Unfurl Midwest: October 12-15, 2017

PICTURE THIS: Mid-October. A quaint farmhouse on a hill, overlooking the Mississippi River.

A small group of folks who gather to write and rejuvenate for a few days and nights. Community and connection, solitude and space, good food. Maybe even a room of your own.

Fall lends itself to letting go of what no longer serves our creativity — and harvesting what does for the winter months that follow. It may only be August, but Lisa Gray and I are looking ahead and teaming up to bring you the first-ever Unfurl Midwest retreat.

There was a feeling of profound permission being together in person that astounded me, really. The level of trust and truth and the total beauty of everyone’s words filled me. That’s a very special state of being. ~ Lisa Moskowitz Sadikman

Come spend three nights and days in beautiful rural Wisconsin. Make space  to listen to your own voice, get your words flowing, and seeing what happens when you give yourself permission to not know in advance and to let go of outcomes. Our focus will be on presence, playfulness, and the poetry of showing up — not on polishing or producing a certain number of pages. In other words, this is NOT a traditional writing retreat. (If you are looking for a craft-oriented workshop or work on a specific body of work, this retreat may not be right for you!)

I recommend Unfurl to anyone who wants to write but feels too shy, inhibited, inferior, scared, uncertain, or stuck. My recommendation: Take the leap. On the other side of your fear is a group of loving, open-hearted, generous, creative spirits who will welcome you into the fold and bestow upon you the well-deserved title: Writer. Yes, you, with all your fears and insecurities, you are a writer. Come to Unfurl to find your people and rejoice. ~ Miv London


* You’ll be greeted by Jena and Lisa, as well as a custom notebook for your words. Jena’s three books will be for sale during the weekend. Participants will be invited to join a secrete Facebook group in September, where we’ll share schedules and answer any questions as they arise.

* Retreat cost includes five meals (see below).

* We’ll begin on Thursday at 5:00pm with an opening circle and creative exercise, followed by light fare and fun at the farmhouse on Thursday night: Cheese, crackers, salad, fruit, and sparkling water or wine.

* Each morning, breakfast will be provided. Expect English muffins, hard boiled eggs, avocado, fruit, yogurt, granola, coffee, and tea.

* An informal lunch will also be provided on Friday. Friday dinner and Saturday lunch are on your own.

* Plan on a delicious group dinner out Saturday night.

* Lisa will point us towards additional places to nosh and caffeinate, such as the Nelson Cheese Factory and the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop.

* A variety of prompts and timed writing exercises will provide opportunities to write indoors and out, weather permitting. Expect bursts of freewriting interspersed with languorous periods of reading our work out loud, reflecting on each other’s words and stories in a space free of judgment and pressure, and chunks of unscheduled time to write, rest, or explore.

* Mindfulness meditation sessions will be woven into our writing time.

* Optional 1:1 coaching sessions with Jena will be offered Friday and Saturday afternoons.

* We will complete our time together Sunday morning, wrapping up before noon.

“There was no sense of competition or exclusion. It was a very inclusive, nurturing, safe, but not sappy or precious, space. It was seamless.” ~ Allison Tyler

“Unfurl was a gift on so many levels. Touching the minds and hearts of fellow writers, face to face, in a warmly supportive setting was truly food for the soul at a time when I needed it most. I appreciated the pause in my routine and the opportunity to immerse myself in the company of like-minded, open-hearted women who are on a similar writing journey. Your generosity of spirit and the beautiful way you hold space for writers, both online and off, is extraordinary.” – Sue Ann Gleason

The Unfurl Writing Retreat was the first writing retreat that I have ever attended. I’m already looking forward to coming back! Jena created a super sacred and safe space for me to be myself, dive into my feelings, thoughts, and TRUTHS, and pour them onto the page — all within a loving and supportive group of women in a beautiful setting. Jena is masterful at keeping it clear and simple, yet deep and soulful. There are loads of retreats that I could choose to participate in with ‘famous’ writers but I would choose Jena’s intimate inspiring retreat over any of those others any day. I am now EXCITED to write each day!! And, I’m excited to see the ways my experience of putting words on the page will evolve over time.” ~ Anjali Budreski

Air transportation:
The farmhouse is located 100-minute drive along the Mississippi from Minneapolis International Airport and 60-minute drive from the Rochester, MN airport.


$900 for a private farmhouse room (4 spots ONE SPOT left!)
$425 for retreat w/o lodging (6 spots SOLD OUT)


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Deadline, Payment Plans, Cancellations + Refunds

* Installment plans available upon request only. Please contact Jena to discuss.

* There is a six-person minimum and 10-person maximum for this retreat.

* If you cancel before the September 1, 2017, you will get a refund minus a $200 processing fee. If you cancel after the September 1, 2017 deadline, you will forfeit the entire registration fee.

If you are looking for a direct line to finding a way into your writing and beginning again,  check out Jena’s work as she invites you to join her in writing to find out what you need to say. The weekend launched me into a summer of writing, and tuned me into folks who need to put words together on paper.  ~ Nancy Mildrum

thoughtful prompts, stories and poems. To me, Jena is like a Jewish matchmaker of writers. She brings together a universe of writers in all stages and phases of the writing life and helps them find solidarity, acceptance and a renewed faith in writing… together. ~ Chrissy Boylan

The sense of community, the open-hearted sharing of what was most central to each of us, the unprecedented opportunity to learn from each other fulfilled my highest expectations.  Most important was that I left with the knowledge that I could do better, that my writing could improve along the lines of the writing modeled to me by the others in the group–not that I wanted to copy their writing but that every one of them opened a new door for me.  Jena makes the impossible happen.  She puts us at ease while, at the same time, energizing us to move beyond our barriers. She has a rare gift, one which opens up horizons and calms trepidations. ~ Jeanne Argoff

Lodging Ideas for Non-Residential Participants

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about distances or anything else. Here are some area places to check out:

Cedar Ridge Resort

Hotel de Ville

Blue Door Inn

Felice Patra Inn

Turning Water B&B

The Burlington Hotel

: Search in Alma and Nelson, WI and Wabasha, MN

About your guides

Jena SchwartzJena Schwartz is a poet, promptress, and writing coach whose work weaves together a passion for language, poetry, and storytelling with a devotion to community-building based on kindness, connection, and inclusivity. She began leading online writing groups in 2014, and has since shared her unique flavor of fierce encouragement for writing + life with hundreds of people around the world. Jena has a BA in Russian Studies from Barnard College, an MFA from Emerson College, and advanced training with the Coaches Training Institute. In addition to blogging for over 10 years, she has self-published three collections of poetry and creative nonfiction. She is fiercely committed to LGBTQ rights, intersectional feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and writing as an expression of resistance. She lives in Amherst, MA with her rockstar wife Mani, and kids, Aviva and Pearl.

Lisa Gray is a writer, mother, wife, pet corraler, activist, languid blogger, voracious reader, and intrepid explorer of truth and beauty who hopes to ease her way back into writing again (see other roles). At home in gorgeous Winona, MN, she finds herself in her coffee cup, her books, her pets, and her family life. Though it’s always a surprise but hardly surprising, her truest self emerges on the page. A recipient of an Emerging Artist’s Grant from SEMAC (Southeast Minnesota Arts Council), you can read more of her work at Restless Gray Girl, which includes links to other publications.