Writers on Rivendell

“I cranked out more than 70,000 words in five days and nearly penned a complete novel. It was a beautiful dance with the creative forces and I doubt I will ever experience anything like it again.”

— Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author

“After an intense 2-week reporting trip to Northern California, I came to Rivendell to write an 18,000-word book proposal . . . I was able to start—and finish—the proposal in 14 days at Rivendell. My agent loved it. It’s in New York now and a major publishing house has made an offer.”

— Kim Cross, Author

“In residence, you discover the mossy-rocked waterfall, the garden path not often taken, the fallen tree that serves as a bench. You bed to the sound of sonorous frogs, beyond. You wake a to a view of fog-mantled Lost Cove, below.

And then you write. And you write. And you soon recognize that, like the city of Oxford, the colony of Rivendell is a citadel of stewardship.

Beyond the literary pedigree, Rivendell delivers what writers crave: peace, quiet, and bucolic distance from distraction. I plan to return two or three times each year.”

— John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance

“I wrote the first 50 pages of my new novel, ON BROOKLYN BRIDGE, all in one month. There’s an almost inexplicable sense of creative energy fused with spiritual energy at Rivendell that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It is truly magical.”

— Kimberly Elkins, Author

“Something special happens when I come to Rivendell. I’m able to sink into my work in progress, to discover its truths and untangle its questions. This happens both at my desk and while walking the grounds, soaking in the beauty and magic of Sewanee and Lost Cove. I don’t use the word “magic” lightly. I firmly believe a kind of magic is at play here, and history bears this out.”

— Susannah Felts, Co-Founder of The Porch Writers’ Collective

“While we try to find our words and our stories, Rivendell’s mountains and coves seem to give something of ourselves back to us, like a gift of our soul that has been waiting in these hills and soaring views. We stand above Lost Cove as a flightless bird, on the hallowed ground where Walker Percy resided. We are cracked open to creativity. When it is time for silence, when I know the ache for solitude is calling me, I long for Rivendell.”

— Patti Callahan Henry, Author

“My time at Rivendell was such a gift! The colony was conducive to my writing and reading in ways that are hard to quantify. Yes, I was able to accomplish in two weeks what would take me two months back home. However, it wasn’t just the writing and reading—I also met a wonderful group of people whose work inspires me and whose advice, kindness, and example sustains me. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

— Andrew Malan Milward, Writer and Editor-in-Chief of the Mississippi Review

“At Rivendell, I had a quiet space to work, woods to walk in, and a view of the mountains out my window. It was perfect. Before I’d been there a week, I was already planning my next visit.”

— Leah Stewart, Author of The New Neighbor

“I cannot imagine writing the novel as easily without the support of this writers’ colony. Rivendell is a vital and necessary part of Sewanee’s rich literary legacy; it is ensuring that more writers have access to this landscape, to be inspired, and to write something worthwhile.”

— Kevin Wilson, Author of The Family Fang

Adam Vines

“I wrote more quality drafts at Rivendell in two weeks than I ever have in that time period as a writer.”

— Adam Vines, Birmingham, AL-based poet

Anjali Enjeti

“Rivendell is the only place where writing takes priority over everything else in my life.”

— Anjali Enjeti, Atlanta, GA-based novelist, literary critic, and essayist

April Bradley

“I crossed a threshold into a space of stillness and grace, immediately able to work. I gained a quiet vitality from the land, the house, and the residents who have become friends.”

— April Bradley, writer

“My time at Rivendell taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t know: my need for community but also the need for solitude within the structure of that community. It’s a place to get real with yourself, to hear your own voice, and to find peace in your creativity.”

— Bonnie Bishop, Nashville, TN-based singer, songwriter, and writer

C.E. Richards

“What I found at Rivendell was abundant peace and quiet, a beautiful setting, relaxed fellowship with like-minded folks when I wanted it, and ample opportunity for reflection as well as productivity; all the things I find myself starved for otherwise amid the duties of work and family. Not only is it a great place to write, but also to read, think, meditate, and pray. For me, and for a great many other writers, I suspect, these other mental activities are essential to the creative process.”

— C.E. Richards, Lafayette, LA-based author

Caroline Cooper

“From the moment I first landed in Tennessee and connected, in person, with the Colony, I knew–YES. This is the place. At Rivendell, I changed profoundly as a writer, thinker, and person.”

— Caroline Cooper, New York City-based poet

Carrie Meadows

“When the morning fog settled in Lost Cove, I couldn’t help but slip into a special corner of my mind, a place where smart phones and Netflix don’t exist, a place where my own thoughts transformed from static into a clear broadcast. There, I could give my work the attention it rarely receives in the hustle of daily living, working, and child rearing.”

— Carrie Meadows, Chattanooga, TN-based writer

“I’m sure any quiet place with limited distractions that one dedicates to sustained writing would be conducive to productivity, but the grandeur of the house and the stunning mountain vista outside my window added to the magic. I gained a lot of insight during my stay both into my writing and myself, and left with a stronger resolve and self-belief.”

— CJ Bartunek, Athens, GA-based writer and teacher


“I ended every literature-saturated day curled up on a wicker sofa at the Garden Cottage reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as [James] Agee wished it to be read, aloud and late into the night. My only company was the glow from the solitary lamp that made a lighted galleon of the screened porch where I read and the sense that resides there of an abiding presence in the deep silence. It’s a rarity, and I don’t know how to say it any better than that.”

— Donna Mintz, Atlanta, GA-based visual artist and writer

Dwight Gray

“When staying at Rivendell it is almost impossible to sleep in. The music of tree frogs and crickets can lull you to sleep and the birds that make their presence felt long before sunrise reminds us that we don’t want to miss anything. I often woke before sunrise and watched Lost Cove come into focus from the back porch over a steaming cup of coffee. I sometimes found myself reciting the middle lines of Wendell Berry’s poem ‘I come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief.’ which comes to life at Rivendell.”

— Dwight A. Gray, writer

Gerry Wilson

“I was downright reclusive during my two weeks [at Rivendell], but it was exactly what I—and my work—needed. I worked primarily on a novel that had been giving me fits at home. I arrived with 98 pages and left with 203. They aren’t all ‘good’ pages, but without the distractions of my usual life (and with few excuses), I was able to push the story forward.”

— Gerry Wilson, Jackson, MS-based writer

“The natural setting is my favorite thing—looking over the cove, wondering what animals will come out of the woods to be my writing companions for the day. One afternoon, a deer came and plopped herself down by the fence and took a nap while I wrote for a few hours. If you’re looking for inspiration, it’s all around you.”

— Heidi Espenscheid Nibbelink, Athens, GA-based writer

Jayne Moore Waldrop

“I was very motivated when I arrived and [Rivendell] supported my motivation in every way. The quality of the accommodations made me feel respected as a writer and that my work was important. I worked all day without interruption and with intense concentration.”

— Jayne Moore Waldrop, Lexington, KY-based writer

Jeannette Brown

“It’s easy to focus on writing [at Rivendell]. I do some research. I make lists of ideas. I take a long walk to figure out why that middle chapter isn’t working the way I want. I dig out an earlier short story that might be salvageable. Contemplation comes naturally while I watch the ‘smoke’ rise above the cove or listen to the many and varied sounds arising from the lily pads resting gently atop the pond. There are usually rainbows, always hawks gliding in the updrafts. Without schedules and agendas, without dentist appointments and PTA meetings, I could just bliss out at Rivendell.”

— Jeannette Brown, Knoxville, TN-based fiction writer

“I hadn’t realized how loud I’d let my world get until I was at Rivendell. It felt outside of time somehow. I woke up at sunrise to a glowing pink room almost every morning. I didn’t need to settle into my desk—I just got up, got coffee, and wrote steadily for hours. There was an ease at Rivendell—an ushering spirit of sorts as if all opposing forces had been barred through years of preservation and caretaking.

I worked on a novel, my first, while I was there. And though I’m still in the early stages, my pen has never produced, and with such ease, as many usable and valuable sentences as were produced at Rivendell. I feel that I needn’t search for any other place to go and write.”

— Jenna Dorian, Nashville, TN-based writer

Jodie Hollander

“I can’t be grateful enough for this magical experience. The heart-stopping beauty of the manor and grounds, the incredible kind and generous people . . . I feel I MUST come back.”

— Jodie Hollander, Avon, CO-based poet

Karen Bonner

“Better writers have been here before me, and they’ve dropped seeds of creativity. Inspiration runs deep here; it soaks into the soil then percolates back up into my writing.”

— Karen Bonner, Atlanta, GA-based YA writer

“I had never been to a writers’ colony before and I was skeptical about whether it would really benefit my writing. I feared that I’d get to Rivendell and experience writer’s block, or that I just wouldn’t be any more productive than usual. I was wrong! It took me a day to get my bearings, but once I started writing, I was in the zone. I wrote more and better at Rivendell than I had in more than a year.”

— Kathleen Balma, New Orleans-based poet

Kimberly Casey

“I woke up and wrote with the sunrise, set my own pace each day, explored the hidden treasures that the property had to offer, and got in touch with my core intentions as a poet. I was not expecting to immerse myself in my work so quickly, but Rivendell provides everything one would need and the flexibility and freedom to find your own speed to enjoy every aspect of the writing process. This escape was so vital to my process, and helped me arrive back in the moment to appreciate the world around me.”

— Kimberly Casey, Huntsville, AL-based poet

KK Fox

“One of my favorite things about Rivendell is the pond. I have seen the pond low and murky, gases from vegetation popping all over the surface, and I have seen it almost to the top of the dock, the water clear enough to see the same fish shoot out from his chosen hiding spot under the dock’s walkway every time you stepped on it. There’s magic on that dock, as if life cannot follow me onto it. I’m aware of nothing but the moment, whether lying on the dock in the sun, sitting with company while the day fades, or craning my neck to behold a cold night sky completely saturated with stars. That dock and that pond are special to me.”

— K.K. Fox, Nashville, TN-based fiction writer

Laura Relya by Jason Travis

“As an executive editor of a publication that publishes around 700 articles a year, my life is one dictated by deadlines, making it pretty difficult to find time to dedicate to my own creative pursuits. The solitude and space that Rivendell provided was healing and reflective for me. Finally, my imagination had the necessary aperture to shed enough light on my own imaginings to help bring them to life.”


— Laura Relyea, Atlanta, GA-based author

Leslie LaChance

“I loved best what I’d call that ‘Rivendell Magic,’ the sense that one’s sole purpose while in residence is to give attention to the writing. I couldn’t NOT write! All the other residents felt the same thing; there was a sense of urgency and importance about what we were doing. The fact that we had no other obligation other than to do our work was a great gift that we all shared. I felt very nourished by my experience at Rivendell, and I hope to return again and again.”

 — Leslie LaChance, Nashville, TN-based poet and essayist

Liz Breazeale

“I loved my time at Rivendell, but the solitude and silence (in my journal I called it ‘aggressively silent’ on my first day) were wonderful. The manor and grounds lend themselves perfectly to both writing and contemplation, which allowed me to live and breathe my work for two full weeks. What a gift!”

 — Liz Breazeale, Kansas City, MO-based author

Mary Laura Philpott

“With a day job, a side job, and several ongoing creative projects — not to mention two kids, two dogs, a spouse, and a carpool schedule — one thing I never have enough of is time. I know that sounds like a detergent commercial, but it’s true: time is my currency (well, other than actual currency). It’s 100% worth driving over an hour to get to Rivendell, because once I arrive I get a big chunk of hours no one can interrupt. That’s the greatest thing Rivendell gives people.”

 — Mary Laura Philpott, Nashville, TN-based author

molly bradley_photo

“In everything from the beautiful, cool manor and its well-lighted rooms to the silence of the hills and the sound of the bees humming along the pond, Rivendell was imagination fertilizer.”

 — Molly Guinn Bradley, Brooklyn-based writer and editor

Nancy Kellond

“As we turned in the gate, I knew immediately I was entering another world. There is something deep going on here. The land, ancestors, and history. Whatever is to be revealed to me will be, and there’s always more.”

 — Nancy Kellond, writer

Nathaniel Popkin_Photo Credit Peter Woodall

“An absolute lack of urban clutter, noise, and distraction was the most wonderful part of being at Rivendell. I particularly appreciated the proximity and intimacy with nature, especially as the earth turned to spring. The lack of structure allowed me to be in my own work-world, to write and walk as I needed, and to watch the sun (and moon) rise and fall each day.”

 — Nathaniel Popkin, Philadelphia, PA-based writer

Nicole Cox

“Rivendell is the kindest space I’ve ever been in; it is utterly without cynicism and pressure. I’m pretty well saturated with Imposter Syndrome. Acceptance to Rivendell, and time with the other writers there, helped me think differently about myself as a writer — to dare call myself a writer at all. Maybe I have too much reverence for the job title And yet, when everyone else passing through referred to themselves as ‘writer,’ and we were doing the same work, I couldn’t deny that I was one and the same.

Rivendell reflects you back to yourself; it shows you who you are. Well, it showed me who I am, and it gave me some sacred space to be her. It was the best two weeks of my writing life.”

 — Nicole Cox, Silver Spring, MD-based playwright

Pamela Erens by Kathryn Huang

“The two things that ended up meaning the most to me at Rivendell were not what I would have predicted. These were the outdoor activities I was able to enjoy—vigorous biking and hiking—and the company of other residents. This was my first residency, and I thought the big point was the uninterrupted work hours. For me, my fellow residents and the refreshment of nature turned out to be even more important. At a time when I was very much struggling with my own work, this was so nourishing for me. ”

 — Pamela Erens, Maplewood, NJ-based novelist and essayist

Rachel Hoge

“There is a palpable magic at this place, one I haven’t felt recreated anywhere else. Rivendell provided the necessary rest and solitude to focus on my own work, while making me part of an artistic community that I value immeasurably.

During my two weeks as a Rivendell resident, I wrote the last eight chapters of my MFA thesis: an autobiographical novel that explores disability and identity. My book is a coming-of-age novel that functions as a southern mystery. The structure of my project is quite experimental, considering the text is polyvocal and hosts a conversation between two dissimilar voices. I’m so appreciative that Rivendell allowed me the freedom to push the boundaries of book design, while writing from an underrepresented disability perspective.”

 — Rachel Hoge, Nashville, TN-based essayist

Richard Rosenthal

“The place is magical.

For two weeks, I never hurried, and was never late; I read, wrote, went for walks, and had some wonderful conversations with our fellow residents; and each night I went to bed with a feeling of accomplishment.”

— Richard J. Rosenthal, Los Angeles-based writer

“The group of writers sharing the house that week was remarkably kind and generous. On our last night together, we each read some things that we had either written or revised while there. To have the opportunity to hear such fantastically creative work still in process from such talented writers was a particular treat. Rivendell is unique because it somehow provides writers with both solitude and community in balance.”

— Ross Peters, Memphis, TN-based poet

“I think the most unexpected thing was feeling immediately at home. The clarity and focus I experienced with my writing was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’d like to say it’s some sort of magic, but I think it’s really Rivendell’s soul and we are all a part of it.”

— Sandy Coomer, Nashville, TN-based poet

Sarah Carter

“From the quietness of the surrounding trees to the beautiful sunsets, being in such a beautiful, clean, quiet place was a godsend. It helped me value time spent on my work and consider it a valuable luxury.”

— Sarah Carter, Lebanon, TN-based writer

“The quiet and the beauty of the place are at the top of my list: the long days where nothing interrupts your rhythm, the different moods of the main house in the full sun and in a thunderstorm, the bluff views, and the rambles that can take you to a natural bridge or waterfall and return you to your desk with fresh eyes.”

— Sarah Igo, Nashville, TN-based writer

Susan Feathers

“I sat in silence for hours . . . there was absolutely no sound other than the wind in the huge old trees around the manor. I had the entire upper floor for myself overlooking a bluff, and in the distance, the Cumberland Plateau. It is rare, and necessary, to provide safe harbor for literary endeavor at a time in history when the tides threaten to erode it.”

— Susan Lee Feathers, Pensacola, FL-based author

“Not to sound too woo-woo, but I love the energy at Rivendell. It is very conducive to creative work. I stayed at Pondview and would walk every day through the woods to get to the Manor, and then I’d keep walking up to see the horses at [Walker] Percy’s old place. It was meditative and head clearing. Afterward, I would go back to my little cabin and write.”

— Susan Rebecca White, Atlanta, GA-based novelist

Ted Pelton

“The quiet and stillness of Rivendell took me by surprise. This is a place to get work done. I worked on the end of a collection of linked stories that I wanted to make into more of a cohesive book. It was difficult work, with little of the euphoria of beginning a book but rather the tight puzzle-work of getting the pieces to fit correctly. The time I put into the project at Rivendell could not have been accomplished without coming there.”

— Ted Pelton, Cookeville, TN-based fiction writer

“Once I got to Rivendell, I found myself immediately erasing boundaries between what I thought I was capable of and what I felt compelled to create in such an inspiring environment. I came to Rivendell with the goal of working on research for a poetry project I have started on the unnamed slave plantation of Kingsley Plantation, a former sea island plantation in Northeast Florida run by the National Park Service. What shocked me was how much work I got done in addition to that research, including 17 new poems to include in my poetry manuscript, a short story, and scene work for a creative nonfiction piece. I hadn’t seriously written prose in a decade, and the short story I wrote during my time there is now pending publication.”

— Tiffany Melanson, Jacksonville, FL-based poet

V. Joshua Adams

“I recommend Rivendell to anyone who needs some time in the woods with their books.”

— V. Joshua Adams, Louisville, KY-based poet, translator, and critic

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

“At first, I wasn’t sure I could adapt to the ‘extreme’ quiet and the scarcity of media. Then, as my residency advanced, I felt myself going deeper into my writing. The utter lack of distraction actually allowed me to access my creativity more freely. The landscape of the Colony—the trees, the sweeping views of the cove, the ponds—have an almost mystical beauty that somehow heightens the senses and creates a well-being and concentration that proved so beneficial to my writing process.”

— Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Washington, DC-based poet and writer

Marya Spont-Lemus

“Rivendell is the only residency I’ve been to that was specifically for writers. No matter how different our individual processes and projects, being around other people working in the same medium was incredibly helpful, whether for informal troubleshooting on the patio, getting feedback on work in-progress, or sharing book recommendations (or books). At Rivendell, I found an intergenerational, experience-rich group of writers that I hadn’t known I needed.”

— Marya Spont-Lemus, Chicago-based fiction writer

Michael Fischer

“At Rivendell, there’s a very tangible sense that what happens in the time when you aren’t writing is just as important as what happens when you are. There is a quality of quiet there that is so restorative. I never felt like there was something I ‘should’ have been doing in order to get more out of the experience. Everything happened in its own time, and there’s something about Rivendell as a nurturing and judgment-free space that allows for that.”

— Michael Fischer, Chicago-based writer

Jen Hinst-White

“It feels like there is a force field around Rivendell protecting the most beautiful, sustained quiet I have ever experienced. It wasn’t a deathly quiet but a living one: crows, songbirds, wind, rain, occasional reassuring footsteps of the other writers in the house. I was afraid I’d be lonely. I wasn’t at all. When I first walked into my studio on the third floor, with all its big clean light, I thought, ‘I will never fill up all this space.’ But by the end of the two weeks I had, with sun salutations, all the pages I drafted while sprawled across the floor, and all my chapter notes around the edge of the room like stations on a prayer walk.”

— Jen Hinst-White, Sound Beach, NY-based writer

Strawn Bovee

“One can breath there. The lungs open in response to all this openness, grace and safety.”

— Strawn Bovee, Los Angeles-based writer

“What surprised me, what blew me away in fact, was that when I sat down at my desk by the window, writing came to me like breathing again. I entered my novel from an entirely different vantage point—one I’d never dreamed of before—and the scenes and characters began to unfold. I set aside doubt and allowed myself to slip into the adventure of it all. Day after day this happened: I trusted the work. I remembered again why I love to write.”

— Karen Halvorsen Schreck, Wheaton, IL-based author

Autumn Jones

“Every corner seemed to hold some space for creation. The room I stayed was perfect for the big pushes of long writing. Sitting in front of the fire was where I refined my words and ideas. Journaling on the veranda or on a bench overlooking the bluff sparked new inspiration. And walking the grounds freed my mind to see my work with fresh eyes. It seemed that everywhere I turned there was an opportunity to add to my work and my soul, both of which were very nourished during my time there.”

— Autumn Jones, Franklin, TN-based author

“I will always be grateful to have been at Rivendell in autumn. The sun rising over a lovely line of ridge … acorns showering down when the wind rose … color upon color upon color in the woods … long, golden, Indian summer days, writing in a hammock under huge oak trees, watching the clouds and changing light … Rivendell inspired an astonishing outpouring of creative energy.”

— Ruth Thompson, Hilo, HI-based poet

Amelia Edelman

“I know everyone talks about the landscape at Rivendell, which is truly baffling in its beauty, but I have to say my favorite thing was the ability to work quietly alongside, but not necessarily with, other writers. It reminded me of growing up in a house with many siblings; we spent most of our time just living our separate lives, not necessarily hanging out, but it was somehow comforting and motivating to know they were right there too, doing their thing.”

— Amelia Edelman, Nashville, TN-based journalist and poet

Gwen Kirby

“At Rivendell, I felt free to experiment with my work, to follow absurd ideas, and just to play. I know that my collection of short stories will be stronger for my time there and I am very grateful.”

— Gwen Kirby, Cincinnati, OH-based fiction writer

Amelia Martens

“I did not expect that being away from my kids and house (where I usually write in the laundry room) would have such an impact on what I wrote or how long I could write. I found the space and time of Rivendell allowed my brain to unspool at greater length and in many different directions than I have access to at home. I did not expect to learn so much about my writing self or to find such confirmation of my art.”

— Amelia Martens, Paducah, KY-based poet

Lindsey Harding

“During my two weeks at Rivendell, I returned to the first (and really rough) draft of a novel project I had started in 2011 in a creative writing workshop as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. I revised all of the material I came in with and added substantially to the manuscript, leaving with a 275-page draft.

The experience taught me so much about myself, about writing, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say it has helped me become a better version of myself.”

— Lindsey Harding, Athens, GA-based writer

“For the better part of a year, I had been stuck in getting what I felt surely was to be my second novel off the ground. Something wasn’t right, and my crowded life wasn’t allowing me to see what. As soon as I opened my notebook at Rivendell, I had breakthrough after breakthrough in how I needed to re-conceive the narrative moment and structure. Crucially, as the timeline and dramatic questions came into focus, I heard the “voice” of the narrator. Several months later, I am steadily progressing through the first draft.”

— Vanessa Blakeslee, Winter Park, FL-based fiction writer