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Writing Retreat









Spouses / Significant Others may join us for just an additional $500. 

Ask us about Payment installment options 


Santa Ynez Inn

A Hands-On Workshop to Catapult Your Creativity and Transform Your Ideas into a Book  

Plus a little bit of pampering via great wine tastings and superb dining experiences

in Santa Barbara Wine Country

Do you believe there is a book inside you waiting to come out?
Are you stymied by the writing and publishing process?
Would you like to learn the professional way to write a book while having an amazing time?

If so, this is the workshop you have been waiting for—a small group structured retreat focused on working closely with you to develop your ideas and teach you the process of writing, publishing, and promoting your book. If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a self-help book, a memoir, a book on management, leadership, or another topic reflecting your expertise, this retreat will enable you to achieve your goals by learning how to structure your book, write authentically and professionally, select the right cover and interior design, and strategize an “author platform” that maximizes your reputation and income.

Your spouse or significant other is welcome to join our fun activities as well.

Your Workshop Leaders

Your hosts are Rick Benzel and Susan Shankin, top book industry professionals, each with more than 30 years of experience in publishing.  Rick is a veteran editor, writer, and ghostwriter who has worked on hundreds of books for major U.S. publishing companies. He is also a certified Creativity Coach and Founder of the Creativity Coaching Association. Susan is a noted book designer whose book covers and interior designs have graced numerous top-selling books. Rick and Susan both worked at the trend-setting publishing house Jeremy P. Tarcher where they were involved in the development and publishing of the best-selling creativity guide, The Artist’s Way, along with scores of other major non-fiction books in many fields.

During this 4-day, 3-night UNIQUE retreat, we will spend focused time working with you to structure and plan your book—along with PAMPERING you to inspire your creativity. The trip combines serious work sessions with inspiring creative breaks, including several wine tasting forays in Santa Barbara wine country plus dining in the region’s best restaurants.

You will walk away from this retreat with a complete game plan to write and publish your book + a superb cover design. Also included are 8 hours of ongoing editorial support.

Location of Retreat

The retreat will take place at one of the most highly reviewed inns in Santa Ynez, in a scenic small town of historic proportions in the famous Santa Barbara Wine Country.

Santa Ynez Inn2Santa Ynez Inn6


Note: The entire trip is open for you to bring your spouse or significant other to accompany us on all non-workshop activities. He or she is entitled to the same offerings for wine tasting and meals for an additional fee of $500. At those times when we are working on your book project, he or she may go off and enjoy themselves on their own. 

Day 1:

  • We will meet in Santa Ynez in the morning. Before checking into our hotel, we will spend the morning discussing your strategic platform as an author and help you envision your project in a professional way. This is the critical opening you need to target who you want to be as an Author and how you can maximize your “intellectual property” through book publishing, speaking, consulting, and spin-offs.we will check into our luxury inn and relax to let your creative juices begin flowing. You will have a sumptuous room with a king bed and, if available, a fireplace.
  • Right at noon, we will check into our luxury inn. You will have a sumptuous room with a king bed and, if available, a fireplace.
  • For lunch, we will visit 2 of the top wineries in the scenic vineyard country around Los Olivos—wineries like Curtis, Firestone, Fess Parker, Zaca Mesa, Gainey, and Foxon. As we picnic lunch on their grounds, we will begin to layout your options for constructing your book, including a book outline. Most importantly, you will learn our unique system that explains the 12 ways to organize your book chapters. We will then help you select the best organizational structure for your ideas.


  • In the later afternoon, we will return to our Inn and have another working session to discuss concepts for your book cover and create a mental image of what it might look like so Susan can begin creating your cover.
  • We will cap the day off with a unique dining experience in one of the region’s top restaurants.
  • You will go to sleep feeling jazzed, inspired, and more confident, your mind full of the day’s exciting learning events and sights from one of the most beautiful areas of California.

Day 2:

  • We will begin with a working breakfast as we hone your book ideas to find its “vein of gold” and maximize its appeal in the marketplace.
  • The full morning workshop session will be devoted to finalizing your book outline, including laying out your chapters and naming them.  We will also create your winning book title and subtitle. You will be able to walk away from this morning with a real vision of your book’s outline and content, now making your structure and chapter progression clear.
  • We reconvene in mid-afternoon to discuss the basics of great writing – how to grab the reader’s attention in your chapter openings; how to write clear, powerful prose;  and how to maintain the theme of your book all the way through from beginning to end.
  • Susan will present to you a design of your book cover and we will next help you write the back jacket copy. This design will give you a real image of your book to keep in front of you as you write your book.
  • We will end the afternoon with a walk around Los Olivos where we will find dozens of  tasting rooms, art galleries, antique furniture stores, and unique gift shops.  During this time, we will continue discussing the “book business” and develop ideas for your marketing and PR program.
  • The day will be capped off by another fabulous dinner at the Inn.

Day 3 

  • This day will be devoted to writing and discussing your manuscript. In the morning, you will begin working on your book’s introduction and perhaps first chapter. We will periodically check in with you to read what you have written, providing highly personalized recommendations and advice about your writing style. Our goal on this day is to help you learn to feel comfortable with your writing, and to improve the speed at which you are able to write your book through our unique system of “fast first-draft writing.”
  • Today will also include some down time for relaxation and reflection (and perhaps more wine tasting, right?).
  • The day will also include further discussion about each participant’s marketing and PR strategy.
  • We will convene for a celebratory dinner at one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara Wine Country.

Day 4:

  • Following breakfast, we will confirm your Author Branding strategy and summarize your plans to begin writing and the early phases of your marketing plan.
  • We will help you prepare a writing schedule and marketing plan so that you will have a structure and timetable for getting your book written and promoted.
  • If time permits, we will help you write your book’s opening Prologue or Introduction.
  • The retreat will close around 4:00 p.m., allowing you to return to Santa Barbara or Los Angeles.

You Also Receive 1 Additional Day of Ongoing Editorial Support From Rick Benzel

You will be entitled to 8 additional hours of ongoing editorial support from Rick Benzel. You may use this time to ask him questions, share your manuscript and have it reviewed, or even to edit your writing.  Rick’s support will help you gain confidence in your journey to become an author. He has helped scores of new authors learn to write their books and get them published.


A refundable deposit of $1000 is required by Feb 1 to receive the 10% discount.  The deposit will be refunded if the retreat is canceled.  A minimum of 3 participants is required for the retreat to occur. Full payment is required by Feb 10. Once full payment is made, it is non-refundable.