Memoir and Personal Essays: The Physical Stuff of Your Life

Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States

Sep 17 - Sep 20, 2018


SCHOLARSHIP:None Available

CONTACT: Santa Fe Workshops/Writers Lab
PHONE: (505) 983-1400, ext. 111

Engage your senses and connect to memory as you access the inexplicable flights of creativity that make a good story great.

One of the most extraordinary things about the writing process is that by engaging thoroughly with the sensory details that surround us—the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures—we are able to access our own elusive interior landscapes.

Attention to specifics can connect us directly to the fertile ground inside if we are willing to sit in the dark with the details as they rise from the swamps of memory—and if we write them all the way down to the bone.

Under Pam's guidance in this generative workshop participants focus on the real artistry of prose writing: the way we dip our ladles into the bottomless pot of semiotic soup of our lived and witnessed experience to pull out what we need, the way we pick up and examine hunks of the physical world so we can bring them back to the page as language. At the same time, we demystify some of prose writing's essential components (image, metaphor, structure, dialogue, character, and scene, among others), turning them into comprehensible tools that we can pick up as necessary. With the help of those tools, we discover how to create work where language is always working in at least two ways at once, where metaphors dance between meanings like beads of water on a too-hot grill.

If you are like many writers, you've felt humbled by the written word's unlimited possibility—as well as its limitations. Together we face down the empty page (or screen) armed with our active and engaged senses, our vast memory banks, and all the things we don't even know we know, as we open ourselves up to the inexplicable flights of creativity that transform a good story into a great one.

For a fully immersive experience we recommend on-campus accommodations. For details regarding on-campus housing at the IHM Retreat Center click here.


This program is open to writers of all levels.


Enrollment limited to 16 writers.


Add on-campus housing! A single room with private bath is $450 per person for five nights. Or share a double room, with private bath, with a friend for $300 per person for five nights.


Tuition includes a meal plan of breakfast and lunch Monday- Thursday, and a closing dinner on Thursday evening.


Featured Writers Include:

Pam Houston


Creative nonfiction


50 Carmel Road
Fatima Hall
Santa Fe
New Mexico, United States

Santa Fe Writers Lab

In the Santa Fe Writers Lab education programs we hold values of community, craft, and the creative process in the highest regard. With our collaborative and affirming environments, a passion for writing and storytelling—and a hunger for shared experience—are the most important ingredients.

Rolf Potts, Hampton Sides, Natalie Goldberg and others renowned in the literary world, provide daily lessons on the art and craft of writing in a variety of genres and travel destinations. In quiet settings, they encourage constructive conversation and motivate you to muse and write.

Our private campus in Santa Fe has long been a sanctuary for learning and study. We share this enchanted place with a neighboring Carmelite Monastery. Dramatic views of the surrounding Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges, warm sunshine, cool mountain air, beautiful courtyards, access to hiking trails, convenient on-campus lodging—and a private caterer to provide fresh, healthy meals—are the elements that converge to make this the perfect place in Santa Fe to find inspiration and hone your craft.

In Cuba, our home is Convento Santa Brigida, a beautifully restored convent in the heart of Old Havana. Featuring simple but comfortable accommodations, light-filled group meeting spaces, a breakfast room, a library, a chapel, and Italian nuns as our lovely hosts, this convent is a serene base to reflect and write.

Whether you are joining us in enchanting Santa Fe, or dynamic Havana, the Writers Lab provides you with a hub of creativity and community, extraordinary instructors, supportive staff, and the opportunity to take your writing to the next level.