Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, February 28, 2014

Trains As Writers' Garrets

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.

Adirondack 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. ;)


  1. 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. 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. :D


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