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5 Women’s Writing Residencies to Apply to Today
Written by
Emily Lackey
July 2015
Written by
Emily Lackey
July 2015

Maybe it’s all of the sunshine and warm breeze these days, but there is definitely something about summer that always makes me want to get away. I fantasize every time the weather starts to warm up about escaping to some faraway island where the only thing there is to think about is turning the page of the book I am reading and reapplying sunscreen.

I’m sure we all want this for our summers, but for writers, our dreams of getting away can look a little different. Mine, for instance, also involve relative solitude, no internet connection, and food delivered to my door so that I don’t have to worry about weekly grocery trips or being famished by the time I look up from my work.

But here’s the good news: as writers, this bit of solitude is not only accessible to us, it’s downright necessary. A weekend spent in a hotel by yourself to finish up a short story, a week in a friend’s cabin to nail down the ending of your novel, or—if you’re like me—a night spent in a 24-hour diner so that you actually revise instead of watching another episode of Born in the Wild.

But if you’re really lucky, your get away is a few weeks all-expenses-paid at a writer’s residency that offers everything that nourishes a writer’s work: solitude, nature, food, and community.

Even better news for women writers? There are a number of residencies that are solely for us. That’s right: no boys allowed.

I’m sure it depends on the kind of work that you do and the sort of community that inspires you, but the idea of spending 2-12 weeks with other talented women artists sounds like not only a dream come true, but like something that would really encourage the work that I’m doing these days.  

So here are some of the most exciting opportunities for women writers as far as residencies are concerned.

1. Hedgebrook

Oh, dream of dreams! Hedgebrook was one of the first writing residencies for women in the country, and it is located on the ideal Whidbey Island in Washington State. With a long history of supporting women writers and an even longer list of impressive alumnae, this residency is the cream of the crop and, I’m not afraid to admit it publicly, the dream of my residency dreams.

2. The Hopscotch House

Granted this residency is only for Kentucky residents (le sigh), but women artists living in-state should totally apply. The residency offers one to two weeks of paid for and uninterrupted creative time.

3. Storyknife

An up and coming writing residency we should all keep eye out for. Having just achieved 501c3 status, the people behind Storyknife are still in the planning phase, but you can visit their website to check out floor plans for the cabins they plan on building and to obsess over when they will be accepting their first applications. Because a summer spent in Alaska with other women writers? Where do I sign?

4. The MacDowell Colony

OK, so I’m kind of blurring the lines here a bit. MacDowell is hardly an women’s writing retreat, but they earned their place on this list with the amazing named fellowships that they offer to female artists accepted into the residency. Recently they established the Rona Jaffe Fellowship for Women Writers in order to continue Jaffe’s legacy of supporting emergent women writers. The fellowship is for female writers who have either not been published or are just finishing up their first book.

5. A Room of Her Own

It’s not a traditional writing residency, but A Room of Her Own offers amazing opportunities for women writers. There are a number of classes and fellowships available, but one of the organization’s highlights are the biennial retreats. More than a retreat and more personal than a conference, AROHO’s retreats are week-long experiences shaped by the foundation’s history and the women who attend it. In the words of some of the participants, it is “a tapestry of women who, together, create a world of possibility for each other,” a “fearless convergence” of “supportive, wildly interesting women” sharing “a deep creative and personal journey into the writing life.” And if you’re feeling really ambitious, AROHO offers an annual gift of freedom to one female writer. That’s $50,000 so that you can do nothing other than write for an entire year.

Keep in mind that applying to residencies is just as competitive as submitting your work for publications (sometimes even more so), so be sure to spend as much time preparing your application materials for these as you would sending your book out into the world to be purchased. 

Know of any other writer residencies for women? Leave a comment and let us know where else women can go to get away and get to writing. 

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  • Dana Stabenow

    Thanks very much for the mention of Storyknife! Lemme just get through the 21st Kate Shugak novel and I'll get on that...

  • Jennifer Jean

    This is a great list! Consider also checking out the Morning Garden Artist Retreats--I'm co-director and though we don't run "residencies" per se, we're very female friendly and inexpensive; here's the website: http://mgretreats.weebly.com/

  • Writing retreats are so important, not just for the writing time and space, but to forge a community of writers. I appreciated the fellowship I received to AROHO in 2013 at Ghost Ranch, NM and can attest to a place where you are supported in your struggle and growth as a writer/poet/artist. 

    I had workshop teachers, all published authors in fiction genres, and who were great instructors. The experience stimulated my creativity and advanced my writing. This is where I wrote my first poem and have continued to write poetry. I'm also fortunate to attend 2015's retreat, on my own dime, but I knew I wanted to return. 

    My suggestion is to check the residencies and retreats before you submit to ensure the place is right for you. 

  • Patricia Robertson

    Thank you for this list! I'm excited about the one in Alaska. Visiting Alaska is on my bucket list - maybe it will happen.

  • Anita Feng

    I've certainly heard of and seen this "insider" problem. But I must say, Hedgebrook takes a radically different approach.  When I was there, there was an even balance of established, high-profile writers, emerging writers, and beginner writers with no publishing credentials.  We came from all over the globe. This was a beautiful thing for all of us...completely took away any potential for competitiveness among us.  I also served as a judge, after my residency, and I can say with complete confidence that they are scrupulous and careful. In addition to the writing samples, they really want to know why you want to be there, and what unique, compelling story you have to offer.  That said, the huge number of applications means that many worthy applicants will not get in, hence the encouragement to apply again.

  • Lyn Jensen

    I've never been accepted for a writers' conference or retreat that was competitive, other than one that I think was honestly trying to fill slots. From what I've seen, the people running them give priority to "insiders," so to speak, and I wasn't an insider. Many years ago I went to an event that was supposed to be a "meet and greet" with the staff and writers onsite. I was part of this huge crowd and I don't think many were actual serious writers.  I think the vast majority were either retirees with "I always wanted to be a writer" fantasies, or just curiosity-seekers who wanted to see what this "writers' retreat" was. ("Some kind of hippie commune or sompin, Martha!") Even when I met one woman who said she was one of the writers, she couldn't even answer such simple questions as, "Do you bring your own typewriter?" or "What do you do for meals?" Some people may actually get help from writers' retreats but I've only seen the downside. 

  • Mardith Louisell

    One that, sadly, is no more - Norcroft. I had the privilege of going 3 times. Northern Minnesota on the edge of the greatest of the Great Lakes, modeled after Hedgebrook, but no meals delivered, though the shopping was done for you and your requests. Gorgeous lodge overlooking Lake Superior,  private sheds for writers. Joan Drury, novel and  mystery writer, once  publisher of Spinster Ink, and sponsor of many feminist endeavors, as well as  owner of the bookstore in Grand Marais, started it and kept it going.  Eventually, Joan could no longer do it, but while it was active, many of us formed lasting friendships, got tons of work done and received great encouragement from Joan. Joan's partner in the endeavor? The Lake.  Thank you, Joan. Anyone else lucky enough to go?   Here's an article from  Minnesota Women's Press on Norcroft closing: http://www.womenspress.com/main.asp?seaerch=1&articleid=2069&sectionid=1&subsectionid=1&s=1

  • Anita Feng

    Hello all,

    I just want to say that I had the great good fortune to be a resident at Hedgebrook a few years ago and it was the single most heavenly writing experience I've had (this comes from multiple decades of writing including an MFA experience and other writers retreats).  I felt fully supported, from the 5-star chef food to the exquisite baths, the gorgeous cabin that was all mine for two weeks, the solitude and companionable, stimulating conversations around the dinner table each night, the truly kind and generous staff.  I encourage you to apply (deadline fast approaching), and to keep applying.  To top it off, the book I was working on at that time, is just now coming out, (Sid) and I couldn't be more pleased. 

  • These sound like heaven! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Emily Lackey

    Congratulations, Michele! That's wonderful news! I can't wait to read all about your experience. 

  • TY for this information.

    I'm delighted to say that I am attending A Room of Her Own residency next month! I'm super excited and will be blogging about it soon.