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 (William Morrow, July 2016)

"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

"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

Application, deadlines, and fees

We are currently planning our 2018 retreat.

Please sign up for our newsletter or check back here in the next few months for more details regarding our Author in Residence and our dates for next year.

Author in Residence

Many thanks to our Author in Residence for 2017, Stephanie Danler!

We fell in love with Danler’s debut, the international bestseller Sweetbitter, and we are so grateful she joined us for our second annual Northern California Writers’ Retreat. 

Praise for Sweetbitter:

“Danler’s sexy, astute debut is really a love story about the addictive pull of restaurant life… Anyone who’s ever tied on an apron will think, ‘Finally, someone wrote a book about us.’ And nailed it.”—People (book of the week)

“An unpretentious, truth-dealing novel… about hunger of every variety. Ms. Danler is a sensitive observer… and gifted commenter on many things. Sweetbitter is going to make a lot of people hungry.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

“…a raw, shucked, pungent, wild love story.”—Marie Claire

“Danler… quickly draws you into the sparkling surfaces and the shadowy underbelly of the city… [Tess’s] insatiable hunger for tactile, sensual satisfaction dares you to tag along. The journey is high-minded and dirty, beastly and bountiful.”

Danler holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School and has written for VogueTravel + Leisure, and The Paris Review, amongst others. She splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles. Learn more about her and Sweetbitter 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.

Let’s be social

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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.

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.

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 financial aide?

We are unable to offer financial aide at this time, but hope to in the future.

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: Ulysses by James Joyce and The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton (and also Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide because if I’m on a desert island, there’s probably a reason for it).

I’m ready to apply.

Great! Follow the link below!


In the news

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

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