Become the writer you’ve always wanted to be

September 2022


Come to idyllic Devon to give yourself the time, space, and community to step into yourself as writer of narrative nonfiction.  Whether you are an experienced or emerging writer, this enchanting retreat offers inspired instruction and a relaxed atmosphere to learn techniques and approaches from bestselling authors.  There are few more inspiring settings to explore your writing life than The Pig Hotel at Combe. A golden-stoned Elizabethan manor nestled in an emerald valley, we will be surrounded by kitchen gardens and walking trails, with expansive countryside views, meditative spa, artisan restaurant, and relaxing private rooms.

Kathryn Aalto’s bespoke itinerary offers students a range of lectures, workshops, discussions, and evening talks.  No matter your interests – food, travel, nature, culture, profiles or memoir – Kathryn and guest tutors Ed Caesar and Paul Dodgson will provide the inspiration, approaches, and techniques to help you write narrative nonfiction, or factual writing with imagination. You will be in the warm company of others also formulating unique ideas, and will receive guidance after the workshop to continue on your path. We will help you find inspiration to make writing a serious focus, explore structures for your work, create evocative scenes, and more.

Space is limited to 10. To discuss the retreat and reserve your place, write to

Learn more: THE PIG – at Combe, Devon Hotel & Restaurant (


Tuition is £750. This includes all meals as well as detailed feedback on 30 pages of writing and an hour of mentoring. Accommodation is separate as each room is distinctive and priced differently at The Pig.


Kathryn Aalto

Kathryn is an author and essayist. She has written three books including a New York Times best seller and contributes to Smithsonian Magazine, Outside, Resurgence and the Ecologist, Sierra, and more. Kathryn is the host and teaches the retreat’s core classes.  Her full bio can be read here About – Kathryn Aalto.

Kathryn is a passionate practitioner and educator of narrative nonfiction. For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including the Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkeley, Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University. She mentors writers around the world and teaches a range of on-line writing courses.  Her teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. She believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She creates a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth.


Ed Caesar

Ed is an author and staff writer for The New Yorker. He has written for The New York Times MagazineThe AtlanticOutside, Smithsonian Magazine, Esquire, The Sunday Times MagazineBritish GQ and The Independent, and has reported from many countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Russia, and Iran.

Ed has written about the world’s largest diamond, marathon tennis matches, Russian oligarchs, African civil wars, and Tom Wolf’s apartment.  He has won numerous writing awards including Journalist of the Year.  His first book, Two Hours (Simon & Schuster, 2016), about the world’s greatest distance runners and their quest to run the fastest ever marathon, was called “a celebration of the human spirit” by The Observer. His second book, The Moth and the Mountain (Penguin, 2021), was “An urgent and humane story that invites not mockery of a madman, but pity and admiration. A small classic of the biographer’s art,” according to The Sunday Times.

His first book, Two Hours, about the world’s greatest distance runners and their quest to run the fastest ever marathon, was called by The Spectator as a kind of “Hoop Dreams for runners” while the The Observer called it “a celebration of the human spirit.” In 2016, Two Hours won a British Sports Book Award.

His second book, The Moth and The Mountain, is the untold story of Britain’s most mysterious mountaineering legend – Maurice Wilson – and his heroic attempt to climb Everest alone. “One of the best books ever written about the early attempts to conquer Everest. A fine, fine slice of history by a truly special writer who proves time and time again that he is among the best of his generation,” wrote Dan Jones, author of The Plantagenets. 

Ed has been a Visiting Fellow at the Manchester Writing School since 2017. Website Ed Caesar – Writer . Twitter @edcaesar.

Paul Dodgson

Paul Dodgson is a writer, radio producer, musician and teacher with a special interest in life-writing and script writing. His book On the Road Not Taken: A Memoir About the Power of Music (Unbound, 2019), told the story of falling in love with music as a child and becoming a singer after a thirty-year hiatus. Paul has also written several memoir-based radio plays including Home (BBC Radio 4, 2014) and You Drive Me Crazy (BBC Radio 4, 2012). Other projects include the EastEnders writing team, theatre for children and many stories and radio plays for the BBC on subjects ranging from the early days of the nuclear power industry to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte.

As a radio producer for the BBC, Paul has made many hundreds of programmes for all BBC networks including drama, documentary and literary programmes, working with writers to develop scripts for broadcast. Most recently, Paul has been an executive producer for the BBC and Arts Council England talent development scheme, New Creatives.

As a musician Paul has written soundtracks including The Epic of Gilgamesh (BBC Radio 3, 2006), lyrics and music for theatre including The Nutcracker (Bath Theatre Royal 2008) and releases songs under his own name.

Paul has taught creative writing at Exeter University and Falmouth University, has run courses at the Arvon Foundation and Ty Newydd, has spoken at many literature festivals, and led workshops throughout the UK, Europe and Canada. Twitter @pauldodgson

A reading list is provided on registration and includes the books The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar, On the Road Not Taken by Paul Dodgson, and Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World (2020) by Kathryn Aalto. We will read essays by Kathryn Schulz, Rebecca Solnit, Roxane Gay, David Sedaris, and others.



Friday, September 9

4 PM Check-in

6 PM Candlelight Cocktail Welcome (Wine Cellar)

7 PM Introductions over Dinner and Dessert (Georgian Kitchen)

8 PM Kathryn Aalto In Conversation with Ed Caesar followed by Q&A.

Saturday, September 10

8-9:30 AM Breakfast (Restaurant)

9:30-11 AM ‘The Awesome Power of Good Structure’ with Ed (Folly)

11-11:30 Coffee, tea, and a walk (Greenhouse)

11:30 AM-1 PM ‘Show, Not Tell: The Importance of Scene Creation in Narrative Nonfiction.’ with Kathryn (Library)

1 PM Lunch (Folly or a BBQ near our cottages weather-permitting)

2 PM ‘The Personal as Universal, Parallel Narratives, and the Power of Research’ with Kathryn (Library)

4 PM Relax and unwind

6 PM Candlelight cocktails (Wine Cellar)

7 PM Dinner and dessert (Restaurant)

8 PM ‘In Conversation with Paul Dodgson: On the Road Not Taken’  followed by Q&A.

Sunday, September 11

8-9:30 AM Breakfast (Folly)

9:30-11 AM ‘Techniques for Memoir and Life Writing’ – Paul (Folly)

11-11:30 Coffee and tea (Greenhouse)

11:30 AM-1 PM Propelling the Narrative with Dialogue, Monologue, and Characterisation’ – Kathryn (Georgian Kitchen)

1-2 PM Lunch (Restaurant)

2-4 PM ‘Your Path to Publication: Query Letters, Book Proposals, and Managing Your Writing Life’ – Kathryn (Greenhouse)

4:30 PM Farewells


Click on the link to view rooms and send your preference from the list available to Meals, drinks (not cocktails … ), and two nights’ accommodation included in the price below. View rooms here –  THE PIG – at Combe, Devon Hotel near Honiton in the Otter Valley (

Option 1: Snug – £378 for 2 nights

Option 2: Comfy – £438 for 2 nights

Option 3: Comfy Luxe – £539 for 2 nights

Option 4: Comfy Luxe – £539 for 2 nights

Option 5: Attic Hideaway – £728 for 2 nights

Option 6: Laundry Hideaway – £728 for 2 nights

Option 7: Stream Cottage – £484 for two nights

Option 8: Stream Cottage – £484 for two nights

Option 9: Chicken Run Cottage – £484 for two nights

Option 9: Chicken Run Cottage – £484 for two nights

Option 10: Old Thatch Cottage £504 for two nights

Option 11: Old Thatch Cottage £504 for two nights