Master Your Memoir

Chateau de Clerac, France

July 16-August 6, 2017        


Do you have a book you’ve been thinking about starting or a manuscript you want to polish? Join published authors Jo Carnegie and Betsy Blankenbaker for a Writing Intensive this summer in France.

Jo and Betsy are offering an unmissable opportunity to start and/or complete your book at a private chateau in France, near the heart of the French wine country. The retreat is open to both women and men who are serious about their writing, even if you haven’t started your book.


You’ll be guided in finding your voice as a writer and crafting your story into an engaging book that readers won’t want to put down.

The focus is on memoir – how to tell the stories of your life. We’ll discuss publishing options from Jo’s background with big publishers to Betsy’s choice to self-publish.

 Master Your Memoir is for writers who are ready to give birth to their books. Ideally you will choose to stay all three weeks and commit to leaving with a complete or nearly complete manuscript.

The course includes: Why Your Memoir Matters, The Secret to Writing Your Memoir, Using Movement to Remember, How to Say The Unsayable, Making Space for Laughter, How To Make Your Memoir Relatable and What Will My Family Think?

Betsy and Jo have designed the intensive to give you as much support as possible during the writing process, including a copy edit and notes of all the work you complete on your manuscript during the retreat if you stay all three weeks. The value of the complimentary copy edit and notes based on your word count (of up to 50,000 words) is up to $10,000. Upon completion of the retreat, please allow 4-6 weeks for copy edit of manuscript.

Our gift to you for committing to the three week intensive is a photo shoot with fashion photographer Bruce Smith who will create a head shot for you to use for your book cover. The photo shoot will be during your stay at Chateau de Clerac.

Your home for the writing intensive is Chateau de Clerac, a privately owned chateau offered as a base for creatives to gather and complete their projects. The 19th century chateau is set in the charming French countryside outside of Bordeaux and near the iconic vineyards of St. IMG_3397Emilion. Daily life at the chateau includes three gourmet meals with wines from the nearby vineyards of Bordeaux. The meals are designed to nourish your body, improve your memory and sharpen your focus for writing. An in-house chef will prepare superb meals for you balancing healthy choices along with exquisite French cooking.

Optional activities offered are Qoya classes using movement as a portal to your storytelling, tennis, walks in the nearby woods, meditation at the lake and swimming in the salt water pool. Late afternoons, our group gathers for a salon to explore and support your writing.





About Jo and Betsy


“Completely hilarious and brilliantly feel-good – Jo Carnegie’s books are must-reads!”  heat magazine


Jo Carnegie 

Jo is a 41-year-old journalist and writer from London. She has a background working in high-profile women’s magazines and has interviewed some of the biggest stars in the world from Will Smith and George Clooney to Beyonce and David and Victoria Beckham. She has had nine novels published, seven women’s fiction with Penguin Random House and two young adult (YA) with Harper Collins. Two years ago, Jo wrote about how she became an ‘accidental minimalist’ when she sold off all her life possessions and gave up her life in London. Jo has spent the last few years on a journey travelling the world, volunteering for an animal charity in India and completing a Certificate in Holistic Counselling in Australia (IICT and AHHCA accredited). Through her experiences, Jo now has a very different idea of what is meaningful and believes the true magic and magnificence are found in people’s every day stories. She firmly believes that living a happy, creative and unapologetic life is every person’s birthright – and whilst there is no magic formula or go-to manual for the writing process, “A sense of humour, an open and willing mind and great coffee in the mornings all help hugely.”

“Betsy is smart, funny, and uncommonly perceptive. She can find the story in anyone.”   Cortney M, writer & public speaker

Betsy Blankenbaker D5277ECE-24C4-437B-A2B3-EDC40F895899

After releasing her first book, Autobiography of an Orgasm, in 2014, something unexpected happened. Betsy began to receive story after story from readers who thanked her for putting words to their own disconnection from their sensual body. The UK Sunday Times called the book: “Part erotica and part refreshingly sincere…sort on an anti-Fifty Shades of Grey.”

For her next two books, Autobiographies of Our Orgasms, Vol. I & II, Betsy invited readers to submit their own stories of their sensual paths. These stories go beyond the physical to the emotional and spiritual experiences of being a woman. The storytellers, from Australia, U.K. and U.S., write with raw truth and transparency of the moment they listened to their bodies instead of the messages coming from media, church, family and partners about how sex should look or feel.

“Thank you for writing Autobiography of an Orgasm. I think it might help me start living.” Jules, USA

Betsy’s background in filmmaking launched with her feature documentary, New York in the Fifties (2001), hailed as: “An enlightening and entertaining history lesson about one of the most creative and influential groups of individuals in the 20th century” by Box Office Magazine. She produced and directed Something to Cheer About which was selected by the International Documentary Association’s 2002 Film Festival. The documentary highlights the breakthroughs of the first all-black basketball team to win a high school championship in the U.S. The team, led by future All-Star Oscar Robertson, won the Indiana basketball title in 1955 ending years of exclusion and opening the path for future players to integrate the sport.

In 2008, Betsy founded House of Loveness after a personal trip to Africa resulted in a heartbreaking tragedy. Her organization provides care and education to abandoned and orphaned children in Zimbabwe. In 2010 she extended her advocacy to include programs supporting the endangered rhinos and elephants. Deeply connected to the community, Betsy spends several weeks a year working in Zimbabwe.

Betsy was born in Indiana – the conservative heartland of the United States. She raised her four children between Indianapolis and Miami and now lives as a minimalist and nomad, trading a home base for a home free life on the road.



Sunrise over the pool at Chateau de Clerac



IMG_3315 Writing Intensive Sample Itinerary


Day One – Arrival 

1-4pm Check into your room at Chateau de Clerac and spend the afternoon enjoying the estate. A complimentary lunch is offered for arrivals between 1-2pm.

4-7pm Opening Circle with Jo & Betsy  (or with Betsy during Week Two & Three)

7.30pm Gourmet Dinner served in the garden of the chateau

Daily Schedule                                                                                                                            

  • 7am Serve yourself coffee & tea, optional morning walks, meditation or swims
  • 9am Breakfast
  • 10am Free time to write with breaks for walks, swims, tennis, Qoya class
  • 1pm Lunch in the garden
  • 2pm Free time to write. Healthy smoothies and afternoon tea
  • 4.30pm Writing Circle and Manuscript Workshop
  • 7.30pm Gourmet dinner in the chateau garden
  • 9pm Optional Game Nights and Spoken Words Salons

Day Eight – Departure (unless you are staying on for the next week)
9am Breakfast
Departure by 11am




The Course

  •  Choose one, two or three weeks to start and/or finish your book. 
  • If you sign up for all three weeks and commit to writing every day, you have the opportunity to leave the chateau with a finished and edited manuscript. 
  • There is a discount of $1,000 when booking all three weeks. 


Week One: July 16-23

This week is compulsory for all writers who want to work with Jo and Betsy. Week Two and Three are hosted by Betsy – with Jo available for a group Skype discussion each week.

Week One is a master class intensive in writing your memoir. The week includes a pre-retreat Skype consultation with Betsy and Jo to discuss your book and what you expect to get out of the Intensive, a review of your manuscript (up to 10,000 words), post-retreat manuscript notes from both Jo and Betsy of IMG_6832Optwhatever you complete during Week One (delivered three weeks after the retreat) and a one hour photo shoot at Chateau de Clerac with photographer Bruce Smith to create a headshot for your book. During the week, we’ll discuss publishing options including the pros and cons of self-publishing and advice from a literary agent on current trends in the memoir market.

Week One also includes sound weaving sessions with Rebecca Holt. Rebeccas’s work with sound and its impact on human experience has been featured at creative conferences and workshops in the states and abroad including most recently with noted poet David WhFullSizeRender 2yte, as well as for the Wellness Collective at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Week One: Shared Room & En Suite Bath $2,350 Single Room upgrade +$850/week

To register for Week One:

Shared Room $2,350, Single Room $3,200



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Week Two: July 23 – 30

Hosted by Betsy. Jo will be available for midweek Skype session with the group.

static1.squarespace-2Choose to stay at the chateau for an additional one or two weeks to continue working on your book. The week includes daily writing circles with Betsy to workshop your new material, a private consultation to create a daily writing ritual and a midweek excursion to the local St. Emilion vineyards for wine tastings.

Week Two: Shared Room & En Suite Bath $2,100 Single Room upgrade +$850/week

To Register for Week Two:

Shared Room $2,100, Single Room $2,950




Week Three: July 30-August 6

Ready to commit to completing your book? 

Choose to stay at the chateau for all three weeks to continue working on your book. The final week includes daily writing circles with Betsy to workshop your new material, a midweek Skype session with Jo and Betsy to discuss the next steps for your book and a copy edited version of your manuscript completed during Weeks 1-3 of up to 50,000 words (returned to you within three weeks).

Week Three: Shared Room & En Suite Bath $2,100          Single Room upgrade +$850/week

To Register for Week Three:

Shared Room $2,100, Single Room $2,950






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Chateau de Clerac                

“The chateau is truly heaven on earth, one of those rare places where you can achieve simultaneous relaxation and focus, and I did a lot of productive writing in the most pleasurable way imaginable. The beauty of the food (all made with love and care), the landscape, and people is breathtaking.”

Emily B, playwright & screenwriter

 Château de Clérac is thirty mins north of Bordeaux, in the village of Clérac. It’s the ideal get-away for those who want to experience the rich flavors of this extraordinary region – from the Cognacs of the North, to the Bordeaux & St. Emilions of the South; from foie gras in the East to the seafood of the West. It is set in 22 acres of woods and fields, and has its own salt water pool and two new tennis courts.

Clérac is a small, pretty rural village with some 400 inhabitants. All around Clérac there are some great cycle paths and forest walks. In Montguyon (~5km), originally a fortified castle town (still with a medieval castle) there are banks, chemists, various shops and supermarkets. The region is famous for its food and wine.

You will stay in recently restored en-suite bedrooms. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to read, listen to music or simply relax with a drink all around the château. All meals, snacks and drinks are included in your course fee. You are welcome to bring additional drinks to enjoy – the château is your home during the retreat.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have payment options? Yes, payment plans available through https://seekretreat.com/events/190-Master-Your-Memoir-

The retreat must be paid in full by June 16, 2017.

Can I have my own room? Yes, there is a single room supplement of $850 per week.

Is there WIFI? Yes, the entire chateau and garden is WIFI accessible.

How do I get there?
We recommend flying to Bordeaux Airport, which is a 40 minute drive away. Bordeaux airport or train station transfers are included in your course fee for arrivals/departures between 10-1pm. For transfers outside those times, there is a 60 euro supplement payable to Chateau de Clerac. There is ample free parking at the château if you wish to meander down through France or hire a car. Alternatively, you can take the train to Bordeaux from Paris.

Can I bring my own food and drinks?
All meals and snacks are included; there will be no shortage of food! We can also cater for any dietary requirements provided you let us know when booking. If you wish to bring your own drinks, please feel free; there will be no corkage charge since the château is your home for the course.

Can I visit local vineyards? Week Two of the Writing Intensive includes a complimentary midweek visit to local vineyards and wine tastings.

I don’t call myself a writer. Can I still come? If you are taking yourself – and that voice that keeps telling you there is book inside you – seriously, then you can come. You will be calling yourself a writer by the time you leave.

Not sure if the retreat is right for you? Schedule a consultation with Betsy to discuss your writing needs. Email Betsy at mybetsy@mac.com.

Ready to book? Email Betsy at mybetsy@mac.com.

What to Bring

  • passport
  • casual summer clothes, yoga clothes and swimsuit
  • walking shoes
  • sunscreen and water bottle
  • tennis racket and tennis shoes if you play
  • laptop
  • journal

Cancellation Policy: If you need to cancel for any reason and we can find a person to take your spot, we will refund the amount paid minus a $300 non-refundable administration fee. If we cannot find a person to take your spot, there are no refunds; however, you can transfer your paid spot to someone else, so you can send a friend or family member to the retreat in your place. Please consider purchasing travel insurance to cover any travel interruptions: https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/

For questions or to book your spot, email Betsy at mybetsy@mac.com.

Betsy and sunrise at the chateau.

Betsy and the sunrise at the chateau.