Writing Retreats for Your Wish List (Part 2)


Self-directed writing retreats let you carve out the space and time you need to go deep into the world of your book, but writers don’t always want isolation. It can feel good – and more sane – to be writing with other writers and artists around.

It’s also an incredible luxury to have permission to write all day without thinking about grocery shopping or meal planning.

In all of the writing retreats on my list today, there’s an opportunity to work in solitude, in a community with other writers. Meals are prepared for you. Oh – and the settings are beautiful. The first two retreats are close to my own home in Prince Edward County, Ontario – I think these are especially beautiful settings, but then, I’m biased.

Please note: I haven’t experienced most of these places myself (yet!) If you have questions about these retreats, please contact the organizations directly.


Sarah Selecky

      Writing Retreats for Your Wish List is a 3-part series. Read the others: :

  • Part 1 Workshops: retreats that include instruction.

  • Part 2 (see below) 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.

Residencies: Personal Retreats with meals and community

1. Spark Box Studio, Ontario, Canada

Writers stay in a charming century home with owners Chrissy and Kyle, located just outside Picton in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Residencies are flexible – you can come from one weekend up to 2 months. Fees are affordable. Spark Box Studio can facilitate up to three residents at a time; you’ll stay in a private bedroom and a dedicated semi-private studio space, and share meals together.

2. Banff Leighton Artists’ Colony, Alberta, Canada

These nine different studios are nestled in the forest in Banff, each one designed by a different architect. Writers may prefer some of the studios over others (dancers, musicians, painters, and other artists will be in the studios around you). You don’t sleep in these studios – you have a regular room at the Banff Centre, and you walk to your cabin in the woods to work in solitude each day. Sigh.

3. Djerassi Resident Artists’ Program, California, United States

Residencies at Djerassi last 29 days, and are at no cost to the writer, but you do pay for your own travel expenses to the centre (located near Palo Alto). Writers are set up in a four-bedroom house, where the main kitchen is also located. There’s also a big barn where the non-writers work (and ostensibly make noise). A chef makes dinners on weeknights – you are responsible for making your own breakfasts and lunches (ingredients are provided for you, though). They’re looking for applications from emerging and mid-career artists.

4. Yaddo, New York, United States

(This is the place Anne Truitt described.) Artists work together on this four-hundred acre estate in Saratoga Springs that’s steeped in literary history and prestige. John Cheever wrote here, as did Sylvia Plath and James Baldwin. Residencies are a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of eight weeks. They are at no cost to the writer. Qualifying writers are (this from the website): “working at the professional level in their fields” – so some amount of publication would be expected before you apply.

5. MacDowell Colony, New Hampshire, United States

This colony supports artists with 32 separate studios, every one built far apart from each other on 450 acres of woodland and fields, so almost no studio is in view of another. Writers meet each other (and the other artists) for meals and conversation at the main hall, but they are not allowed to visit each other’s studios without invitation. MacDowell has serious status. Alumni: while here, Alice Sebold wrote The Lovely Bones, and Jonathan Franzen wrote The Corrections.

6. Yasodhara, British Columbia, Canada

Recommended by more than one writer I know and trust. This is an ashram, so there is a spiritual aspect to the surroundings. Writers on personal retreat give two hours of service to the Yasodhara community each day (and work assignments are ability-appropriate). There's a minimum of a two-week stay. This ashram is situated on a lovely lake, and it’s a ferry ride away from Nelson, British Columbia.

7. Anam Cara, Cork, Ireland

This retreat centre is also mentioned in Part 1 of this series; there are writing workshops held here as well. Writers on a personal retreat will have their meals provided for them, and their solitude protected. The schedule for each day is posted on the website. Plus there’s a sauna and hot tub!

8. Res Artis, online resource

This is a comprehensive online database of artists’ residencies around the world. Chances are you’ll find somewhere that suits you! It can be a bit overwhelming, because there’s just so much here. But if you have the time and inclination to start searching for something special and/or particular, and you are undaunted by large databases, this is a wonderful place to start.


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Thanks for this, Sarah! Great list! The Wallace Stegner house in southern Saskatchewan is an interesting one as well. http://www.stegnerhouse.ca
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Juliet Young

Hello Sarah, Well! Thanks to your above recommandations, I applied to The Lemon Tree House in Italy and guess what? I've been accepted! I'm over the moon. And I understand that you taught there last year! The photos on their website are just sublime. Can't wait. Thanks again. Juliet
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Linda Sivertsen

Beautiful list, Sarah! Writing retreats are so healing they should be on every corner. I'd love to include mine on this list, if I may. I regularly take 6 writers to beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA--a magical place where extraordinary projects (and many agent connections and book deals) have been born. xo www.bookmama.com/retreats
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Juliet Young

I just wanted to add my blog link where I've written a post about being accepted at The Lemon Tree House writers' residency in Italy. I'm a Canadian living in Paris. Thanks. https://julietinparis.net/
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