Northern California Writers' Retreat


Write Here.


Right now.

Writing can be a very solitary process. We understand. That’s why we created the Northern California Writers’ Retreat, a place for emerging voices in fiction to have the space and time to write within a community of similarly motivated artists. 

In addition to enjoying ample dedicated writing time, you’ll also be invited to participate in select workshops and receive feedback from fellow retreat members. Our goal is that by the time you leave our sanctuary in the redwoods, you will feel as though you are a part of a vibrant community of promising writers with serious publishing ambitions.

Come join us!

Learn more


Since many writers tell us the morning is their best writing time, please enjoy the hours before noon as your uninterrupted writing space. Spend the morning typing in the Madrone Circle, the deck of the Las Alas Lodge, your room, the sun patio, or any other favorite location you discover on the grounds.


Daily, a short afternoon talk on the path to publication will be given, covering all aspects of the business from understanding the role of an agent, working with an editor, marketing your book, etc. This will be followed by workshops  lead by Chelsea and Heather. More information about the process will be available in your welcome packet.


The Northern California Writers’ Retreat is located in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, near the town of Ben Lomond. Nestled in an old growth redwood forest, the retreat is held at the Sequoia Retreat Center, a peaceful and tranquil spot, where we are the only residents for the four nights and five days. Writers will stay in one of sixteen rustic cabins tucked among the redwoods, each with its own unique charm and vista.


All meals, including buffet breakfast, casual lunch and dinner, are prepared by Sequoia Retreat Center’s dedicated kitchen staff who pride themselves on using locally sourced and organic ingredients when possible. Specific requests can be accommodated for those with food intolerances. Monterey County red and white wine will also be served, plus s’mores at the fire pit in the evenings!


Join us every afternoon for yoga taught by our favorite local instructor (mats and blocks will be provided!).


A massage therapist will be available on site for writers to book treatment, offering a full menu of services. (These services are not included in the retreat fee.)


We hope that you’ll come away from NCWR with a workshop partner, reader, or even a friend!


This lovely retreat in the Santa Cruz redwood forest was everything I hoped it would be. I found the quiet space to write I needed, and a supportive group of writers who will be part of my writing life for a long time to come. I'd recommend it to anyone who's serious about their writing and about building a writing community.

Heather Young, author of The Lost Girls

I was honored to be asked to participate in the first year of the Northern California Writer's Retreat. Heather Lazare and Chelsea Lindman have created the perfect retreat: time and space and solitude in the incredible Santa Cruz mountains combined with a supportive community of attentive writers and readers. As a bonus: a campfire, marshmallow roasting and good wine--what more could you ask for?

Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers and We Never Asked for Wings

NCWR was the perfect trifecta of luxurious writing time, workshops with writers who know their craft and an infusion of industry knowledge from acknowledged experts. Add the most spectacular redwoods in the world and fantastic, locally sourced, organic meals and you've got the best writers' retreat I've experienced. If you write, do this. That is all.

J.R. Hampton

Maybe it was my morning hikes amid the redwoods, or the enlightening afternoon talks with Heather and Chelsea and Vanessa, or the local organic dinners (and wine!)--whatever the reason, I felt an out-of-body level of inspiration on this retreat. And I was blown away by the talent and kindness of my group of fellow writers; I didn't go into the experience looking to make friends, but they warmed my steely New York soul. I would go back again and again.

Jessica Silvester

I have rarely attended an event that created as many special memories for me as this one did. The close connection and community that we formed in such a short space of time, nurtured by the retreat organizers, will carry me through for years to come. Given the solitary nature of the writing life, that's priceless!

Carole Stivers

What a wonderful experience. Heather and Chelsea put together a relaxed, informative and joyful retreat in the redwoods. I learned a lot, connected with other writers, and got a good bit of work done too. For me, NCWR has set a new standard for what a writer's retreat should be - the perfect blend of work time and play time in a beautiful setting, with wonderful people.

Lauren Doyle Owens, The Other Side of Everything (Touchstone, January 2018)

This was truly a creative experience--yoga to open you up, a redwood forest for allowing the flow of thoughts, great writers for inspiration, time to work and wonderful food for sustenance--everything I needed to move from stuck to creation!

Wendy Schultz

I would highly recommend this retreat to any writer ready to enter the publishing industry. I gained great insights into the varied worlds of the author, agent, and editor not to mention the friendships I garnered with my fellow writers. I finally found the illusive beta readers!

Mayanne Thomas

NCWR surpassed my hopes in every way. NCWR gave me a threefold advantage in achieving my writing goals: a supportive community of writers, ample time away from my life to write, and invaluable insights into the world of agents and publishers. Thank you Heather and Chelsea!

Natalia Birgisson

NCWR exceeded my expectations. I hope to return every year.

Brenna McNab

I highly recommend the Northern California Writer's Retreat. It is a wonderful experience that nurtures the creative spirit. This was truly one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my writing.

Rachel Hannah

The NorCal Writers Retreat was the perfect writing re-boot for me. The beautiful setting in the redwoods, the intense focus on writing—both craft and business—and above all, the space and time to write, was exactly what I needed. Thank you, Heather and Chelsea!

Martha Conway author of The Underground River

NorCal Writers Retreat was exactly what I needed to clear my head and solve problems in my novel. I showed up expecting quiet time to write, but also found a cadre of openhearted, generous, talented people. It felt like serendipity, but it was also the clarity and quality of Heather and Chelsea's vision for what this retreat can do for writers. I definitely want to return!

Sarah Cypher

Coming away with a close group of sympathetic writers/readers was exactly why I attended the Norcal retreat. The lovely setting, well-prepared food, and remarkable women made the experience all the more enjoyable and rewarding.

Christina Acosta

I came away from my experience with new friends and readers, a ton of insight about publishing and renewed energy for my book. It was a gift of time, focus and likeminded togetherness—I'm beyond grateful and honored to have been part of it.

JJ Elliott

I applied for the Northern California Writers’ Retreat and was thrilled when I was accepted. Not as thrilled, however, as I would be once I looked back at what I had accomplished at the end of my time there—fresh pages, helpful feedback from my workshop, new friends, and respite from the chaos that often encroaches on our creative time. I couldn’t recommend NCWR enough; Heather and Chelsea have created a wonderful home for writers.

Julia Blake

I'm a regular on the retreat circuit and I've never found one that offers as much as the NorCal Writers' Retreat. Listening to an editor, agent and author share their experiences is not only unique, but invaluable. Together they present a complete picture of the publishing journey from aspiring writer to debut novelist. And I dare you not to feel inspired among the majestic Sequoias! I left with new pages, great memories and two beta readers. I hope to do it again.

Carinn Jade

Application, deadlines, and fees

We are now open for submissions for our 2019 retreats!


March 13th-17th 2019

Author-in-Residence and Guest Agent to be announced soon!

March 20th-24th 2019

Author-in-Residence and Guest Agent to be announced soon!


Deadlines for both sessions:

  • Application opens June 21st, 2018.

  • Early bird applications will be accepted until August 1st, 2018.

  • Application acceptance closes November 1st, 2018.

  • We will get back to you on December 5th, 2018 with our decision.



This fee covers four nights and five days at the Sequoia Retreat Center, three meals a day plus snacks, wine, and s’mores, and the knowledge of our Author-in-Residence, Guest Agent, and your publishing veteran hosts!

Single Room:

  • $2,597 for applications received by November 1st.

  • $2,447: early bird discount for applications received by August 1st.

Double Room:

  • $2,347: for applications received by November 1st.

  • $2,197: early bird discount for applications received by August 1st.


Upon acceptance, we will require a $900 deposit, due January 5th 2019. The balance will be due by February 15th 2019.

Participation is limited to twelve writers in order to ensure that everyone receives the individual attention they deserve.

Please note, Northern California Writers’ Retreat is only open to fiction writers. You must be over twenty-one to apply.

Please sign up for our newsletter to learn more about 2019!


Fees paid to Northern California Writers’ Retreat are not charitable donations. Deposits and fees, are not refundable. Travel expenses and transportation to NCWR are not included.

A huge THANK YOU to our Authors in Residence + Guest Agents for 2018! 2019 to be announced soon!

Anna Ghosh is the founder of Ghosh Literary, an independent literary agency based in San Francisco, California.  Anna started her career as a literary agent in New York City in 1995 and was previously a partner at Scovil Galen Ghosh. Ghosh Literary offers world wide literary representation for print and digital media and all allied rights, including motion picture, theatrical and multimedia rights.

Anna’s client list includes New York Times bestsellers, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Guggenheim and other awards, as well as unheralded gems.  Her literary interests are wide and eclectic and she is known for discovering and developing writers.  She is particularly interested in literary narratives and books that illuminate some aspect of human endeavor or the natural world.

Anna studied Cultural Anthropology and Literary Journalism at Hampshire College, Massachusetts and Liberal Studies at The New School for Social Research, New York. Originally from India, Anna now lives in San Francisco, California with her husband and daughter. To learn more about her agency, visit her at

Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, Sweetbitter, was a national bestseller and garnered rave reviews from The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and many more. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School and has written for VogueTravel + Leisure, The Paris Review, and a number of other publications. She is currently working on her second book. Stephanie was Northern California Writers’ Retreat author-in-residence in 2017 and we enjoyed her company so much, we were eager to invite her back for 2018. She splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles.

Learn more about her and Sweetbitter at

Literary agent Danielle Svetcov joined Levine Greenberg Rostan in 2002, based in the CA office. Prior to that, she wrote for the New York TimesU.S. News & World ReportForbes, and the Chicago Tribune Magazine. Danielle represents both fiction and nonfiction, with a particular flair for cookbooks (she represents a number of IACP and Beard Award winners). In all things, especially fiction, she’s drawn to quirkiness. Odd character combinations (a small-town accountant falls for the big city Vo-Ag teacher…), nutty situations (a reclusive island of hippies and farmers suddenly awash in wayward Columbian pot), and original voices.  She likes writing that reads easy but isn’t. Favorite novels of late: The Spectacular Now, News of the World.
Danielle earned her MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College in 2002. It turned her into a word economist. Little-known fact: she attended a 3-month culinary program at Boston University in the late 1990s, where she learned how to make omelets from Julia Child. She lives in San Francisco; you can learn more about Danielle and LGR at

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, and appeared on numerous bestseller lists. Her novel The Jane Austen Book Club was a New York Times Notable Book, as well as a New York Times bestseller, and was made into a film in 2007. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, and won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Her second novel, The Sweetheart Season, was also a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. She is the co-founder of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award and the current president of the Clarion Foundation. Fowler and her husband, who have two grown children and seven grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California. To learn more about Karen and her books, visit her at

Meet us

Heather Lazare is an independent editorial and publishing consultant with over ten years of professional experience, who specializes in editing adult and young adult fiction, with particular emphasis on historical fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and thrillers. She began her career at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, then moved to the editorial side at Crown (Random House), and was most recently a senior editor at Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) before creating her own business in 2013. She lives in California with her husband and two children. Learn more at

Chelsea Lindman began her decade-long publishing career in New York as an editor at Europa Editions before switching to the agent side to work with The Nicholas Ellison Agency as Director of Foreign Rights. While there, she built her own list of authors that tended toward playful literary fiction, genre-bending fiction, and voice-driven women’s fiction. She spent several years working as an agent at Sanford J. Greenburger, Associates, a full service boutique literary agency. Chelsea is passionate about working with debut authors and is especially interested in nurturing up-and-coming literary talent. She lives in California with her husband and dog.

Our Story

The Northern California Writers’ Retreat was born over club sandwiches at the Big Four restaurant in the historic Huntington Hotel in San Francisco. Chelsea and Heather, both California natives, had each recently returned to their home state after spending nearly a decade living in New York and working in the publishing industry. As they were talking, both admitted that she had dreamed of establishing a space out west for writers to build community and work on their books. Heather was surprised to learn that so many of the writers she talked to did not have a dedicated reading group, knowing how important that “first set of eyes” on a manuscript was to a book’s success. Chelsea was interested in stretching the borders of their industry beyond Manhattan, eager to discover and nurture talent out west. Sandwiches led to drinks, which led to phone calls, which led to a game plan.

Our goal with Northern California Writers’ Retreat is to build a community of writers who will help lift each other up and take the retreat with them beyond our five days together. We hope you’ll come along on this adventure.

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Frequently asked questions

Can I send more than 20 pages?

Because of the number of submissions we receive, we cannot read beyond twenty pages, so please follow the guidelines in the application. You’re welcome to submit part of your novel or short story.

Does what I submit in the application need to be what I’m working on at the retreat?

No. You may submit published or unpublished work for the application. Our goal is to see your writing talents and be sure you are a good fit for the retreat.

What are the rooms like?

Rooms vary, yet each one is a separate rustic cottage with a heater and bathroom with shower. We offer double rooms in order to be price-sensitive, though many rooms can accommodate up to four people. Our goal is to provide a peaceful, tranquil space, so even rooms with more beds will only house two people at the most.

Can I bring a friend with me?

No. Because we want this to be a unique experience that fosters community, the retreat is only open to the accepted applicant.

Do you offer a scholarship?

Stay tuned! We are working on this…!

Why the $12 application fee? 

We want to be sure that the authors who apply are serious about their writing and their intent of attending NCWR.

What are Chelsea’s and Heather’s desert island books? 

CL: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner and A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

HL: Americanah by Chimamanda Agozi Adichie and East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

I’m ready to apply.

Awesome! We’re open for submissions!


Please sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about our Authors-in-Residence and Guest Agent for 2019.

In the news

Word is out about the Northern California Writers’ Retreat! Read more here:

MichiforniaGirl Blog 

Incredible Writing Retreats to Attend 

PWPublishers Weekly


NYBENew York Book Editors

The stone fireplace at Las Alas Lodge

The kitchen garden

The Madrone Circle, the place for s’mores

The labyrinth

A colorful place to write, meet, discuss

A drink in the woods!

One of the cabins

Redwood Ampitheater

New growth

The view from one of the cabin balconies

The view from Las Alas Lodge

One of the beautiful hiking paths

Las Alas Lodge

The Welcome Center

The field

Outdoor dining, writing, or workshopping