The 11 Coolest Writer’s Residencies
If you’re having trouble getting work done at home, why not try writing in a boat, castle, vineyard, or fish factory?
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Sometimes, the only way to get writing done is to get out of your own head—and out of your apartment, and out of the country, and into a 15th-century castle in the middle of Italy. Yes, that’s a real writer’s residency you can apply for—and it’s only one of the cool working vacations available to writers and artists around the world. Residencies give you space and time to work without interruptions or other responsibilities, but in the case of these off-the-beaten-path options, they also give you the opportunity to contemplate nature, live like royalty, learn a new skill, or even own a home. Here are the eleven coolest places we’ve found to commit yourself to your craft.
Unlike most residencies, the Offshore Residency does not provide artists with a studio—because space is at a premium on a boat. Instead, you’ll take part in a weeklong sailing journey to a historic region. And by “take part in a sailing journey,” we mean that you’ll be working the boat (although the captains do most of the sailing). The idea behind the Offshore Residency is that creative work and boatmanship have a lot in common—you have to constantly focus, observe, and adjust—and that artists can benefit from these parallels.
Writers of cli-fi may be particularly interested in the Arctic Circle residency, which leads artists on an expedition through the waters near the North Pole aboard a traditionally-rigged tall ship. (Tall ships are bigger than sailboats, and have room for shared workspace as well as private berths.) It ain’t cheap, but it’s bound to be productive for anyone inspired by natural beauty and anyone who can’t work when they’re too warm.
The Civitella Ranieri Foundation brings artists, writers, and composers together in an idyllic medieval castle in central Italy. Artists spend six weeks living and working in a private room and studio space within the castle, wandering the gardens, and eating professionally-prepared food made with fresh local ingredients. All the benefits of being an Italian Renaissance poet, PLUS indoor plumbing!
What if all you need to write like Jack Kerouac is to spend some time in his house? If you don’t apply for the Kerouac Project residency, you might never know. Writers spend about three months staying in the Orlando bungalow where Kerouac lived with his mother while he was writing Dharma Bums. You are not required to bring your mother along.
The “treehouses” of the Fondation Jan Michalski are modernist boxes hung from a perforated metal roof that evokes a canopy of trees. The foundation is located near Lausanne, Switzerland, and most of the treehouses have views of the Alps. Writers can stay there contemplating Mont Blanc for up to six months depending on the scope of their project.
The Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður, a tiny village (population: 180) in the east fjords of Iceland, is located in a former fish factory, now owned by a nonprofit arts organization. Residents at the Creative Centre include writers, visual artists, sculptors, dancers, musicians, photographers, two friendly dogs, and yes: a small fish processing facility.
Dream of moving to a lighthouse? Apply for the residency at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse in the Shetland Islands, where you can stay in the apartment once used by assistant lighthouse keepers, and try out your work on the local residents and gentle ponies of the Shetlands. The residency is open to all artists, but of particular interest to writers, because the designer of Sumburgh Head Lighthouse was Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather.
In Alaska’s vast and remote national parks, artists-in-residence are partnered with a wilderness ranger and actively assist with duties like giving an educational talk onboard a tour boat, engaging in seal counts, helping with climate change research, or picking up trash. You’ll also get plenty of time to draw inspiration from the lakes, trees, and wildlife—but if you end up deciding to give up writing and become a park ranger for good, you’ll at least have some basic experience under your belt.
Do you find your creativity flows best with a glass of wine or two? Does inhaling the sweet perfume of fermented grapes inspire you to spout poetry? Then waste no time in applying for Writing Between the Vines, a week-long writing residency in the gorgeous vineyards of California and Canada. The best part is, you don’t have to pay a housing fee or retreat cost, excluding the application fee (and your food and travel). You’ll save so much money that you can spend on wine!
Imagine a residency that never ends. Enter Write a House, “a writer’s in residence program where the writer gets to keep the residence, forever.” Write a House aspires to revitalize the city of Detroit by providing vocational training to local youth who renovate blighted, long vacant houses and then giving the homes to low-income writers for free. Finally, an opportunity for struggling writers to hone their craft in a nice home of their own instead of typing by candlelight in an illegal sublet trying not to wake five roommates and a cat.
Pioneered by Michael J Seidlinger, this distraction-free residency will ensure you get writing done without paying a fee or worrying about rejection. Just unplug the WiFi, lock yourself in your room, throw away the key, and start typing!