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Yaddo Yaddo Yaddo

Writers Retreat
In the woods, gettin' shit writ.

One of my resolutions this year is to apply for writing fellowships. This is something I’ve never done, and it seems a little daunting, so I’ll be blogging about my experience–hopefully I’ll be able to provide a little insight into the process, e.g. how difficult the various application processes are, etc. But first I’d like to hear from any of you who happen to know something about the matter.

Step #1 is of course coming up with a list of retreats. Perhaps it’s because I ate too much over the holidays and my mind has been replaced by mashed potatoes, but I can’t seem to find a good list of writer’s retreats anywhere on the Google. Retreats that come to mind are Yaddo, McDowell, and Breadloaf. (I should probably specify that I’m looking only for places that provide at least partial financial support–there are any number of places that seem essentially to be B&Bs wanting to cash in on the writerly appeal of holing oneself up in a small room with a window overlooking an apple orchard.)

Can anyone point me to a good list of writer’s retreats? Failing that, could you post a link to any you know of which provide partial or total financial aid? Once I’ve decided which ones to apply to, I’ll post about the decision of what to include in my writing sample.

(I’d also love to hear from anyone who’s been to a writer’s retreat–was it what you’d expected? Were you productive there? Would you go again?)

21 thoughts on “Yaddo Yaddo Yaddo

  1. I’ve been on a couple, and I love ’em. Last year I went to Ragdale in Lake Forrest, IL for a couple weeks and it was pretty all-inclusive. You stay on an estate with acres upon acres of prairie surrounding you. They feed you one prepared meal a day and give you access to a stocked kitchen for the rest. You have a bed and breakfast-y type room. They charge you $25/ day, but there are scholarships and really easy “work-study” options as well. There were only 14 of us there, I think – 4 artists and maybe 10 writers. For that one I went with a goal and finished my novel with time to spare, and started some new projects.

    This past fall I went to the Vermont Studio Center. This one I got a scholarship for much of the tuition and did work study for the rest which really just meant doing dishes for an hour three times a week – I would have needed to take a break anyway, right? I went with less of a plan, felt less productive while I was there, but upon review, pumped out a good amount of work that I’ve been building on since. Here, I got a kind of shitty bedroom, but a lush office space in a separate building. They fed us 3 prepared meals a day. There were more like 50 people here, 14 being writers and the rest visual artists. This was in the mountains of Vermont, and there’s a nice river that runs through the campus area. The town is tiny and not even worthy of the term ‘quaint,’ so there is little to no distraction outside of the awesome people you’re there with and the internet. VSC also gets pretty terrific visiting artists that you get to conference with – we had Marge Piercy and Cole Swensen.

    That’s what I have to share. I plan on applying for these every year until I die. It’s an awesome reason to sequester yourself away, see a different area, and meet people you might not otherwise.

    Once you write your work proposal/ statement, it’s really not too bad. You can reuse a lot of that stuff at each place. It’s the application fees that eat my soul.

      1. When I started the Alliance of Artist Communities was a free site so I spent a few days scouring that and making myself spreadsheets. Now I think you need to pay a membership fee for that site though. Now a lot of it is just talking to people and googling ‘artist residencies.’

        The other places I have applied: Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Stegner at Stanford, Yaddo, MacDowell, Ragdale, Roth Fellowship at Bucknell, Writers at Work Conference, Hedgebrook, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, and Ucross – all rejected. I have yet to hear from the Millay Colony or the Danish Arts Council. I got waitlisted at Djerassi.

        Hope this helps.

        1. Absolutely it helps. This is exactly the kind of list I was looking for, I bet. Should be a help to anyone reading!

          When I start filling out applications, I hope you chime in also about your thoughts on “what they want to see.”

          1. Pretty sure I’m still unclear on ‘what they want to see’ as evidenced by me being rejected by the vast majority, but if I see any red flags I’ll be sure to speak up.

    1. Thanks, Erin! I wonder why conferences and retreats are grouped together in this way. Do most writers consider both at the same time? Is there a lot of overlap? I guess I’ll find out.

      In fact, I’ll pour through these two resources (among whatever else I can find), and provide a list of what strikes me as the best offers.

    1. Indeed. Fortunately, I have a few family/extended family hideouts I can access should an “official” retreat fall through. I’ve actually thought about forgoing the official path altogether, but I’m drawn to the community element (despite the fact that it’s primarily about solitude, I like to have people around, even if interaction is at a minimum).

  2. I’m still waiting for some beneficent Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire to establish a writers’ retreat that includes daycare. Or maybe a summer camp on the premises. Until then, I won’t even bother applying.

  3. I applied to the Kerouac House down in Orlando a few years back. They put up two writers a year, I believe, for like 6 months. It’s the house where Dharma Bums was written and where he lived when On the Road was published.

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