Sharing Bali writers retreat

My “Write a Bestseller” Retreat @ Sharing Bali

The whole reason I came to Bali—Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and holiday romance aside—was to attend Jacq Burns’ five-day Writer a Bestseller retreat at Karen Willis’s Sharing Bali in Singaparang Village, in the north of the island. The retreat first came to my attention on Facebook, in a group I’m in. The price was excellent and included the retreat, food and accommodation (no single supplement!) plus access to Jacq Burn’s 20+ years in the publishing industry. After Skyping with Jacq, it was a bit of a no-brainer that I’d go, and given that I’ve been writing predominantly non-fiction, I did have a novel I wanted to start.

After all the excitement of being in Bali and Ubud and Made, I was looking forward to five days spent focussing solely on writing. My writing. My project. Me. I was on this journey with three other writers, and Karen herself was also working on her own project during the five days.

Another Adelaide girl

I must say that Jacq and I hit it off straight away. She was an Adelaide girl before moving to London, and we had a similar outlook and sense of humour. And I totally respected and valued her insight and experience and her gentle way of working with the three writers she was taking on this journey. I came to view her as a dear friend after the five days. Ditto Karen, who I found absolutely fascinating. She was a generous and delightful hostess and I enjoyed her company and outlook on life very much. And Sharing Bali was the perfect spot to spend the five days.

So what do writers do on a writers retreat, other than write? I must admit, I had not a clue, having never been on one!

The five day retreat

On the first day, we (me and the two other retreaters) were picked up from our hotels in Ubud and driven to the village of Singaparang, where Sharing Bali is located. When we arrived, we were taken up a long stone path, lined with large statues alongside a gently, flowing stream and rice paddies. Karen and Jacq were waiting for us at the bale (meeting room) where large glasses of lemongrass tea awaited us. It was lovely to finally meet Karen and Jacq in person, after having been Facebook friends for a couple of months. Our luggage was taken to our bungalows, and Karen gave us a tour of Sharing Bali. To say that it is beautiful is an understatement and doesn’t do it justice. Karen, and her Balinese partner Wayan, built it from nothing. It is their vision, realised.

[bctt tweet=”The food at Sharing Bali was fresh and delicious and has helped me kick my chocolate habit.”]

We were shown our classroom (if all classrooms were like this, no child would ever play hookey from school), and another space which housed the Writing Wall. Jacq went through the program for the five days, and we talked about our projects, and then it was time for dinner. At this point, I must digress and say that the food was one of the highlights of the retreat. It was fresh and delicious and sugar and wheat free, and has helped me kick my chocolate habit. I have no cravings at all now.

The five days were a mixture of workshops, personal coaching, free writing and other non-writing (but equally as important sensory) activities, for example, a visit to the local market, massages, walks among the rice paddies, and a bit of a morning hike that revealed my ankles are as anxious as my attachment style!

What I learned

For me personally, I came to the retreat with a first draft of my novel in the form of a screenplay (and as an FYI, I gratefully received personal advice from Graeme Simsion at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival on conversion of a screenplay into a novel, which he did with The Rosie Project). I thought the story was finished and it would be a relatively easy process of turning “this” into “that”, but Jacq gave me some excellent coaching/advice on plotting, and adding drama and an emotional arc to the story that was missing from my project. As a screenplay, things worked fine. As a potential best-selling novel, not so much. With Jacq’s advice, one of my main characters went from being a “nice girl” to a “bad girl”; the essence of the story didn’t change, but it has improved significantly. And I upped the tension with my other main character.

One thing I did discover about myself on this retreat is that I can pretty much write on demand. If Jacq told me to bang out 500 words, 500 words is exactly what I banged out, and with relative ease. And it was good enough writing. I had no trouble at all getting into my characters’ heads and moving the story along. And in a distraction-free environment like Sharing Bali (there is no wifi), I just got on with the job of writing.

Doing the retreat again in 2016

I enjoyed this retreat so much, I’ll be doing it again in 2016. And I can highly recommend it to any writer of any level or ability. If you want to get serious about your writing, or serious about your project, irrespective of whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, this is the retreat for you.

See you there next year!

Please share!


  • Andy Willis November 11, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    Great work Diane, well done for making the commitment and then following through.
    Sharing Bali certainly is a special place, very hard to explain the feel of the place to others, its somewhere you need to experience to understand.
    Good luck with your book, I look forward to reading it.

    • Diane November 11, 2015 at 7:25 AM

      Thank you, Andy. I am so glad I decided to go. Life changing doesn’t begin to describe it! Can’t wait to meet you at the Working From Anywhere conference (which is what Karen was working on)… I feel like I know you already too!

  • karen November 11, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    We love it when our guests “hack their lives” for a short time at Sharing Bali. Fresh perspectives does lead to some life changes!
    Writers Retreats have added another layer to our lives at Sharing Bali. Looking forward to next year’s retreat.
    See you there! K

    • Diane November 11, 2015 at 6:46 PM

      It was a fabulous experience, Karen. Thank you!!


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