We asked writers about their most memorable DIY writing retreats. Here’s what they said:
Mount Madonna Center
I am lucky to live 35 minutes from a retreat center called the Mount Madonna Center, in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. For just the cost of meals (less than $30 for breakfast/lunch), I can drive in and walk all the beautiful grounds, use the yoga room, eat food, hike, meditate, use their hot tub, and write. It is my saving grace.
The Vagabond House
Sharon Van Epps
I went to The Vagabond House in Carmel, California, for a few days. Lovely inn, walking distance to the beach, breakfast, and 5 p.m. glass of wine included. My room had a kitchenette so I could prep some meals. Lots of artists and writers go there. I feel safer staying alone in a small town than out in the wilderness, but I still get that wild feeling, thanks to the ocean.
Desert Hot Springs
Kathleen Nelson Troyer
I’ve gone to Desert Hot Springs for my own personal writing retreats. It’s nice to clear my calendar for a few days, go to a warmer climate, soak in the hot springs, and write.
I’ve done a retreat in California’s Surprise Valley, high desert country, where there are lots of natural hot springs. It is refreshingly remote territory in California’s least-populated county. The Surprise Valley also hosts an excellent annual writers’ conference.
I went to a fancy hotel with a writing theme in the old newspaper building in Portland, Maine. I don’t like to cook, so I could easily and deliciously feed myself, and it’s a small, manageable, pretty city, so I could go for long walks. Basically I would wake up and read, take a walk and get a pastry, write ’til late afternoon, walk and get dinner, write ’til mid-evening, read, and sleep. Heaven.
Anne Geissman Canright
I took myself recently on a writing retreat to Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod. It’s a wonderful little town, with beautiful nearby natural areas to walk in (dunes, cranberry bogs, a long jetty, beech woods); lots of excellent restaurants. I stayed in a hotel (the Watermark Inn, with cooking facilities) in a second-floor room right on the water. I wrote in the morning, then went exploring in the afternoon.
Arizona Charlie’s Boulder
I went to Las Vegas. I had time but not a lot of cash. Hence Vegas. If you go during the week, you can get crazy-cheap rooms. I stayed at this budget casino/resort called Arizona Charlie’s Boulder and rented a two-room suite for $30 a night. I packed a cooler of food and a bottle of whiskey, and holed up for five days. It was far from fancy, but it was safe and quiet and I got a TON of writing done without spending a lot of money. When I needed a break, I went for long, meandering drives in the desert.
I wrote much of my novel at the Goathouse Refuge in North Carolina. In exchange for a quiet spot amongst the trees and Tuscan-inspired sculptures, I cleaned litter boxes and helped dispense ear mite medications to the hundreds of cats that are awaiting adoption there. It’s a magical, otherworldly place.
I booked a room at Pendle Hill, a beautiful Quaker retreat center in Pennsylvania in the dead of winter. I wrote a book proposal in the cozy 24-hour library as I watched snow through the picture window. The food was local and excellent, and when I needed inspiration I walked the labyrinth or the woods, used the art studio, or sat in the majestic presence of a 300-year-old birch tree.
Recently, I rented a beach houses on stilts near Galveston, Texas (I live in Houston), and took my dog, laptop, and draft. Sat on the beach with a beer and a hair elastic around my pages to keep them from blowing out to sea!
I spent two nights at Semiahmoo Resort. They put me on the top floor, in the corner. As I wrote, I discovered a massive eagle was using the hemlock outside my window to scan the beach during low tide. I would hear a rustle, and then it would swoop down right in front of me. In my novel, the main character’s favorite teacher shape-shifts into an eagle, so the coincidence gave me goosebumps.
Judith O’Kash Liebaert
I took a weeklong retreat in a small studio apartment in Alma, Wisconsin, on the banks of the Mississippi River. No television, no internet, a small town with few distractions, and plenty of nature. Each morning I walked four blocks for Columbian-brewed coffee with steamed milk. I could have brewed my own, but the walk in the brisk spring air was my kick-start. Afternoons, I hiked the terraced streets of the tiny town, admiring the historic architecture of buildings and homes. I ate simple meals prepared in the galley kitchen, drank tea on the back terrace overlooking the river a block away, and watched the moon rise over the water.
Bridgend, Wales, is a peaceful, friendly town with wonderful accommodations. Welcoming to writers, it provides modern conveniences and the slow pace of earlier days.
I went to Australia, on the south coast of NSW in a tiny town called Minimurra. It was brilliant. Not much Wi-Fi, no nightlife – nothing to distract me!
Want to plan your own writing getaway? Read our tips for planning a DIY writing retreat.
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