Shannon Cain

The santa rita writers’ workshop


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The Santa Rita Writers’ Workshop

at a benedictine abbey

in the high desert of southern arizona

a gathering in fall 2012



5 o’clock: welcome gathering & writing exercise with wine & snacks

mesquite barbecue dinner

after dinner, readings from participants’ work

silence at 8pm


silence until 10am

help yourself to breakfast in the kitchen, 7 to 9am

workshop in the chapel, 10 to noon

lunch at noon

craft lecture & discussion, 1 to 2

silence from 2 to 6

dinner at 6

readings after dinner

tequila and Scrabble


silence until 10am

breakfast, 7 to 9am

workshop, 10 to noon

lunch at noon

clinic: grace & transcendence through line editing, 1 to 2

silence from 2 to 6

dinner at 6

readings after dinner

optional outing: live country music at the Steak Out Saloon


silence until 10am

breakfast, 7 to 9am

workshop, 10 to noon

lunch at noon

silence from 1 to 3

3 o’clock: farewell gathering & writing exercise with wine & snacks

The cost for the workshop is $645 per person. This includes all meals, beverages & snacks, three nights lodging with private bath, and transportation to and from the airport in Tucson.

One double-occupancy room is available at $595 per person. Both occupants must be accepted.

A 50 percent nonrefundable deposit reserves your space.

We maintain silence in the breezeway, the courtyard, the chapel, and inside our rooms. The kitchen/dining room is a silence-free social zone.

One-on-One Consultations

Each writer will be offered a one-hour private conversation with Shannon to talk in-depth about their creative work and any other writerly matters on their minds. Miracles not guaranteed.

Rooms are small, exceptionally clean, and simply furnished. Each room has a writing desk, two uncomfortable chairs*, a quite comfortable single bed, and a private bathroom. Each room has a door facing the rolling hillsides, with a little covered porch and folding chair. The double occupancy suite includes a kitchenette & sitting area but no back porch.

Cell phone reception stinks, and if you want a wifi signal you’ve got to hike up the hill to the abbey. The stars are mindblowing and there are deer and owls and bunnies and birds everywhere. The silence of the desert is like nowhere else. Participants should be prepared for encounters with critters of all kinds: this is the wilderness.

A Sampling of Eats & Drinks

whole wheat blueberry banana walnut muffins

multigrain & chocolate croissants

turkey & swiss sandwiches with southwest chili

mesquite barbeque chicken with baked potatoes and beans

vegetarian lasagne & garlic bread

spinach salad with feta and strawberries & balsamic vinaigrette

chocolate cheesecake with fresh raspberries

almond pear tart

wine & beer & nonalcoholic beverages

To Apply

Send about 10 or 15 pages of something you’ve written recently to

Application deadline:

Directions to the abbey and other important details will be provided upon registration.

Your instructor as a smirking Virgin Mary.

St Francis Kindergarten Christmas Pageant 1969.

Click here to see what she’s been up to since then.

Participants may workshop up to 25 pages of fiction or nonfiction. Manuscripts are due by January 25; copies of stories will be distributed to the others one week before arrival.

Daily life in a Benedictine monastery consists of three elements: liturgy, labor, and lectio divina, or divine reading. Slow contemplation of a text and the pondering of its meaning becomes a form of meditation.

This 3-day weekend of reading and writing combines workshops and craft conversation with long stretches of deep silence. It’s designed for writers of literary fiction and nonfiction.

The abbey is located about 45 minutes southeast of Tucson. There’s only room for seven writers, so registration is by application. See below for how to apply.

* sadly, that desk chair doesn’t live here

The Santa Rita Writers' Workshop was a creative renewal. As a working mother of two young children, it is difficult to find quiet and time to write. In a spare, clean room at Santa Rita Abbey I sat silent with my thoughts and took time to read and write. That alone would have been bliss but there was more. My fellow writers were inspiring, both in their beautiful work and their generosity during workshop. Together we laughed, cried, drank wine and ate delicious food. I left the Abbey with encouragement and revived energy to continue on the writer's path.

Teresa Shen Swingler

I have to make literally hundreds of decisions a day and though I enjoy them, they are not about writing. What an amazing experience to have my ONLY decisions be about words, the music of words placed in a certain order, the spirit of each participant's work and how to engage thoughtfully and soulfully with that work. Back at home, I have stopped checking facebook and Us Weekly and People magazine on line when I need to rest my brain. I sit at my desk and write and it feels more real than it did before our workshop. I am able to push the other decisions aside for a while and recreate the atmosphere of Santa Rita, where my brain woke up from a long sleep and I was placed on a new path. Thank you.  A million times, thank you.

C.E. Perry

author of Night Work (Sarabande, 2009)

I can’t wait to come back.     

                                               Margo Barnes