Patricia Lee Lewis

Patricia founded Patchwork Farm Retreat in western Massachusetts over 35 years ago, has led writing retreats there since 1992, and internationally since 1996. She celebrates our relationship to the earth as sacred, to writing as a way of finding what is deepest within us, and to teaching writing as a participatory, supportive endeavor. She is excited at the promise writing together holds for all of us.

The writing process is based on the method developed by Amherst Writers & Artists, of which Patricia is an affiliate and has been a national trainer of workshop leaders, and provides beginning and experienced writers with a supportive, encouraging context in which to write.

Patricia has spent much of her life as an advocate: for women, for civil rights, for peace, for a healthy environment, for small farms and rural communities, for the arts. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, she moved north years ago with her children. She is a business owner and trail walker, and has been director of several organizations, including women’s centers, community economic development corporations, district congressional offices, and served as an elected county commissioner for four years. In 1985, when she joined Pat Schneider’s Amherst Writers & Artists writing workshop, she finally found the courage to write for others to read.

Patricia holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and completed her undergraduate degree at Smith College, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1970. She is a founder and past president of Straw Dog Writers Guild and a member of the Texas Writers League, the Berkshire Writers Room, and the American Poetry Society. A grant in 2011, from the Massachusetts Arts Council, enabled her to help establish a writing program at her local library. Trained to teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), Patricia and friends volunteer in the Maya village of Santa Cruz la Laguna on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where Patricia also leads retreats at Villa Sumaya Retreat Center.

Her poetry, fiction and feature articles have appeared in a variety of journals & anthologies, including The Los Angeles Times, Hampshire Life, and The Boston Sunday Globe. Her poems have appeared in The Berkshire Review, Upstreet, Sanctuary: Magazine of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and Crossing Paths: An Anthology of Poems by Women, Mad River Press. Her work has been featured in the Berkshire Review, which nominated her poem, “Two Hundred Wings” for a Pushcart Prize. She was supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to perform her work as a benefit for the Miniature Theatre of Chester. She is currently at work on a novel set in West Texas in the 1930’s.  Her book of poems, A Kind of Yellow, won Writer’s Digest’s International competition for self-published books of poetry and is available at amazon.com. High Lonesome, her latest collection of poems, was published by Hedgerow Books of Levellers Press and is available from their Store.

Her papers and books are in the Sophia Smith Archives at Smith College, and in the Special Collections at UMass Amherst.

Patricia is responsible for the writing program at all retreats.

Click here to read “How I Came To Lead Writing Workshops and Changed My Life.”

More work by Patricia:

Patricia interviewed in The Writer

Our Writing Method

Writing group celebration In Patricia’s writing circles, beginning and experienced writers find a supportive, encouraging context from which to write from their deepest selves. Participants write in response to exercises Patricia offers; they are invited to read their work aloud. Group members affirm what they like and what stays with them.

In all of her retreats and workshops, Patricia encourages the use of certain guidelines in responding to new writing. New writing which has not been edited is like a new baby: it’s vulnerable and easily damaged by negative judgements. To maintain a safe, confidential, sacred space in which to write:

  • We honor the writer by listening carefully
  • We treat everything as fiction
  • We refer to the narrator/speaker, not to the author, as the voice of the piece
  • We remember this is a writing group, not a therapy group
  • We are free to do what we want and are free to accept or reject the exercises that are offered
  • We are invited to read and respond only with what we like, what stays with us, what moves us—not with how to make it stronger
  • We stick to the writing, avoiding our own anecdotes and asides
  • We hold everything in the circle in confidence

Using this gentle but rigorous approach, Patricia offers occasional weekend retreats at Patchwork Farm, week long retreats internationally, and 4-day retreats in Texas & the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.

For more information or to register for a Patchwork Farm event, please email Patricia… and tell us how you heard about Patchwork Farm!

Our Team – Past & Present

Charles MacInerney

Charles MacInerney
Charles MacInerney

Charles is registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 500 hour level (the highest registration currently available), and is the co-founder and serves on the faculty of the Living Yoga Teacher Training Program. He is also the co-founder of Texas Yoga, and helps organize and presents at the Annual Texas Yoga Retreat.

He is a guest writer for Yoga Journal’s “Ask Our Expert” column, and has been interviewed for articles in Yoga Journal four times, on yoga retreats, creativity, heart disease, and Yoga for overweight students. One of Charles’ essays (written on retreat with Patricia) appeared as the lead essay in a National Chess magazine in India. He has numerous essays published in regional publications through out the US, and on the internet.

Charles MacInerney has studied Yoga and Meditation since 1971. He teaches classes on Yoga, Meditation, Posture, Visualization, Breathing, Balance, Creativity, Concentration and biofeedback for a variety of businesses, corporations and institutions. He has worked with over 12,000 students in Austin, where he lives.

Charles has led over 50 retreats since 1992, including over 20 international retreats. For more information please visit his website at www.yogateacher.com

Jacqueline Sheehan

Sheehan-2014 author photo 210

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times Bestselling author of fiction. She is also a psychologist. A New Englander through and through, she spent twenty years living in Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, photography, freelance journalism, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of high school puppeteers.   Her first novel, Truth, was first published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster and later retitled as The Comet’s Tale, A novel about Sojourner Truth. Her second novel, Lost & Found, was published 2007 by Harper Collins. Lost & Found has been on the New York Times Bestseller List and was followed by a sequel Picture This in 2012. Her third novel, Now & Then, was published in 2009 by Harper Collins.  The Center of the World, 2016, Kensington Books, is set partly along the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Her 6th novel, Tiger in the House will be published in 2017.


In 2005, she was the editor of the anthology, Women Writing From Prison, the culmination of eight years of writing workshops sponsored by Voices From Inside, an advocacy group for incarcerated women. She has published travel articles, short stories, and numerous essays and radio pieces. She also teaches at Grub Street in Boston, Maine Media, and Writers in Progress.

Contact Jacqueline at www.jacquelinesheehan.com



DM Gordon

DM Gordon
DM Gordon

D M Gordon’s poems and stories have been published widely in such journals as The Massachusetts Review, Nimrod and The Northwest Review. Prizes include The Betsy Colquitt Award from descant, The Editor’s Choice Award from the Beacon Street Review, and First Prize for a short story in Glimmer Train. Phi Beta Kappa, Masters in Music from Boston University, she’s the recipient of a 2008 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in fiction, having been a finalist in poetry in 2004.

For more information, visit: dmgordoneditorial.com

She’s been an equestrian and chamber musician, and currently works as a free-lance editor in both poetry and prose. She was the poetry editor for our online Patchwork Journal. She facilitates weekly public discussion of contemporary poetry for Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is the author of Fourth World (Adastra Press, 2010) and Nightly, at the Institute of the Possible (Hedgerow Books, 2011). She’s currently at work on a novel set in the islands of British Columbia.

Celia Jeffries

Celia Jeffries
Celia Jeffries

Celia has led AWA certified workshops for over eight years. She has an extensive background in education and publishing and earned her MFA at Lesley University. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, in the anthology Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper and in Westview: the Journal of Western Oklahoma.

Celia offers workshops in the craft of writing for participants in our international retreats, as well as working with individual writers on their manuscripts. She has served as managing editor for our online Patchwork Journal. In Fall, 2011, Celia traveled to Botswana to serve in the Peace Corps. You can read about it here: After Africa

David Clemson

David Clemson
David Clemson

A gifted writer and painter, born and raised in England, David Clemson has Masters Degrees in Research and Statistics, and in Writing Studies. David began his creative writing life at Patchwork’s first retreat in Scotland in 2000, but over the years he has writen more than 100 mathematics textbooks for youngsters, their teacher and parents, the newest of which will be published later this year.

He currently leads a writing group in Wiltshire, England and has produced a collection of the group’s work to be published this Spring. A journalist published widely in the U.K., including in the Guardian, he has appeared in Television and radio, is a published poet and is completing his first novel and a collection of stories for a memoir. David will lead a craft of writting workshop during our Wales retreat in 2007, and consult with individual writers on their manuscripts.

Jane Mortifee

Mortifee-2016 webversioniJane has the RYT500 certification and has been practicing and studying yoga and various forms of meditation for some forty years. Her approach to yoga is gentle and accommodating to all levels of practitioners. She has been delighted to lead the yoga for Patricia’s Creative Writing retreats in Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand. Jane is also certified in the AWA method of leading creative writing retreats. She has been active in the music industry, theatre, film and television for over forty years and was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2002. She has recorded 3 CDs and is in the midst of trying to get her first novel published. Find out more at www.janemortifee.com

Penfield Chester

Penfield Chester teaches gentle yoga at Shelburne Falls Yoga studio. She sees how yoga can open doors in the writing process, as well as being a good physical balance to the writer’s long periods of sitting.

Penfield Chester

She leads a writing group in the Amherst Writers style at the yoga studio as well as hosting writing retreats at her farm. She worked as a midwife for twenty years and during that time co-authored with her sister, Sisters on a Journey: Portraits of American Midwives. The lessons of intimacy learned in her midwifery practice led her to memoir and fiction in a writing group with Gene Zeiger for 6 years, and then with Patricia. Horses, family, birth and death weave their way into her writing. She loves participating in Patricia’s groups and is honored to help lead response groups and yoga in some of her retreats.

Penfield has a MA in Women’s Studies from Vermont College, and MEd from Antioch University. She is currently enrolled in a two-year program with Stanford University in novel writing. She lives on a farm in Vermont, volunteers with Hospice and loves being a new grandmother.

Ponteir Sackrey

Ponteir Sackrey

Ponteir Sackrey is a 500RYT yoga instructor who approaches her practice with humility, humor, and joy. She uses her good humor and down-to-earth approach to ensure that yoga is accessible to all.

Ponteir was first introduced to hatha yoga in her early 20’s through her affiliation with the Nityananda Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an organization dedicated to the study of Kashmir Shaivism. She considers that affiliation a great gift, one that set her on a path of curious discovery and inner reflection.

Ponteir is raising two school-age daughters. She has an MBA from Simmons College and is the President of the Center Fund at the Center for the Arts, in Jackson, Wyoming.

Kathy Mansfield

Kathy Mansfield
Kathy Mansfield

Kathy has studied and practiced yoga since 2002 and received a Yoga Foundation Certificate in UK in 2009. She led yoga classes in Zimbabwe in 2010 for complete beginners and regularly leads small groups on writing retreats. She is interested in the principles of basic Hatha yoga and what this means for a practice (Ha – the sun representing male energy; Tha – the moon representing female energy), and uses the teaching of A.G. Mohan and Personal Reintegration in her own practice.

Kathy holds a M.Ed and Diploma Adult Education (Glasgow, Scotland). She writes short stories, when she makes time, stimulated by her work across Africa and internationally. She has had one (only!) published by Leaf Books and does not spend enough time submitting others for publication. When she is not working abroad, Kathy lives in England.

Dave Schellinger

Dave Schellinger
Dave Schellinger

Retired, Dave now travels, usually with camera in hand, in continual hope of capturing something of the essence of places visited – that “kernel of personality” through which they speak; the mystery of time and place they embody. His career as a geophysicist – where the goal was to obtain ever clearer pictures of earth’s subsurface structure and composition, “earth’s image” as it were – witnessed continued progress in the art of gathering, processing, and interpreting these earth-soundings. There was a metaphorical side to all this, as with all human activity; Imagining Earth is the book he imagines writing someday, to capture the sense of it.

Dave has lead other digital photographers in our retreats on “walkabouts” to capture some of the unique beauty that is Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and on the the Isle of Cumbrae in Scotland.

“There are many things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go on your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished ” — Annie Dillard “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”

The Farm

Patchwork Farm
picture by Chris Fraser

Patchwork Farm Retreat is on 103 acres of wooded mountainside just 20 minutes from downtown Northampton in western Massachusetts. The forest of red oak, sugar maple, beech, ash, white, yellow and black birch, white pine and hemlock trees is laced by several miles of beautiful walking trails.

High in the center of the land, looking southeast to the Holyoke Range and the Pioneer Valley, sits the little Cottage where we have held creative writing retreats since 1996, and where we eat delicious meals. The cottage is occasionally available to rent, fully furnished.

Recent visitors to the cottage include a gyre of seagulls, two pileated woodpeckers, a 3-legged doe, ruffed grouse in the sumac, coyotes on the compost pile, a momma Moose with baby, and a one-eared Black Bear known locally as “Lefty”. Chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatch and goldfinch regularly clean out the birdfeeder; and juncoes, bluejays, wild turkeys and squirrels – gray, red and flying – vie for what’s left on the ground.

Downhill from the cottage is the Lower Woods cabin, available to those seeking a peaceful, simple and lovely place to work, dream and meditate.


by Michael Leunig

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace.
May we find such places in ourselves.
We give thanks for places of refuge and beauty.
May we find such places in ourselves.
We give thanks for places of acceptance and belonging.
May we find such places in ourselves.
May we begin to mend the outer world.
According to the truth of our inner life.
From A Common Prayer, Collins Dove (Harper Collins Australia Pty. Ltd.) 1990.