To shake up your writing, you need to take a big leap out of your comfort zone. Chances are, your writing will follow.
The Himalayan Writing Retreat (THWR) is that big leap. You go into wild, crazy India, only to find us and Erika Krouse – an award winning faculty member from the Lighthouse writers workshop of Denver - waiting for you at the other end. This ten-day trip starts at the Taj Mahal, but you spend most of your time in the peaceful, inspiring Himalayas.
For a first-timer, India can be scary and exciting in equal measure. We keep the excitement high, but ensure the scary bits are contained. We meet you at the airport. We arrange for hotel stays. The travel to the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas is pre-booked, with all picks and drops pre-arranged. In the Himalayas, you stay at the retreat center of two published authors who designed their place for writers seeking inspiration.
The serenity of the rural Himalayas is a stark contrast to the touristy India of the first two days. In these mountains too, you continue to discover a sliver of India everyday, but at a relaxed, unhurried pace. Up here, you write in the halo of Himalayan peaks which dwarf Mt. McKinley. Erika Krouse, Chetan Mahajan & Vandita Dubey - all three published authors – mentor you as you channel India’s vibrancy into your writing. If you have big questions about India , click here to read our India travel FAQs.
Day 1, March 31, Sunday
Welcome! Arrive at Delhi Airport anytime after 12 noon on the 31st of March. A car and a friend will meet you at the airport and bring you straight to your hotel. Your stay is arranged at the Tree of Life, one of Delhi’s best B&Bs (Tripadvisor reviews at https://bit.ly/1Ofm5BI ). In addition to being a lovely, well-run hotel, the Tree of life is a close to three of Delhi’s largest malls - a great place to shop and spend time getting to know India’s crazy diversity in a safe environment. You can learn more at https://bit.ly/2hrseGU .
That evening we hang out at the hotel and you get to know your fellow participants.
No class on this day.
Note: Most flights land in Delhi at unearthly hours. If your flight gets in before noon on the 31st of march (say 1 AM on March 30th), we will still meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. We’ve also negotiated a great room rate at which you can stay for your extra night. Please confirm your travel itinerary to us at the earliest so that we can book accordingly.
Day 2, April 1, Monday
This love story inspired a wonder of the world.
We start the day with breakfast at 7.00 and then jump onto our private coach and drive to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. A four hour drive from our hotel will allow you to rest or sleep off some of your jet-lag. We try and get back in time for a short session on travel and writing soon after. The round trip will take up a full day. Lunch will be at one of the best hotels in Agra. We will have dinner and stay the night back in our Delhi hotel.
Topic of the Day: Observation and Specific Detail (no workshop)
The liminal state of travel (and even jet-lag!) is perfect for observation—you’re extra-sensitive, raw, and open to experiencing your new surroundings in a more passive and receptive way. Today, we’ll take advantage of any discombobulation to practice openness to specific sensory detail via close observation of the world around us.
Over breakfast, you’ll receive brief instruction on our observational tasks for the day, designed to enrich and expand upon your experience at the Taj Mahal. After we return, we will reconvene over dinner to discuss our observations and tools for using those specific details in our writing during the days to come.
Day 3, April 2, Thursday.
Off to the Mountains
We head out early and board the train from New Delhi Railway Station to head towards the Himalayas. We board the Kathgodam Shatabdi Express train and travel First Class to the town of Kathgodam (5 hours and 40 minutes). This is where the mountains start. We transfer to taxis for the last three hours of our travel. Halfway home, we stop for a late lunch at the iHeart café owned and run by a couple from Bozeman, Montana (really!) who specialize in awesome coffee. We arrive at The Himalayan Writing Retreat (THWR) in Satkhol Village – our home for the next seven days.
The Himalayan Writing Retreat is custom-built for Writers and others of our kind. This niche property has six double-occupancy guest rooms and a full staff to cater to all your needs with love and the highest standards of hygiene. The food is tasty and fresh and includes a lot of fresh local cuisine. We throw in just enough of familiar stuff to keep homesickness at bay.
We reach the Retreat around 4 PM, and we have a short session in the evening where we discuss our plan for the next few days.
Topic of the Day: People and Landscape in Motion (no workshop)
Everything is in its truest state when it’s moving and changing. Plants grow and wither, humans fight and embrace, animals hunt and are hunted, weather alters its course with the flap of a butterfly’s wings, and continents slowly drift together and apart. Even the eternal-seeming Himalayas are the result of the collision of tectonic plates and the sculpting of weather and erosion. Nothing on earth (or beyond) is still.
Today, we ourselves will be moving away from the beauty of chaos, and into the beauty of nature. We’ll continue our observation skills to write about our worlds in motion—the people, the changing landscape, and our own personal changes as we travel east, toward the apex of the world. You’ll have time on the train to write your optional assignment for the day. After we arrive and settle in, we’ll have a short evening session to discuss what we’ve discovered, and also to talk about our plans at the retreat.
Day 4, April 3, Friday
Morning: workshop sessions and craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
Evening: Open Mic Bonfire after sundown.
Topics of the Day: 1.) Morning Workshop, 2.) Craft Class: Characters in Community
This morning we’ll workshop the work of two writers, which will have been submitted, distributed, and read in advance of our trip. We will do two short in-class exercises inspired by their craft contributions. After that point, we’ll discuss a short reading, and begin our craft exploration into characters in community.
Consciousness means community—even the most reclusive among us need human interaction and relationships. How do we relate to each other in both sympathetic and antagonistic ways? How do we relate to groups of people, cultures, and social systems, as opposed to how we relate to individuals? How do those relationships and interactions promote narrative growth and change? We’ll study aspects of narrative relationships, and continue the learning during our (optional) visits to the local elementary school and social enterprise.
Day 5, April 4, Saturday
Late morning/lunch: Workshop and craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
Afternoon – open time at the Himalayan Writing Retreat, or explore the forest reserve.
Evening: Bollywood movie night. We’ll set up a faux-theater at the Himalayan Writing Retreat and watch a Bollywood movie with English subtitles. And Popcorn.
Topics of the Day: 1.) Optional Hike and Write, 2.) Late Morning Workshop, 2.) Craft Class: the Objective Correlative and Our Natural World
In the morning, you’ll have the option of absorbing our natural environment during a short hike to a temple on a hill. In the late morning, we’ll workshop the pieces of two writers, and do two short in-class exercises inspired by their craft contributions. And in the afternoon, we’ll discuss a short reading, and look at representing and exploring the natural world through our writing.
Since we are subjective beings, the way we experience our surroundings is through the lens of our emotions. An executioner and a four-year-old will experience the same sunset in very different ways. In this craft class, we’ll look at the natural world through the lens of personality, experience, and emotional content. What does nature bring to us, and what do we bring to it? How can we evoke our own emotions through nature and the world around us? After class, you are free to continue this exploration on your own in the forest reserve.
Day 6, April 5, Sunday
Morning: generative class on writing and reflection.
Late afternoon: optional walk through a local village.
Topics of the Day: Generation and Regeneration
This is our day to relax and rejuvenate. We will recharge our creativity and energy, create new, invigorating work, and take advantage of the freedom to explore our astonishing surroundings at our own individual pace. Our morning session will be a generative writing class where we begin to synthesize our experiences so far, with a short guided creative meditation and optional prompts. What have we learned, and what do we still need to learn? How are we experiencing this adventure, together and individually?
Day 7, April 6, Monday
Morning: workshop session and craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
Midday and afternoon: we head over to the hill-town of Mukteshwar, a one hour drive. We have lunch at the Chandi Maati, an excellent restaurant, visit the ancient temple of Mukteshwar (https://bit.ly/2ujZUbJ ).
Topics of the Day: 1.) Morning Workshop, 2.) Craft class: Spiritual/Mythological Narratives
In the morning, we’ll workshop the pieces of two writers, and do two short in-class exercises inspired by their craft contributions. After that point, we’ll discuss a short reading. And then we’ll look within.
You may know your characters’ bodies and minds, but what about their spirits? What do they believe, and what is the metaphysical world of your writing? What possibilities and assumptions are in place? What stories and myths guide you and them? Let’s explore the spiritual sides of our work, and then visit the Mukteshwar Dham Temple to explore more facets of spirituality as it intersects with narrative.
Day 8, April 7, Tuesday
Morning: in 1889, the British started the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI). The Institute has its own captive forest called the IVRI forest reserve – some 12 sq. miles of pristine forest. We head into the forest reserve and do our workshop sessions and craft class at a 110 year old Cattle Krall the British built there. The Himalayan Writing Retreat crew accompany us and cook us a hot lunch as we write.
Afternoon: free writing time at the Himalayan Writing Retreat, or explore on your own.
Topics of the Day: 1.) Morning Workshop, 2.) Writing the Body: Sensation, Food, and Other Great Stuff
In the morning, we’ll workshop the pieces of two writers at the Cattle Krall, and do two short in-class exercises inspired by their craft contributions. After that point, we’ll discuss a short reading, and then explore writing the body.
To embody our characters, they have to have...bodies! And for them to have bodies, they have to eat, rest, move, and do all the things a body does. Today, we’ll look at the physical humanity of our characters, starting with the lens of food. What and how do they eat and cook? What satiates them, physically and emotionally? A bonus: the Himalayan Writing Retreat crew will teach us how to cook a specialty meal.
Day 9, April 8, Wednesday
Morning: workshop session and craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
Afternoon: Optional long hike to visit the ancient Kapileshwar temple (said to be over 1000 years old).
Topics of the Day: 1.) Morning Workshop, 2.) Then and Now: Blending Past and Present in Narrative
In the morning, we’ll workshop the pieces of two writers, and do two short in-class exercises inspired by their craft contributions. After that point, we’ll discuss a short reading, and then explore (real and imagined) histories.
Every story or poem begins at a point in time for which there is a past, present, and usually a future. How does the past influence the present, and more interestingly, vice versa? What histories can you bring to your work that will deepen and enrich the worlds you create for your characters? After we explore histories, you can put your ideas in motion (literally) during a long hike to a 1000-year-old temple.
Day 10, April 9, Thursday
Morning: We pack up and head back to Delhi via taxi and train. Our stay in Delhi the night of April 9th is again at the Tree of Life.
We will not have class today and Friday, as Erika & Chetan will remain at the retreat to welcome the incoming Indian writing workshop participants while you depart to Delhi with a THWR crew member. The THWR crew will also accompany you as you enjoy sightseeing, shopping, and touring in this vibrant and unique city.
Day 11, April 10, Friday
Morning: After breakfast we check out from the hotel and head out for a guided tour of the old city. We start with the spice market – where all your senses will be on overdrive. We’ll then step back for a rooftop view of the old city. A short rickshaw ride and we find ourselves outside the red fort, one of India’s historic icons. We go through some more of old Delhi and end our tour with a visit to the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, a sikh temple, where you will get a deeper insight into Indian culture and values.
In the second half we will have some free time and the option to do our last minute shopping at Dilli Haat (https://bit.ly/2LyyBWv ). Airport drops are arranged for everyone based on your flight schedule. Those wishing to keep the room for an extra night can stay on at a good negotiated rate.
Note: The above schedule includes all classes, transfers, travel, hotel stays, retreat accommodation, and food. However, we do not cover any personal expenses such as shopping, visiting places on your own etc. Alcohol is not included in the price, but we’ll stop at a store where you can pick some up en route to the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
When: 31 Mar - 10 Apr, 2019
Who: The workshop is led by Erika Krouse, Chetan Mahajan & Vandita Dubey . (For instructor profiles, click here or scroll down.)
Where: The Himalayan Writing Retreat, Satkhol Village. Uttarakhand - 263138 (India). Details here.
How much : USD 2500 (10 days & nights of learning, twin-sharing stay, food, taxes).
If you have big questions about India , click here to read our India travel FAQs.
Only ten participants accepted on a first-come first-serve basis. To apply, click the button below.
About the Instructors
Erika Krouse's fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Esquire.com, The Kenyon Review, Story, Ploughshares, One Story, The Iowa Review, and other publications. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize and the Best American Short Stories. Her novel Contenders (Rare Bird Books), was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and appears in German with Aufbau-Verlag. Her short story collection, Come Up and See Me Sometime (Scribner), won the Paterson Fiction Award, was a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and has been translated into six languages. Erika received her MA from CU Boulder, where she also taught creative writing. She has taught at Lighthouse since 2008, and mentors for the Book Project. She's written everything from book reviews for The New York Times to horoscopes for Glamour. The only thing she doesn't like writing is her bio.
Chetan Mahajan is the founder and co-host of the Himalayan Writing Retreat. A Penguin-published author, he quit the corporate world and moved to a village in the Himalayas to be a full-time author and blogger over three years ago. The Himalayan Writing Retreat is all about helping people with their writing. Chetan blogs about living in the mountains here. His blog won the Indiblogger award for humor. He is also a writing coach with the London based the writing coach.
Dr. Vandita Dubey, is a US licensed Clinical Psychologist, and the author of the book “Parenting in the age of Sexposure”. She co-hosts the Himalayan Writing Retreat. She also hosts the "Writing For Self" Workshop, You can visit her website and read her blog at www.vanditadubey.com .
© himalayanwritingretreat 2018