How to Write About What You Can't Remember:

A Five-Day Retreat

 

1440 Multiversity

Scotts Valley, California

 

The in-person version of this retreat had to be canceled. Laura is considering bringing it online.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all of my in-person retreats have been temporarily suspended. This page will always have the most up-to-date information about their availability. You can scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to be notified about future opportunities to write and travel with me in person.

In the meantime, to learn about my online offerings during the pandemic, you can go to this page.

Is vivid recall absolutely essential to good writing?

Many of us believe that writing memoir-recording the stories of our lives-requires us to accurately remember our past and then transcribe our memories. This belief stops us before we begin because we are appalled at how much we don't remember. Sometimes it feels as if whole years of our lives have been wiped out. And so, we believe our writing is doomed because there is so much that we don't remember.

In addition to personal stories you long to write, you may also carry family stories that haunt you-stories you can never know the truth about because the people involved are dead, unreachable or unwilling to tell the truth: your mother's breakdown when she was a teenager, your grandfather's desertion of the family, the dead child nobody talks about. These family secrets and untold stories can be transformed into gripping stories, essential scenes in your personal narrative.

But how? You may be wondering, "How can I possibly write about what I can't remember?"

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During this 5-day writing workshop, I'll teach you how to capture the memories you do have, while enhancing recollections that are vague or unclear. You will walk away with five versatile strategies for writing vividly and evocatively about parts of your history is it impossible to know for sure.

Over the course of our days together, writing and sharing our work, we will form a powerful creative community, a fertile environment to birth the stories-remembered and forgotten-that you long to tell.

This writing retreat will not be a critique group for polishing finished pieces. Rather, we will alternate periods of writing with listening to each other-not from a place of judgment or analysis-but from a place of focused attention and deep acceptance.

You will walk away from this workshop with a substantial body of writing, as well as many essential skills and exercises for writing vividly and evocatively about things you remember or that can't be known.

New and seasoned writers welcome to attend.

What Participants Have Said About Past Retreats with Laura

"I felt free to write about anything."

—Carolina Sturgeon, Mountain View, CA

"I'd absolutely recommend this workshop. Come with blank paper and no expectations about how good or lousy a writer you believe you may be, or how alone you are in your misery. You will find love in the circle." 

—Enid Brock, Santa Cruz

"I valued this retreat as a way to check in with my own interior. It's a real renewal to be away from daily life in a beautiful setting with delicious food, and to have the retreat led by folks who share their own process as well as their skills."

—Kathleen Mock, Kensington, CA

"The retreat was perfectly planned and delivered, and I wouldn't change a thing."

—Lynn Menon, Pleasanton, CA

"I had been caught in a long drought with respect to writing, blocked partly by my resistance to repeatedly stirring the embers of grief. My writing had been reduced to barely a trickle. I hoped to loosen the hold of that block and refresh my intention to practice. I learned that I have not 'stopped writing.' I've renewed my commitment to writing practice and discovered there is much soil left to cultivate. There were times I was surprised by what emerged as I wrote, and those moments of grace were treasured gifts."

—Cricket Halsey, El Cerrito, CA

"If you're interested in immersing intensely into expressing your personal stories through writing but don't know how or have never had the courage or permission to do so, this is the retreat for you."

—Leslie Bullock, Fresno, CA

"The Writer's Journey Retreat is the bowl that holds and rings the truths that we all share."

—Mimi Liem, Orinda, CA

 "I would recommend this retreat to anyone looking to unplug and get in touch with themselves and their creative energy."

—Anne Williams, Pleasantville, NY

"I was surprised and delighted how this journey transformed me from being someone completely resistant from plunging into writing without advance preparation and planning to someone unafraid to take the plunge and share my raw drafts with the group. I am grateful to Laura for providing the personal time, sharing her insights and wisdom, and her ability to put her finger on each person's pulse during each and every session."

—Brad, San Jose, CA

"What I learned and gained from this experience is that no matter how unique each person is—how much they struggle or achieve—humanity's suffering and joy always comes back to universal themes—and healing them is healing and enlightening."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"You can't improve this workshop. It was perfect the way as is."

—Elizabeth O'Neill, San Francisco

"I was surprised by the steady flow of the group to work at generating endless pages of creative expression; the willingness to listen to every person's story or stories; to accept the diverse experiences of the participants. I was delighted to see how some members dropped their reluctance to share their secrets, shame, anger, fantasies, and over the days accept their inner experiences and shoo away the critical, analyzing mind." 

—Mimi Liem, Orinda, CA

"Listening to the pieces everyone read to the circle was by far my favorite part—challenging, at times intimidating, but always impressive whether for the craft evinced, the struggle and emotion of the story or the two together."

—Peggy Hansen, Santa Cruz, CA

"Hearing others speak their truth was very impactful on me. We know that each person carries a story—but to watch each take the risk to speak aloud was humbling. Some of the experiences conveyed and turns of phrase with stay with me indefinitely."

—Joanna Ewing, Los Angeles, CA

"The most meaningful part of the retreat was the human connections, the deep profound moments of connecting at the core of being with others."

—Juliana Quinn, Oakland, CA

"I was delighted and moved by the synergy created in the group and how well and how quickly we bonded. For the first time in my life, I felt confident and safe to share my writing. Interestingly, even without verbal feedback or critique, I felt support, encouraged that my writing was okay. I learned to break through my fear of not writing 'well enough,' to let go of the inner critic, for the first time in a long time. I learned that maybe I can write, that maybe I am a writer. Something broke open inside me with each piece I wrote and I felt freer. I am so grateful for this opportunity and experience!"

—Leslie Bullock, Fresno, CA

"I gained a deepening in my faith in people's capacity for kindness and community. I gained experience and practice in sitting meditation and in writing as a practice for personal growth and reflection. I believe I will take the lessons home with me and listen to what my pen might want to tell me. And quieting my anxious mind with a modest meditation practice will be of great help."

—Monika Zerzan, Arcata, CA

"Reading out loud without getting feedback, but only appreciation, felt like a breakthrough for me."

—Sheila O'Neill, Brooklyn, New York

"As an editor, I have thought of first drafts as a necessary step on the way to finished work. Embracing the first spark of writing without judgment or critique is new for me and cause me to step away from judging work as good or bad. I listened differently and more openly, and discovered the depth and power of everyone's stories."

—Anne Williams, Pleasantville, NY

"A great way to find art and learn more about yourself—and to become more expressive in your writing. Get ready to have your mind cracked wide open."

—Daniel Kramer, Galt, CA

"I would definitely recommend this retreat to a friend. The integrity of the leaders, the environment created and enforced, and the quality of the instruction in writing practice and Zazen were all outstanding." 

—Monika Zerzan, Arcata, CA

"Being at this retreat made me think a lot about how a circle, when assembled as a safe space with clear guidelines can be a place where people can have catharsis or come together to make change."

—Joanna Ewing, Los Angeles, CA

"I learned that it is possible to explore various experiences with pen-in-hand, rather than feel the fear of not having anything to say or that no one would understand what you wrote."

—Mimi Liem, Orinda, CA

"It has been over a week since I have returned from your retreat, and I am still turning over memories in my mind, savoring them as I would a delectable meal. The safety, sorority, serenity, growth . . . and oh yes, the writing!! Everything served as nourishment for both body and spirit. I have never experienced anything like it. I cannot thank you enough for the profound experience that I just underwent under your gentle and wise ministration. I have begun a transformative journey on so many levels, and will be forever grateful for your help in setting me on this path."

—Emily Bitton, West Orange, New Jersey

"Thank you, Laura, for a powerful retreat. You are an extraordinary teacher-your warmth, your humor, your wisdom and your insight provide a safe haven for all of us on the Writer's Journey. The pacing of the writing experience was remarkable. I loved being able to relax into the experience, knowing it was safe to go deeper and deeper."

—Belinda Carter, Sacramento, CA

"I have been opened and touched in so many ways. I am in awe and will treasure this experience forever."

—Tamara Myers, Santa Cruz

"Laura has immense gifts as a writer, as a teacher and as a visionary."

—Linda Lapetino, Los Angeles, CA

"My heart is filled with gratitude. I have never felt so embraced by others as I have by this community of people. The retreat was sacred, safe, transformative. Thank you Laura from the bottom of my heart."

—Tammy Merlo, Valley Village, CA

Are you ready to join me at 1440 Mulitversity?

Here's my promise to you:

During this retreat, you will:

  • Unleash your creative potential. Discover the stories that are living inside you, just waiting to be told.

  • Capture the memories you do have, while enhancing recollections that are vague or unclear.

  • Discover five versatile strategies for writing vividly and evocatively about parts of your history is it impossible to know for sure.

  • Identify and break through personal barriers that keep you from communing deeply with yourself, so you can write the stories closest to your heart.

  • Make powerful, lasting intimate connections with your fellow students. Many lifelong friendships have naturally evolved from Laura's retreats.
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The Setting

In a Forest of California Redwoods

Redwood trails, copper-adorned buildings with majestic views, and decks built around sky-high trunks keep you wrapped in nature while on the 75-acre campus.

Part wellness resort, part Ted-talk auditorium, part conference center, the campus features state-of-the-art classrooms, meeting spaces, and accommodations tucked away in a lush forest between Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. With locally sourced meals, holistic-health classes, Fitness Center, infinity-edge hot tub, and more,  your stay at 1440 is designed to nurture, educate, and inspire.

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The Lodge

The Lodge is the welcoming center, open twenty-four hours a day. Amid massive wooden beams, stone pillars, copper and iron accents, you can relax in plush leather chairs, cozy couches, and outdoor patio seating-a variety of perfect places to enjoy morning coffee, wine in the evening, or a chat with a friend.

Fitness Center

Tucked among the redwoods, the 1,440-square-foot (yes, really!) Fitness Center is open daily. Use stationary bikes, yoga props, free weights, and ellipticals to boost your heart rate and mood. Enjoy your own personal practice, or bring a workout buddy for more time to connect.

Forest Trails

As you walk the redwood trails, look up, hundreds of feet into the sky, and watch treetops sway in the wind. Look down and notice the dark beauty of the soft forest floor. Take deep breaths of pine-scented air while sitting on a handcrafted bench for a moment of reflection. When you bring your awareness to your senses, notice tension melt away.

A special spot is the Cathedral of redwoods, where you'll find the mother tree-estimated to be 1,200 years old.

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And there's great food too . . .

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The Splendors of Locally-Sourced Cuisine

The heart of sustenance and connection on campus is Kitchen Table. Gather with friends near the stone hearth and glowing fire or dine al fresco with a view of the redwood forest. The menus feature a variety of locally sourced homemade foods and cooking styles, from lively lighter fare to hearty favorites and inspired culinary creations.

Fresh, organic, locally sourced, and seasonal-these words reflect our commitment to nourish you during your stay at 1440 Multiversity. While focused on plant-based cuisine, daily menus also include sustainable sources of animal protein as well as gluten-free, lactose-free, and paleo options.

Accommodations

From modern sleeping pods to expansive suites, the accommodations offer a variety of room types for every preference and budget. Artisan craftsman construction combines with simple, modern indoor accents in each of the buildings.

Settle into custom-designed rooms featuring handcrafted, artisanal fixtures and artistic displays of natural elements. To support relaxation and personal reflection, there are no televisions or phones.

For more information, click here.

Accommodation rates are per person and include locally sourced mealswellness activities, use of the Fitness Center, access to the infinity tub, and more.

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Getting to 1440 Multiversity

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All of the main campus buildings are accessible, and a range of accessible housing types is offered. The campus is on hilly terrain, and there is not a continuous accessible pathway throughout the grounds. Each building has its own accessible path and is connected to a public way. To transport guests to and from the parking area and to ensure access between buildings that do not share an accessible path, they offer an accessible shuttle.

Your room will be ready by 4:00 pm, and you can check in as early as 2:15 pm and leave your luggage at reception. We encourage you to allow for a little extra time so that you don't feel rushed. You are welcome to explore campus or enjoy a yoga or meditation class before dinner is served from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. Opening night program sessions typically begin at 7:30 pm.

On your final day, program sessions end by 11:30 am, checkout is at 12 noon, and lunch is included.

1440 Multiversity is in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California, between Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley-within easy reach of San Francisco. You can download the 1440 Multiversity's Transportation Document here.

AIRPORTS
Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC): 27 miles
San Francisco International Airport (SFO): 60 miles
Oakland International Airport (OAK): 60 miles

ADDRESS
800 Bethany Drive
Scotts Valley, CA 95066

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Your Teacher

Laura Davis

The author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker. Words have always been at the core of her work and her self-expression.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death.

Laura has been mentoring and supporting writers for the past 20 years. It is truly the work of her heart: "I love teaching. I love watching my students find their natural voice and their rhythm. I love it when they find their true stories and discover the courage to put them on the page. I feel like a midwife as my students birth their stories, and I feel honored to witness their bursts of creativity and pure life energy pouring out on the page. Our writing circles are safe places where skills are honed, tears and laughter are welcome, and each writer is seen, heard and deeply known."

Laura leads weekly writing groups and retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region and online, as well as retreats internationally. She has taken writers to Bali and Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation. You can read a wonderful interview with Laura here.

Laura Davis.

"Laura is a dear and supportive guide to tipping into your inner world and bringing it forth."

—Kimlin, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura is the master creator of the circle."

—Daniel Kramer, Lodi, CA

"Laura is a masterful guide. She coaxes the heart to speak just by modeling it herself and respecting all the voices in the room. Laura opens her own heart and invited me to do the same."

—Karen Zelin, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura brings years of skill as a writer, kept the group on track and provided a safe place to share personal work. She provides guidance to both committed, experienced writers and to those using the craft for self-knowledge."

—Kathleen Mock, Kensington, CA

"Laura is a great facilitator and a profound listener. I felt safe. I knew she had my back."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura is a master, an exceptional writing teacher. Her warm presence and comprehensive instruction made for a productive and enjoyable retreat."

—Lynn Menon, Pleasanton, CA

"Laura is dynamic and passionate, yet warm and approachable. Her expertise is evident in her personal writing skills and in the readings that she selects to share. Beautiful words, lovely teacher."

—Laura Barnett, Chicago, Illinois

"Laura is a gifted teacher, very receptive, open, kind and generous in sharing her knowledge and encouraging each of us at whatever our level of experience. Her dedication and talent are inspiring."

—Cricket Halsey, El Cerrito, CA

"When Laura speaks, she is eloquent and concise—a spokesperson for all of the emotions and thoughts I have in my soul about writing and life. I feel she is in my head--a kindred spirit. I can't stop smiling because I relate so deeply with her words."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"Laura runs the circle with empathy and a firm set of rules, which allows everyone to find their stories. Her confidence in her methods is infectious. She inspires trust and openness while ensuring boundaries. She is extremely effective and personally engaging." 

—Anne Williams, Pleasantville, NY

"Laura changed the way I see myself as a writer. She approached each session with a deep sense of empathy, clear instruction, and brilliant writing prompts."

—Brad, San Jose, CA

"Laura is a master at pacing and creating trust in the group. She gently nudges us to say more and be more than we believe we can be." 

—Enid Brock, Santa Cruz

"Laura is like a conductive metal that brings an emotional, electric change from you back to the ground. She is the encouraging catalyst that sparks the flame that could not be seen in the dark, and shows the arch between each participant so each one will cross the bridge."

—Mimi Liem, Orinda, CA

"Laura gave us a framework for practicing writing and was a model and arbiter of how we should treat one another during the retreat. As a result, anywhere I interacted with the other retreat participants—both in the writing circle and outside of it—there was consideration, kindness and respectful boundaries in our interactions." 

—Monika Zerzan, Arcata, CA

"Laura is an amazing leader. She takes the reins as needed to help the writers and sharers n the group move through the experience of searching out what story they need to tell."

—Daniel Kramer, Galt, CA

"Laura is a master. I found the rules of the writing circle to be very powerful."

—Elizabeth O'Neill, San Francisco

"Laura is a skillful group facilitator. She is just the right balance of firmness and warmth."

—Juliana Quinn, Oakland, CA

"Laura was an outstanding, supportive and wise writing teacher and guide. Her experience and skill as a writer and as a writing teacher shone through every session. She was organized, clear and firm with boundaries and structure, but she wasn't intimidating. She never came off as the expert. Most importantly, Laura skillfully and warmly created a safe, supportive container to allow all of us to write and share from our hearts and the deepest places inside us."

—Leslie Bullock, Fresno, CA

"Laura is a master group facilitator. Her skills at making the group feel safe to share deep feelings is brilliant."

—Daniella Woolf, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura created a safe container by her actions and words and willingness to share in a mature, wise way."

—Sheila O'Neill, Brooklyn, New York

"I appreciated the way Laura held the space for those in the circle. Laura's technique of coaching without coddling worked well to create an atmosphere where many voices could be heard."

—Joanna Ewing, Los Angeles, CA

"When I'm in Laura's writing circle, I feel giddy. The excitement moves me—as does the contentment. I feel there is no other place I'd rather be. I'm in love with writing and all that it brings, and Laura makes it possible."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"Laura was a great guide. She was experienced, shared her knowledge freely, supported the group and role modeled how to show compassion."

—Martha Sosu-Johnson, Orange County, CA

"Laura is a great teacher—kind and open-hearted."

—Daniel Kramer, Galt, CA

"Laura masterfully created and maintained a safe environment to develop a holistic and healing approach to writing."

—Brad, San Jose, CA

"Laura was the beautiful sailing ship that held us during the retreat. She moved with the changing seas, knew where we were going and returned us safely to port. Above all, she was a kind, personally open, and strong captain."

—Haven Logan, Ukiah, CA

"Laura was our beacon of light that shone on us constantly. Her glow never dimmed. We followed her light and never got lost."

—Mary Lasher, Morgan Hill, CA

"Laura holds a sacred space for us to share our deepest sorrows and joys."

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura's role as facilitator was beyond words, but I'll try: skillful, passionate, caring, compassionate. Where would I be today without her presence in my life?"

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

"Laura Davis is born to teach."

—Darcy Hansen, San Francisco

"Laura, your clear, vast, strong, real, non-judgmental group facilitation takes my breath away-in the best way."

—Becky McGovern, San Anselmo, CA

How Do I Sign Up For This Fantastic Retreat?

Your Investment:

Registration for this retreat is through the 1440 Multiversity. Tuition for the workshop is $615.

Lodging, including three meals a day plus use of all facilities, is charged in addition to tuition and that cost depends on the accommodations you choose. The final price you see on their site will reflect the combined price of tuition, housing, meals and use of all on-campus facilities.

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Registration arrangements at the 1440 Multiversity are different than signing up for Laura's other retreats. It happens by phone or through the 1440 Multiversity website. 

My program will soon be listed on the 1440 Multiversity website, but in the meantime, you can fill out the interest form below and you'll be notified when registration opens.

What people are saying about Laura and the Writer's Journey

"I've never read Laura's books, but I'd like to get to know her better. Based on the way she carries herself—her struggles, her passion and service shine through in a perfect intertwined web which brings light to all of our lives."

—Nancy Kramer

"Laura Davis is born to teach."

—Darcy Hansen, San Francisco

"I have been opened and touched in so many ways. I am in awe and will treasure this experience forever."

—Tamara Myers, Santa Cruz

"I valued the sacred space and the pace of the retreat."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz

"Laura, your clear, vast, strong, real, non-judgmental group facilitation takes my breath away-in the best way."

—Becky McGovern, San Anselmo, CA

"My heart is filled with gratitude. I have never felt so embraced by others as I have by this community of people. The retreat was sacred, safe, transformative. Thank you Laura from the bottom of my heart."

—Tammy Merlo, Valley Village, CA

"I am forever changed."

—Jackie Baritell, Soquel, CA

"Laura has immense gifts as a writer, as a teacher and as a visionary."

 —Linda Lapetino, Los Angeles, CA

Testimonial

"I return home from each of Laura's trips a little wiser, a little more open, and a lot more compassionate. I greet my family, friends and daily life with sparkly, clean energy and a renewed patience, brought about by way of re-writing old stories that I needed to let go of. I come home ready to move forward in my life.

A retreat with Laura Davis is one of the best gifts I ever received and gave myself. It took many years to realize that I was worth the time and financial investment, but now there is no looking back."

Julie Sheehan, Livermore, California

Be the First to Learn About Upcoming Retreats with Laura!

Not sure which retreat is right for you?  Interested to hear about exciting new locations and adventures?  Enter your name and email below and I'll let you know before new retreats are released on my website.

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A Gift to Inspire Your Writing

Subscribe to my mailing list and I will immediately give you a beautiful eBook: Writing Toward Courage: A Thirty Day Practice.

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