How to Write About What You Can't Remember:

A Six-Day Retreat


Rowe Center

Rowe, Massachussetts


Sunday, May 15th—Friday, May 20th, 2022

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?"

tree in the mist_edited-1

During this six-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.

Heart moss on tree

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 the Rowe Center in northern Massachusetts?

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.

The Setting

The Rowe Center is an adult education center that respects those committed to growing and learning throughout their entire lives. It is widely respected as one of the finest conference centers in the country, and its weekend retreats address topics related to personal growth, spirituality, the arts, nature, political activism, and much more. As we believe there are many ways up a mountain, Rowe’s mission is to offer and to honor diverse paths to personal growth.


Along with its setting in the Berkshires, connecting with other engaged and engaging people is part of the joy and magic of Rowe. We seek wisdom from differing perspectives, passionate pursuits, and a sense of humor about living. Rowe conferences help people deepen their spiritual journeys, strike new paths, and find inner tools for being in the world.

Come to retreat, to laugh out loud, to experience transition, and to see the world from a different perspective. People who come to Rowe regain optimism, regenerate, and are inspired. Like a walk upon our mountain, the programs at The Rowe Center can offer both spirited conversation and a chance for solitary reflection.

Many people who come to Rowe feel as though they’re returning home — even if they’re arriving for the first time. They feel a sense of familiarity, comfort, and belonging. Traditions that have been built over the years have created a vibrant culture, and the openness to new ideas has kept Rowe growing and evolving.

Rowe Center’s philosophy arises from a deep faith in the fundamental goodness of human beings, the abiding miracle of life on earth, and the soul-sustaining beauty of creation. Rowe offers workshops on nature and spirituality to connect people to the ineffable; on relationships and communication to connect people with each other; on politics and ideas to support people in creating a better world; and on self-improvement, creativity, and the arts to help people flourish.

The Center is folded into the slope of gentle mountains at the edge of an old New England village. The wonder of the ordinary miraculous is everywhere. It’s just around the corner, down the wooded path, in the radiant eyes of the person across from you at lunch, in the Aha! moment of a sudden insight that you can take with you back into the world.


Come and find out about Rowe’s magic for yourself.
It is enduring, endearing, evident, and undeniable.

Where is Rowe?

Rowe is just north of the Mohawk Trail (Route 2), New England’s most famous highway, and one of the region’s most scenic. Rowe offers the beauties of the Berkshires at their finest — every season is a feast of nature, from the blossoms of springtime to the glories of autumn. Come see for yourself.

The 1400 acres of town forest land surrounding our property are held in trust “forever wild.” We are a hiker’s and bicyclist’s paradise. Kayakers revel in the serenity of Pelham Lake at the base of Mount Adams or the thrills of the nearby Deerfield River. When the snow falls, our ungroomed trails are ideal for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, and groomed trails are just a short drive away. We are also within 25 miles of several ski areas, including Mt. Snow.

farmhouse & daffodils

You may want to take time to explore nearby villages of western Massachusetts and southern Vermont, including Shelburne Falls, a charming riverside town of shops, cafes, art galleries, and bookstores renowned for its magnificent Bridge of Flowers (and also as a shooting location for several Hollywood films). We are within an hour’s drive of many art museums and cultural sites, including the exquisite Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the ultra-cool Mass MoCA in North Adams. In coming to Rowe, consider staying an extra day or two and seeing more of what the Berkshires have to offer.

And there's great food too . . .

Breakfast in sunlight2

The Splendors of Locally-Sourced Cuisine

We offer fresh, healthy, delicious food –mostly vegetarian. Our chefs consistently amaze everyone with their delicious culinary artistry, as well as their willingness to cater to special diets, from vegan and gluten-free to high protein, which includes chicken. Our food—fresh baked breads, homemade soups, gourmet entrees, and yummy desserts—is prepared lovingly by our chefs. Their hands nurture our bodies, as their hearts nurture our souls. At Rowe we have a growing commitment to developing our own organic, sustainable gardens and to working with local farms. For example, through one of our wholesale suppliers, Foster’s Market in Greenfield, MA, we buy fresh produce from our neighbors’ farms at Pinehill Orchard in Colrain; Apex Orchard in Greenfield; Clarkdale Farm, Ciesluk Farm, and Wargers Farm in Deerfield; Nourse Farm in Whately; Smiarowski Farm in Sunderland; Spatcher Farm in Leyden; and Diemand Farm in Wendell. It’s part of our evolving dedication to green living, supporting our area community, and protecting the Earth.

During retreats at Rowe, much time is spent around the table, where animated, engaging conversation gives perspective to the workshop sessions, just as the weekend gives perspective to our workaday lives.

Breakfast in sunlight2


Housing at Rowe is designed to meet a variety of needs.

Accommodations range from shared housing to private rooms with different levels of amenities. You can even camp on site.

There is something for everyone at a wide range of price points.

For more information about housing at Rowe, click here.

Hammock&BarnSummer 3

Getting to Rowe

To learn about getting to Rowe, click here.


Flying to Rowe:

We recommend you use Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT (near Hartford) and that you schedule your flight to arrive by 2 PM on Sunday. The Bradley airport is about an hour and 45 minutes from Rowe. We can arrange a pick-up for you from and to this airport for a fee. This ride service is available during business hours: 9am to 6pm. Please call at least a week in advance with the date, arrival time, & your flight number. Often it is possible to get a ride back to the airport with another guest.

We can also arrange transportation from the Greenfield Amtrak Station, which is ideal from folks coming from New York.

We do not offer transport from Boston-Logan airport, which is three hours away, and is often beset by weekend traffic.

The retreat starts with dinner Sunday night, followed by an orientation session. Registration begins at 4 PM and we suggest arriving with ample time to settle in before dinner on Sunday.

For your return transportation, please arrange to be able to stay until after lunch, departing Rowe at 2:00 or later. Please bear in mind that we’re 1.75 hours from the Hartford airport, plus required check in. And 45 minutes from Greenfield Amtrak.


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. You can read the first five chapters for free here.


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 Tuscany, 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 visit Laura’s media page to read, listen and watch her talk about her work.

"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 Rowe. Tuition for the workshop is $875.

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.


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


"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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