1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Life is Dynamite Contributor

    Feb 5, 2018
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    Pros and Cons of attending a Writing Retreat

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by J.T. Woody, Nov 27, 2020.

    (I didnt know where to post this)

    I understand a writing fellowship, residency, and retreat as a time period where the focus is only on writing. sometimes there are writing professionals there to provide assistance, sometimes it just a space where other writers can connect and help each other (had to google it, lol).

    My question is, what are the pros and cons (aside from COVID) of this?

    I'm sure a lot of the people on here have attended one in some way shape or form. I've tried searching for similar threads to my question, but that didnt work out well.

    What was it like? how did it help you?
    also, when it asks for letters of recommendation... how does one go about getting those? (I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around this because its not like asking a previous employer to write one when I was looking for a job...)

    Lastly, is it worth it?
    Lifeline likes this.
  2. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Jul 7, 2016
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    I think depends on what you're looking for and hope to get out of it. The two I've been interested in personally are Yaddo (a residency) and Bread Loaf (which is listed as a conference). I think if you can work into your cover letter something like, "I began writing this novel at Yaddo," it holds some weight. And I've always wanted to go to Yaddo, but I'm yet to apply. Yaddo won't cost you any money (there might be an application fee) and I've heard it's a great experience. I believe you need a writing sample and two letters of recommendation to apply.

    Bread Loaf I have applied for but did not get in. This one will cost you, but it's a pretty big deal. They do have some scholarships and working scholarships (like helping serve food or clean up work) that can offset the cost.

    These two are probably the most well known. You won't be taking classes exactly, but I think you could learn a lot. These are the ones largely attended by writers who already have accomplishments or those who show promise, though, a friend from grad school went to the Tin House one, which is similar but I don't know if they are still holding it, given the magazine closed. I tried twice to get into the Tin House one. The good ones are going to be harder to get into.

    The cost is probably the biggest downside of Bread Loaf and Tin House among some of the others like them. Residencies won't cost you, but they're not easy to get into. Actually, none of the ones I'm thinking of are easy to get in. That's another downside. Even if money and time are not issues you've still got to earn your spot.

    I know one writer who lived in residencies back-to-back for a few years. Another friend did an all women's residency or retreat. I'm not exactly sure about the one she went on, but I do know she had to apply and compete for a spot. And I think that's true of many of them. You're not going to learn how to write at these, but you will connect with other writers and probably have a really good time. I think all of these can spark inspiration and/or allow time to create and focus on what we're trying to do.

    There are other conferences where anyone can go without applying. AWP is a good one to check out. I've been to that before and it was great. There you can meet and chat with editors, attend reading and craft talks, and connect with other writers at various stages in their careers. It's in a different city every year so it might be worth keeping an eye on.

    There are many of them so be sure to check your area. I've got my eye on a few that are close to me, but I haven't applied for any of these sort of writing trips in a long time. And with Covid I really don't know what's going on with these opportunities and experiences. I sure wouldn't attend any of them right now, and I kind of hope they are shut down or postponed until Covid is under control.
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  3. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

    Oct 12, 2015
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    On the Road.
    I've not had experience with any, but I looked at a few at a time when I fancied escaping. Apart from what @deadrats said about connecting with other writers... writing is a lonely hobby. You can take classes, you can have your pieces critiqued and learn from that, but at the end of the day it's you and your keyboard/notebook. I'm not sure a residency would actually help make me write more/better. If I'm disciplined and set aside a portion of each day I don't get interrupted in for writing, I honestly think that a retreat/residency would accomplish the same as I'm learning now.

    The bonus of a retreat/residency would be that you'd be able to talk to other writers, but the ones I've met in flesh and blood are pretty closed-mouthed. All of them are disciplined and engage with their own work. Talk about their WIPs or techniques only very seldom happen (and most times it feels like pulling teeth). This forum and writing blogs are more helpful to me than they are; which is not a criticism! I'm the same way.
    J.T. Woody likes this.

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