away with new friends, increased self-love, and tools for self-healing-a creative pathway toward connection, acceptance, and resolution.

About the Writing at this Retreat

You do not have to be a seasoned writer to attend this retreat. Our writing community will include a mix of beginners and experienced writers and everything in between. Some people attending this workshop will have been doing writing practice for years; others will be brand new to the practice. I will give instruction for newcomers at our first session.

While writing is definitely therapeutic, we will not be doing therapy at this retreat. Our focus will be on writing practice and the healing power of writing, but we will not be directly processing the deep issues that can arise when we write.

The instruction at this retreat will focus on process rather than technique, editing or producing a final product.

An open heart and the willingness to write is all that is required.

Journaling at Mount Madonna
Journaling at Mount Madonna

Daily Rhythm

Our retreat will include ample time for communion, connection, solitude, rest, and rejuvenation.

During the course of our days, there will be meetings with the community as a whole, time to write in small groups, and if you so desire, on your own.

We will meet together as a whole group each morning. After a delicious organic lunch, your afternoons will be open. Many of you will choose to write during this time, harnessing the inspiration and seeds you harvested in the morning.

You can also use this free time to hike, soak in a hot tub, or get a massage. You can also nap, exercise or share your writing with a new friend. You will also be part of a smaller pod of writers who will write together for an hour every day.

After a fantastic, delicious, organic dinner, we will reconvene as a whole group in the evening.

This extraordinary, life-changing retreat will last for seven days and six nights.

View of Mount Madonna from Hiking Trail
View of Mount Madonna from Hiking Trail
Dining Room
Dining Room

Teachers and Guides

Laura Davis

Writing Workshop Instructor:

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death. You can read the first five chapters for free here.

She is a cancer survivor, the mother of three, the grandmother of three, and has buried both her parents. In other words, she is a well-seasoned human being.

Evelyn Hall

Guest Lecturer Evelyn Hall:

Evelyn brings more than 30 years experience to her work with individuals, couples, and groups. With her unique blend of counseling, hypnosis, healing touch, movement meditation, aromatherapy and flower essences, she has helped thousands of people find healing in body, mind and soul. She is a master hypnotherapist and also has certifications in clinical, medical and behavioral hypnosis, NLP, and is an essential oils and flower essence practitioner.

Location: Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California

The summer retreat will be held at the incomparable Mount Madonna in Watsonville, California.

Mount Madonna Center is on 380 acres of redwood groves, hiking trails, and meadows that are infused with a sense of peace, spaciousness, and heartfelt service. This setting also includes a Vedic temple offering ceremonies of light each morning and evening.

The community staff and the serene landscape provide a nourishing backdrop to support and inspire as you delve into your retreat.

The meals are fresh, homemade, and deeply satisfying. Accommodations are peaceful and quiet, conducive to creativity and deep rest.

To learn more about Mount Madonna, please visit their FAQs page here.

Arrival and Departure: We will convene at 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, August 1st for dinner. You can arrive to register as early as 3:00 PM. We will end after lunch on Monday, August 7th.

You will need to arrange your travel so you can be at the retreat for the entire time. (If you are flying into SFO, that means your plane should arrive no later than 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and leave no earlier than 5:00 on Monday afternoon.)

Size of the Group: There will be a maximum of 24 writers at the retreat. We will meet as a large group each day for a teaching session and in small writing groups, so there will be ample time for intimate sharing of your life and your words.

Mount Madonna Double Room
Mount Madonna Double Room


Guest accommodations at Mount Madonna are rustic, and peaceful, and range from private rooms to shared dorms. All cabins and rooms have a private toilet and sink except as noted. Bathing facilities are in the bathhouse.

Note: Cabins are rustic, further away from our meeting and dining hall and you need to walk to the bathhouse to use the bathroom facilities.

Click here for Mount Madonna's room rates and policies for our retreat.

Wellness Massage at the Wellness Center
Wellness Massage at the Wellness Center

Wellness Center: 

Mount Madonna has a Wellness Center where you can book a variety of Ayurvedic therapies, traditional massage, and other body therapies, provided by professionally trained practitioners in a nourishing oasis of peace. Massage, energy healing, reiki, cranial sacral, and other healing treatments can be booked in the hours between our sessions.

There is also a clothing-optional hot tub which we will be sharing with all the retreat guests on the property (there will be another retreat going on at the same time as ours).


What's included:

  • All instruction for a life-changing retreat.
  • The services of your capable, compassionate leaders.
  • An amazing community that will lead to deep connections and new friends.
  • A copy of Laura's memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.
  • A supportive, relaxed, and nurturing environment.

What's not included:

  • Transportation to and from Mount Madonna.
  • Room and board. These will be a part of the rooming package that you purchase directly from Mount Madonna.
  • Tips for the kitchen and the cleaning staff.
  • Massage or bodywork sessions.
Tree at Mount Madonna
Tree at Mount Madonna

Sign Up Now to Secure Your Place!

This retreat can be a powerful, transformational experience for most people, but it is not suitable for everyone. As part of the registration process, you'll be filling out a form that will help us determine whether this retreat is the right fit for you at this time. Once we receive your registration, we will get back to you within a week.

Tuition: $2,700 for the retreat, plus the cost of housing.

Tuition Payment Schedule: A $500 nonrefundable deposit* is due with your registration. Half of your remaining balance for tuition will be due on April 1, 2023—$500 of this payment is non-refundable—and the remaining balance will be due on May 26th. There will be no refunds after July 1, 2023.

Cancellations and Refunds: The initial $500 nonrefundable deposit* will be forfeited in all cases. After April 1, another $500 will become nonrefundable. After July 1, 2023, there will be no refunds. Exceptions to this cancellation policy cannot be made for any reason, including personal emergencies. Travel protection insurance will provide your only option for recouping your tuition investment.

Mount Madonna has their own cancellation and refund policies. After you have been accepted into this retreat, please read Mount Madonna's cancellation statement on their housing registration form carefully so that you understand their policy.

*The $500 deposit will only be refunded if we determine that this retreat is not right for you. It is non-refundable in all other cases.

Mount Madonna
Mount Madonna

Mount Madonna: You will be arranging and paying for your housing directly with Mount Madonna. They have their own payment schedule and cancellation policies, separate from those laid out above. To review their pricing and policies, please click here. DO NOT BOOK YOUR HOUSING UNTIL WE CONFIRM YOUR SPOT IN THIS RETREAT.

Schedule a Free initial 15-minute phone consultation.