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.
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.
Personal Retreats with meals and community
Small Pond Arts, Ontario, Canada
Writers stay in a four-bedroom house situated on 87 acres of farmland just outside of Picton, in Prince Edward County. You work peacefully in your room (each one is a different colour – fun!) and receive three meals a day. Meals are shared with the other residents, and hosts Milé and Krista. Fees are affordable, and residents are asked to complete one hour of chores each day – for example, gardening, cooking or cleaning.
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.
Lemon Tree House, Tuscany, Italy
I taught a workshop here in Spring 2015. There’s a picture of our class on the home page, raising a glass of Prosecco on our final night! I can attest to the grand, sprawling beauty of this Tuscan heaven. The format has changed since I taught there; now artists of all genres may attend at once. You work on your own project, and have the option to attend lectures and discussions with the other participants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Hardy Creatives Residency, British Columbia, Canada
This residency is in a home environment, which makes this retreat different. Janelle Hardy can accommodate one writer at a time, especially solo parents (children are welcome). Dinners are included in the fee, and writers are asked to help with dishes and cleaning up.
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.