Monday 3 December 2018

A Literary Escape: The Joys of a Writers’ Retreat

By Alli Sinclair

One of the biggest challenges for a writer is finding time to do what we love—write! Life is busy with work, family, friends (and let’s not even mention housework!). So escaping for a few hours or even a weekend into our fictional words can become an impossible task. 

There is, however, a solution.

The past few years has seen a rapid growth in writers’ retreats. From weekend getaways in the country to grand-scale sojourns in Europe, there are retreats to fit every timeframe and budget. The one thing they all have in common is the opportunity for writers to fully concentrate on their manuscript, develop their craft, and be with like-minded writers. More often than not, the friendships made on these retreats are long lasting and who doesn’t love having a writing friend to share the highs and lows of this industry.

This year I teamed up with good friend and fellow author T.M. Clark to offer Writers at Sea—a retreat giving writers the chance to not only immerse themselves in their writing, but to relax and have a holiday at the same time. Tina and I have different strengths and have taught workshops around Australia (as well as having done manuscript assessments and mentoring), so working together to offer a well-rounded retreat was a logical step.

We wanted to give writers something unique, so a cruise in the South Pacific was the perfect choice! We gave workshops and mentoring sessions, scheduled time for attendees to write and, on the days when we were in ports, a chance for everyone to swim in crystal blue waters, shop in exotic markets or explore jungles and villages. It proved the perfect combination of holiday and writing.

Not every writers’ retreat is equal, so do your due diligence before committing. Ask questions and, if you can, talk to someone who’s been on the retreat previously. 

Here are some suggestions of what to do before handing over your deposit:
  •  Cost: what is/isn’t included?
  •  Who are the facilitating writers, and what qualifications and experience do they have?
  •  How many people will be attending?
  •  Will there be time to socialise and network with other writers?
  •  If you’re on a strict budget, ask if they pair writers in the same room to save costs.
  • Will there be workshops, a critique of your manuscript, brainstorming sessions, writing sprints? A good writing retreat should give you ample time to discuss your project with the facilitator/s, and workshops should be aimed at developing your craft, identifying the habits holding you back and helping you create new methods for your writing to grow. 
  •  Find out if you’re expected to help with cooking or if all meals prepared and served (a big one for me—the beauty of getting away to write means no household chores!). And can special needs (e.g. allergies) be catered for?
  • Does the retreat cater to writers at various stages of development or is it geared towards a certain level of experience? 
  • Is the retreat for fiction or non-fiction writers?
  • Are there cancellation fees? Can you pay in instalments?
  • What is the accommodation like? What facilities are there? How easy is it to get there?

Another good idea is to find out if it will offer experiences other than writing. Stepping out of your comfort zone can help you gain new insight; if the retreat offers excursions and cultural experiences this can inspire and help you grow.

A retreat should block out the day-to-day distractions of your regular life and help break through any issues you may be facing with your writing. With the right guidance and feedback from your facilitators, your manuscript should shine and your writing craft develop. Most of all, a writing retreat should fuel creativity and leave you inspired, ready for the next step in your writing journey.

Have you been on a writing retreat? What was the best thing about it?

I Love to Love bingeing on my favourite tv shows.

I Love to Laugh at myself when I walk into things (which happens a bit too often!).

I Love to Learn about people's passions.

About the Author: An adventurer at heart, Alli Sinclair is a best-selling and multi-award-winning author who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South America, and has travelled the globe, immersing herself in array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages.

Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery. Her latest book, Burning Fields, is an historical set in 1948 in northern Queensland. Alli’s website is:

If you would like more information about Writers at Sea, please contact Alli or Tina, or go to our website:

(All images are the author's own or free to use.)


  1. Hi Alli. That retreat sounded like utter bliss. Are you planning on having any in the future?

    1. Hi Cassandra! Yes, it was absolute bliss! We have just opened up bookings for a retreat in November 2019. We're looking forward to it!

  2. Hi Alli! Your Writers at Sea retreat with Tina Clark sounds fabulous! I'm imagining lots of fun, as well as learning and getting some writing done. Your suggestions of what to check out before you commit to a retreat are well worth keeping in mind.

    1. Hi Marilyn! Thanks, it was definitely lots of fun and even though we got lots of beautiful sun and white sandy beaches we also got lots of work done! Glad the suggestions are helpful!

  3. Alli, what an amazing writing retreat it must have been at sea! Wow! How on earth did you keep people on track. But it sounds like just the right balance, enjoying a special time writing plus doing holiday stuff as well. Win, win. Are you going to do it again? Sounds fabulous.

    1. Thanks Malvina! Luckily we had some great spaces on the ship dedicated for the attendees when writing in a group and our workshops. Yep, doing it again in November next year!

  4. Hi Alli, your writer’s retreat sounds like a wonderful opportunity to learn and boost creativity. When and where is your next retreat being held?

    1. Hi Sharon! Our next retreat is in the South Pacific (because you can never go there too many times!) and it will be a week on Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise a couple of weeks ago and checked out the facilities - they were amazing!

  5. Hi Alli. Oh, your fabulous sounding retreat takes me back to this time last year when I attended Tess Woods's Winter in Wales Retreat. A fireplace-warmed, luxurious yet cosy Welsh house was the perfect place in which to indulge in all things writing-related as snow fell outside. With Tess Woods as our mentor, we spent the five days on a schedule of writing, workshops, one to one sessions with Tess explaining her critique of chapters we'd sent before the retreat, sessions creating our own websites, and some downtime for relaxing and a little sightseeing. I loved the experience, for the stress free block of time to write, the valuable input from Tess and the friendships formed between us. Lifetime, we vowed. And we keep in touch. That's why I recommend writers retreats to anyone who asks. And yours sounds just as fabulous as Tess's.

    1. Hi Enisa! Oh yes, I heard Tess's retreat was wonderful and I'm so glad you got so much out of it! It is so lovely to get dedicated time to write as well as helpful feedback. And yes, the friendships created on these retreats are wonderful and very special.

  6. Lovely to have you on the blog Alli. What a great idea to cruise and write!

    1. Hello Alyssa! It's lovely to be back on the blog, thank you for having me! Yes, Tina and I thought cruising and writing was a great combination!


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