WRITER’S RETREATS are more than just a places to stay. In addition to space, many provide community support, resources, and workshops to help writers improve their skills while they complete major writing projects.
Retreats can last anywhere from a few weeks or months to a whole year, and vary in structure. Some have set time limits while others allow the writer a choice of schedules. Even the number of artists in residences at one time varies greatly depending on the program.
Gaining acceptance into one of the more established programs is nearly unheard of for beginning writers, however don’t get discouraged. At more-recently established retreats, less experienced writers have an excellent shot at acceptance.
Residencies are located all over the world and welcome writers at all levels. Some are genre-specific, focusing on poetry or fiction. Here are a few retreats that welcome writers of creative nonfiction, which includes travel writing.
Edward F. Albee Foundation William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center, New York
Edward F. Albee Foundation William Flanagan Memorial Creative Persons Center, also known as “The Barn” is an artist’s retreat in Montauk, New York, that accepts up to five guests at a time for stays of 4-6 weeks from May to October. There’s no application fee and no charge to stay at the retreat, but space is limited and admissions are highly competitive.
Applicants for non-fiction residencies will need to submit three essays or articles, a resume, a one page “artist’s statement”, and two letters of recommendation. Applications are accepted from January 1 to March 1.
Artcroft Creative Residency Program, Kentucky
Located an hour northeast of Lexington, the Artcroft Creative Residency Program accepts creative nonfiction writers for retreats of 2-4 weeks all year round. The program accepts up to six artists at a time and there is no charge.
The colony provides transportation from the airport and basic food staples and in return residents are expected to contribute 20 hours per week to working on the farm and in the community. Applicants will need to submit the $30 application fee, two personal and two professional references, a resume, a one-page description of the work they wish to undertake during the retreat, two work samples, and proposals for the work they can contribute to the community and to the retreat’s work exchange.
Leighton Artists Colony at the Banff Center, Alberta, Canada
Leighton Artists Colony at the Banff Center offers ongoing flexible-stay retreats for artists, writers, and composers. There is a $75 application fee, a nightly charge for residency and an optional meal plan at additional cost. Scholarships are available.
First time applicants will need to submit a resume, a description of the project they’ll be working on, three letters of recommendation, and a selection of published works or manuscripts in progress. Applications are accepted throughout the year, but should be submitted six months before the desired residency dates.
The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow , Arkansas
The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow offers stays of two weeks to three months from mid-March to mid-December to writers of genres including non-fiction, journalism, and culinary writing. Writers are asked to contribute what they can to the cost of their stay, though fellowships are available to help fund the retreat. There is no application fee.
To apply, writers need to submit a list of publications and of any prizes they’ve been awarded, two references, and a work sample of no more than ten pages. Each writer will also be asked to contribute time to a local outreach program during the stay. Applications are due in September for the following year.
Writers in the Heartland, Illinois
Writers in the Heartland, located in central Illinois, opened in 2008 and hosted its first writers in 2009. Up to five writers at a time will be welcomed for stays of one week, two weeks or one month in September or October. For the first year, only writers from the Midwest were accepted, but this may change in the future.
There is a $15 application fee, but accommodations and meals at the retreat are free. Prospective residents will need to submit a cover letter, resume, and work sample of 25 pages or less by mid-April for the following year. As this colony is new, it isn’t well known, so there might not be much competition and newer writers may have a better chance of being accepted.
The Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency, Massachusetts
The Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency is another newcomer. It was established in 2007 and welcomes up to eight writers at a time to stay for two weeks to one month during October. The residency cost is $150 per week, which includes accommodation in a historic inn, but not meals or transportation.
For consideration, applicants need to submit a biography with publication history, a work sample of up to 20 pages, and a statement of purpose outlying the project that will be undertaken at the retreat. Applications are due via email by March 1 for the October residency.
Andrew’s Forest Writers Residency, Oregon
The Long-Term Ecological Reflections Program at the Andrews Forest in Oregon is a residency offered to writers “whose work reflects a keen awareness of the natural world”. Depending on the project that will be undertaken while at the residency, this could include travel writers.
Residents stay for one week during March, April, May, September, October, or November, and receive a stipend of $250. Applications include a work sample of up to 15 pages and a one-page statement describing the writer’s proposed project and how it fits into the mission of the Forest. While at the retreat, writers will have the chance to work with research scientists and their writing will appear in The Forest Log anthology.
Hedgebrook – Washington
Up to seven women writers at a time stay at Hedgebrook, a colony on the coast of Washington state, for 2-6 weeks from February to November. Several hundred apply each year but only about 40 are chosen, so the competition is tough.
The retreat accepts both published and unpublished writed, so even those who haven’t made a name for themselves have a fair shot. The application costs $25 but the program is free. Application requirements include a writing sample of up to five pages and two personal essays. The essays detail the work of the writer, why she wishes to attend the retreat at Hedgebrook, and how her work will benefit from her time there. Applications are accepted through September for the following year.
This is only a small sampling of the residency programs out there. Here are some things to consider when choosing your residency.
Overall Considerations for Writer’s Retreats
Don’t worry about geography.
With the exception of the cost of getting to the colony, the location matters little. You can just as easily find a secluded space in the middle of a big city as you can in a more rural area. The setting is more important.
If you need fresh air and nature, pick a retreat set on a farm or forest where you can go for walks on the property when you need a break. If you require more stimulation, a colony in a city or small town might better.
Determine Your Preferred Work Style
Some retreats offer complete solitude. Others have a more communal atmosphere after work hours. Some offer a dedicated studio space and others expect writers to work in their rooms. Think about which situation will allow you to focus most easily and choose the retreat that fits your style best.
Calculate All the Costs
The total cost of the colony is more than the price of staying there. If food and transportation aren’t included, figure that in as well. If you work full time, keep in mind the cost of the salary you’ll be sacrificing.
This many affect how long you can afford to stay at the colony. A few retreats offer short stays. If the price is more than you can afford, look into retreats that offer fellowships to defray the cost.
Apply to Several Retreats
Applying to more than one retreat may increase your chances of being accepted. If a more popular retreat rejects you, a less well-known one might gladly welcome you. Being flexible on dates and applying to year-round retreats may also help you get accepted. If you are rejected one year, you can always apply again the following year.
Do you have experience as a writer in residence? Have you always wanted to take a writers retreat? If you were to dedicate 6 months to writing what would it be?