The Very First Djerassi YA Novel Workshop and Retreat

Earlier this month, you could find me high up in the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, not so far from San Francisco, at a beautiful artists’ sanctuary called the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. I was gifted a writing residency there once before, in 2012, but my visit this month was to share my love of the place—and its inspiration, its magic—with my fellow YA and middle-grade writers. The very first Djerassi YA Novel Workshop & Retreat was February 9–14, and it went better than I could have even hoped.

Eleven writers were selected from a group of competitive applications to join me at Djerassi for a week of workshopping, retreating, and exploring the beautiful grounds on the mountain. We discussed novels-in-progress in group critiques in the morning workshops, wrote in the afternoons, met for private conferences with me to discuss even more novel pages, devoured Chef Dan’s delicious dinners, explored the grounds and the sculptures left behind by artists in the woods, and shared more writing in evening readings.

I was struck by the talent of each one of the writers—and also by how giving and committed they were to supporting each other and critiquing their fellow writers’ work. It was a joy to teach this workshop and have the chance to read pages from these novels. I came away having learned so much myself, and itching to write… which is the best gift, in all ways.

My thanks go to the writers—the very first participants not just of this YA workshop series with me, but of a new alumni-led workshop program at Djerassi (the Djerassi Resident Artists Program will be announcing more info on this soon, so stay tuned). This international group of dedicated writers was the very first workshop on the Djerassi grounds!

My next YA Novel Workshop & Retreat at Djerassi is this coming June, and if it’s possible I am now even more excited to share this experience with a new talented group of YA and middle-grade writers. If you’re signed up for June, I hope this post gets you all the more excited about what’s to come. I’ll be emailing soon with more details on what to expect. I can’t wait to meet all of you.

Spaces are full for the next session this June, but guess what?

The first workshop week was so rewarding for me that I jumped at the chance to hold one more YA Novel Workshop & Retreat at Djerassi next year, in June 2015. Applications for the June 2015 workshop will open this spring. Watch this space for an announcement of when applications become available. If you’d like to be on my mailing list to be notified by email when the 2015 workshop applications open, leave a comment on this post or email me directly!

Below are some photos from our glorious week:

The Artists' Barn the night before all the writers arrived...
View inside the Artists’ Barn the night before all the writers arrived…
02 djerassi fog first morning
The magical mist shrouded the mountain the morning the writers arrived, but it would clear…
03 djerassi the fog clears
When the fog and mist cleared, a view of the Artists’ Barn, where we held morning workshops, and a peek of the Middlebrook Studios to the left, where some of the writers stayed…
04 djerassi galoshes
The writers came prepared for mud with multicolored galoshes…
05 djerassi sunset
There is nothing like a Djerassi sunset…
06 djerassi morning visitors
Our morning visitors, who would linger and peek in during our workshops…
07 djerassi workshop
Gathering for workshop one morning…
08 djerassi hike
Out hiking the sculpture trails, led by the Djerassi executive director, Margot…
09 djerassi sculpture climb
A daring climb to meet a sculpture…
10 djerassi old barn
The old barn, where I heard a couple creepy scenes were later written by some of our writers…
11 djerassi listening chair
Me, sitting on the listening bench, taking a moment to relax…
12 djerassi ocean view
The view of the Pacific Ocean. I swear that’s it, beyond the horizon…
13 djerassi valentines
We were surprised and delighted at our last dinner, on Valentine’s Day, by quotes about love (thank you, Celia!). This one was my favorite…
14 djerassi group photo
Me, in the center, with all the wonderful writers! You will be reading all of their published novels one day! (Photo courtesy of Elle LaMarca.)

Thank you to the awesome writers who took part in this workshop: Alisia, Asale, Edith, Elle, Jennifer, Jess, Kim, Marie, Rebekah, Susan, and Zoë! Special thanks to Margot (and Nick!) for offering me the chance to teach this workshop (and for the wonderful sculpture tour!), to Laura and Celia and Tom (and the best dog, Hank!) for making sure everything ran so smoothly even during the chaos of stormy airport pickups, to  Dan for our truly delectable meals, to Judy for facilitating the applications, to E for help behind the scenes, and to everyone else involved in making this week such a success.

Applications for June 2015 will open this spring! Contact me to be added to my mailing list for the announcement. I can’t wait to do this again… two more times!

7 thoughts on “The Very First Djerassi YA Novel Workshop and Retreat

  1. Christi February 23, 2014 / 11:06 am

    This looks like such a gorgeous spur for a writers’ retreat!

  2. Rachele Alpine February 23, 2014 / 11:14 am

    Raising hand…me, me! Can you make sure I’m on the mailing list, Nova (I think I already am, but I want to make sure). A June workshop is one I can do! Yay!

  3. Susan February 23, 2014 / 11:17 am

    Oh, it looks like heaven!!

  4. edithcohn February 23, 2014 / 11:23 am

    Such great photos of a great week!!

  5. Alex G. (@AVGrizinski) February 23, 2014 / 11:45 am

    Ahhhhh, Djerassi looks so amazing! And what a gorgeous group! Boy, can I not WAIT for June.

  6. Anonymous February 23, 2014 / 12:06 pm

    Yay, can’t wait for June!

  7. bailey m.k. knight February 23, 2014 / 2:27 pm

    I definitely want to be notified when applications for June 2015 open up! It’s become a sort-of life mission to be able to attend either a workshop led by you or a course led by you. This just sounds like a really excellent and dedicated time, and I’m always so happy to hear about your successes leading these sorts of things for other YA and middle-grade writers. You’re fantastic, Nova!

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