Nature Writing Retreat


I love teaching writing classes in these circumstances. The surroundings provided lots of inspiration with few distraction (no cell phone reception), allowing students to make a lot of progress.



Last year’s class, The Spirit of Place: Writing about the Outdoors, took place at the environmental learning center of the North Cascades Institute, located on Diablo Lake, a jade-green jewel right off Highway 20, set amid the summits of Colonial and Pyramid peaks and Sourdough Mountain. It was a glorious time to visit, with warm and sunny weather and views spreading out in all directions.

We made a lot of progress in the three-day writing class, starting with a story idea and finishing with a 1,000 word piece of outdoor writing. The students produced some excellent stories. It didn’t hurt that the first day included a short hike to a waterfall for inspiration and possible material for a story. On the way back, several students spotted a black bear running through the forest, provoking gasps, shrieks and furious writing in notebooks.

The hike provided fodder for some of the stories, with others drawn from previous experiences. Students then completed a draft and revised their leads and nut graphs, a task many of them didn’t believe was possible in so short a time.

  • The Complete Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1862)
  • O Pioneers by Willa Cather (1913)
  • Essays by John Muir (1915)
  • A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (1949)
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (1968)
  • A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (1976)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (1978)
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (1986)
  • The Stars, the Snow, the Fire by John Haines (1989)
  • Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder (1990)
  • Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams (1994)
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (1997)

Getting away from “reality” to write with a master teacher like Nick is a dream working vacation. I would do this writing class again in a heartbeat!

R.F. Reuter,

You are missing out on a valuable experience if you don’t attend Nick O’Connell’s Writer’s Retreat. Hone your writing skills, eat great food, meet other exceptional writers, all while enjoying a magnificent natural setting.

Hal Smith,

Sitting before Nick opens vistas for aspiring writers and published authors. Herein lies the strength of his writing retreat course. The diversity of people attracted to his writer’s retreat are all exceptional and energized. Do yourself a favor. Sign up.

Rich Howard,

Nick O’Connell is a brilliant, approachable author and teacher. Spending a weekend attending a writing workshop lea by him feeds a writers soul.

Lori Moen,

The conversational style of the writing retreat offered a delightful weekend, combining ‘master teaching’ with moments of isolated writing. The information was relevant and challenging. Nourishing to the soul!!!

Julie Pope,

When I read the 3-day outdoor writing class syllabus and saw the goals of writing 150 words on our story the first night, then 1,000 pages by the end of the 2nd day, I was definitely intimidated. What if I have writer’s block? What will I write about? I don’t have a writing background. And here it is the 3rd morning and I have a 1,200 word story! Your structure, examples and calm demeanor have been immensely helpful. I’m grateful and feel invigorated to go write.

Jack McLeod,

Nick never overwhelmed me. Goals were challenging, to very attainable. He provided me just the right amount of structure and support that allow me to create a draft that was far more satisfying than my expectations. The feeling of accomplishment at 9:30 on the second day of the writing class, when I completed the first draft of my piece was extraordinary. Nick got me there with a smile.

Rick Severn, Spokane

Sitting in a room of fellow writers, teachers, readers, and nature lovers is always a great regenerator of the spirit.  The food was great, beautiful and efficient facility, friendly staff, and the location??? Come see for yourself.

Tom Matlack, Lake Stevens/Granite Falls

Nick gently pushes you to challenge yourself.  Just what I needed.

Candice Munson, Bellingham

A skillfully taught writing course in a wonderful setting—with good food.

Margaret Jahn, Bellingham

Nick is a very impressive natural outdoors man and accomplished writer.  He also balances the excitement of capturing the outdoor experience with his love of international cuisine, travel and regional historic culture. As a teacher, he was very approachable and able to help me look at the importance of bringing humor and voice to descriptive nonfiction piece of writing. I would recommend this class to anyone who likes the challenge of writing.

Linda, Federal Way School District

Thanks for the tips on non-fiction writing. The hike to find a story was a great idea.

Tanya, Woodinville

A dynamic group, blissful surroundings and spirited discussions with Nick provided just the impetus necessary to encourage us all to learn and write.

Alison, West Richland

You’re a Renaissance man, Nick!  A lot comes to the table with you besides your excellent teaching skill. Thanks for a well-designed writing program that fit the time allotted and challenged me. Also, thanks for sharing your work with your book, On Sacred Ground in the evening presentation. Sincere thanks!

Siri Bardarson, Whidbey Island