Barred Owl Retreat, Leicester, Massachusetts | April 25 & 26, 2015

bldg1The Colrain Practicum is designed to guide poets in selecting and assembling five (out of ten) essential poems for submitting to journals and magazines or to use as a work sample when applying to MFA programs, Writers’ Retreats, Residencies, Fellowships, and so on. You will work with seasoned editors to identify and develop what’s essential to your best work, and you will be guided through revision techniques and the development of a post-workshop submission strategy.

In short, the Colain Practicum will provide you with the tools you need to select, revise, and submit your poems with confidence.

The practicum will be led by Colrain poet/editors Joan Houlihan and Ellen Doré Watson.

joan-320Joan Houlihan is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Ay . Her other books are: The Us, named a “must-read” book of 2009 by Massachusetts Center for the Book, The Mending WJHoulihanBWorm, winner of the Green Rose Award from New Issues Press, and Hand-Held Executions: Poems & Essays. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Gettysburg Review and anthologized in The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (2005, University of Iowa Press) and The Book of Irish-American Poetry–Eighteenth Century to Present(2007, University of Notre Dame Press). Houlihan is contributing editor and reviewer for the Contemporary Poetry Review and author of Boston Comment, a series of critical essays. Houlihan founded and directs two organizations: the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference and the Concord Poetry Center. She has taught at Columbia University, Emerson College and Clark University, and is on the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

ellenEllen Doré Watson is director of the Poetry Center at Smith College and poetry editor of The Massachusetts Review. Her most recent book is a translation of Adelia Prado’s work, Ex-Voto, from Tupelo Press. She is author of Dogged Hearts from Tupelo Press, This Sharpening, from Tupelo Press, and Ladder Music, winner of the New England/New York Award from Alice James. Ellen’s work has appeared widely in literary journals, including The American Poetry Review, Tin House, and The New Yorker. Among her honors are a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant, a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. In addition to teaching at Smith College, she has for many years led a generative writing group and offered private manuscript consultations.

Where and When

The two-day mini-conference will be held on Saturday, April 25 and Sunday April 26 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 with its world-class museums, music halls, theaters, and restaurants.


Prior to the workshop, participants are sent pre-conference assignments to complete and bring to the workshop for review with the workshop leaders. These assignments are designed to help you prepare your submission packet and begin to focus on the elements that distinguish your best work.

The weekend proceeds as follows:

The workshop officially ends on Sunday at 5 pm. Participants are invited to dine with Ellen Dore Watson and Joan Houlihan post-workshop at the nearby Red Maple Inn restaurant if desired.

Note: Please let us know if you’d like to come so we can make a reservation for the right number.

Cost and Application

The conference cost is $575 which includes tuition, breakfast, lunch, snacks, and all day coffee & tea.


To apply, please email the following information:

Your name, address and phone number

Brief bio

Four sample poems (attach as Word or .pdf doc)

Email to:

Upon acceptance, you will be sent registration/payment instructions.


Nearby accommodations are available starting at $65 per night. Some suggestions below:

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.


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.