Give Yourself the Gift of Time to




October 19 - 24, 2019


Imagine . . . 

The gift of uninterrupted time to focus solely on your novel.

Powerful inspiration to jumpstart your confidence and ignite your determination.

Unequivocal support to banish any doubts and fears.

Feedback to get you over the finish line.

Intimate connections with six other women, all of us determined to finish our novels.

The magical beauty of the Maine coast—those ocean ions will lift your spirits.

Any of that sound good?

Read on!

Hello! I'm Joan Dempsey.

For the past twelve years I've been fortunate enough to call Maine "home," and I want to share the magic of this place with other women who, like me, are writing novels.

I love, love, love working on novels (mine and yours)!

And I adore retreats. Many of my most cherished writing experiences (and—no surprise—best work) happened while away from home.

Plus, I'm an experienced teacher and adore teaching.

So, I got to thinking . . . why not combine these three passions and invite some gutsy women novelists to join me so we can retreat together?

What kind of fun would that be?!

Want to find out?

Come spend a productive and pampered week in our private retreat home on Brickyard Cove, looking across three Maine bays and numerous islands, one of which is the appropriately-named "Sister Island." Our retreat home has its own private beach complete with beach chairs and kayaks. The salt air is divine!


Our focus?

Helping you finish your novel.

I'd love to come to this retreat—how do I apply?


Here's What You Can Expect

at the Gutsy Great Novelist Retreat

Hours and hours of uninterrupted creative time.

Inside your room at your private writing desk, or with your personal lap desk on the deck, shore, or by the fire, or at one of the many spacious tables inside and outside our house, you'll have ample time to do what you wish. This is your time to apply what you’re learning in the way that works best for you: write, revise, journal, reflect, think, plan, write some more. All of what you do during creative time will inform your Writing Contract, which is the tool you’ll take home to ensure your success.

Four private coaching sessions with Joan Dempsey.

Two, 45-minute private coaching sessions with me at the retreat, and two sessions post-retreat. I’m here for you, so we’ll plan our sessions according to what you most need. Got a character who needs further development? We’ll bring her to life. Feeling concerned about whether your writing is really any good? We’ll turn that concern around so fast you’ll forget you ever worried about it. Need to find time in your schedule to focus on your novel? We won’t just find time, we’ll create it! Whatever will help you finish your novel, we’ll tackle it.

Two rounds of feedback on your entire novel.

I will provide detailed feedback on your entire manuscript—twice. We'll work it out so I can read your full draft, and then either I or a member of my team will read it again when you've revised it to completion (sometimes fresh eyes are warranted)—let's get you a submission-ready manuscript! I'd love to read the full manuscript prior to the retreat and will do so if time allows (it depends on when you're accepted into the retreat).

Your personal writing contract.

Before you leave, you and I will privately assess all you’ve learned during the retreat, and use it to create a Writing Contract that will set you up for post-retreat success. Capitalize on your momentum from this week and finish your novel.

I'd like to learn more about Joan.

About Me, Joan Dempsey

I've dreamed about being many things in my life: professional baseball player; graphic designer; psychologist; anti-nuclear activist; poet; advocate for animals; lawyer; university professor; and novelist.

(Can you guess which of these dreams have come true?)*

Today, I'm a novelist and writing teacher.

The great thing about being a novelist is that I get to be whoever I want to be! At the moment, I'm a male firefighter, a wrongfully convicted woman newly released from prison, and an 87-year-old former state attorney general . . . I love writing novels!

The great thing about being a writing teacher is that I get to bear witness to writers like you as you become whoever you want to be, too. I adore working with women like you who write novels.

My debut novel This Is How It Begins, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards, the Sarton Women's Book Award, the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award, and won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. I won the Maureen Egan Writers Exchange Award from Poets and Writers and was thrilled when Poets & Writers Magazine named me one of "5 More Women Writers Over 50 to Watch." Whoa . . . you can make dreams come true!

I hold advanced degrees in fiction writing and creative writing pedagogy (from Antioch University LA), certificates in adult education and facilitation, have provided feedback to more than 300 writers on their manuscripts, and have taught online writing classes to thousands of writers from all over the world.

*And . . . drumroll, please . . . here are the other dreams I've made come true:

Yep, I've been an anti-nuclear activist and advocate for animals. I studied psychology and graphic design, took poetry classes, and drafted new laws while working as a lobbyist for animal welfare issues. If I'd been twenty years younger when I tried out for a short-lived, pro women's baseball team, I could have played second base at Fenway Park. Instead, I got to talk about it on NPR's "Only A Game," my first exposure as a professional writer, which was pretty damned sweet.

Still have questions about me? Learn more here.

Several hours of group time.

Together, we’ll design your unique Writing Contract for finishing your novel—a simple, manageable plan. You’ll also have an opportunity to sit in the optional Retreat Seat—a safe environment in which you can read your work, share your concerns, toss out your ideas, all of which will be heard by me and your generous and wise retreat companions. We’ll put on our best thinking caps and respond with constructive observations, suggestions, questions, celebrations, resources and whatever other ideas we believe will help.


Creativity takes energy, and energy needs to be rejuvenated; this week is all about what you need to be your best creative self. Hike the nearly trails at Wolfe’s Neck State Park, head into Freeport to visit LL Bean and myriad outlet shops, kayak from the front yard in Brickyard Cove, take a nap in your room or in an Adirondack on the shore, read a book on the deck, play a game of horseshoes . . . whatever works to support you!

Amazing meals provided by our own personal chef.

All you have to do is eat when you’re hungry . . . no need to decide what to make for a meal, no cooking, no cleanup. Isn’t it time someone catered to you? You’ll also have one free evening for dinner on your own (head into nearby Freeport, Brunswick or Portland).

Post-retreat connections.

You’ll have two 45-minute coaching sessions with me and detailed feedback on your final manuscript from either me or a member of my team (sometimes fresh eyes are better—we'll decide this together). You’re also never far from your retreat pals; we'll set up a private Facebook group just for retreat-goers, and schedule a Zoom reunion to meet virtually. This is not goodbye! I’m forever in your corner, only an email away.

The price.

Your tuition covers all your expenses—private lodging in our oceanfront retreat home, scrumptious meals prepared by our private chef, three hours of personal coaching to address your obstacles, two rounds of feedback on your entire manuscript (a $4,000 value), on-site craft lessons determined by your needs, support from our intimate group of six gutsy women writers, and a personalized writing contract for finishing your novel post-retreat.

Depending on your choice of private rooms, the price ranges from $5,000 to $7,500 for the week: half due upon booking (to hold your spot) and the balance due 30 days before departure (or sooner if booking close to the start of the retreat).

This is a sizable investment, maybe more than you’ve ever spent on yourself! We women are so busy taking care of everyone and everything else that it’s rare and life-changing when we give ourselves such a gift. Because I keep the group so small, and because this luxury retreat is expensive to run and takes a lot of my own time and energy, not everyone can afford to spend a week with me. But for those who do, I work extremely hard to make sure the experience is priceless.

My goal is to get you past any obstacles that stand in your way and provide you with the support and tools and feedback you need to realize your dream of finishing your novel. I'll make sure you get to The End, all while feeling inspired and confident.

The price is also valued as it is because I want to ensure we have a great group of dedicated and determined women; my pre-retreat application, manuscript screening, and the fact that women have to travel to join us attracts motivated and talented writers. Those in crisis or writers who aren’t excited to do the work hardly ever apply.

Join us for this inspirational retreat—you’ll increase your confidence, focus, and productivity, and join a new circle of passionately creative literary companions! Let's make memories with new friends, shall we?

I still have a few more questions.

Why a Retreat? Because . . .

You deserve some uninterrupted, luxurious writing time.

Time away from obligations is restorative (not to mention a big relief)!

A Zen-like oceanfront space will calm your spirits and inspire your best work.

Personalized guidance will melt away any remaining self-doubt and fear.

Women working together always create magic that can't be found in isolation.

Six smart fiction writers can solve any thorny issue.

Being on retreat with a bunch of gutsy women is an absolute blast! 

I'd love to come to this retreat—how do I apply?