Trains As Writers' Garrets

by | February 28, 2014 | General | 2 comments

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of
genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the
Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


I discovered the coolest writers’ getaway – Amtrak,
which is setting up writers’ registries in the U. S.
What a brilliant idea!
Choose a destination – for me it would be Boston to Baltimore and back – and
write during the entire round trip. The Paris Review article I linked to
described the author’s trip:

I am in a little sleeper cabin on a
train to Chicago. Framing the window are two plush seats; between them is a
small table that you can slide up and out. Its top is a chessboard. Next to one
of the chairs is a seat whose top flips up to reveal a toilet, and above that
is a “Folding Sink”—something like a Murphy bed with a spigot. There are little
cups, little towels, a tiny bar of soap. A sliding door pulls closed and locks
with a latch; you can draw the curtains, as I have done, over the two windows
pointing out to the corridor. The room is 3’6” by 6’8”. It is efficient and quaint.
I am ensconced.

I’ve never been on a writers’ retreat. I have set up my own
writers’ garret, though. My first apartment was a delightful little hovel in
Laurel, Maryland. It was one and a half rooms, one bath, living room, kitchen,
and a balcony. I was on the third floor facing a courtyard, the pool and very
tall trees. I’d get home from work and have a glass of wine every night on my
balcony (when it was warm enough) and watch the bats flying around the
courtyard. They came very close to my balcony. I lit the balcony railing with
twinkie lights during the Christmas season. Watching the sun set after work in
this fashion every night was sheer bliss.

My half room was my garret. I had a Brother typewriter. This
lets you know how long ago this was since personal computers had not yet been
invented. I also had plenty of paper, and lots of ideas. I was never published
the whole time I lived in this place although I was a member of a writers’
group. I pounded out fiction on that contraption every night except I didn’t
write on weekends. I imagined myself to be Edgar Allen Poe in his garret on
Amity Street in Baltimore writing his little heart out.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to have A Room Of My Own,
to steal from Virginia Woolf, but I’d never left home to get away and write. I
did apply to Yadoo once but I wasn’t
accepted. I guess my mystery/thriller novel wasn’t highbrow enough. So imagine
my delight to learn of Amtrak’s
plans. These writers’ residences would be either free or inexpensive,
considering how many writers are in a perpetual state of being broke. I plan on
taking a trip once Amtrak gets things settled.

That said, I’m going on my first writers’ retreat in
October. It will be held at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the very same hotel
that inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining”. He stayed in room
217. The movie wasn’t filmed there. It was filmed on a sound stage and
exteriors were of another hotel. Still, the Stanley Hotel is an impressive
place to write. It has it all – atmosphere, ghosts (it’s haunted), nice rooms,
and lots of space to get lost in. This place has “writers apply”
written all over it!

I signed up for the retreat about a month ago, and my
husband and I are turning it into a vacation – our first real, long-term
vacation ever. I will finish or at the very least make a huge dent in a horror
novel I’m currently working on. The organizer of the Stanley Hotel Writers’
Retreat is also hosting a Stanley
Hotel New Year’s Eve Party
, so if you’re game and want a nice getaway where
you can write and celebrate the coming of 2015, go for it. Signup time is short
so be aware of that.

I wondered what other places would make great writers
retreats. Here are a few in the U. S.

Writers Retreat
–  4 days, 3 nights.
Intensive. In upstate New York.

Clarion West
Speculative fiction. Past faculty has included Samuel R. Delany, Octavia
Butler, Chuck Palahniuk, John Crowley, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Connie
Willis, Paul Park, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Ellen Datlow, and Gordon van
Gelder. Wow!

Wellspring House
– In western Massachusetts near the Berkshires. Get lost in the mountains and
forests while you write.

Cape Ann, Massachusetts – Rent a room or house in Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, or
other Cape Ann locations and write your heart out over a summer or winter. This
area is typically New England. Relax on the beaches or shop in the quaint beach
boutiques. And beach chocolate. Did I say beach chocolate? This could be
expensive since you’d come here during the summer tourist season, but some
homes are open for rent during the winter. Still it’s pricey but beautiful. I
know about this place since I live in Rockport. It’s the perfect writer’s
location. Plus you’re near Salem (yes, witch trials Salem) so you could make a
day trip out of that place.

Yadoo – I mentioned this
one earlier. It’s one of the premiere writers’ retreats in the U. S. It’s
located in Saratoga Springs, New York. You need to apply for this one and get
accepted. I suspect competition is fierce.

I’ll update on my Stanley Hotel writer’s retreat when I’m
there in October. My ERWA blog post date falls when I’m in the hotel writing.
I’ll report back how awesome it is. 😉

Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black's erotic fiction has been published by Cleis Press, Xcite Books, Scarlet Magazine, Circlet Press, and others. She also writes dark fiction and horror as E. A. Black. She lives in Massachusetts next to the ocean with her husband, son, and three cats. The beach calls to her and she listens.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Looks like just the place to work on a horror novel, Elizabeth!

    I've often yearned to take a week and rent a tiny little place in Gloucester, looking out over the harbor. And winter would actually be perfect.

    (This makes me realize I've never set a story on Cape Ann, one of my favorite places in the world! Got to remedy that!)

  2. Elizabeth Black

    I'm looking forward to the Stanley Hotel Writers' Retreat very much!

    If you ever make it out to Cape Ann, Lisabet, we'll have to have lunch together. I know just the right spots, too. 🙂 We could even have a summertime picnic on the cliffs overlooking the Rockport harbor, with a fantastic view of the ocean. I do that often with my husband. Love the cliffs. 😀

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