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MJ Writing Course

Novel writing retreat

with author Sarah May

6 – 13 July 2019

Imagine what you could achieve with the time and space to write free from the distractions of everyday life. This intensive week’s retreat will enable you to submerge yourself in the art and practice of novel writing while gaining a new understanding of what it takes to be a great rather than a good writer. Optional group workshops will focus on progressively structured writing exercises while offering the ongoing opportunity for peer presentation. One-to-one mentoring will enable you to explore ways in which you can sustain commitment to your novel beyond the workshop environment in order to achieve your full potential as a writer.

Daily workshop programme

Mentor Sarah May will offer these optional sessions each morning to assist you in those areas of novel writing where you may need guidance. The morning sessions also include opportunities for peer presentation and feedback.

Day One: Novel Beginnings

Why is story-telling an essential part of the human experience? Why do we write novels and why do we read them? In this introductory session we will look at a selection of recently published novels while discussing the exciting ways in which the novel’s form is evolving and the opportunities these changes present to new writers. The technical focus of this session will be on the opening 1000 – 5000 words of the novel you are either currently working on or hoping to start work on while at Casa Ana.

Day Two: Plotting and Character

An in-depth exploration of the ways in which character affects pace and plotting. During this session we will also look at how to create space and make time in your life for writing.

Day Three: Understanding Voice

This session will help you to understand how your voice works and how to achieve control of tone in order to take your writing to the next level. We will take a detailed look at scene structure, exploring conflict and ways in which narrative tension can be built.

Day Four: Technical Toolkit

Gain a new perspective on the technical aspects of novel writing including Point of view / Dialogue / Setting.

Day Five: Editing

Hone the essential skills involved in becoming your own editor. What happens when a scene doesn't work? This session will focus on identifying underlying problems and editing as part of the creative process.

Day Six: One-to-one Tutorials

An opportunity for in-depth discussion with Sarah May about your novel as well as next steps.

Sarah May

Sarah May is the highly-acclaimed author of seven novels, including The Nudist Colony, which was shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award. Her second novel, Spanish City, was shortlisted for the Encore Award, and The Internationals was longlisted for The Orange Prize. Her other novels include the bestselling trilogy, The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia, The Rise and Fall of A Domestic Diva and The Wonder Girls.


Sarah has been a freelance writer and creative writing tutor for over fifteen years. She has taught UEA/Guardian Masterclass courses and is currently a lead tutor on Faber Academy six-month Writing A Novel Course. She also mentors writers through Jill Dawson’s Gold Dust programme.

Prices – Novel writing retreat, 6 – 13 July 2019

All rooms are priced for single occupancy and private bathrooms.

Single room with private bathroom €945

Standard double or twin room with private bathroom €1045

Large double room with private bathroom €1145


For further information and bookings please email Anne at Casa Ana.

Working with Sarah May – reviews

"Sarah is a brilliant tutor. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about the craft of writing and her editing guidance is invaluable. She has really helped me to grow into my writing process and tackle with greater confidence the challenges that arise. I highly recommend both Sarah's class teaching and her mentoring."

Philip Kidson, mentee


"It's incredibly reassuring to know I can always ask Sarah for her advice. As a relative newcomer to the industry, I very much appreciate having someone with her wealth of knowledge. She's very generous with her time too and I don't think I would have got half this far without her."

Harriet Cummings, author of 'We All Begin As Strangers' and , 'The Last Of Us'


"Sarah started guiding me as a writer in 2015, and because of her insight, time and energy, my concept for a novel transformed into a bestseller. My entire career is shaping because of Sarah teaching me how to become a better writer, and then teaching me how to talk to the industry about it."

Darren O'Sullivan, author of 'Our Little Secret' and 'Close Your Eyes'


The House
Writers terrace