top of page
Old Books

Who Am I in This Story?


Voice in Narrative Nonfiction



Rebecca Giggs


March 28 - April 4, 2022





In writing about life, the real world, and other nonfiction subjects, how do we craft a lively, expressive voice? 

Does the author have only one 'authentic' voice, or many?

What goes into shaping a voice that won't overpower your material even as it engages the reader with a fresh perspective?

Factual writing that nonetheless aspires to tell a story hinges on the author's voice — that is, the illusion that the writer is speaking directly to the reader. Voice is the defining quality of narrative nonfiction.


In this week-long retreat — consisting of led-discussion, writing, reading, reflection and instruction — we consider voice not as stream-of-consciousness, but as a carefully crafted process of self construction, characterisation and observation. We look at ways to balance information with emotional journey, how to convey the author’s own stake in their subject, and why voice matters to the reader.


Writers with an interest in any of the following genres are encouraged to attend: memoir / autobiography, biography, essay, nature and place writing, popular science writing, narrative history, narrative politics, profile writing, long-form journalism, reportage, travelogue, philosophical meditations. You will have the chance to work individually and in small groups, with feedback from award-winning author Rebecca Giggs. The retreat concludes with a short overview of publishing opportunities in narrative nonfiction.  

Old Books

A work with a strong voice isn't a transcript of the writer’s stream of consciousness.

A writer's voice is the climate of our story. It is something amorphous, diffuse, yet deeply felt. It is when you feel a distinct sensibility behind the work.


Meet The Author



Rebecca Giggs is an author from Perth, Australia. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and in anthologies including Best Australian Essays, and Best Australian Science Writing. Rebecca’s nonfiction focuses on how people feel towards animals in a time of technological and ecological change.

Rebecca's debut book Fathoms: The World in the Whale was awarded the Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Prize, the Royal Society’s Whitley Award for Popular Zoology, and the Western Australian Premier's Prize for an Emerging Author; it was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize. In the US Fathoms won the prestigious 2021 ALA Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; and in the UK, the book was 'Highly Commended' in the shortlist for the 2021 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation. Translations are forthcoming in Korean, Italian, Slovakian and Spanish. 


She has taught for several institutions, including the Faber Writing Academy, Writers SA, Macquarie University, and NYU Sydney.


We meet twice daily, in sessions that consist of instruction, writing exercises, shared work, reflection and discussion. The retreat covers:

  • A basic introduction to narrative nonfiction, its genres and conventions;

  • How to discover your personal stake in the material, and your driving questions;

  • Defining an 'origin myth' or point of instigation for your writing; 

  • What is 'voice'?; 

  • Whose story is it to tell? — ethics and voice; 

  • Selectivity and creativity in voice; 

  • Language / register and voice; 

  • Voice and tense — writing action, writing memory; 

  • Scene writing and exposition; 

  • Integrating voice with researched content;

  • Including the voices of others — how to characterise real people;

  • Thinking about target-readership in tuning your voice;

  • Creating a 'mood board' as a way into thinking about the atmosphere of your writing, and its ultimate place in the market;

  • An overview of the commercial context of narrative nonfiction in Australia.

The program includes time and space for you to write as well as optional one-on-one sessions with Rebecca to review written material. Mornings before 11am, and early afternoons will be free for you to rest, read, write, think, daydream and explore. A late afternoon teaching session leads into evening salons before dinner — where participants will have the chance to read their own work aloud, discuss problems and fears, and share exciting new discoveries and epiphanies.


The final day’s workshop will discuss the writer’s life – and the publishing context for narrative nonfiction in Australia. ​​

This retreat will reward both curious and serious creatives with an interest in writing about life and the real world. You might have a significant project underway, or only the spark of an idea. Importantly, the retreat is focused on nonfiction only: writing that, though it may be imaginative in expression, remains wedded to truth.


  • One-on-one consultation with Rebecca

  • Morning workshops 

  • Afternoons free to rest, read, write, think, daydream and explore 

  • Evening salons

  • An opportunity to present and discuss your current project

  • The option to do readings 

  • Time to truly slow down and sink in to your writing in a beautiful country setting 

  • Cosy open fires 

  • Nourishment of organic farm to table meals made with fresh produce straight from our very own veggie gardens. Vegetarian and vegan options. 

  • A week of luxury accomodation

  • Optional daily gentle morning yoga 

  • Optional massage, garden tours and bush walks 

  • Beautiful workshop studio 

  • Transfer to and from Bowral train station

  • Concierge staff and onsite laundry 


Writers with an interest in any of the following genres are encouraged to attend: memoir / autobiography, biography, essay, nature and place writing, popular science writing, narrative history, narrative politics, profile writing, long-form journalism, reportage, travelogue, philosophical meditations.


Springfield is situated on traditional lands that were shared by people of the Gundungurra, Dharawal and Yuin nations. Springfield is only five minutes drive from Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park.  


We are 15 minutes from Bowral, Moss Vale and Robertson in the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW. The energy here has been described as peaceful, still and even soporific, making it an excellent place for writers who want the quiet time and space needed to hear their writer's voice and sink in to the wonder of creative flow. 



On this retreat you’ll have the opportunity to write what you’ve always wanted to write. Your writing will be supported by Springfield’s signature creative ecology. This retreat includes optional sessions of morning yoga, nature hikes, foraging and gardening, and hands on creative exercises.  Being on retreat in a beautiful natural place will bring insight to your work in surprising ways. Prepare to feel open and spacious as you tune into a different state of mind. Writing on retreat is so special. It initiates that altered state of mind we’re in when we’re writing. That’s when the magic happens. You can use your free time each day to go even deeper into your writing, or take a break and treat yourself to a massage, visit one of the local villages, galleries or wineries, or simply sip a cappuccino, write postcards, and enjoy the gardens and views. 


7:30 - 8:30          Optional gentle morning yoga

8:30 - 9:30          Breakfast

9:30 - 11:00        Free / writing or reading time 

11:00 - 12:30      Morning Writers' Studio: We come together to learn, write, read and discuss

12:30 - 1:30         Lunch  

12:30 -  4:30       Optional daily massage

12:30 - 4:00       One-on-one consultations, or free writing or reading time 

4:30 - 6:00          Afternoon Writers' Studio: We return to reflect on the morning, and to go further with our exploration

6:30 - 7:30           Dinner

7:30 - 9pm          Evening Salon

Read what our past guests have had to say

"Rebecca is just an exceptional teacher. She is not only highly intelligent but she is very thoughtful and is also highly intuitive about what your work needs. She would just come up with these amazing but very specific ideas about how a work could be improved which I found extraordinary. I just found Rebecca exceptional and if she wasn't also such a brilliant writer she would make an excellent editor as well! As I said, It's a 10 out of 5 for me and if it was the writing teacher Olympics it would be Gold for Australia!!"

Read more of what our past guests have had to say here


Registered participants are invited to speak to the group about your writing project.  For example, you may choose to talk about what you’re writing, why you’re writing this particular piece, how long you’ve been working on it,  what challenges  you are currently facing, or what you hope to achieve at this retreat.  You will also have an opportunity to read from your work.


  1. George Saunders, 'The Incredible Buddha Boy.' GQ, 7 May 2006.

  2. Leslie Jamison, 'The Breakup Museum: Archiving the Way We Were.' Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2018.

  3. Hester Kaplan, 'The Private Life of Skin.' Southwest Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (2006), pp. 159-176. 

  4. David Sedaris, 'Understanding Owls.' The New Yorker, 22 October 2012. 

  5. Zadie Smith, ‘Find Your Beach.’ New York Review of Books, 23 October 2014. 

  6. Noelle Janaczewska, 'Lemon Pieces,' in The Space Between: Australian Women Writing, UWA Press, 1998.

  7. Maria Tumarkin, ‘This Narrated Life’ Griffith REVIEW, Edition 44: Cultural Solutions, April 2014.

Closer to date we will send the above readings to guests in PDF format. 



Should you wish to have a one-on-one meeting with Rebecca during the retreat we ask that you submit 1,000-3,000 words of nonfiction writing in advance to form the basis of that conversation. The writing does not need to be highly polished. It might be an excerpt from the draft of an essay, a book chapter, or an overview of a project you are hoping to embark upon. Please upload as a PDF with numbered pages and your name in the footer or header.

As numbers for this retreat are strictly limited (8-12 guests) registration forms and deposit/payments must be received before your place is secured.



Accommodation is allocated according to availability and your first preference at the time of booking. We have two private bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, if this is your preference please book  early. If you choose to share we’ll pair you with a like-minded roommate, or bring a friend!

Please explore room options and descriptions here before booking.

$2,250* non-residential (includes all meals)

$3,250* private room, shared bathroom: 

(Avocado Room, Indigo Room, Drover's Rest Rooms, Farm House Rooms)

$3,750* private room with private ensuite:

(Rose Room, Blue Room)

*plus GST

bottom of page