7 Solitary Residencies for Writers Who Are Hermits

If you do your best work alone, these retreats are for you

Photo by Lili Kovac

Some writers thrive at conferences and colonies where there are communal meals, informal after-dinner salons, and opportunities to network and perhaps even fall for a soulmate. But, if you’re someone for whom a residency is to eliminate as many distractions as possible, including the temptation to be a social butterfly, and thus get as much work done in the precious hours stolen away from everyday life, you may be called to a more hermit-like retreat. Here’s a list of some opportunities to hunker down solo, from urban islands to the most remote escapes.    

Photo via The Kerouac Project on Facebook

Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence Project of Orlando, Orlando, Florida 

This residency is located in the heart of Orlando, where the selected writer resides alone for three months in the bungalow where Jack Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums and was living when On the Road was published to critical acclaim. Social obligations are minimal; the writer participates in a Welcome Potluck at the start of the residency and a Farewell Reading at the end, with further opportunities for community outreach on a volunteer basis. As resident, you’ll have plenty of alone time to write on the porch or explore the streets and cafes of College Park, the sleepy neighborhood where the bungalow is tucked away. At the same time, the writer-in-residence can take advantage of exploring all that the fast-growing cosmopolitan center of Orlando has to offer—from craft breweries and foodie spots, to reading series and world-class music acts—if one so desires. 

Fairhope, Alabama. (Photo by GPA Photo Archive)

Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, Wolff Cottage, Fairhope, Alabama

Similar to The Kerouac Project although more under-the-radar, this solo residency also takes place in a historic 1920’s bungalow. But what makes this stay in Wolff Cottage unique is its location in Fairhope, a small town on Mobile Bay that began in the 19th century as a utopian experiment and single-tax community that has drawn artists and out-of-the-box thinkers ever since. The cottage is located right beside the library, an airy, state-of-the-art facility, and one block away from charming Main Street. As writer-in-residence, you can walk to restaurants, a pharmacy and grocery, to Page and Palette, the well-known independent bookstore and coffee shop, and down to the Fairhope Pier at sunset. Other than an author reception, you’ll be blissfully left alone for the month to write your heart out.

Photo via Soaring Gardens Artists Retreat‘s website

Soaring Gardens/Ora Lerman Charitable Trust, Laceyville, Pennsylvania

In the rolling hills of north-central Pennsylvania you’ll find a serene oasis in this residency, where you have no obligations for public receptions or outreach and can deeply immerse yourself in your project. Residencies take place in either a farmhouse or country church, with a maximum of four or five residents at the house and two at the church. During my stay two summers ago, I was given the good fortune of five weeks at the church, with three of those weeks to myself and two shared with a poet. The rural setting is tranquil but not remote wilderness, with access to amenities about fifteen to thirty minutes away, and several state parks nearby that boast hikes to some of the most gorgeous waterfalls on the East Coast. 

Photo via Sitka Center for Art & Ecology on Facebook

Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Otis, Oregon

For writers with an environmentally themed project, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast outside Lincoln City offers hermitage-like accommodations amongst breathtaking scenery. Residencies take place from October until May and include a few scheduled gatherings and outreach events with fellow artists-in-residence. However, for the vast amount of time, you’re on your own in a cozy, comfortable cabin where you live and work, surrounded by enormous Sitka spruce and quiet. On daily walks you may encounter the elk herd that grazes near campus, and the hike to Cascade Head offers spectacular vistas of the estuary and crashing surf. This residency belongs on any writer’s “dream list.” 

This IS a photo of Alaskan wilderness but not where you’ll be staying. (Photo by Joris Beugels)

Voices of the Wilderness, Alaska 

Sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service & the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, this summer residency sends grantees into the Alaskan wilderness, paired with a park ranger and/or research specialist. You may find yourself staying a remote cabin or camping, kayaking, collecting samples, and helping with educational outreach. So although this residency may not entirely be for curmudgeons, the remote locations offered throughout Alaska (often in grizzly bear country), and requirements for physical condition and training (including aviation and boat safety, use of radio and satellite phones, experience and ability to camp, kayak, and otherwise keep up with a ranger) make this a wilderness residency not for the faint of heart. The intent is to provide participants with an inspired, extraordinary wilderness experience, which he or she will then write about after the residency and donate a piece back to the park service.   

Dry Tortugas National Park. (Photo by Thomas James Caldwell)

Dry Tortugas National Park and Loggerhead Key, Florida Keys

This is a unique opportunity for artist couples who embrace rugged adventure—to spend one month at the longtime research facility and lighthouse of Loggerhead Key, in the remote Dry Tortugas National Park near Key West. A $2000 stipend is provided, the couple must bring all food and supplies with them for the entire month and have insurance. A satellite phone is recommended. For those who are highly self-sufficient and up for an entirely “off-grid” experience of briefly dropping out of civilization, and plunging deeply into a largely untouched island wilderness, this residency may be for you—and with your partner, sure to make the memories of a lifetime.  

Photo via the MacDowell Colony on Facebook

The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire

Although the MacDowell Colony hosts a cohort of talented fellows across disciplines who come together in the evenings for group dinners and gatherings, this esteemed colony may offer the best of both worlds—and moreover, a great deal of seclusion for hunkering down and making strides on a manuscript. If you’re among the lucky few selected from its extremely competitive applicant pool, you’ll be given one of thirty-two cabins nestled upon the wooded New Hampshire acreage. Staff will deliver lunch to your cabin’s doorstep, thus not interrupting the flow of your artistic process. When at last you’re restless for a break, downtown Peterborough is just a few minutes away and a picturesque respite. The inspiration for the famous play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, Peterborough still beckons with pubs and restaurants, its warm and well-stocked indie bookstore, the Toadstool Bookshop, and delicious organic sandwiches and soups at Nature’s Green Grocer Market and Café.  

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