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Writers' Retreat


Ōtūrēhua in Central Otago has become a magnet for writers. Here in the Māniatoto, where the sky is big enough to contain all dreams, writers have come from all over the country to attend our retreats, to linger and soak in the magic of this place, in the hope of weaving words into something wonderful.


In 2019, with half a dozen writers already living here, author Mike Riddell came up with the idea of running a writers’ retreat. He suggested that our resident writers, among them poets, novelists, a screenwriter and an editor, as well as well-known former Poet Laureate Brian Turner, could teach workshops.  There would  also be guest speakers and panel discussions, but mostly the retreat would be an opportunity for other writers to take time out from their normal lives, and write.  


That first retreat, held over a weekend, drew 50 people from all over the country.  It was highly successful and the consensus at the end of it was that the retreat should cater for fewer people for a longer time.  So each year from 2020 onwards we’ve invited writers to come for a full week and experience the ‘world of difference’ that is Central Otago. Although we hold the retreat in early spring, we've had at least a flurry of snow most years, providing enough chill for those from more temperate parts of the country to get a sense of what it’s like to live in a place of extreme temperatures. 


Our main focus during the retreat is on providing you with time and space to work on a long-form project with the help of wonderful surroundings and a team of published authors who all live in the Ida Valley. We have some communal meals, plenty of opportunity for discussion, great visiting speakers, and a marvellous final party to round things off.  


Some people have  been coming year after year, so it pays to register early to get a place and arrange accommodation for yourself to avoid missing out.


2024 Retreat

Dates for the 2024 retreat are Saturday 21 September (arrive by 5pm) to Saturday 28 September (leaving day). We cap the numbers at 30 to ensure everyone finds local accommodation, and all the places are taken. However, people's circumstances change and sometimes a vacancy comes up closer to the time. These will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you'd like to go on the waiting list, contact Rose Riddell - see below. Similarly, if you have registered and discover you can't come, please let us know as soon as possible so we can free up a place for someone else.

Registration Fee
in mind the financial hardship many are suffering at the moment, we've kept the fee for the 2024 retreat the same as last year, ie. $420. There is an earlybird discount for those who pay several months in advance. The fee covers three workshops or tutorials, evening entertainment in the form of guest speakers, panel discussion and other events, plus three evening meals.  Costs for accommodation and other meals are your responsibility. Please pay your fee into Under Rough Ridge Writers' Trust:  38-9024-0026636-00.

Payment options are:

1. Earlybird, $395, pay in full by 1 July

2. Pay deposit of $125 to secure your place, fully refundable if cancelled before 23 August. Balance ($295) to be paid by 23 August. No refunds after this date.

3. Full payment of $420 can be paid at any time after the Earlybird rate ends on 1 July, but must be paid by 23 August.

For information about the annual retreat, to register, or to supply notes on your project, please contact Rosemary Riddell on


2024 Speakers


Over the five years we have had a variety of guest speakers, all excellent writers. They have included Kate de Goldi, Barbara Sumner, Philip Temple and Neville Peat. Our most recent guests were Fiona Farrell and David Clarke, both speaking from their own experience of writing on history and heritage, which was the theme for the 2023 retreat. The theme for the 2024 retreat is Getting Your Work 'Across The Line', and our speakers will be experienced editors and publishers, Emma Neale and Quentin Wilson. 

Emma Neale


Emma Neale is the author of thirteen books. Her novel Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry 2020. Her novel Fosterling (Penguin Random House, 2011) is in script development with Sandy Lane Productions, under the title Skin. Her stories, The Pink Jumpsuit (Quentin Wilson Publishing, 2021) were long-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Emma lives in Ōtepoti/Dunedin and works as an editor. (Photo: Caroline Davies)


Quentin Wilson


Quentin Wilson brings with him 37 years of experience in all aspects of book

publishing – in that time his having published, or designed and produced for

other publishers, more than 1,000 titles. Publishing now between 10 and 14

titles a year, he is the publisher at Christchurch-based independent publishing

house, Quentin Wilson Publishing. He buys and sells international rights, and

commissions and contracts works in the categories of literary fiction, historical

fiction, genre fiction, YA fiction, general non-fiction and poetry — all being books

he passionately believes should, need, or want to be published. Find Quentin

and QWP books at:



We still have a few copies available of Ridge Lines, our anthology of work by the writers who attended the 2022 retreat. The poems and prose presented in this attractive little book – the first to be published under our Rough Ridge imprint – are as varied and infused with talent as the writers themselves. If you'd like to buy copies ($20 per copy; think presents), please contact Rose Riddell on 

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