Exclusive Writing Retreat on the Maine Coast

June 1-8, 2024  Sol's Cliff House, Bar Harbor, Maine

Limited to 12 Writers

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get to the writing retreat?

IMPORTANT: Please note that you are responsible for getting to and from the retreat house—travel costs are not included in your tuition, and you'll need to make your own travel arrangements.

18 Sol's Cliff Road, Bar Harbor, Maine, 04609  (GPS works)

Our retreat home is a little over a mile from downtown Bar Harbor; the distance is walkable if you're a walker. There are also trails to explore right out the back door, including heading straight into Acadia National Park via the Schooner Head Path and Compass Harbor. The area is beautiful, and Acadia National Park is right next door, so if you think you’ll want the freedom to explore the Maine coast more extensively during the retreat, you might consider driving or renting a car so you can head out when inspiration strikes.


Bangor International Airport (BGR) is the closest airport (53 miles) with the least expensive and largest variety of flight options on American, Allegiant, Delta and United. There are several ground transportation options available to you, including the Bar Harbor-Bangor Shuttle

Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) is the closest airport geographically (14 miles), and has limited flight options on Cape Air and JetBlue and usually costs more than flying into Bangor. Taxi service is available by reservation at the airport.

Portland International Jetport (PWM) is 179 miles from the retreat house, and is served by American, Cape Air, Delta, Elite, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country and United. You'd need to rent a car if you fly into Portland, and the drive is just over 3 hours.

What time will I arrive and depart? 

Arrival on Saturday, June 1: You should plan to arrive at the house at 5:30 PM. We’ll let you get settled into your room, explore the house and grounds, and then meet together in the dining room or out on the terrace for a welcome reception.

Departure on Saturday, June 8: We’ll have a farewell coffee at 8:00 AM and send you on your way no later than 9:30 AM (boo—I already don’t want you to go).

Please plan your travel accordingly. Because we need to respect the tight schedule of the cleaning crew, I'm afraid we can't allow either early arrivals or late departures.

What writing-related work should I prepare before I arrive?

If you’d like having a printed copy of your manuscript to work on while you’re on retreat, please bring that with you. 

Joan may ask you to complete a specific task or two before you arrive, but it won’t be anything terribly time-consuming and won’t involve packing anything in your luggage.

You might take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about what you’d like to talk with Joan about in your private session, or what craft issues you'd like to raise in our group gatherings.

Questions to consider:

  1. What mindset or emotional obstacles are still standing in your way of getting your novel done?
  2. What specific craft issues are troubling you that you’d like to talk through?
  3. What else can we help you with?

What should I bring with me? What's the weather like?

Bring whatever clothing and personal items you need to be comfortable for 7 nights. All bedding, linens, towels and food are provided. Please bring your own toiletries, including soap.

We’ll be super comfy and casual, so make sure you bring whatever comfy clothes you like to hang around in. There’s nothing formal about Maine, so even when you go out on the town you can be as casual as you wish. Bring the clothing that makes you feel your comfortable best!

Early June in Maine is often quite chilly, and our house is on a high cliff directly over the water (it gets windy), so bring layers and plenty of warm clothing for both inside and outside the house. The retreat house is very old (1914), so expect draftiness, chilliness, and mustiness (that old cottage smell). You should bring a warm coat, hat and gloves. Seriously, overpack warm stuff!

You’ll want to bring your laptop (if you use one) and whatever materials you think you’ll need for working on your novel. If you plan to stream anything on your laptop, tablet or iPhone, please bring earbuds or earphones with you. We’d like to maintain a quiet environment.

The private rooms have windows and doors that can be opened and closed for your comfort.

What about COVID-19?

We care about your health! 

Because we will be living together in an intimate setting for a full week, everyone who attends the retreat and enters the retreat house will be asked to report any cold or flu-like symptoms right away so we can test for COVID. Masks and COVID-19 tests will be available. Masks are not mandatory at the retreat, but you're welcome to wear one if you wish.

We are routinely monitoring both the Maine and federal CDC guidelines to ensure we are taking all appropriate steps to protect the health of our retreat-goers. 

In the event that the retreat has to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions, we will refund 100% of your tuition. 

Is there WiFi in the house? What about TV?

High-speed WiFi is accessible throughout the retreat house.

There are no televisions in the private rooms (by design); there is a TV in the living room but no one ever uses it; you’re welcome to stream on your laptops, tablets or phones, as long as you use earbuds or earphones.

We’ll strive to maintain a quiet environment throughout the house unless we're all yucking it up together (which happens a lot).

What should I plan to work on while I'm on retreat?

This retreat is for you, so you get to decide what you most want to work on while you’re here! Some of what you work on will depend on what arises at the retreat itself.

You’ll want to work on your novel, of course, doing whatever makes the most sense to you when you’re here. You’re welcome to do online research if you need more fact-based information for your novel; there’s WiFi throughout the house.

You might want to do some introspective reflection and journaling about whatever mindset issues might still be standing between you and a finished novel. You and Joan can talk through whatever’s going on for you, and Joan might suggest certain books to consult or questions to ponder that could help you noodle through what you need to do.

Will we be workshopping our writing?

No. This is a writing retreat, not a writing workshop. We will not be reading and critiquing each other's work. You will have a chance to read your work aloud, and can informally ask for feedback from anyone willing to give it, but there should be zero expectation of either getting feedback or being asked to give it. 

What's our daily schedule going to be?

You can download the draft schedule here (subject to change based on the group's needs).

Will I have to share a bedroom or a bathroom?

Your private second- and third-floor bedrooms include ocean-facing or garden-facing rooms with king, queen, double or twin beds; you'll have your own private space. Please note that the rooms with twin beds are cozy (aka small!), and do not have desks; some writers have loved that monk-like environment and have used (provided) lap desks, while others have found private corners in the common areas or out on the terrace to do their work. All bedrooms have windows that open. You'll share a unisex bathroom adjacent to your room with one other retreat-goer. The old house does not have an elevator, so unfortunately the house is not fully accessible to those who can't walk the stairs.

Once your application has been approved and you've been invited to attend, you'll have a chance to choose your preferred room from those available at the time of your registration.

The house is enormous, and has both ample privacy and lovely communal spaces; it’s a comfortable space, and I’ll make sure you feel right at home. Bring your most warm and comfy clothes!

Is the retreat house accessible? Is it like a hotel?

Unfortunately, the old house (built in 1914) does not have an elevator, and the bedrooms are on the second and third floors, so the house is inaccessible to those who can't navigate stairs. 

Because the house is so old, please do not expect hotel-like accommodations or service: bathrooms have clawfoot tubs and some have only hand-held showers; hot water can take some time to get to your bathroom, so patience is important; radiators are temperamental, so warm clothes are critical; the rooms with twin-beds are very small, so you might choose to work in the communal spaces (we have a "do not disturb" rule); you might find peeling paint and temperamental light fixtures; and you won't get maid service (towels are yours for the whole week, or you can wash your own in the laundry room . . . plus, there are no maids). 

However, the house has so much charm, and the private setting on the water is phenomenal, and most people understand and accept the quirks of the house. Again, though, this is not a hotelso if you love plush hotels, please understand that the Sol's Cliff House might not be your cup of tea. 

Learn more about the house.

I'm an introvert and pretty shy. Will I fit in?

Interestingly, while I’m an extravert, I always attract introverts as the dearest people in my life, so I have a lot of experience making introverts comfortable. I’ve been working with writers for many years, and of course there are hordes of introverts in our population.

I’ve designed the retreat to allow ample alone-time so you can focus on your work as well as recharge after any group gatherings. Your room is your private oasis—no one else has permission to even knock on your door without invitation. I  expect a mature group of smart writers, all novelists, of course, so you’re apt to feel that you’re quickly among friends. I’ll be checking in with you throughout the retreat to make sure all is well.

Do you have a cancellation policy?

Yes. If you are accepted for one of the twelve spots for the retreat, you’ll be asked to agree to the terms and conditions, which includes the cancellation policy. I do recommend you read these carefully if  you're serious about attending (they're short and easy to understand). You can find terms and conditions here.

Will I finish my novel at the retreat?

You might finish your novel at the retreat, and you might not; so much depends on where you are in the process.

What will happen is that you’ll work with me privately and we can talk through what you need to do to complete your novel once you get back home.

What will I have to do with the group?

Our group gatherings include the following:

  1. Shared meals and daily check-ins;
  2. Craft Sessions with retreat host Joan Dempsey and Q&A with our author-in-residence, C. Hope Clark, about the craft of writing and the writing life;
  3. The Gutsy Great Readings—a secure environment in which you can read a brief excerpt from your novel-in-progress and hear readings by your retreat companions;
  4. We often have an open fire out on the terrace on nice evenings, which is entirely optional (but always enjoyable).

While you’re not required to read your work during the Gutsy Great Readings, I’ll be encouraging you to do so; how often to you get a group of other smart writers in one place, all there to support you in your quest to finish your novel? This is a safe environment for sharing! That said, you’re welcome to opt-out of your own turn at the readings, but I’d ask that you bring your best self to the group so that others can benefit from your presence.

There may be other, informally-organized group activities during down time; these will arise (or not) naturally from within the group, and you’ll have the option of joining in or opting-out. No peer pressure here!

How do I apply for the writing retreat?

How can I contact retreat host, Joan Dempsey?

Feel free to reach out via email: [email protected].
I look forward to connecting!

What is the cost?

I deliberately don't post the specific cost of tuition for the retreat until after I receive applications from those writers who are serious about attending. Please click here to find out why and learn more about what your tuition covers.

So sorry, but the retreat is now sold out.

Please fill out the form below to join the waiting list; we'll notify you of any cancelations.