“I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.”
International Writing Retreat
North Wales, United Kingdom
June 2-8, 2024
North Wales, United Kingdom
June 2-8, 2024
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
Introduction | Top
Chestnut Review invites you to a special retreat in Criccieth, Wales! Start your summer writing amongst the numerous castles and beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia!
We believe there is a time and place for solitary retreats off the beaten path. But we also believe that there are times when you want to experience life and make memories and impressions that enrich your writing. This retreat is a hybrid experience with cultural immersion as well as time set aside for reflection and writing.
Criccieth, Wales is a tiny town of about 1800 people on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, the largest park in Wales, home to over 800 square miles of stunning scenery and Mt. Snowdon, the highest point in England and Wales. Just outside Criccieth proper is our base: the Tŷ Newydd Writers Centre. In this renovated 15th century home that once belonged to UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863-1945), we will write and relax from our explorations.
Wales (Cymru) is, of course, not England, and northern Wales is the center of Welsh culture and language. As part of our week we will not only take in the physical beauty of the country, but will also learn about the mythology, songs, and language of this Celtic land.
This retreat is limited to 14 participants. We will subdivide into two working groups but there will be combined activities and our meals will be taken together. This small size will allow for intensive discussions and plenty of time for everyone’s voice (and writing!) to be heard.
To get a sense of our retreat philosophy and read comments from past participants, see this page.
Retreat Leaders | Top
Maria S. Picone, Managing Editor (she/her)
Maria (she/her) is multi-genre writer and artist from Massachusetts and a Korean adoptee. She has been published in Zócalo Public Square, Fractured Lit, and Whale Road Review, among others including Best Small Fictions ’21. Maria is a Kenyon Review fellow and holds an MFA in fiction from Goddard College. She can be found on Twitter at @mspicone, on Instagram at @mspicone, and at mariaspicone.com.
James Rawlings, Editor-in-Chief (he/him)
Founder of Chestnut Review, his poetry and essays have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Gargoyle, Penn Review, Into the Void, and many others. He earned his B.A in English with a Creative Writing Concentration in Poetry from University of Maryland, College Park. He is a veteran international traveler, having guided over 200 people on trips abroad since 2003, and directed Chestnut Review’s 2023 retreats in Mexico and Wales.
Our home in Wales will be the Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, located in a large house that was once the home of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Located on a hill overlooking the town of Criccieth, Tŷ Newydd will be the site of both our accommodation and our writing sessions. It is also an easy walk into town and to the beach and castle. Our aim is to fill the house with writers so that we will all form a community where nearly everyone you meet will be a writer just like you!
The house and nearby buildings have rooms in a variety of configurations, some ensuite and some with shared bathrooms. All are modernized and convenient to where we will meet, dine, and work.
What’s Included? | Top
- Pre-trip orientation: once the group is formed, we will arrange a Zoom meeting to explain the schedule and answer any questions you may have.
- 6 nights accommodation in private rooms: 1 night at the Radisson Blu Manchester Airport (arrival day), and 5 nights in Tŷ Newydd. We will assign rooms at the Centre based on preferences and on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Full board! Tŷ Newydd has its own resident chef and so all your meals, from dinner on the day you arrive to breakfast the last day, are included: 6 breakfasts, 6 dinners, and 5 lunches.
- An excursion to Conwy Castle, one of the greatest castles in Wales, that UNESCO describes as one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.”
- Welsh language introductory lesson.
- 5 sessions of craft discussion and workshop (15 hours total, Monday-Saturday). Generally held in the mornings, this will be a combination of writing exercises, craft discussion, and workshopping your writing.
- 1 private 30 minute consultation with your group leader about your work.
- Private coach pickup from Manchester airport (MAN) to the Centre and transport back to Manchester for departure.
Excluded: snacks/beverages outside those listed above, flights to/from Manchester, individual excursions, souvenirs, alcohol purchases. Note that the Centre expects groups to assist with setup/cleanup for all meals, which includes washing dinner dishes (but not the kitchen cooking implements). We will rotate responsibility amongst the group (including leaders!) and this usually means only day of work per person during the week.
Cost | Top
All prices are in US dollars and are based on the type of room. Please note that quantities of each room are limited: if you are determined to be in one type, you should book as early as possible. Quantities of each room are in parentheses following each type below. The prices listed are early bird rates; regular registration (after Feb 23) is +$200 for all prices. All rooms are private except for the final category (2 single beds in room).
The first four registrants to any of our retreats receive a free 30-minute editorial Zoom call with Managing Editor Maria Picone or Editor-in-Chief James Rawlings as well as a literature bundle of CR publications (delivered at the retreat).
- $2399 King bed, ensuite bathroom (3)
- $2299 Double bed, ensuite bathroom (1)
- $2199 Single bed, ensuite bathroom (1)
- $2099 King bed, shared bathroom (3)
- $1999 Double bed, shared bathroom (3)
- $1899 Single bed, shared bathroom (1)
- $1299 Single bed in shared room (2 single beds) with ensuite bathroom for two writers (2)
- Initial deposit is $520 to hold a place.
- Non-writer partner rate is $799. Partners are included in all non-writing activities listed above: meals, excursions, transport.
- We don’t believe in big hefty bills, so once you pay your deposit the remainder of the cost may be paid over multiple months, depending on when you register.
- For cancellation policy, see below in the FAQ.
FAQ | Top
How do I get there?
The nearest major airport is Manchester (MAN), which is a destination for many US flights. The trip cost includes pickup from the airport on the arrival day and dropoff on departure day as long as your flight is arriving at a reasonable time (most international flights arrive in the morning).
Can rooms be shared?
The only rooms suitable for sharing for writers who are not partners are the single-bedrooms (2), which have 2 single beds but an ensuite bath. If you would like to share these, each writer needs to communicate that to us and then we will be happy to book you into those rooms.
I have dietary restrictions. Can I participate?
Most definitely. We will take into account any restrictions you have. The Centre chef is vegan and can prepare a variety of meals for those with restrictions, but of course to best plan we need to know ahead of time.
Can I arrive earlier/stay later?
Of course. Do realize, however, that you will need to arrange your own transport to the airport if you are not traveling on a schedule that matches our booked pickup/dropoff bus.
What is the cancellation/refund policy?
Per New York law, your deposit may be cancelled with a 100% refund (less credit card processing fees) up until three days after you have paid it. After that point, deposits and payments are all nonrefundable. You may wish to purchase trip insurance.
Can I plan my own activities?
Absolutely! You’ll receive the weekly schedule at orientation and can make arrangements of your own for unscheduled times. The Centre staff are happy to provide recommendations as well. There are far more things to do in Snowdonia than anyone can fit in a week!
Can I stay at the Centre after the retreat?
Theoretically, but you will need to contact them directly to inquire. We cannot make arrangements for you. Be aware that the Centre is not a hotel but runs many of its own programs throughout the year and thus may not have the availability you might need. There are other accommodation options in Criccieth as well as Airbnbs available throughout Snowdonia.
What if I have mobility issues?
We are happy to discuss what accommodation you may need–please consult with us as soon as possible. Some activities are easily adaptable; others may be harder to do so, so we need to be in communication. We are happy to make alternative arrangements; however, those that incur extra costs must be covered by the participant (e.g. hiring taxi).
Can I bring a partner/family?
Partner–absolutely! Family–unfortunately, no. The Centre does not have extra beds and so there is no easy way to accommodate extra family members. Also please note that not all rooms have double or larger beds and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Do I need to know Welsh?
No . While we strongly support learning languages, Wales is bilingual and accessible to English speakers! You may find, though, that even a dozen words in Welsh will open up interesting interactions with people and of course using them indicates a level of respect for the region and its history. We will have an introduction to Welsh offered to our group by the Centre staff as part of the program.
What about Covid?
The UK is not currently (as of this writing in November 2023) on a warning list for Covid. That of course may change, and we support whatever masking level you are most comfortable with. Of course, we know that Covid is here to stay and so we do require that all participants be vaccinated, boosted, and bring one test and a mask. Masking will also be subject to any local guidelines and Centre policy.
What will the weather be like?
Temperatures typically peak in the low 60’s and drop into the upper 40’s at night. At higher elevations, of course, there can be dramatic differences, and the coast can be quite windy. North Wales is known for its rain, though in summer there is less than at other times of the year. Our 2023 retreat had seven days of 100% sunshine, which statistically you should not expect! But regardless of weather, there is plenty of daylight: the sun rises before 5:00am and sets nearly at 10:00pm.