The People behind the Retreat

SHABNAM SAMUEL, Founder & Organizer

SHABNAM SAMUEL, the founder and organizer of the retreat is an author, creative writing coach and a motivational speaker.  She teaches memoir writing workshops in schools, retirement communities, to individuals and through the library systems.

As a writer, she has been writing ever since she went away to boarding school as a seven-year-old. Her letters home were essays!!

Her essays have been published online in various magazines and sites.

Shabnam’s first book, a memoir, called A Fractured Life was published by Green Writers Press in the US in 2018. She is now working on two books simultaneously, one a sequel to her memoir and the other a historical fiction.

Shabnam has called the suburbs of Washington DC her home for the last thirty-five years. When she is not writing or teaching you might run into her on hiking trails or a bike trail.

More about Shabnam at


Widely anthologized, ROCHELLE POTKAR is a prize-winning poet, author, and screenwriter based in Mumbai. She is the author of Four Degrees of Separation (poetry), Paper Asylum (haibun) – shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020, and Bombay Hangovers (short fiction). An alumna of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2015) and a Charles Wallace Writer’s fellow, University. of Stirling (2017), her poetry film ‘Skirt’ featured on Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland via the Visible Poetry Project.

As a creative-writing mentor, she conducts online poetry workshops for the Himalayan Writing Retreat and was invited four times over to Iowa’s International Writing Programs: Summer Institute 2019 and Between the Lines 2022, 2023, 2024 as a creative-writing faculty.

Her prize-winning manuscript of poetry ‘Coins in Rivers’ released this April 2024 by Hachette India.

More about Rochelle at


NAYANIKA MAHTANI once harboured dreams of becoming a stage actor, but she followed the proverbial left side of her brain to do an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore – and became an investment banker instead. She is now an award-winning author and screenwriter, based in London.

Nayanika’s books are published by Penguin Random House. With genres ranging from historical fiction to multi-generational family sagas, her books have received critical acclaim, ranked as bestsellers on Amazon and won awards.

Nayanika has also co-written the story and screenplay for the film, Shakuntala Devi, with leading
actor Vidya Balan in the titular role. The film was released on Amazon Prime Video, ranking amongst Amazon’s ‘Most Watched Hindi Films Worldwide’.

Nayanika’s latest YA novel, Across the Line, is in development as a film, for which she has adapted the story for screen. She is presently working on a film and web series for leading Indian studios.

Nayanika has been a regular speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival, as well as at various other lit fests in the UK, USA, UAE, India, Pakistan and Bhutan.

More about Nayanika at


LISA MAY BENNETT, based out of Washington DC, is the author of the forthcoming book Yes, You Can Become an Author: Writing, Self-Publishing and Marketing Your First Book, and the memoir My Unfurling: Emerging from the Grip of Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Drinking.

After a successful, decades-long career in marketing and communications, Lisa finally realized her dream of becoming a published author in 2022. Now she is on a mission to encourage more people to tell and publish their own stories.

More about Lisa at