Monday, October 31, 2016

Festivals and Workshops: Julie Cohen

This month Elaine Roberts interviews well known author, Julie Cohen about her writing retreats.

Can you tell us something about your workshops—how you decide the subject matter?

On my guided retreats, I let the participants’ own needs decide the subject of the workshops. The participants have to submit a sample of their work before the retreat—usually the first chapter and a
synopsis—and from that, I (and my teaching partner) identify several common areas to focus on, be that whole-text issues like plotting, voice, character, pacing, or sentence-level issues like showing and telling or creating convincing dialogue, or larger career issues like how to brand yourself as a writer or how to write the breakout novel.

Do you usually run them by yourself?

I sometimes run my own guided retreats (I’ll be running one at Chez Castillon, in France, in June), but I’m running my next retreat with bestselling author and Faber Academy writing tutor Rowan Coleman. Rowan and I have been teaching together for several years now, and have run courses for The Guardian and Literature Wales, as well as our own retreats.

In March we will also have a special guest: super agent Lizzy Kremer of David Higham Associates, who will deliver a Q&A on getting an agent, publishing, and building your career.

As our blog is for writers, can you tell me how your workshop would benefit RNA members?

Rowan and I are both highly experienced in writing across the spectrum of women’s fiction. Our books have both been selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club and we’ve both been shortlisted, or won, RoNAs and Love Stories Awards. I started my writing career as a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. We’re both passionate about women’s fiction and romantic fiction, and knowledgeable about the markets and the challenges writers face when writing in these genres. Both
Folly Farm
of us have coached writers who have gone onto sign with agents, get publishing deals, and even become bestsellers.

Is there anything participants usually need to do in preparation before attending?

For our March workshop, we ask that the participants send us the first chapter and synopsis of their work in progress. It helps us, as tutors, if we know what a writer would like to get out of the course—then we can make sure we support them.

For my guided retreat at Chez Castillon in June, I’ll ask for a longer sample of the participants’ work and generally I spend extensive time with each writer talking about their manuscript.

Are your workshops usually for one day or longer?

Our guided retreat in March is over a weekend, 3-5 March 2017. There are workshops, time to write, and one-to-one time with Rowan or me to discuss your manuscript.

The guided retreat in June 2017 at Chez Castillon will be for an entire week.

When workshops are longer than one day where can people stay?

The March workshop will take place at Folly Farm, outside Bristol, and includes single en-suite accommodation at this environmentally friendly conference venue in the countryside. All food is provided, usually locally grown, and there are wonderful local walks.

In June, we stay at Chez Castillon in southwest France, in a beautiful 18th-century house (with swimming pool) in the heart of the town of Castillon la Bataille. Delicious food and local wine are provided and our hosts, Janie and Mickey Wilson, are fantastic.

What does it usually cost to attend your workshops?

The weekend retreat at Folly Farm in March with Rowan Coleman is £525.00 including accommodation and all food, but not travel.

The weeklong-guided retreat at Chez Castillion is likely to cost about £775 (tbc), including accommodation and most food, but not travel.

Do your workshops fill up quickly?

It depends on the workshop, but generally, quite quickly. We have many writers who come back again and again.

How much time does it take you to organise your workshops?

What takes the most time is all the admin stuff: booking forms, receipts, payments, etc. I am fairly organized but it’s an effort when my normal day-to-day career is being creative!

Dates for this year and possibly next:

3-5 March 2017, Folly Farm, outside Bristol, with Rowan Coleman and special guest Lizzy Kremer

June 2017 (exact dates tbc) Chez Castillon, France


Email for queries:

About Elaine Roberts:

Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and is currently working on a family saga set in the 1800s. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London Chapter and the annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week-long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her home town of Dartford, Kent.
Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called 

Thank you Elaine and Julie for a most interesting interview.

Please contact the team on if you wish to be interviewed for the RNA blog.


Rosie Dean Musings said...

I've attended a weekend retreat with Julie and Rowan, and did early work on my fourth book with Julie at Chez Castillon.

Was inspired and focused by both.

Francesca Capaldi said...

Thank you Julie and Elaine. This is all sounds very interesting.