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MJ Writing Course

A Space to Write: Constructing Story

With Mary-Jane Holmes

12 – 19 October 2019

This course is perfect for emerging writers who wish to expand their knowledge of craft and experiment with technique. It is also suitable for those who are approaching creative writing for first time.

Each day we will explore different aspects of the craft of writing. In the mornings there will be an in-depth study of technique through close reading, discussion and in-class writing exercises. In the afternoons there will be dedicated writing tasks associated with the day’s theme, and the opportunity for peer-critiquing and individual tuition all in the beautiful surroundings of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Day One: What’s a Story?

We will look at the main elements needed to create a story and explore how to generate seed ideas and begin our own stories. We will also look at what makes a compelling opening and what keeps the reader reading.

Day Two: Who is telling the story?

Characterisation and point of view. We will look at how to create memorable characters and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different points of view.

Day Three: Shape and Structure.

We will explore the ins and outs of plot, the concept of setup and payoff and how to tie in beginnings, middles and ends in a dramatically satisfying fashion.

Day Four: Visualization and the Power of Prose.

Fiction operates through the senses. Here we will discuss how to create a world of weight and emotion. We will also look at the driving engine of writing: concision, compression and precision.

Day Five: Dialogue, subtext and handling emotion in fiction.

Dialogue is never just about the talk but instead is a vehicle to bring us closer to the character and the central conflict. Sometimes what isn’t said is more important than what is. We will look at how to produce layered, engaging dialogue.

Day Six: Handling Time.

The last day will be spent looking at how to show time passing, how to slow time down and speed it up.

Mary-Jane Holmes

Director, Casa Ana Creative Writing Programme

Mary-Jane is the winner of the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize judged by Lemn Sissay. She is also the recipient of the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize (2017), the Bedford International Poetry Prize (2016) and the Dromineer Fiction Prize (2014). She has previously been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize both for poetry and flash fiction, the Doolin Prize for poetry, the Penfro Poetry Prize and was recently commended by Kim Walsh in the Settle Poetry Competition.


Her first collection of poetry was published in 2018 by Glasgow based Pindrop Press. Her work has also been widely published and anthologised in such places The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, JMWW, The Tishman Review, Firewords, The Lonely Crowd, the Incubator and The Best Small Fictions 2016 anthology edited by Stuart Dybek and Tara Masih.


Since 2009, she has served as chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland, an organisation committed to supporting emerging writers. She is the director and coordinator of the company’s creative writing and mentoring programs including the longest running online Flash fiction course in Europe dedicated solely to the genre. She also is an editorial consultant at The Well Review, an international poetry journal based in Cork, Ireland.


Mary-Jane is an alumna of Kellogg College, Oxford where she read for a Masters in Studies in creative writing.

Prices 2019

Prices are for single occupancy of:

Single room with private bathroom €945

Standard double or twin room with private bathroom €1045

Large double room with private bathroom €1145

Special offer: Discounts available for shared rooms

More Reviews


"Mary-Jane’s support and advice was invaluable in moving my writing on to a new and better level."

Candy, June 2016


"The art of writing is mentored by Mary-Jane Holmes who is both incisive in her critique as well as sensitive to writers at all levels - quite simply excellent. I am really looking forward to my next visit."

John, June 2016


"After three sessions with Mary-Jane I left with a new opening, ideas about plot and voice; and a clear plan to go forward. Her concise, constructive feedback was invaluable."

Sarah, June 2016


"Joining the group sessions felt scary, but I was so glad I did. MJ enabled relaxed discussion, and it was hugely rewarding to share in fellow writers’ struggles and successes."

Jo, June 2016


"Mary-Jane's mentoring and facilitating were a huge help to me. I only had a few sessions with her whilst I was at a Casa Ana writing retreat but with her focused and attentive approach we were able to get to the heart of my difficulties immediately. I felt she grasped the way that I worked in general. This helped not only with the pieces we discussed but has also continued to give me ideas on character development and story arc in my ongoing writing. I feel Mary-Jane would be a great mentor and editor for a longer-term project and I hope to have the opportunity to work with her again."

Lorna, February 2016

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