Writer’s Retreat in the Loire Valley

Come and find inspiration at a fabulous new Loire Valley Writer’s Retreat…..

Hazel Manuel in action

Hazel giving a reading of her latest novel, The Geranium Woman

Meeting writer Hazel Manuel the other day – she came into our Salon de thé, Chez Teresa here in Fontevraud l’abbaye for an afternoon tea with her friends – was a pleasure and a revelation. I say revelation because it was really good to meet someone that I could talk with about literature and writing.  Hazel as I soon discovered is a very proficient writer with a number of publications under her belt including her first novel Kanyakumari, set in India during the 1960s which won the Cinnamon Press award for 2013.   The Geranium Woman is her latest novel published this summer so hot it’s off the press.

Hazel at her desk

Hazel at her desk, clearly relaxed and clearly enjoying her craft

Hazel’s latest venture is to share some of  her wordsmith wisdom by running writing workshops in the area at her place in Bizay.  Here budding and established writers who wish to spend time in tranquil and picturesque surroundings can bounce their creative writing ideas around and share their writing with established writer Hazel Manuel..Being a residential retreat writers can stay for a few days and be among kindred spirits in order to find inspiration and literary connectivity.

I asked Hazel what had motivated and inspired her to establish a writers retreat here in the Loire Valley?


To which she replied that the area is a truly beautiful and inspiring place to write.

“I spend a large part of the year at my house here to work intensively without distraction on my current novel, and I wanted to offer other writers a similar immersive experience”.

Hazel's houseEchoes of Miss Haversham perhaps…. but here at the retreat writers will discover plenty that is comfortable and also uplifting and inspirational….

I wondered if Hazel’s concept for  Loire Valley Writing Retreats is a new initiative

“Yes”, replied Hazel “the idea grew out of the writers salons that I run in Paris.  Following lots of requests, we ran our first week-long writers retreat in April 2016 and it worked so well that we have decided to run retreats throughout the year here in the Loire Valley”.

I asked her how writers should prepare for the retreats?
“The retreats are a combination of structured workshops, free writing time and group feedback and that in point of fact…..  There is no need to prepare in advance”.


Continues Hazel ” although we encourage participants to bring along their work-in-progress they can also just bring along an idea for a writing project they’d like to start.  My approach is flexible”.

I wondered what her own expectations were in terms of who should apply to attend?

“Writers at all stages of their writing Journey are welcome”, she assured me.

So what can participants expect from the retreat?
“Participants can expect support and the company of other writers who share similar goals.  They will also receive focused help with work-in-progress and writing ideas”.

Other areas covered are

* what makes a great opening

* structured workshops around issues that matter to a writer’s mindset including tips on how to create fascinating characters and ideas on how to maintain tension in a story and the practicalities of how a writer can market themselves

In addition Hazel offers lots of positive encouragement and feedback along with one on one time with her as an established writer.

All this is offered in beautiful surroundings, where participants can enjoy delicious homemade food, local wine, barbecues in the summer and all set within lovely shared accommodation including a garden surrounded by lush countryside.

Supper at the Retreat

Inspirational conversations over dinner are part and parcel of what

is on offer at the retreat

Fabulous views from the garden

Fabulous views across the countryside from the garden at the retreat.

I asked Hazel what her background was…She told me that formerly she was a company CEO in the industry but is now a full time writer.

Hazel surrounded by books

“I’ve been writing full-time since I moved to France three years ago”.

Hazel is a busy woman and spends her time, when she is not in the UK, in Paris and in the Loire.  Her first novel ‘Kanyakumari’ won the Cinnamon Press Debut Novel award in 2013 and was subsequently nominated for the Wales Book of the Year.  Her latest novel,The Geranium Woman is available to buy now.  In addition to these successes Hazel has also contributed to a celebratory anthology of writing on the theme of ‘place’.

Visiting Hazel with Tony, at her somewhat remote property in Bizay near Epieds..which is of course a perfect setting for a retreat and is in fact only 4 kms from Fontevraud l’abbaye, I can now bear testimony to the fact that this is a wonderful place to visit and stay…The house is late 19th century and is set in a wild and rather romantic garden with an ancient tree in the garden.  I found it a very tranquil place.   She lives there with Pierre and they have an abundance of labyrinthine caves under the grounds and some adjacent farmland.  Following a cup of delicious coffee Hazel gave us a tour of the property and showed us round.  We talked about literature and politics and it was so refreshing to relax and just talk and feel unguarded in such an inspirational and calming space.
Hazel tells us that she has recently been commissioned to write a book about an Ashram in Kerala in Southern India.  She has visited India a number of times over the years and evidence of this can be seen around her home and the spaces for the retreat in the form of certain iconography and fabrics.  There is even a slight air that is redolent of what I would imagine the serenity of an ashram and its atmosphere about not only Hazel’s retreat but also Hazel herself.

Hazel approaches the Secret Garden

Hazel Manuel at the entrance to a more secret part of her garden.

Hazel informs me that she is currently working on her next novel “a mysterious story set in rural France”.

All in all I am of the opinion that Hazel Manuel is a whirlwind of creativity and that if anyone aspires to make a success of their writing they could do no wrong then to subscribe to one of Hazels forthcoming retreats.   Places are at a premium but their cost is fair and not at all expensive for what participants receive in return. I get the distinct impression that Hazel is not running the workshops for income but because she is passionate about writing and she wants to encourage and share that passion.  Hazel will even arrange to have you picked up from Saumur railway station so you cannot ask for more than that can you…..

Quotes from former students who have attended the writer’s retreat:-

“Exceptional week with a wonderful and diverse group of writers. The retreat offered beautiful surroundings in the French countryside, constructive working environments, useful feedback sessions and fun group chats over the dinner table and by the fireplace.” Margaret Rodgers,
“Warm, supportive, and encouraging. For a writer to be able to experience this kind of mutual understanding and critique is hard, and great to find.” Cris Hammond, short story writer

“Hazel’s critiquing was very insightful and extremely helpful to my project.” Nancy Meunchinger, novelist

“Hazel’s workshops were well-structured and planned, and it was an opportunity to look at the big picture of work in progress.” Ruth Druart, novelist

“My writing potential transformed into two new chapters and a great edit to the key scene in the novel.” Ksenya Novozilova, novelis

I am of the opinion that these workshops promise to offer a splendid experience and that sometime in the not too distant future I hope to attend one myself!  As someone who is passionate about writing and literature (I wite as some of you will know and have also run creative writing workshops in the past)  I cannot help but feel that we are fortunate that Hazel Manuel has moved to the area to enrich the local literature scene.

For more specific  information about these fabulous Loire Valley retreats and when the next one takes place check out the website http://www.hazelmanuel.net/retreats.html

For a list of published work by Hazel Manuel take a look at the following page:-


Hazel Author pic

Hazel is also involved in an initiative with an invitation for writers to attend working lunches..sounds inspiring to me.

Here is the link.

Loire Writers Working Lunches

Saumur, FR
4 Writers

Loire Writers Working Lunches gives aspiring writers an opportunity to hone and develop a work in progress by giving and receiving honest, helpful feedback. We work in a relax…

Next Meetup

Loire Valley Autum Writing Retreat

Sunday, Sep 11, 2016, 6:00 PM
1 Attending

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