Writing Retreats for Your Wish List (Part 1)


Thank you to everyone who sent writing retreats for this round-up! The first seven in the list below are my own recommendations – I know them and trust them. All the rest are new and mysterious gems that lovely readers submitted! We received wonderful suggestions, and I’ve divided them into three different groups, depending on what’s offered at each one. I will be posting these in installments accordingly. Locations are worldwide in each installment.

Writing Retreats for Your Wish List is a 3-part series.

  • Part 1 (see below) Workshops: retreats that include instruction.

  • Part 2 Residencies: personal retreats (with meals and community).

  • Part 3 Self-Directed Retreats: beautiful locations in the world to get away, and write. You provide the food and make your schedule.

Today: a list of writing retreats that include instruction.

Self-directed writing retreats are golden, but sometimes we want to be guided.

In all of the writing retreats listed below, there’s an opportunity to be taught writing by an instructor, in a beautiful, nature-steeped classroom setting.

Please note, I haven’t been to many of these retreats – most are entirely new to me! I won’t be able to advise you about them – I’m just listing them. If you have questions, please contact the organizations directly.

If your schedule or budget doesn’t allow you to attend something like this right now, you’ll feel heartened simply by reading this list. Creative dreams often need years to incubate.

Bookmark the ones that speak to your heart.

My wish for you is that even just looking at these retreats will bring you inspiration.


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International Writing Retreats: Workshops

1. Writers Adventure Camp, British Columbia, Canada

This is Zsuzsi Gartner’s summer camp for writers, on Alta Lake in Whistler, BC! The point of this retreat is adventure: writers have an opportunity to take craft workshops in different genres, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, song writing, screenplay, humour, and even writing for video games.  Also offered: a writing contest, with a full scholarship as the prize.

2. Tin House Summer Workshop, Oregon, USA

This is a week-long intensive of workshops, seminars, panels, and readings led by the editors of Tin House Magazine, and their guests. Just go check out the faculty list: dreamy! (I’ve wanted to attend this workshop for years.) The workshop sessions involve story critiques. Classes are capped at 12 students. If you’ve already published a book, you can apply for a one-on-one mentorship with select faculty.

3. Sage Hill Fiction Workshop, Saskatchewan, Canada

Writers stay at Cedar Lodge, on the shore of Blackstrap Lake. This is for a group of six writers who have some level of experience already, and who have published some short or long fiction. The focus is on works in progress. There is group discussion, individual critiques with author Alissa York, and some private writing time.

4. Banff Writing Studio, Alberta, Canada

This is a five-week program for poets and prose writers to do deep work. Writers live at The Banff Centre, in the Rocky Mountains, and time is unstructured, so lots of writing can happen there. Writers also benefit from the opportunity to work with mentors during the five weeks. There’s also a weekly reading series, and sessions with a voice and relaxation coach to help writers learn how to give readings. I’ve been to Banff both as a student and a mentor, and I can’t think of a more powerful place to write.

5. Banff Emergence Lab, Alberta, Canada

Banff has so many interesting writing retreat options, it’s silly to start listing them one by one. But this one is unique: traditional authors get together with multimedia artists and technicians for one week to explore the world of multiplatform stories. Intriguing, I know! Plus, this is an all-expenses-paid opportunity to go to Banff. At the time of this posting, there’s room for 3 authors.

6. Firefly Creative Writing Retreats, Ontario, Canada

Writers spend the weekend together at an old Manor house north of Toronto, experimenting with writing games and exercises in a safe, intimate setting. I’ve worked with Chris Kay Fraser before; she’s a very warm, delightful instructor. You’ll find joy and ease here. (Firefly hasn’t announced this summer's retreats yet, but keep checking this link to find out when the next one is happening!)

7. Black Fly Writers Retreat, Maine, USA

Four days and three nights in rustic lakeside cabins on Big Lake in Grand Lake Stream, Northern Maine, near the Canadian Border. Writers spend mornings in workshops in smallish groups (max. 12 students) and afternoons writing in solitude, with optional meetings with instructors.

8. Cinnamon Press Writing Week at Ty’n y Coed, Wales

One week spent writing in beautifully restored Welsh cottages, surrounded by the mountains, close to historic Conwy, Wales. You can choose to work with a group of up to six other writers for workshops, and there’s also an option for self-directed work here.

9. Anam Cara Retreat, Ireland

Weekend and week-long writing workshops are held on the coast in the southwest corner of Ireland in Cork County. The facility offers both organized writing courses led by various people, as well as the opportunity for personal writing retreats.

10. Under the Volcano, Tepoztlán, Mexico

A nine-day intensive in the foothills outside Mexico City, with the option to extend your time and continue on a personal writing retreat after the workshop ends. This robust workshop includes morning and afternoon writing classes: it’s an intensive!

11. Write By Lake Atitlan with Joyce Maynard, Guatemala

One week spent in a Mayan village with a small group of writers. Workshops focus on memoir and the personal essay, and are led by author Joyce Maynard. Students submit a manuscript before the retreat; each writer’s work is the focus of a workshop session. If you do not have something written yet, you may submit notes and ideas, and your session will be spent looking at how to start your project.

12. Okanagan Food & Wine Writers’ Workshop, British Columbia, Canada

This is a little different, but I’m including it anyway because it sounds delicious. It’s meant for writers in the food and wine industry, but surely, fiction writers can do some wonderful research here!

13. Iceland Writers Retreat, Reykjavik, Iceland

A joint project between Iceland, Canada and the US, this retreat brings a deliciously varied selection of writers together to lead workshops over a one-week period. Registration fee includes accommodation and five workshops (you get to pick the writers you want to work with). There are a maximum of 15 writers in each workshop. There are also cultural tours of Iceland included, and shared meals and events. It's called a retreat, but I imagine that this is a fairly social event, like a conference, but lodging and meals are included.

14. Donegal Songwriting Retreat, Donegal, Ireland

Here is an interesting opportunity for writers to explore songwriting (after watching three-and-a-half seasons of Nashville, I'm about ready to try it myself!) Writers will also get to spend the week exploring the local pubs on the rugged west coast of Ireland. Matt Meighan is the instructor, and the description says that this is "structured as a writing retreat," so I assume that the schedule makes room for quiet time for solitary writing, and includes food and lodging.

15. Centauri Arts Writing Retreat, Costa Rica

This week long writing retreat in beautiful Costa Rica is for writers at any stage in their writing. You can attend solo, with family, or a group of friends, attend workshops, and go sightseeing. Also, as a bonus, if you disclose that you are a member of our Story Is a State of Mind community and read about the retreat here, you can get a $200 discount.

I want to write like Anne Truitt sculpted.
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Timothy Fowler

Thanks for sharing these retreats. I am packed for Iceland to participate in the 2016 workshop. And, last year I participated in the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop, this years workshop will be announced in another few weeks. Tim
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Pam Johnson

This is delicious and inspiring! Thanks Sarah. And very exciting to hear about retreats at the Barn! Fantastic!
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Debra Martens

There is also Arvon in England: http://www.arvon.org/about-us/
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Ellen Girardeau Kempler

Thanks for this list, Sarah. I was the only American in a poetry workshop with a leading contemporary Irish poet, Gerald Dawe, at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry, Ireland. I learned as much about the culture as writing, and spent less than I would have in a similar U.S. program. I'm signed up for the Iceland Writers Retreat this year. The reason I chose both is that they are open to all writers, from around the world. Getting in isn't based on who you know or where your work has been published. The experiences at these kinds of workshops tend to build up writers' confidence because they are democratic and based on the idea that anyone who is serious enough to invest in the work of writing is a writer. I'm still exchanging critiques with a friend I met in West Cork, and I hope to do the same with writers I meet in Iceland.
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Margaret N.

Hi, Sarah. Nice to see Firefly on this list. I have been to two of their retreats (summer and winter) and loved both of them.
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Writers might also be interested in La Muse Writers & Artists Retreat in southern France, where I am now. This is a wonderful and affordable retreat set in a village in the mountains bordering Spain, where writers and artists gather for one, two or three week (or longer) retreats in an 11th Century, 7-bedroom house owned by writers John Fanning and his partner Kerry. It is self-catering and we have the freedom to work at will, but with guidelines for quiet times. I love it here: it keeps me focused, and is inspiring, beautiful and even magical, especially at night under the massive stars. #lamuseinn.com #retreats #France
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