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International Writing Immersion in the Himalayas

March 23 March 30

Imagine an award winning teacher from the US, fellow writers from Singapore, India and America and seven days to focus on your writing. Throw in yoga, 1-2 craft sessions everyday, a lot of free writing time, and the occasional local excursion (optional). Add the serenity of the Himalayas and you get the International Immersion we are offering this March.

This retreat is led by author Dipika Mukherjee (Ode to Broken Things; Shambala Junction, Rules of Desire). Dipika teaches at the Graham School of the University of Chicago. She is a lead faculty member at StoryStudio Chicago. In 2021, she received the Instructor of the Year Award from Stories Matter Foundation, which runs StoryStudio. She has dug into her deep understanding of South-Asian literature and of teaching. The result is this retreat – which brings deep learning and insight to each session at this retreat. Dipika’s detailed profile is shared below.

Chetan Mahajan – a memoir author and writing coach – will support her. A graduate of Northwestern University, he is a Penguin-published author and an award-winning blogger. Chetan co-founded the Himalayan Writing Retreat in 2016.

Central to the immersion is the exchange of ideas designed to open new windows in your mind.

In the shadow of the Himalayas, we will examine writing about memory and family ties, how setting can conjure the sinister or the quotidian, and how dialogues can be polished to brilliance. This will be a generative workshop, and sharing of daily writing will be encouraged, but not compulsory.

Retreat Participants meeting an Indian Mystic at a Himalayan Shiva Temple

Summary Schedule.

DateBreakfastMorning sessionLunchAfternoon / eveningDinner
23 MarchReach retreat by 4 PM. Session 1:  5pm-6pm: Intentions & First Impressions Welcome dinner at the Retreat. 
24 March    Morning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 2: 10-12: Starting StrongAt the retreatVisit to Chirag School / optional yogaAt the retreat
25 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 3: 10-12: The first 10 pagesAt the retreatOptional yoga / Bollywood nightAt the retreat
26 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 4: 10-12: Making Dialogues SingAt the retreatExcursion / optional yogaAt the retreat
27 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 5: 10-12: Writing tension into dialoguesAt the retreatHike into the Forest reserveAt the retreat
28 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 6: 10-12: Setting the StageAt café bird-cageVisit to Shiva Temple in Mukteshwar/ optional yogaLiterary Salon, post-dinner
29 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatSession 7: 10-12: Place as CharacterAt the retreatExcursion / optional yogaLiterary Salon, post-dinner
30 MarchMorning yoga. Breakfast at the RetreatLeave retreat by 10.30 AM

Dipika Mukherjee

Dipika Mukherjee is the author of the novels Shambala Junction and Ode to Broken Things, and the story collection, Rules of Desire. Her work is included in The Best Small Fictions 2019 and appears in World Literature Today, Asia Literary Review, Del Sol Review, and Chicago Quarterly Review, Newsweek, Los Angeles Review of Books, Hemispheres, Orion, Scroll, The Edge, and more. Her third poetry collection, Dialect of Distant Harbors, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in October 2022 and a collection of travel essays, Writers Postcards, has been accepted for publication by Penguin Random House (SEA) for 2023. She is a Contributing Editor for Jaggery Lit and teaches at StoryStudio Chicago and at the Graham School at the University of Chicago. She holds a Ph.D. in English (Sociolinguistics) from Texas A&M University.

Mukherjee has been mentoring Southeast Asian writing for over two decades; in 2015, she founded the D.K Dutt Award for Literary Excellence in Malaysia. She has edited five anthologies of Southeast Asian fiction and has taught creative writing in Chicago, Amsterdam, New Delhi, and Kuala Lumpur. In 2021, she received the Instructor of the Year Award from Stories Matter Foundation, which runs StoryStudio. She is the recipient of a 2022 Esteemed Artist Award (DCASE) from the City of Chicago.

To learn more about Dipika, please visit https://dipikamukherjee.com/.

Chetan Mahajan

Hindi Writing

Chetan Mahajan is the co-founder 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, blogger, and teacher almost a decade ago. He is also a writing coach with the London based “the writing coach”.

Chetan blogs about life in a Himalayan village at www.uncity.blog. This blog won the Indiblogger award for Humor in 2017.

He is currently working on his first novel “Tara and Vishnu” and also co-authoring a non-fiction book. Chetan often writes columns for Readers Digest, Mint, Outlook Magazine, Hindu Business Line, and the Hindustan Times (Brunch).

To learn more about Chetan, please visit www.chetanmahajan.com.

Detailed Program

Each day has been meticulously planned. We start sessions and serious writing on arrival at the Himalayan Writing Retreat. We’ll close the last two days at the retreat with post-dinner Literary Salons.

Day 1, Thursday, March 23

“We are now in the mountains, and they are in us.”

John Muir

The Himalayan Writing Retreat is custom-built for Writers – for inspiration and serenity. This niche property has six double-occupancy guest rooms and a full staff to cater to your needs with love and the highest standards of hygiene. The food is tasty, fresh, and includes a lot of local cuisines. And while we have pasta on the menu, it may have an Indian tinge. We grow many of our own herbs as well.

Topic of the Day: Intentions and First Impressions

In this first session, we’ll understand what this experience has meant to each of you. We’ll discuss the plan for the next few days – how things will work, and how the retreat and the sessions will benefit you. If there is a specific story you’re working on, we’ll explore how you may further it over the next few days.

Please note: We use the term ‘story’ throughout. It applies to both fiction and creative non-fiction.

Yoga in the sun, with a snow-capped view.

Day 2, Friday, March 24

  • Early Morning: Yoga session (evening session available, based on demand)
  • Morning: Craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
  • Afternoon: an optional trip to the local NGO-run Chirag School and a social enterprise (http://b2r.in/ ). For those interested we can walk back – it is a 2-mile walk through the forest.
  • Evening: Open Mic Bonfire after sundown.

Topics of the Day: Starting Strong

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 

Opening of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

A strong opening can mean the difference between holding your reader’s attention and losing the reader to a distraction. In this session, we will delve into how to make sure your story has a strong opening. We’ll look at various ways we can make an opening strong. You then have the tools and insights to work on the opening of your own story. You’ll have the option to share your new material on the last two days in the Himalayas (28th and 29th of March).

Day 3, Saturday, March 25

  • Early Morning: Yoga session (evening session available, based on demand)
  • Morning: Craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
  • Afternoon – open time for your writing. We’ll do an optional hike to explore the local area.
  • Evening: Bollywood movie night. It’s kitschy, yes. But it is part of the India-experience. So we watch a Bollywood movie with English subtitles. And popcorn.

Topics of the Day: The first 10 pages

The first ten pages of your story are sort of like the “100-day plan” of a new president. In the world of cinema, the first ten pages of any screenplay are roughly the first ten minutes of the film. A viewer decides in those ten minutes if the remaining 110 minutes will be well spent on this film.

In this session, we will learn how to craft these ten pages to elevate your narrative. We’ll study examples from various texts, some by Indian authors, and understand how they did it.

Day 4, Sunday March 26th

“Great things never came from comfort zones.”

  • Early Morning: Yoga session (evening sessions also available, based on demand on all days)
  • Morning: In our craft session we learn to write better dialogue.
  • Afternoon: We’ll head out for an excursion to a 1000-year-old temple, which we will mostly drive to, and then we’ll walk the last bit.

Topic of the Day: Making Dialogues sing

We’ve all heard of the “Show don’t tell” dictum. Dialogues are a great way to show instead of telling. They are an efficient tool to build characters and heighten conflict. But writing them is a learnable skill – a critical one for your story. We’ll analyze good dialogue in both fiction and nonfiction, and then use exercises to write our own.

Day 5, Monday, March 27

  • Early Morning: Yoga session ((evening session available, based on demand)
  • Morning: Craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
  • Afternoon: a hike in the IVRI Forest reserve

Topics of the Day: Writing tension into dialogue

At the heart of a good story is conflict, and there is no better way to convey conflict than dialogue. Convincing dialogue laden with tension is a surefire way to tell an engaging story. In this session, we’ll understand how to write exactly that kind of dialogue.

Day 6, Tuesday, March 28

  • Early Morning: Yoga session
  • Morning: Craft session at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
  • Afternoon: We’ll have lunch at the cafe birdcage, and head over to the hill-town of Mukteshwar. We visit the ancient temple of Mukteshwar (https://bit.ly/2ujZUbJ ) and visit a local tourist hotspot.
  • After dinner, we’ll host a literary salon. We can all share what we’ve written with each other during this time, and get constructive feedback.

Topic of the Day: Setting the stage

Stories need settings. They have to happen somewhere. A vivid setting gives the readers the information they need to conjure this new world. A good setting can be spare or rich. It can use multiple senses to transport the reader to a new world. Setting also makes for a great “Show”. We’ll follow up the session on setting by visiting a few interesting settings ourselves.

Day 7, Wednesday, March 29

  • Early Morning: Yoga session (evening session also an option based on demand)
  • Morning: craft class at the Himalayan Writing Retreat.
  • Afternoon: Free writing time. You’re welcome to wander, of course.
  • After dinner, we’ll host a literary salon. We can all share what we’ve written with each other during this time, and get constructive feedback.

Topics of the Day: Place as character

Stories differ in how important a place or setting is. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Lowland” her lead character Gauri moved to Rhode Island. There she visits the library and says, “There was nothing about Calcutta. What had consumed the city, what had altered the course of her life and shattered it, was not reported here.” The novel then proceeds to tell a story set in Calcutta (now called Kolkata) but also tells the story of Calcutta itself. Cheryl Strayed does something similar in Wild, where the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is almost a character.

We’ll examine many such stories to get deeper into a narrative and see how a place itself can be a character.

Day 8, Thursday, March 30

  • Early Morning: Yoga session
  • Morning: We say our goodbyes, pack up and head back to our homes with some refreshing memories of the mountains.

Travel & Stay

The Himalayan Writing Retreat is built for writing and learning. We are rated 5-star on google and facebook.

Once here, you will be sharing a room with a fellow participant (unless we’ve confirmed a single). All essentials like food, hot water, towels etc. are provided. No hidden costs.

Book lounge snow winter
The Book Lounge on a Snowy day.

It can snow in winter. Weather can vary and the weather chart of Mukteshwar (12 km from the retreat) is here. A pair of sturdy walking shoes, some rain protection and an extra layer or two are always a good idea.

Our rooms are built to let nature in and inspire you. To see pictures of the rooms click here . To see pictures of the writing spaces click here.

Depending upon where you travel in from, you can reach us by road, train or air. Even if flying or taking a train, the final stretch is a drive, and the last 150 metres is a walk.

By Road

The retreat is a 370 km/9 hours drive from Delhi. If driving, we recommend you leave early. Note that parking at the retreat is on the road – we do not have any private parking. We have limited driver accommodation, so please check in advance.

Overnight Volvo buses ply between Haldwani and Delhi, the more reliable of which are government operated. You con book those here. Private Volvos and Sleeper buses also ply between Delhi and Haldwani, which you can book on redbus. Make sure you pick a bus with a high (4+) rating.

By train

There are three trains a day from Delhi to Kathgodam, the nearest train station. Some others also come in from Kolkata, Lucknow and Dehradun. From Delhi, Ranikhet Express is a convenient overnight train both ways, but finding tickets can be difficult.

Most people prefer to take the Kathgodam Shatabdi (Delhi dep: 6.20 AM, Kathgodam Arr: 11.40 AM). A cab from Kathgodam to Satkhol takes about 2.5 hrs / Rs. 2200 (more for a big car). Cabs are often shared by participants.

By Air

There are daily flights from Delhi to Pantnagar. A cab from Pantnagar to Satkhol takes about 3.5 hr / Approx INR 4K.

There are direct flights from Mumbai and Bangalore to Bareilly 3-4 days a week. Satkhol is a 5hr / INR 5.5k cab ride from Bareilly. (More for a big car). Cabs are often shared by participants.

  1. Why should I choose HWR Workshops?
  • Personal Attention: We don’t take more than 10 students in a class. You get a lot of personal attention and feedback. No classrooms of 20-30 people or one-way pre-recorded videos here.
  • Class Quality: For most courses, we filter our participants. You can’t just pay and sign up. We need to see a writing sample (in our application form) to ensure the class is of a uniform standard.
  • Quality of faculty: No lightweights here. Many of our faculty are award-winners. All are experts and great teachers. We don’t settle for average.
  • Feedback scores: Across courses, we are rated 4.5/5, or higher. You can read our reviews HERE.
  1. Do I get a certificate of participation?

Yes, certificates are available on request.

  1. Any discounts for students / other categories?

At the Himalayan Writing Retreat, we follow a strict no-discount policy.

  1. Is the workshop fee refundable?

Our cancellation policy is as follows:

  • Online Writing Workshop: 100% refund if cancellation 2 weeks before the event start date, 50% if cancellation one week before the start date, 0% if less than one week before the start date.
  • Creative Writing Workshop at the Himalayas: 100% refund if cancellation 4 weeks before the event start date, 50% if cancellation two weeks before the start date, 0% if less than two weeks before the start date.
  1. Is the Himalayan Writing Retreat a business or an NGO?

The Himalayan Writing Retreat is a social enterprise. It works closely and actively with two local NGOs in its community work initiatives: Chirag and Alaap. In 2020, HWR raised INR 6.1 Lakhs to support the Chirag School.

Have more questions? Feel free to write to us at info@himalayanwritingretreat.com or connect with us at +91 73035 16665 (Call/ WA/Signal).

Event Summary


March 23
March 30
Event Category:

**Hurry! Only 3 seats remain**

Additional Guests, Single room and Cancellation Policy:

Additional Guests may stay with participants, subject to availability. Their stay is charged at a rate of INR 4000 per night including meals and taxes for a shared room.

Single rooms can be requested but are subject to availability. The additional cost for a single room is 3000 per night including meals and taxes.

100% refund if cancellation 4 weeks before event start date, 50% if cancellation is done two weeks before start date, 0% if less than two weeks before start date.

If participants test positive for Covid-19 before travel (RTPCR Report Required), full credit will be held for six months for any future event, subject to availability.

International Writers Retreat 2019 – Video

International Writers Retreat 2022 – Pics

Village Satkhol
District Nainital, Uttarakhand 263138 India
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+91 73035 16665