Wild Seeds Writers Retreat for Writers of Color – Full Description

Wild Seeds Writers Retreat

for Writers of Color

[Formerly the North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color]

Information for the planned Winter Retreat in Brooklyn, NY will be made available Fall 2019.

Come enjoy One-on-One and small group sessions in a nurturing environment.

Fellows interested in participating in an upcoming retreat can apply online or via mail during open submission periods ONLY.

If you do not see your questions answered on this page, please contact the Center for Black Literature at 718-804-8883 or e-mail writers@mec.cuny.edu. Please note that all dates and instructors are subject to change.

Our History

Wild Seeds Writers Retreat

The Wild Seeds Writers Retreat (formally The North Country Institute & Retreat for Writers of Color), a collaboration with the Center for Black Literature, the English Department at SUNY, Plattsburgh, and the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers, provides a writing community where established as well as newly discovered writers of color can focus on the craft of writing and create cross-cultural conversations around the literature created by writers of the African Diaspora.  Writing fellows have an opportunity to draw upon their experiences as writers in a racialized society; to become knowledgeable about the issues and concerns facing writers of color; and to study with a professional in the genres of fiction, memoir, and poetry.  The first Writers Retreat, held in 2004, was highly successful and featured poet Sonia Sanchez, author Tony Medina, and writer Indira Ganesan. Subsequent faculty workshop leaders have been nonfiction writer Patrice Gaines, poets Martin Espada, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Aracelis Girmay; and writers Jeffrey Renard Allen, Marita Golden, Victor LaValle, and Bernice McFadden among many others. The Writers Retreat alternates between the Valcour Educational and Conference Center in Plattsburgh, New York, and the campus of Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, New York.

The Goal

Recognizing that the Writers Retreat should not be limited to a specific geographical region, the Center renamed the Retreat in honor of Octavia E. Butler, a speculative fiction writer known for blending science fiction with African American spiritualism. Butler was a writer whose writing crossed many boundaries and represented varying diverse voices. the Wild Seeds Writers Retreat strives to provide writers of color an opportunity to meet other writers; to workshop their writing among peers; and engage with published writers about concerns and issues related to writing and publishing in a creative, nurturing, and intellectually stimulating environments. Overall, the Wild Seeds Writers Retreat aims to provide the broader New York State area with an opportunity to become knowledgeable about works being produced by writers of color and the challenges they face.

Past Faculty Workshop Leaders

Jeffrey Renard Allen, Martin Espada, Bernice McFadden, Major Jackson, Indira Ganesan, Aracelis Girmay, Marita Golden, Patrice Gaines, Ravi Shankar, Tonya Cherie Hegamin, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Victor LaValle, E. Ethelbert Miller, Greg Pardlo, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Sonia Sanchez.

Scheduled Retreats

Applications will be reviewed as received until all spaces have been filled for each scheduled retreat. Retreats are held in the summer and winter. Scholarships are made available based on sponsorship.

Please see the hotel and travel options if traveling from out of town for the Medgar Evers College , CUNY Brooklyn, New York location. Tuition fees vary based on location. Tuition fees include lodging based on double occupancy and meals at the Valcour Educational Conference Center; this does not apply to the MEC, CUNY site.  To Plattsburgh, click here or visit www.amtrak.com for schedules for trains (for example, trains leave NY Penn Station to Plattsburgh, N.Y. in the AM).

Current Schedule

Wild Seeds Retreat Administrative Schedule – Summer 2019

May 24 – Deadline for applications. [EXTENDED FROM 5/15/19]
June 15 – Notification of Acceptance
June 24 – Confirmation of Acceptance by Residents
July 10 – Deadline for Residents to Pay Tuition
July 16- July 20- Retreat at Valcour

Winter 2020- please do not submit material until the application dates are open.

Location: Medgar Evers College, CUNY / Brooklyn, NY
Dates: To be determined.
Time(s): Each day is scheduled as follows, 10 am – 3 pm unless otherwise indicated by faculty workshop leader.

Tentative Genres offered:
Memoir/ Creative Non-Fiction
Tuition: TBD

What the Fellows are Saying…

“This experience was cleansing and it taught me to dig deeper or at least deep enough to write more honestly.”
—Eartha H., Legal Assistant. New York, Fiction Fellow – Author of “Love Changes” (2013)

“This was my first workshop that the instructor allowed, suggested, and expected to have you write from your spirit, and it instantly worked for me.”
—Miriam F., Paralegal, New York, Fiction Fellow

“I enjoyed the personal relationships that were formed. [Valcour ] was a wonderful venue. One of the best experiences in my life as a writer.”
—Sean A., Program Director, New York, Fiction Fellow – Author “Alphabet City Blues” (2019)

“I enjoyed discussing literature and the fellowship. This was the perfect retreat, and I believe that I worked with the best writers in the country.”
—Maggie C., Teacher, New Orleans, Louisiana, Fiction Fellow – Author of “Celestial Blue Skies” (2015)

“The feedback from the faculty, the independent writing, goal orientation [writing projects] getting to the breakthrough… it was great and on point because the fiction and nonfiction groups met together for class and received personal feedback from the genre specialist. They were great.”
—Elaine F., Consultant, Albany, New York, Memoir Fellow

“The best part of the workshop was the community of writers (my peers) with whom I had the privilege of interacting during all times of the day and night….”
—Sergio R., Los Angeles, Fiction Fellow

“This was my first experience in a true writers’ workshop. And it was outstanding. Sharing my story with the instructor and my fellow participants has really helped me to see my work in a new light. And I got some great practical advice and ideas.”
—Holly E., Journalism Professor, Columbia, Missouri, Fiction Fellow – Award Winning  Short Story Writer

“The NCI Retreat was a fabulous experience… having the chance to be exclusively with other folks of color allowed for a certain kind of safety, idea development and freedom of expression that I have yet to encounter in non-POC workshop spaces. Strong relationships were generated with other writers who I now consider good friends and allies. In four days, we established networks to exchange and share our work; raising the workshop roof, if you will, to maintain the dialogue and run with it beyond the time constraints of the Retreat.”
Amalia A., Creative Writing Instructor, California, Poetry Fellow

“The Retreat was everything I hoped it would be! Our instructor gave us exercises and readings that made us seriously consider not only the craft of writing, but also our personal development as writers. And, when it was time to workshop, [Victor] explored each piece with great sensitivity…My classmates, too, impressed me with their insight and commitment to writing.  From them, I learned how varied the contemporary fiction of writers of color can be…Overall, I am so glad that I was able to be a part of a workshop that truly respected what each individual writer wanted to accomplish.”
Rochelle S., Freelance Journalist, Georgia, Fiction Fellow – Co-editor of All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2014)

Applicants’ Submission Materials Must Include

  • cover letter indicating which genre you are submitting for FICTION or POETRY. Please include your name, telephone number, mailing address, and e-mail address.
  1.  Expressing reasons for wanting to participate.
  2.  How you would benefit from this experience?
  3.  A brief description of the project you are presently working on, if applicable.
  4.  Background information on you as a writer.
  • A paginated writing sample. [See guidelines below. Submissions not in adherence to the parameters may be subject to disqualification.]
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with their writing.
  • nonrefundable application fee of $25. [Payment options will be made available as retreats are scheduled.]

Highly Competitive – limited slots available per workshop.

Tuition: Based on location

Submissions Guidelines

Please paginate all submissions. Upon selection, be prepared to work on a particular project.

Submissions not in adherence to the parameters may be subject to disqualification. DO NOT SUBMIT FULL MANUSCRIPTS. 

Poetry: Up to five (5) poems.

Fiction/Memoir/Creative Non-fiction: Submit one (1) chapter of the book you intend to work on or one (1) short story.

Please submit to only one category at a time.

Submit electronically to:

E-mail writers@mec.cuny.edu / Cc: CReynolds@mec.cuny.edu  with “Wild Seeds Submission- YOUR NAME Genre” in your subject heading.

Hard copies – mail to:

Center for Black Literature
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
1650 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225

RE: Wild Seeds Retreat

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can students apply? Yes. Students at the upper level of high school and above may apply. If in high school, they should be exceptional in the genre of writing for which they are submitting an application.
  2. Do I have to be a professional writer? No. Anyone with an interest to hone their craft may apply.
  3. How are Fellows selected? Fellows are selected by a committee that includes writing instructors, writers and other qualified individuals for the genre. All recommendations for potential writing Fellows and sample writings are reviewed.
  4. Do I have to submit my references WITH the application? No. References may be submitted separately via mail or e-mail to writers@mec.cuny.edu; Cc: CReynolds@mec.cuny.edu with the subject heading:  “Wild Seeds Reference for YOUR FIRST NAME LAST NAME- GENRE”References must be received within one week of selection process; the dates will vary per retreat.
  5. Will Room and Board be provided? For the Valcour retreat location room and board are included with tuition. Rooming is based on double occupancy. You will have to procure rooming and meals for the Medgar Evers College, CUNY location [Brooklyn, New York.]

Tuition Payment Instructions

Tuition and application fees will be collected by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York (RF CUNY) on behalf of the Center for Black Literature of Medgar Ever College, CUNY. Click to make a payment or a contribution via the RF Tuition Payment System [for selected fellows ONLY].

Checks and money orders [no checks accepted after July 1, 2019] are to be made out to “Research Foundation of the City University of New York” or “RF CUNY” with a note that reads “Wild Seeds Tuition”.

 Mail to:

Center for Black Literature
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
1650 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225

RE: Wild Seeds Retreat