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Writing and The Great Outdoors

Jillian Lewis approached me about writing a guest post focused on conferences for writers that are held in beautiful, natural surroundings. I though that was a great idea. Her request came just as I was reading about the Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency, which has an application deadline of May 15th. Attending a retreat, residency, or conference in a beautiful location is the dream of many writers. Enjoy Jillian’s post…

Writing Conferences Located in Inspirational Places

Each year, there are hundreds of writing conferences held throughout the United States. Most of these conferences offer a similar package in regards to lectures, writing sessions and critiques. However, there are a few conferences that stand out from the rest, because they take place in locations that are conducive for imagination and inspiration.

If you are a serious writer who is looking for a conference where you can learn and grow in a naturally beautiful environment, you may want to consider the following five opportunities.

  1. Wrangell Mountains Center: This private, nonprofit institute is located in McCarthy, Alaska, and is within walking distance of the Kennicott Glacier. The town of McCarthy is situated at the foot of the Wrangell Mountains of St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The Wrangell Mountains Center hosts a number of scheduled events that are designed to meet the needs of students, writers, artists, travelers and scientists. This year, they will have their fifteenth annual Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop from July 27 to August 2. This week-long, mixed genre workshop only accepts 16 participants, so the experience is very intimate. The center will also host a poetry workshop from August 12 to August 18. This is Wrangell Mountains’ second annual poetry event, and it also only accepts 16 participants.

  2. Community of Writers at Squaw Valley: For 43 years, poets, screenwriters and prose writers have convened at this ski resort in the California Sierra Nevada to attend various writing workshops, conferences, lectures and discussions. Although Squaw Valley is known for its winter activity (it was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics), the natural scenery in the summer is just as inspirational. This year, Squaw Valley will host poetry events from June 23 to June 30 and prose and screenwriting events from July 7 to July 14.

  3. Woodstock Mayapple Writer’s Retreat: This writer’s workshop was originally located in Michigan and called the Rustbelt Roethke Writers’ Retreat. The retreat has now moved to the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild in Woodstock, New York. Nestled within the Catskill Mountains, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild is a historic arts colony that was formerly the home of Pulitzer Prize winner Edna St. Vincent Millay. Now in its tenth year, the retreat is designed with a more open format and gives participants plenty of private writing time. The Woodstock Mayapple Writer’s Retreat will take place this year from July 31 to August 5 and only allows 16 participants.

  4. Wildacres Writing Workshop: This writing workshop has taken place in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for over 25 years. At Wildacres, you will attend classes of ten or less and have your manuscript critiqued. All faculty members are at the Master Class level, but participates may be serious writers at any level. The workshop is specifically located about 12 miles from Spruce Pine on the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Little Switzerland. The surroundings are breathtaking and quiet. Participants sleep in lodges on site. This year’s workshop will take place from July 7 to July 14.

  5. Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers: This program takes place at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute near Morrilton, Arkansas and is associated with The Oxford American, a national magazine dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing. The institute is actually located on top of Petite Jean Mountain, which was the original location of former Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s model cattle farm. In addition to the traditional components of a writing workshop (lectures, critiques and sessions), the Oxford American Summit also entertains its participants in the evenings with music performances and meals prepared by guest chefs. The conference’s 2012 dates have yet to be announced.

For an expanded list of writing conference opportunities in the United States, visit


About the Author: Jillian Lewis works as an environmental educator and also owns the website She enjoys writing, hiking and mountain climbing.

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