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 closed for submissions for our 2019 retreats.

Please sign up for our newsletter to learn more about 2020!

Dates for 2020 (Authors-in-Residence and Guest Agents to be announced in June):

March: 11th-15th 

March: 18th-22nd 

March: 25th-29th 

Deadlines for all sessions:

  • Application opens June 21st, 2019.

  • Early bird applications will be accepted until August 1st, 2019.

  • Application acceptance closes November 1st, 2019.

  • We will get back to you on December 5th, 2019 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 2020. The balance will be due by February 15th 2020.

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.


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.

 Authors-in-Residence + Guest Agents

 Session 1: March 13th-17th 2019

Photo by Darcie Burrell

Aja Gabel’s debut novel, The Ensemble, was published by Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House in May 2018.

Aja’s short fiction can be found in New England Review, New Ohio Review, Glimmer Train, BOMB, and elsewhere. Her lyric essay, “The Sparrows in France,” appeared in Kenyon Review and earned her an honorable mention in Best American Essays 2015. She has taught fiction, non-fiction, and literature at the University of Virginia, the University of Houston, Sweet Briar College, and Pacific University, as well as at undergraduate creative writing conferences and community workshop organizations. She earned her BA at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia and has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.

Aja has been the recipient of awards from Atlantic Monthly and Inprint, as well as fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a fellow in fiction 2012-2013. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Bear.

Visit her online at

Andrea Morrison started at Writers House as an intern in 2009. She’s worked with bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators from picture books to middle grade and YA to adult literary fiction and nonfiction.

Having studied Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego and having earned her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, Andrea is hands-on editorially. She’s particularly excited about adult fiction that blends gorgeous sentence-level writing with stories featuring younger protagonists. She’s looking for characters that need to be heard—for stories that grab your heart and don’t let it go, even after they’re finished. You can find her on Twitter @AndreaAgency.

Andrea represents our Author-in-Residence, Aja Gabel.

 Session 2: March 20th-24th 2019

Photo by Nathan Jandl

Chloe Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Immortalists, a #1 Indie Next Pick, #1 Library Reads pick, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an iBooks Favorite.

Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams, received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Her work has been translated into thirty languages. Originally from San Francisco, CA, Chloe is a graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.

Visit her online at

Amy Cloughley is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Keeping with the agency’s unique legacy of The Reece Halsey Agency, she strives to represent the highest quality writing. Amy came to the agency in 2013 with a background in editing, writing, and marketing. You can also find her coaching writers via a Writer’s Digest course designed to help authors craft and strengthen their submission materials. She represents literary and commercial fiction and has a special interest in mystery/suspense, near historical, and upmarket women’s fiction. She also seeks narrative nonfiction projects.

You can find her on Twitter @amycloughley.

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, her son, and their 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! Except, we’re currently closed for submissions. Please sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about 2020!

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