Barred Owl Retreat, Leicester, Massachusetts | October 5-8, 2018


Where and When: The conference will be held from Friday, October 5 through Monday, October 8,  at the beautiful Barred Owl Retreat, a 15-room, 1920’s colonial home located just outside the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, in the town of Leicester. The retreat’s lovingly landscaped acreage hosts an orchard, a brook, two ponds and an abundance of wildlife including herons, beavers, otters, deer, and of course, barred owls. The property abuts a secluded 114-acre nature preserve so on the grounds one might feel away from it all, yet Barred Owl Retreat is just four miles from downtown Worcester.


Plan to arrive on Friday, October 5, between 4 and 6 pm. Dinner is at 7 pm, after which introductions and preparation for the next day take place.  The conference ends on Monday, October 8, at 11 am.


Here, you will work with poet-editor-educators Joan Houlihan, Rusty Morrison, and Ellen Dore Watson.

_dsc3823medCROPJoan Houlihan is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, Shadow-feast (Four Way Books). Her poetry has been anthologized in The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (University of Iowa Press) and The Book of Irish-American Poetry-Eighteenth Century to Present (University of Notre Dame Press). She is a contributing critic for the Contemporary Poetry Review, associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and author of a series of essays on contemporary American poetry archived online at She has taught at Columbia University, Smith College and Emerson College and she currently teaches in the Lesley University Low-Residency MFA Program and as Professor of Practice at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Houlihan is founder and director of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.

rusty morrison author photo may 2018 (1)Rusty Morrison is an American poet and publisher. Her poetry book After Urgency won Tupelo’s Dorset Prize (2012). The Book of the Given is available from Noemi Press. the true keeps calm biding its story won Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, Northern California Book Award, Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, the DiCastagnola Award from Poetry Society of America. Whethering won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. She has received the Bogin, Hemley, Winner, and DiCastagnola Memorial Awards from The Poetry Society of America. Her poems have appeared in periodicals including A Public Space, American Poetry Review, Bomb, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Gulf Coast, Lana Turner, New American Writing, Pleiades,, Poem-A-Day, Verse, and VOLT. Her essays and/or long reviews have been, or will be published in Colorado Review, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Evening Will Come, Fence, The Kenyon Review, Pleiades, Poetry Flash, Verse, and in the anthologies One Word: Contemporary Writers on the Words They Love or Loathe (Sarabande 2010), Beauty is a Verb (Cinco Punto 2011). In 2001, Morrison and her husband, Ken Keegan, founded Omnidawn Publishing in Richmond, California, and continue to work as co-publishers.

Ellen.2016Poet and translator Ellen Doré Watson is former director of The Poetry Center at Smith College and serves as poetry and translation editor of The Massachusetts Review. Her fifth full-length collection, pray me stay eager, is available from Alice James Books. Earlier books include Dogged Hearts (Tupelo Press, 2010), This Sharpening (also from Tupelo), and two from Alice James, We Live in Bodies and Ladder Music, winner of the New England/New York award. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, and The New Yorker. Among her honors are a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and to Yaddo, and a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. Her best-known works of translation are The Alphabet in the Park and Ex-Voto, both by Brazilian Adélia Prado. Watson also teaches in the Drew University Low-Residency MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation and has for many years led a generative writing group in Northampton, MA.

How to Apply

Before you apply, please visit our Conference Criteria page to make certain this conference is right for you. Once you understand the nature and goals of the conference, please submit an application.

Conference Fee

Following successful application, the registration fee is $1,425.00. This includes:


Nearby accommodations are available starting at $50 per night.  You will need to contact them and make arrangements. Some suggestions below:

The Heartwell House.  2.4 miles from Barred Owl

A big, gorgeous house also used for yoga and meditation retreats. 6 rooms available, some double. Very reasonable and highest rating through airbnb.

The Red Maple Inn in Spencer. 7 miles from Barred Owl.

This is a lovely inn with indoor and outdoor sitting areas. It is pricey but they have two rooms that could be shared to cut down on the cost. One is the suite which has two separate bedrooms, one with twin beds one with a queen and they share a bath in between. They also have The Cottage room that is attached to the house that has two somewhat separate sleeping areas and a kitchen. Mention that you are attending the Barred Owl Writer’s retreat and they will take 10% off. A large breakfast at the time you request is included (though you will also have a continental breakfast served at the Barred Owl).

Courtyard Marriott: Downtown Worcester 4-5 miles from Barred Owl. Near art museum and dining. Ask for the Clark University rate or the AAA discount. Rooms $115-$129.00. Phone: 508-363-0300

Spenser Country Inn. 5.5 miles from Barred Owl. They have three rooms in the main Inn for $65.00/night. The yellow room is large with 2 single beds and could easily be shared.

NOTE: They also have 6 rooms in an adjacent building for $55.00 night, but the quality is lesser. We recommend asking for rooms in the main Inn for $65.00/night.

How to Get Here

Barred Owl is located at 88 Marshall Street, Leicester, MA, only 20 minutes from downtown Worcester and 15 minutes from the Worcester Regional Airport (Flights at the Worcester Airport are limited. Logan Airport in Boston is 40 minutes away if necessary for your flight plans).

Amtrak and buses arrive in Worcester where you can easily take a taxi to the retreat.

Contact Info:

Phone: 978.897.0054

Refund Policy: Refund up to 4 weeks prior, less 15% processing fee. Colrain Conferences reserves the right to cancel this conference without penalty, liability limited to a full refund of registration fees.