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Writers thrive amidst Donegal’s inspiring beauty and legendary past

What a joy last week’s summer retreat turned out to be.

A stunning castle at the end of a lough in a national park, a charming traditional thatched cottage, an island boat trip, live music concerts, a whiskey tasting evening, daily writing workshops, practical assignments critiqued by published authors… and a lovely group of warm-hearted, talented and hard-working writers from places as diverse as Alaska, Wyoming, California, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan, Newfoundland, Ohio, Belfast and Donegal.

And strong media interest too:

Now we’re very much looking forward to the first-ever Autumn retreat, from September 25th to October 1, with plenty of pleasant surprises already planned.

Only if you are absolutely NOT interested, should you NOT read participants’ testimonials below… but even then, it’s okay to have a quick peek – who knows, it might just pique your interest.


I came to the ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ hoping for a creative pick-me-up and curious about the Irish countryside. What I found was a feast for all of my senses. The beauty, kindness, creativity, camaraderie, focus and joy I have experienced this past week has been nourishing on every level and I leave (sadly) with a renewed love of creating, an intimacy in my own skin, and, of course, a little magic.” Katie Gerwin, therapist.

I wanted to thank you so very much for a wonderful week in Donegal. As a few have already reflected, it was a very special group of people in a magical part of the world. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your stories, and your love of your Irish home. I appreciated every morning discussion and how it gave some perspective on my own writing as well as inspired me to come home and get to work on my manuscript. It was a nice range of topics – from the genesis of an idea from questions to setting and dialogue and the nitty-gritty of editing. I enjoyed meeting and learning from the speakers (as well as the other visiting artists, whiskey-distiller included). Everyone had wonderful stories to tell which gave a lot more texture to the craft of writing as well as the landscape of Ireland. I very much value the community you celebrate and, by consequence, help to create. When there seem to be so many stories of what divides us, it was heartwarming to be amongst fellow artists who share a love of the written word and a genuine interest in one another. It gives me so much hope to see people connect like that and make art.” Jessie Olson, art museum administrator.

I came to Ireland expecting inspiration and found magic. The conference bonded strangers into friends. We wrote, walked and wandered. Culture programs introduced us to local food, whiskey and dance. Guest authors and editors honed our craft. Loved it, will be back!” Mary Holt, retired educator.

The retreat showed a proper mix of instruction, experience, writing and critiquing. We visited fabulous places in Donegal then wrote fiction based on these special sites. The provided critiques were highly personalized and useful. In summary, the retreat was inspirational.” Jeffrey Holt, retired pathologist.

I’ve never before participated in a writing retreat. I wasn’t sure what to expect and, in fact, tried to not develop any expectations. Even if I had, I’m sure they would have been exceeded. Everyone was so nice and dedicated to their craft that I never felt nervous about sharing my work. Donegal is a truly magical setting and I fell in love, not only with the setting, but with my writing. The inspiration rekindled that spark I simply didn’t have time for previously. Without a doubt I would attend again.” Sarah Stratton, forensic scientist.

I found the writing retreat in an online search for writing workshops in Ireland. I immediately fell in love with the idea and quickly reserved my spot. I was not disappointed in any aspect of my week here. The outings were beautiful and appropriate to the writing assignments. I became very close to the participants and felt a real sense of belonging with the whole group. Sean and Columbia are so knowledgeable and make great guides for this area. I had been struggling with my writing before this week and now I feel like I can continue writing without being blocked. In addition, the workshops helped me improve my craft. This week will truly help me propel my writing forward!” Karen Klimisch, teacher to children with special needs.

I came the first time to meet John DeDakis, a former online professor of mine, and to see Ireland for the first time. I came again two years later to reconnect with the confidence and sense of wonder I’d experienced the first time and to introduce my daughter to the land and people I had met. The workshops are practical and helpful, as well as inspirational. The excursions are fun and informative, add to the cultural experience and feed the imagination. Well worth the second trip!” Guyla Greenly, entrepreneur.

Surpassed my expectations, Sean and Columbia weaved a safe, intoxicatingly creative space for us to bond, write, listen and learn. The week’s highlight for me was a trip to Gola Island – so aptly used by R.L. Stevenson as a setting for ‘Treasure Island.’ The (writing retreat) experience has given me a ‘treasure chest’ to explore and cherish.” Liz Gough, teacher and radio host.

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