Writing on the Big Sur Coast with Laura

Stories That Make Us Whole
The Power of Writing in Sacred Community

Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

March 29 - April 1, 2024

Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Catherine Karnitis

Come write your heart out at one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Join master teachers Laura Davis and Evelyn Hall in a vibrant, supportive writing community at the Esalen Institute on the wild Pacific cliffs of Big Sur, California.


"The writing workshop I attended with Laura Davis at Esalen was my very first writing workshop. The weekend was everything I'd hoped for - and so much more. Laura's powerful exercises opened the floodgates of my subconscious - and for months afterwards, writing just flew out of me. The effects of Laura's insightful guidance went far deeper than I ever could have imagined. I found my voice - and uncovered parts of my past I had buried for decades. It was the most enlightening therapy I could imagine. A writing workshop with Laura at Esalen, perched overlooking the magnificent Big Sur coastline, makes for a truly a magical weekend."

—Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm, author of Earthbound Cook and Food to Live By

When the world around us is polarized and the future is uncertain, gathering in community, living in our bodies, and expressing the truth is more important than ever.

In this transformative four-day writing workshop, we’ll use ritual and deep writing to connect with our inner voice, discover the healing power of language, and birth powerful true stories onto the page. Evocative prompts, movement, and guided meditation will lead you deeply into the world of language and story. Discover how to “find the story beneath the story,” why writers need to “slow down where it hurts,” and the secret of crafting tales rooted in the immediacy and physicality of the moment.

As we alternate periods of writing and movement with listening to each other from a place of deep acceptance, you’ll benefit from the strength of a supportive writing circle, witness the healing power of language, and experience the transformation that occurs when we tell true stories and are deeply heard. Open to anyone willing to connect with their creativity in the context of a safe, confidential community.

Both emerging and seasoned writers are welcome to attend.

Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: JR Wurster
Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: JR Wurster

Is This Retreat For Me?

To benefit from this retreat, you can be already deeply engaged in writing a memoir, interested in exploring the possibility, or simply looking for a concentrated period of time to explore new entry points for writing about your life experience.

Open to anyone willing to connect with their creativity in the context of a safe, confidential community. Both emerging and seasoned writers are welcome to attend.

I'm ready to connect with my inner voice.


Esalen Institute, Big Sur California

The Wonders of Esalen: Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Four hours south of San Francisco, three hours south of San Jose, the Esalen Institute is a rocky paradise perched directly on cliffs overlooking the crashing, wild Pacific Ocean.  Esalen  encompasses 120  acres carved out of fertile ground full of lush gardens and pathways that weave between mountains and ocean.

The world-famous Esalen baths are fed by natural hot springs that fill the baths with healing water year round. And people have come from around the world to bathe in their healing, transformative, deeply relaxing waters.

Cost and Accommodations: Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations. To learn about costs and available accommodations, click here.

Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Ali Kaukas
Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Ali Kaukas

"I've always thought I'd like to write to get my ideas and visions across-to convey my dreams to people and to help them with their own dreams. I feel now, after this workshop, that this may be possible. It's only up to me now."

—Fawaz Mourad, Lebanon

Yes, Laura, I want to meet you in Esalen in March!

Teachers and Guides

Writing Workshop Instructor:  

Laura Davis is 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.

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.

She is a cancer survivor, the mother of three, the grandmother of three, and has buried both her parents. In other words, she is a well-seasoned human being.

Words have always been at the core of her work and her self-expression.

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 Peru, Bali, Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation.


Praise for Laura

"Laura is the creator of the space, the architect who makes it possible to have rich memories triggered and churned up onto paper. She is delightfully firm for the purpose of creating and holding a safe space, yet she has a lovely softness and wisdom in all of her responses."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"Laura's presence is calm, serious, gentle, but firm. Her ability to know when to speak, how to deliver a prompt or suggestion helped guide us without being overbearing or critical."

—Jessica Bersi, Lodi, CA

"Laura's intimacy with us gave us all the permission we needed to be intimate with ourselves and with the group."

—Ian Webb, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura has the ability to teach writing in bite-sized pieces that help remove a long-time writing block."

—Ritu Hassan, Los Angeles and Connecticut

"Laura is a mentor I can trust."

—Elaine Holliman, Berkeley, CA

"Laura creates the most well-crafted container of security and intention. The richness of spirit the entire group feels through remembering and sharing is profound."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"As a 'non-writer' myself, I never felt I wasn't good enough or that words didn't measure up to others. Laura created an inclusive community where everyone's stories belonged."

—Kaitlin Rudnick, Bakersfield, CA

"Laura was our fearless leader who did a wonderful job of facilitating and guiding our group as a whole."

—Nicki Boisvert, Albany, CA

"The word for Laura is presence. She is all of who she is: accepting, urious, informed, edge, free to laugh, full of information."

—Barbara Crofford, Los Angeles

"Laura was a great teacher, facilitator and protector of the space we created. I felt safe with the ground rules she set from the beginning."

—Ritu Hassan, Los Angeles and Connecticut

"Laura demonstrated the courage, vulnerability and honesty it takes to write powerfully. Both a master of the raft and process, as well as a refreshingly accessible peer, being with Laura, I felt both awe and kinship."

—Ian Webb, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura was warm, inspired, fun, energetic, compassionate. She is the whole enchilada: great mentor, excited writer, generous teacher and fun."

—Elaine Holliman, Berkeley, CA

"Laura navigated a group of eclectic personalities and skill levels to a common destination."

—Jeff Gowdy, Nashville, TN

"Laura has such an open heart and gives particular care to each person at the retreat. The manner and comfort with which she teaches encourages me to write-and not be afraid of sharing.  Attending her retreats has provided me with a balance I didn't know I needed until I began to attend."

—Rosemary Christian

"What did Laura bring to the retreat? She brought herself, which is all anyone would ever need."

—Honeysun Ferdinand

"Laura is organized, articulate and extremely caring. She is an amazing listener and guides the retreat effortlessly. I came thinking I might not stay and I'm so grateful I stayed. I feel safe with Laura."

—Linda Dorian

"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 creates a safe and sacred environment that gave me permission to move beyond my edges, jump-starting my process and nudging me forward into the next level of my writing."

—Susan Dorf

"Laura brought herself to the retreat through the many readings she chose. Each touched me deeply. Thank you Laura."

—Linda Dorian

"Laura continues to amaze me with her ability to organize and lead. Each workshop I have attended with her has had a different focus, yet all of them have let me to a new opening up of my inner thoughts, always rekindling my desire to write more in my life."

—Nancy Guinther

"As a teacher, Laura gets to the heart of every matter with kindness and knowledge. Her openness is always appreciated. What Laura brought to this retreat was herself and her caring is always heartfelt."

—Gilda Zelin

"In just a brief period of time, Laura brings a sense of inclusion and safety that enables people to share what may be difficult."

—Beverly Boyd

"Laura has such a wonderful down to earth way of leading and teaching. She has an authenticity about her that makes it special to be in her presence."

—Amy White, Author, Coach and Advocate

"A gift of time, space, quiet and restoration."

—Linda Dorian

"Laura's patience, wisdom and organization moved this retreat along as smooth as silk, as she filled it to the brim with advice through poetry and writing prompts."

—Nancy Guinther


Evelyn Hall

Evelyn Hall is a social worker, master hypnotherapist, and minister. For the past 35 years, Evelyn has been guiding individuals and leading groups, helping people find healing in body, mind, and spirit. Evelyn specializes in transformative healing practices including somatic awareness, movement, meditation, healing through nature, and leading sacred ceremonies.

Praise for Evelyn

"Evelyn brought mysticism, magic, creativity and a romantic spirit to the retreat."

—Julie Sheehan, Livermore, CA

"Evelyn is a comforting presence. She is a healer and very read. She truly helped me. I love her."

—Bonnie Kirchbaum, Oceanside, CA

"Evelyn is an amazing earth goddess. I love her energy and warmth. She was also a good DJ!"

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

"Evelyn played a beautiful supportive and sensitive role to all of us in the group."

—Linda Comin, Oceanside, CA

"Evelyn held space in a very positive and engaging way. She was grounded, warm and open."

—Elizabeth Becker, Oakland, CA

"Evelyn was our priestess. She provided a quiet counterbalance of sacred and spiritual to our words and the emotions the writing prompts generated."

—Si Steinberg, Boise, Idaho

"Evelyn was like the spiritual God fairy. I found her an excellent balance to Laura-leading heartfelt mediations, creating an altar that was inclusive of all things that help heal. I loved her capacity to listen."

—Ellen Kaye Gehrke, Ramona, CA

"Evelyn's presence was a gift. Her calming presence, her blessing and the altar she tended. I appreciated everything she brought to the retreat. I wouldn't have had the same powerful experience without her."

—Margo Fowkes, Loomis, CA

"I loved Evelyn's role. She's a wonderful presence of peace, love and amazing energy."

—Natasha Kealoha, Sacramento, CA

"Evelyn was the keeper of the altar. She invited us into a larger holding of spirit, of presence of stillness."

—Gail Warner, southern California

"Evelyn is a joy to behold. The treasures and symbols she brought to the workshop added color and dimensions and depths to our days and nights."

—Diane Schwedner, Santa Cruz, CA

"Evelyn was very motherly and calming, truly understanding of my spiritual experience without judgement."

—Dwi Prasetyowati, San Francisco

"Evelyn provided a graceful spirit for our journey."

—Nikki Baumrind, Davis, California

"Evelyn's role in the retreat was essential. The place of ritual gave a container for the work of the writing and the journey of the feelings. Her care and warmth made her approachable and supportive."

—Martha Fauteux, Ontario, Canada

"Evelyn's guided meditations before bedtime felt like a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate all in one."

Sandra, Pacific Grove, CA

"Evelyn provided a sprinkling of fairy dust that lightened the hard work we did."

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Evelyn was the altar tender and spiritual guide. I loved her evening meditations."

Harriette Friedlander, Louisville, KY

"Evelyn was our support and spiritual guide."

—Chris, Ithaca, New York

"I love how Evelyn's perspective guided the group. Her gentle effortless way of being with us was wonderful. She was there for me in my moments of need."

Lynne Benatovich, Sonoma, CA

"Evelyn was lovely, warm and available. Her enthusiasm and affection for all the participants felt genuine, both bright and serene."

Lisa Simeone, New York, NY

"Evelyn provides a natural contrast to Laura. She is an important 'free spirit' with a deep, gratefulness that drizzled directly into my spiritual life."

David Nathanson, Michigan

"Evelyn assisted me in relaxing and meditating on all that was presented during the course of this beautiful retreat."

Karen Barber-Olajuwon, Richmond, VA

"Evelyn was the wind beneath my wings. She always appeared by peoples' sides when she was most needed."

Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"Evelyn is mother earth…calm, grounded, a kind listener."

Kathy Stearman, Louisville, KY

"Evelyn is a 'WYSIWYG," What You See Is What You Get, and that's a joy to behold. Plus, a model for all participants. She brought a joyousness that lit up the room. I can't overstate the importance of this."

Claire Moore, Whidbey Island, WA

"Evelyn's spirit of inviting everyone into the best of themselves was rich."

Gail Webber, Mountain View, CA

"Evelyn is pure joy and positive energy."

Kendra Dorfman, Santa Cruz, CA

"What an incredible gift Evelyn's uplifting energy was throughout this retreat. Her zest for life was contagious."

Sandra, Pacific Grove, CA

"Evelyn offered the balance of softness and centering in an emotionally challenging retreat, bringing me back to gentleness and compassion for myself as I struggled with the weight of my writing."

Lorine Grosso, Colorado Springs, CO

"Evelyn provided our connection to the earth. I absolutely loved our living altar, her attention and her peaceful evening meditations."

Amy Gerome, Felton, CA

"Evelyn is a beautiful soul. She provided the 'heart,' the compassionate soul of the retreat."

Claudette McLean, Alberta, Canada

Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Daniel Bianchetta

Yes, sign me up for a creative, deeply restorative retreat.

Endorsements for Laura's Workshop at Esalen

"I learned that I am not whole when I forget to sit down and put pen to paper. Each time I sit in Laura's circle to write, I come back from being half asleep and feel fully present and grounded. I become my most fulfilled, truest self."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"My hope was that I could keep my pen moving and be courageous enough to tell the hard stories clearly and well. I got all of that and more. I treasure this experience. It was perfect for me."

—Jessica Bersi, Lodi, CA

"The best part of what unfolded was the ability to tap inner stories and truths that impacted me and others when I read aloud."

—Elaine Holliman, Berkeley, CA

"I learned that you do not have to have a published work to be a writer or to call yourself a writer. Just like a pianist is still a pianist whether or not she is part of a symphony."

—Ritu Hassan, Los Angeles and Connecticut

"Sharing with the group turned out to be quite powerful-a form of magic really. Laura's workshop was a powerful, juicy, deep, fun, intimate, unforgettable experience."

—Ian Webb, Santa Cruz, CA

"I learned the importance of witnessing and being witnessed. Laura facilitated a safe space of be courageous and vulnerable."

—Kaitlin Rudnick, Bakersfield, CA

"The workshop was perfect. Witnessing the courage of my groupmates as they told their stories gave me the courage to tell mine."

—Nicki Boisvert, Albany, CA

"Sharing pieces with the others in the group was like diamonds. I loved having such an open, accepting environment open for me."

—Barbara Crofford, Los Angeles

"I wanted to experience 'going for it' as a writer. I've been wanting to dive back into writing for years. If I could show you how many New Year's Resolutions include 'take a writing class' I suspect you would laugh. The opportunity to delve deep within and access raw personal truth was priceless."

—Ian Webb, Santa Cruz, CA

"One of the most meaningful parts of the workshop was watching humans challenge themselves to push out of their comfort zones, share their stories and have breatkthroughs. I truly enjoyed each one."

—Nancy Kramer, Galt, CA

"I needed a creative retreat and community. As a creative person and long-time mother, now facing an empty nest, I longed to explore my voice in writing and to figure out possibilities for the future 'me.' The retreat was a home-run all around."

—Elaine Holliman, Berkeley, CA

"This workshop set a solid framework for improving the flow and quality of my writing."

—Jeff Gowdy, Nashville, TN

"Laura Davis is a highly successful, published author who also knows how to create and hold a space for you to grow into the writer you want to become. She's a warm, open person and an encouraging yet honest teacher."

—Gayle Yamauchi-Gleason, Santa Cruz, CA

"Heartfelt gratitude to you for offering a place where I could be BRAVE and INVINCIBLE!"

—Alexandra Morgan, Orinda, CA

"Laura Davis provides an open, welcoming environment to explore your writing and your self. The class is both beautifully curated and is supportive of both creativity and personal journey. Laura's workshop created a framework in which I could connect to vivid memories and build my practice of writing."

—Sarah Van Aven, Philadelphia

"Under Laura's wise and expert tutelage, what was once a solitary endeavour became a group activity where the synergy of like-minded others and a safe space allowed me to hone my voice and markedly improve my skill as a writer. The writing exercises, camaraderie, and feedback energized my writing process and enhanced my self-confidence. I would wholeheartedly recommend a writing retreat with Laura Davis."

—Jill Syme

"I would definitely recommend this workshop to anyone, even if they don't consider themselves writers-or are new to the process. Laura Davis is a wonderful teacher and it was an honor to spend the weekend with her."

—Alissa Ferranto, San Rafael, CA

"This fun event with Laura Davis at Esalen brought a joy of discovery into my long time (49 years) fantasy of learning to write so I could share some incredible mind-blowing highlights of my highly adventurous life. To present my stories in a manner that is appealing, empowering and beneficial has been a lifetime goal. Laura Davis was a huge help in seeing the way THERE!"

—Pierre Pulling, Napa, Oakland, France, India

"Laura Davis' writing workshop will draw ideas and stories from you that you didn't even know were there. The workshop's well thought-out method encourages making connections and putting new order into familiar experiences."

—Marianne Huber, Dixon, Illinois

"Laura Davis, teamed with Esalen, is an experience that will open your heart to deeper levels. The culture of Esalen and Laura's gentle writing instruction were the perfect combination for the rejuvenation of my mind, body and spirit."

—Shannon LaGrandier, Santa Cruz, CA

"Baths overlooking the ocean and supportive environment in which to write-what more can you ask for?"

—Iris Kachuck, Watsonville CA

"I was unsure what to expect when I signed up for Laura's retreat at Esalen. Would I leave exhausted, disappointed or feel as if I was coming up short? Instead, Laura guided me in a calm way to explore myself in a more authentic and intimate manner than in other workshops. I recommend Laura's style and caring, gentle approach to anyone who asks, 'Can I really dare to think I might have something inside to write and maybe even share?'"

—Susan Wedow, Santa Barbara, CA

"Laura's retreat will provide you with an amazing excavation into your own life experiences. It will help you rediscover your own creativity if it has been lost or forgotten."

—Alissa Ferranto, San Rafael, CA

"Writing can be scary because it often takes you right to all the places that still need to be healed. Laura's workshop was very helpful because she created a safe place to explore, tools to get out of my own way, and exercises that helped me go to places I couldn't go my own. Laura offers just the right perspective and guidance-and the safe container a writer needs to develop or continue a writing practice."

—Delana Gardner, Big Sur CA

"Writing to Laura's prompts and then sharing what we wrote was an amazing, powerful deeply transformative experience. I feel like seeds have been planted for me to begin to really develop as a writer."

—Alissa Ferranto, San Rafael, CA

"For years I've wanted to write to experience my own voice and deepen the listening I might have with the Truth of my life. One of the obstacles to my engaging with writing has been feeling isolated. In Laura's workshops, I feel connected and privileged as a writer in community. Being in her workshop has been a gift to dissolve the other obstacles-that of feeling exposed."

—Emmah Smyth, Santa Clara

"Laura Davis has revolutionized my relationship to writing. She has shown me that writing can be free and fun. I do not have to face a blank page and wonder how to tell my story. Her prompts lead the way into my soul."

—Shannon LaGrandier, Santa Cruz, CA

Inclusions & Travel

Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Doug Ellis
Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Doug Ellis

What's included:

  • Room, board and three delicious meals a day.
  • All writing instruction for a life-changing retreat
  • The services of your capable, compassionate leader.
  • 24-hour access to the world-famous Esalen baths
  • Stunning gardens to wander in
  • Incredible vistas of the wild Pacific coast
  • An outdoor swimming pool
  • Access to the Esalen art barn and special all-community classes
  • An amazing community that will lead to deep connections and new friends.
  • A copy of Laura's memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars

What's not included:

  • Transportation to and from the Esalen Institute.
  • Travel and Covid  insurance to protect your investment in this retreat. (To be purchased on your own).


Arrival and Departure Times: Information about arrival and departure times can be found here.

Please arrange your travel so you can be at the retreat for the entire time.

Flying in?

Esalen is approximately three hours from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 2 and a half hours from San Jose Airport (SJC), and an hour and 15 minutes from Monterey Airport (MRY).

Need More Travel Info?

For all other information about getting to the Esalen Institute, you can find all the relevant information on their website.

Photo Credit: Julie Sheehan
Photo Credit: Julie Sheehan

Yes, I want to learn to tell powerful true stories and share them in community!


Stories That Make Us Whole: The Power of Writing in Sacred Community

Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

March 29 - April 1, 2024


Registration for this retreat happens through the Esalen Institute.

Esalen fees are all-inclusive, covering workshop tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations. If you want your choice of rooms, it's good to register early. Lower priced rooms sell out quickly.

To learn about costs and available accommodations on the Esalen website, click here.

Photo Credit: Julie Sheehan
Photo Credit: Julie Sheehan
Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Jens Wazel
Photo courtesy of Esalen Institute. Credit: Jens Wazel


Esalen Cancellation Policies can be viewed here.

Esalen's FAQ webpage:  https://www.esalen.org/visit/faq


You can learn about Esalen’s Covid-19 Policies here.

Photo Credit: Julie Sheehan

"Twisting along Highway 1 with the crashing ocean waves as your symphony, it's easy to leave your life behind and fully arrive at Esalen. From the outside tubs under a starry sky, hawks that perch close by and are as curious about you and you about them, Esalen offers a space to open, explore, rejuvenate and heal. Combine writing while looking at the salmon sunset while Laura teaches you how to pull things out of your psyche that you may have forgotten. And the magic abounds. If you appreciate words on a page like air in your lungs, this retreat is the perfect combination for you."

—Julie Sheehan, Livermore CA

Need to Contact Laura?

If you have any questions for Laura specific to this retreat, please complete the form below.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Writing Retreat Esalen

  • Please let me know why you're interested in this retreat in particular.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Scroll to Top