Since 2015, the Unfurl Retreats have offered female-identified writers of all ages and identities a place to write, connect, and hear their own voices, both on the page and in a room filled with kind and encouraging witnesses. Rather than focusing on craft or outcomes (no word counts here), we gather with the intention of showing up to ourselves and each other with permission not to be good but to be real, messy, and brave.
Annual summer retreats take place in bucolic Amherst, Massachusetts, and 2017 saw the first midwest Unfurl in a Wisconsin farmhouse overlooking the Mississippi River. In 2018, there will be several half-day opportunities to Unfurl, for those who wish to dip into deep writing and connection.
Upcoming dates can be found under the drop-down menu above. Feel free to contact Jena with any questions.
Reflections from past participants
“When I arrived Friday night fresh from the whirlwind of my crazy, chaotic life, in order to simply be there, I’d had to fight and claw this space for myself – this one weekend to simply focus on writing. I felt like I’d been underwater too long, and arriving at the Nacul Center, to the Unfurl Retreat, allowed me to bob my face above the waves long enough to gasp in just enough breath to not die. By Sunday, it was more like I’d been floating on my back for three days with the perfect sun shining, the water no longer drowning me, but holding me up. Thank you for that.” ~ Cassandra Hemenway
Jena is a conduit for magic; she takes people, places, and words and somehow the tendrils weave themselves together in her presence. There is a softness, a gentleness, she has mastered, and she is unafraid to reveal her own secrets, critics, and self. She makes everyone instantly comfortable and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. There is no “winner,” there is no “competition,” no “Best In Show” award; just people showing up to write, be vulnerable, and dig a little deeper. I couldn’t have done it without Jena and her magic wand. There was truly something about being there in a room with her and the other participants, that gave me the permission I needed to let go, to write. Jena has a unique gift for the personal combined with the professional, and you can’t get that everywhere. ~ Erin Best
The Unfurl Writing Retreat was the first writing retreat that I have ever attended. I’m already looking forward to coming back next summer! 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. Thank you! ~ Anjali Budreski
When I walked into the Unfurl Retreat, the joy at actually seeing Jena and other old online friends in person was immediate. My initial wariness of the stranger who walked in—caused by knowing that I would soon be letting them into the deepest corners of my soul—evaporated at once. 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. And Jena–what more is there to be said about Jena? She 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