Why Should You Come To Your Senses?
I love my phone -- who doesn't? -- but we've become a world of screen-addicts. And the more time we spend glued to our devices, the more distant we become from the simple joys of living. I see it in myself, and in my students. Did you know we check our phones an average of 80 times a day? (A study by global tech protection and support company Asurion found that the average person struggles to go little more than 10 minutes without checking their phone.)
What is happening to us?!
This isn’t good for our bodies. This isn’t good for our minds. And it really isn’t good for our writing, which depends on our ability to describe our three-dimensional human experience.
I want to do my part to right this wrong, or adjust it a little, anyway.
Who Is Karen Karbo?
Karen Karbo is the best-selling author of 16 works of fiction and non-fiction, including the international best seller, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, Outside, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and the New York Times Modern Love column. She has taught writing workshops at the University of Oregon, Rutgers University, Portland State University, Tin House, Portland Literary Arts, and the Todos Santos Writers Workshop. She launched Come to Karbohemia, her writing retreat in the South of France, in 2018.
Ready to Come To Your Senses?
The writing is “what we shouldn’t ever speak about” and “what we’re afraid of” and “what we have yet to figure out.” This is where Karen Karbo’s masterful teaching and depth of writing experience took us. It was on the body and of the earth and sky and sea – all pink and midnight and mauve in a landscape that’s inspired art and war in equal measure. Breathtaking is too small a word. Long live Karbohemia.
- Jenny Forester (Writer, Teacher, Editor)
How Will Coming To Your Senses Change and Deepen Your Writing Life?
Because our relationship with screens has coaxed us into believing the two-dimensional world is the real world. Because day by day, without quite realizing it, we are losing faith in the power of truly living in our bodies, and the way -- effortless and reliable, if we pay attention -- it confers knowledge and sparks creativity. Because we writers are particularly vulnerable.
Dancers live in their bodies, musicians in their ears, visual artists in their hands and eyes. Our art happens in our minds, and if we’re not careful, we become imprisoned there. We become tethered to the place where we work, which is also the place where we spend most of our lives: in front of screens.
Because to become better writers, we tend to double down, spending even more time in front of our laptop. Because we tend to believe the solution to our writing lies in working more, in thinking more, in redoing our outlines. Because we download apps, purchase productivity planners, commit, once again, to figuring out how to use Scrivener. We open our documents. We struggle to get our thoughts down. We mind-muscle it. Because getting to good writing demands being loose and free, and you can’t be loose and free when you’re strapped to your laptop with a crick in your neck.
The retreat is designed for beginning, emerging, and published writers -- anyone who feels the urge to reconnect with their writing self, or deepen and improve their work. Because we live primarily in our heads and on our screens, one of the first writing skills to atrophy is rendering the physical world.
The thing is, great writing depends on the ability of the writer to draw the reader into the reality of the story. Mastering this requires being deeply in touch with our senses, and what it’s like to be a human being walking the earth. We exercise that muscle in daily morning workshops, where we generate new writing based on new experiences in Collioure and the wider world.
In the afternoon, we venture out -- swimming, hiking, marketing, wine-tasting -- and in submitting ourselves to the sun and sea, wind up loosening our grip on ourselves and our work. Arch-nature lover and writer Henry David Thoreau said “all good things are wild and free” and even a small dose of freedom and wildness enriches our writing.
No pilgrimage to France is complete without a transcendent culinary experience, and that goes double for a writing retreat focused on coming to your senses. Our retreat chef is Emily Park. She is an expert on Mediterranean food, and incorporating the food and flavors of French Catalonia.
Says Emily: "Cooking in Collioure is a chef's dream come true. The access to incredible ingredients is unparalleled—tomatoes and eggplant in every shade of the rainbow, luscious figs and melon, herbs that perfume the air, the freshest fish caught in the sea that stretches out in the distance, and the fabulous local cheese, charcuterie, bread, wine, and more all beckoning at the markets. My greatest pleasure it to take these beautiful ingredients and coax them into delicious meals that allow participants to truly connect with their surroundings (and their senses) through the pleasures of the table."
Favorite past dishes include paella made with gorgeous shellfish plucked straight from the sea and bomba rice brought from over the Spanish border, and dolloped with rich, garlicky aioli; a pesto lasagne made with delicate layers of homemade pasta, creamy bechamel, and bundles of basil pounded into an aromatic sauce; and a wobbly panna cotta perfumed with leaves from the fig tree next door and topped with a refreshing Charentais melon granita.
We encourage participants to put themselves in Emily's hands for the week and try new dishes and ingredients. However, please let us know if you have severe allergies or dietary restrictions and we will do our best to accommodate.
Three meals a day using local, fresh ingredients are included with the retreat.
This village in the very south of France (only three villages sit between Collioure and the Spanish border) beckons you to live in your senses -- no, scratch that -- it requires you to do so. The Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean at Collioure. The place smells of salt, earth, lavender, citrus, and rose.
Of the light, Matisse said, “There isn’t anywhere in France where the sky is bluer than the sky of Collioure. I just have to open the shutters of my room and I have all of the colors of the Mediterranean at my place.”
Collioure is ancient. It’s been there since 673, when it was an important outpost for the Visigoths. It was passed back and forth between France and Spain a few times. But for us moderns, it’s as if Collioure was designed by a brilliant architect whose sole mission was coaxing human beings into falling in love with the natural world. There are the aforementioned mountains, in a hundred shades of green, and three sparkling coves. There is the medieval Château Royal de Collioure. There is the 17th-century Notre-Dame-des-Anges Church. There is a moulin, a windmill, and Fort St. Elme, that sits high upon a hill. There are cobblestone streets, and two excellent local bars.
There is that Matisse-approved sky. Some of the oldest vineyards on earth hugging the rugged hills. I’m not really one for hyperbole -- I’ve sworn off the words ‘amazing’ and ‘awesome’ -- but I don’t think you can walk ten feet in Collioure without being intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds.
All-Inclusive Come to Your Senses Retreat May 26 - June 1
There are only ten spots available, and it's first come, first serve.
What that means: The only item on your To Do List is getting yourself to Perpignan; then you will surrender to a week devoted to getting back in touch with yourself, your body, the natural world, and your writing.
BIRD-BY-BIRD: $3250 is the all-inclusive (meals, lodging, workshop) price of Come to Your Senses.
Deposits can be placed on a credit card or debit card through PayPal (be sure to choose friends/family option to avoid silly fees).
CANCELLATION POLICY - If you can't join us after all and must cancel, we will refund your deposit with 45-day notice (by April 12). With less than a 45-day notice, we will refund your full deposit only if we can fill your space. There will be a $25 handling fee for all cancellations.
"This week has been a life-affirming adventure, and I am grateful!"
- Karen Lynch (Writer, Former Detective)
Karbohemia is not a place one finds on a map - it is an experience and a state of mind. It is nurturing and challenging. It is new acquaintances who become old friends. It is deep vulnerability, and tears, and laughter and joy. It is rich colors, textures and tastes of food, wine and history and culture. It is sunrises and sunsets, and songs in the square. Karbohemia is far more than I could ever have imagined. Come and be amazed.
- Laurie Taylor (Writer, Author of The Accidental Truth)
"After following Karen's Facebook page for years, and seeing pictures of fabulous Karbohemia, I promised myself to one day visit this beautiful spot and enroll in Karen's writing workshop. Something told me the trip would be an important experience."
- Anonymous (Participant, 2018)
Come To Your Senses and Reserve Your Spot
$1000 reeserves your spot.
The closest major airport is Barcelona (BCN). Perpignan, the closest city to Collioure is ninety minutes north by train. Some students also choose to fly into Paris (CDG) and take the train south. Perpignan is five hours south. Whether you come from Barcelona or Paris, we will pick you up in Perpignan and take you to Collioure.
Casual warm weather wear, with a jacket or heavy sweater just in case it gets chilly at night.
Good walking shoes. Toiletries you can’t live without (there are markets and pharmacies within walking distance of your hotel if you forget something). Swimsuit or shorts/top to swim in. (The beach scene is casual and inclusive here. Everything from topless German hippie octogenarians to girls who dive in fully-clothed. This is a place where every body is a swimsuit body and everybody who wants to go swimming, does.) *Aqua socks – the beaches have smooth stones on the shore. If you have tender feet, these are worth the investment.
Sunscreen. Bug spray. No need to go full-on Vermont-woods-after-a-storm DEET, but there are mosquitos on occasion. Burt’s Bees Natural Outdoor Bug Repellent works great. I’ll also have some one hand. Laptop/notebook, and the accompanying chargers and adapters.
Airfare and train fare. Spending money.
We offer massages by an English-speaking massage therapist; if you are interested, you will pay her directly.
Please let us know as soon as possible if you have a major food allergy or dietary restriction so we can talk with Chef Emily about whether it will be possible to accommodate.
Will Karen read and give feedback on my work in progress?
Yes. A one-hour private consultation with Karen is included in your retreat package. You can discuss the work you’ve generated during the week, or arrange with Karen to review and discuss 25 pages of your work-in-progress.
Absolutely, both in your hotel and in the workshop space.
What if I have just started writing? Is this for me?
Come to Your Senses is designed to develop and strengthen your ability to capture the ‘real world’ on the page. This is a key component of successful writing, and beginners as well as seasoned pros need to exercise this muscle. This retreat is for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a unique environment, and write from their full human selves.
No. All rooms are singles, with a private bath and AC.
What do I need to bring to have my devices work?
This explains everything you need to know about adapters and converters. If it all seems like too much of a nuisance, we will have power strips at the workshop space at the ready for you to charge your screens. If you need one for your air-drier, curling iron, or other implement of hair beautification, you will have to make sure you have the right adapter and converter.
It never hurts to learn some basic French. That said, Collioure is a beloved holiday spot by the British, and most people are happy to practice their English with you.