then promptly ignoring it

I was 21 years old and living in Florence, Italy.  I’d set forth on a plan to become an antiques restoration expert, and now I was living in the birthplace of the Renaissance. How bellissima. 

My letters home to family and friends were a hit, you have a way with words … have you ever considered writing? … looks like you’ve found your calling.

Of course, I ignored them. I was young, I loved my budding career, I was having too much fun, writing could wait.


It waited through my career years and raising my daughter. Once I’d delivered her to college and returned home to Nantucket, those few words from long ago became impossible to ignore.

Finally, at 40 years old, I asked myself:


So I gathered my middle-aged courage and went back to college to earn my MFA. And, yes, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

My professors and mentors were invaluable to my growth as a writer, but I found myself yearning for something more—a space where women came together to focus on the craft of writing in a supportive and nurturing atmosphere. A space that cultivated curiosity rather than competition.

So, I developed the kind of creative writing workshop I would want to attend. One that connected women eager to embrace their identity as a writer, one where we wrote a lot, listened closely, and supported each other’s efforts. The workshops flourished, but behind the scenes, a bigger dream was taking shape.

Tuscan villa with swimming pool at A Writer Within's Tuscany retreat

and sharing my dream

Though Italy had been my home for only a handful of years, it still held my heart. It’s where my daughter was born, where I set my novel, “The Gilder,” and where I returned any chance I got. Tuscany was where my writing journey began, and it made perfect sense that it would be the place to realize my dream of hosting immersive writing retreats for women.

When the time was right, I said yes each step of the way as my dream unfolded, and before I knew it, I was sharing the reality with my first group of fearless, women writers.

Today, I host two retreats in Italy in the spring and always return home (now to Pasadena) inspired.  I’ve added a Martha’s Vineyard retreat in the fall season to share my love of  New England and island life, and I am working on a  California retreat (coming soon) … 

Keep writing,

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Create Compelling Characters With 40 Insightful Questions

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“Kathryn hears and sees the ‘writer within’ and creates a safe and nurturing space for that writer to emerge. The writing exercises were terrific, and she wasn’t kidding when she said we’d write a lot! I am definitely a stronger writer for having attended this retreat.”
— Amy Stone, Southbury, CT

By Kathryn Kay

Marina Nesmith spends her days in the company of priceless artifacts, antique furniture, and ornate frames as she strives to hide damage and repairs under a flawless gilt surface. 

In a life that appears as gilded as her art, her quest for excellence extends to all things, including her life with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Zoe. When Zoe makes a heartbreaking discovery that brings the mystery surrounding her father’s identity and untimely death to a head, Marina must confront the shameful truth beneath the gleaming veneer of the life she has created.

Cover of a book with red shutters and green vines with pink roses
“Kay has created a fascinating tale, featuring a protagonist like so many wide-eyed expatriates before her, quickly seduced by Florence and the quintessential bohemian couple …. Kay twists her tale in refreshing ways, creating a story about deep female friendships, portrayed in all their complexity and nuance.”
— Publishers Weekly

It’s not a question of whether you have a writer within,
it’s a question of how to set her free.

A Writer Within pledges a portion of annual profits to WriteGirl.

WriteGirl is an acclaimed creative writing and mentoring organization serving more than 700 underserved teens and young adults annually, from around the world. Through workshops, mentoring and publishing opportunities, WriteGirl helps teens develop creative writing skills and confidence in the power of their voice.

A Writer Within pledges a portion of annual profits to Sisters4Water.

Sisters4Water was founded by Ella and Mabel with a goal to support safe water access and human rights for all. Their handmade potholders are woven with 100% cotton, and all proceeds go directly to the international non-profit H2O For Life.

Embrace Your Writer Within

An online small-group writing workshop for women.

If you aren’t ready to commit to a weeklong writing retreat or 1:1 coaching, but it would help to have support and inspiration—this is a great (and affordable) alternative for you.

Tuesdays, 12 pm EST/9 am PST
From Sept 17 to Oct 22, 2024

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