The 8 Best Writing Retreats That Won’t Break the Bank
Gift a friend (or yourself) what writers want most: time, space, and a place to focus
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Networking, hustle, and industry understanding are unfortunate burdens of the life of a young and working writer. But trickier still is finding solitude. Privacy, quiet, and uninterruption are crucial to the craft; if solitude is one of the challenges of writing, it is also essential.
While residencies and fellowships are wonderful, most ask for applications and portfolios, and that can be prohibitive when you’re just starting out. Writing retreats are another means of getting away — and they can be done affordably, some even offering scholarships. Most bring together a small community of writers for a few days, so there is the opportunity for socializing and meeting the like-minded. Some involve travel to local sites or parks, or daily meetings to discuss the industry or the craft.
If you’re looking to get some peace and focus — or the best gift for your writerly friend this holiday season — here are some of the best writing retreats we found that won’t break your bank.
Wellspring House Retreat — Ashfield, Massachusetts, $260-$280/week
Retired English professor Preston Browning is the co-director of Wellspring House with his wife, author Ann Hutt Browning. The Wellspring House is run exclusively as a retreat for writers and artists, and as such is open all year: winter rates (mid-November to April 1st) are $260/week for an individual, and $290/week for a couple. Normal rates are only slightly higher: $280/week for an individual, and $310/week for a couple. You can also choose to stay just one to three nights for about $60–$90 per night. Each stay comes with access to the large living room and kitchen, along with access to one of the two common bathrooms (in total, the house hosts about six rooms). And if you’re really looking to get away, this retreat will help you do it: while the house offers modern amenities like laundry, the website warns that the house has no cell phone service.
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Retreat — Colorado Springs, Colorado, $65-$399
The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Retreat takes place in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, at the Franciscan Retreat Center. Spanning three nights, it often contains special agent and author guests — in 2018, for example, Sandra Bond from the Bond Literacy and authors Heather Webb and Corinne O’Flynn will be there, leading talks and workshops, including a Publishing AMA by Sandra Bond. Residents can choose days only ($65 total, including meals), to stay and share a bedroom with one other resident ($299 total), or to have their own private bedroom for the duration of the retreat ($399 total).
God’s Whisper Farm Writer’s Retreat — Radiant, Virginia, $195 + $25/night
At the God’s Whisper Farm Writer’s Retreat, writers stay on a farm containing goats, chickens, dogs, and cats. They can enjoy writing workshops, talks from writers, meditation sessions, open mics, and shared, home-cooked meals. All rooms have two bunks and cost $25/night, but if you want slightly more private accommodations, you can opt to stay at a nearby Airbnb or at Best Western. If you want to avoid fees altogether, there are also ten free campsites nearby. Keep in mind the $195 rate is an early bird rate; prices may go up if you book within about three months of the retreat, hosted in late June.
Kundiman Retreat, in partnership with Fordham University — Bronx, New York, $375 + $25 application fee
In partnership with Fordham University, the nonprofit organization Kundiman offers a retreat for 36 lucky participants who apply. Kundiman, according to their site, aims to nurture writers and readers of Asian American literature. Keeping with this mission, top Asian American poets and writers lead the Master Classes and manuscript consultations at the retreat. The five-day retreat also includes reading, writing circles, and informal social gatherings, with room and board included in the subsidized tuition fee. Applicants can apply to either the poetry or writing track: as part of the retreat, poetry fellows get a free consultation on a 10-page manuscript, while fiction fellows get a free consultation on a 15-page manuscript.
‘The Moth’ Retreat for Artists and Writers, Cavan, Ireland, €300, or about $355 a week
If you want to submerse yourself in history during your retreat, try crossing the pond and attending The Moth Retreat for Artists and Writers, located at a house in Cavan, Ireland. According to the retreat website, Samuel Beckett went to school just a half an hour northwest of the home, while renowned writers like Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh all lived within an hour’s drive. The house itself is completely private, and includes a large studio, kitchen, and breakfast room downstairs, and a bedroom and bathroom upstairs. Fresh eggs are provided every morning, though you are expected to furnish your own meals. If you want to bring a friend or guest, that will cost you an extra 100 euros. Need a ride to the bus station or help finding other provisions? The publishers of The Moth are nearby and ready to help, according to the retreat website.
The Good Contrivance Farm Writer’s Retreat — Reisterstown, Maryland, $550 for one week
Another solitary retreat you could try is run by The Good Contrivance Farm, and is hosted in a contemporary loft apartment in the farm’s main barn. The Good Contrivance Farm is a non-profit that aims to preserve and restore historic farms in Maryland. To apply, send in a résumé and writing sample (space is booked on a first-come, first-served basis). Once booked, you’ll enjoy private use of the apartment, which includes great views of the farm, a full kitchen, 1.5 baths, a small library, and free WiFi. You can stay up to 4 weeks, with discounted rates the longer you stay (going as low as $450 per week if you stay the full four — though add $100 a week if you plan on having a second person stay with you.) Proceeds of the retreat all go to the non-profit.
The Watering Hole Winter Retreat — McCormick, South Carolina, $299–$399
The Watering Hole Winter Retreat is focused on building community among its 42 hosted poets. The retreat has no traditional classrooms, and aims to provide more publishing opportunities for poets of color, according to its site. Facilitators and speakers include renowned National Book Award winners, MacArthur Geniuses, recipients of the NAACP Image Award, and more. Interested writers can apply with a cover letter and three poems, and the site mentions that preference is given to applicants who are members of The Watering Hole Facebook Group and those who follow the organization’s Facebook fan page. During the fellowship, writers stay at modern cabins at Hickory Knob State Park.
The Mariandale Center’s Life Writing/Memoir Retreat — Ossining, New York, $350
The Mariandale Center is a quiet spot in Ossining, New York that hosts retreats and other programs. Included in the writing retreat are daily workshops, craft discussions, writing prompts, feedback on writing, and time to work on projects. Writers can also enjoy walks near the mountains and river. For this particular retreat, which spans three nights, all meals are included, and writers of all genres and experience levels are welcome.