Looking Ahead: Summer Writers’ Retreats & Conferences

writing group

I don’t know about you, but cabin fever has dug in pretty deep over here in Wisconsin. A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook the other day:


At least some of us still have our humor intact. The rest? Well, let’s just say it’s been a very, very long winter.

One ray of sunshine, though, registration has opened for a number of summer writer workshops and retreats. Maybe you’re looking for an opportunity to finally put the finishing touches on that short story collection you’d like to publish, or you have questions about how to ramp up tension, or you’d like to talk shop with someone other than your dachshund who’s been giving you the eye since the last ten inches fell in the backyard.

If so, here are few opportunities that might interest you:

Write-by-the-Lake Writers’ Retreat & Conference — Madison, WI

Held June 17-21, 2019 at the Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.  Professional instruction for writers of all levels and genres.  Instructors include Christine DeSmet, Ann Garvin, Tim Storm, Marilyn L. Taylor, Angela Rydell and others. Guest speakers include Jen Rubin and John DeDakis.  Early bird registration ends May 20th. 

Priory Writers’ Retreat–Eau Claire, WI

This is the inaugural year of the Priory Writers Retreat, which will be held July 18-21, 2019. Situated on 120-acres wooded acres, The Priory once served as a monastery for Benedictine nuns in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley.  The retreat offers workshops, instruction, open-mic, as well as shared excursions and camaraderie.  Faculty includes poet Dasha Kelly Hamilton, fiction writer Nickolas Butler, humor writer Mary Mack, and non-fiction writer David McGlynn. A keynote address will be offered by poet Max Garland. Application deadline is April 30, 2019.

Interlochen Writers’ Retreat–Interlochen, MI

The 14th annual Interlochen Writers Retreat will be held June 10-13, 2019 at Interlochen Center for the Arts.  The retreat offers four courses–Plot with Rebecca Makkai; People, Places, Prose with Eric Charles May; Shaping the Raw Material of Family History with Rebecca McClanahan; and Getting Your Story on the Page with Christine Maul Rice. Early bird registration ends April 1st. Deadline for scholarship opportunity: March 1st.

Bear River Writers’ Conference–Petrosky, MI

Sponsored by the University of Michigan, this conference is located at Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake near Petrosky, MI. This year’s conference will be held May 30-June 3, 2019. Workshops are offered in fiction, poetry, nature writing, flash fiction, memoir and essay writing.  Poetry and manuscript consultations are also offered. Registration traditionally fills quickly. Scholarships are available.

Barrelhouse Writer Camp–Port Matilda, PA

Barrelhouse sponsors two writer camps each summer at Godspeed Hostel located in central Pennsylvania.  This year’s camps will be held June 20-23, 2019 & July 31-August 4, 2019. The camp atmosphere is advertised as laid-back–no mandatory sessions or readings. Writers set their own schedule.  Editorial conferences are offered, but not required. Evening campfires and camaraderie, if desired. Applications for both camps are open until March 31st.

Iowa Summer Writer Festival–Iowa City, IA

This summer marks the 33rd year for the Iowa Summer Writer Festival held at the University of Iowa.  Over 125 workshops are offered covering a wide range of craft topics and genres.  Throughout the summer, week-long and weekend workshops are available, as well as a selection of two-week intensives.  Class sizes are capped at twelve for the week-long and weekend workshops. Two-week intensive workshops are capped at ten participants, who are selected via an application process. Check out the festival’s website for workshop and instructor listings, as well as information on how to register.

Minnesota Northwoods Writers’ Conference–Bemidji, MN

Since 2003, Bemidji State University has welcomed writers to their Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference. This year’s conference will be held June 17-23, 2019. Instructors include: Peter Orner (Fiction), Camille Dungy (Poetry), Ada Limón (Poetry), Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Poetry/Creative Nonfiction Hybrid), and Dustin Parsons (Creative Nonfiction).  Terrance Hayes is this year’s Distinguished Visiting Writer. As of February 4th, all workshop sessions were filled, however applications are still being accepted for those wishing to be placed on a waiting list. 

Flash Fiction Retreat w/ Kathy Fish & Nancy Stohlman–Grand Lake, CO

Flash fiction extraordinaires, Kathy Fish & Nancy Stohlman will hold a retreat for flash fiction writers at Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge in Grand Lake, CO, which is about an hour and a half north of Denver, CO.  The retreat takes place August 14-18, 2019 and will include instruction and one-on-one mentoring sessions with Kathy and Nancy, as well as plenty generative writing time.  It’s noted that the terrain surrounding Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge requires a fair amount of climbing so those who might have mobility issues may find some activities difficult.

Obviously, this is just a small sampling of all the wonderful workshops, retreats, and conferences available to writers. If you’d like to search for more retreats and/or conferences, Poets & Writers Magazine keeps an active database on their website, which you can find by clicking here.

Are there any summer writer workshops and/or retreats that you’ve enjoyed in the past? Feel free to share your experiences below. Always love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

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