We are grateful to the following writers who shared their experiences and thoughts about Rockvale Writers’ Colony:
Two years ago I began work on a nonfiction book I had been thinking about writing for over 20 years. With competing priorities, I made (at best) moderate progress on the book. The best decision I made was applying for a writer’s residency at Rockvale Writers’ Colony. In one week, I accomplished more than I had over the past two years. That is not an exaggeration. I averaged almost 40 edited pages a day. Nestled amidst rolling Tennessee hills near Nashville, I could not imagine a more serene and tranquil environment for a writer to be productive than Rockvale. If you’ve reached a creative roadblock on a writing project or otherwise simply want to work in an environment devoted to one purpose, I could not recommend the Rockvale experience more highly.
– Bill Wilson, author of When Worlds Collide (2018)
Rockvale Writer’s Colony is an extraordinary gift for writers. I was thrilled to lead a full-weekend retreat for women who write—all genres, all ages, all walks of life. I went in with expectations for fresh air and room to write, but my expectations didn’t come anywhere close to what I experienced there. It’s almost as if the land itself offers up the words you need. Sandy and Heather were so welcoming and thoughtful about the workshops, and the writers who gathered were diverse and beautifully irreverent. There is something in the air at Rockvale. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back!
– Sarah Hays Coomer, author and health coach, Lightness of Body and Mind (2016), Physical Disobedience (2018).
In late June 2019, I checked my 16-year-old son into Cumberland Heights, a substance abuse treatment center on the outskirts of Nashville. I returned to Nashville a couple of weeks later with my thirteen-year-old daughter and former spouse for a three-day family education program. After they returned to northern Illinois where we all live, I stayed on, intending to write, from Wednesday to Sunday so I could see my boy again––Sunday being the only day for visits. I kept checking Airbnb for a place to stay but nothing led me to commit.
On that Tuesday night, close to midnight, something led me to an 11th hour Google search: Tennessee writer stays.
Up came Rockvale Writers Colony. South of Nashville! No application deadline! Partial week stays an option!
I promptly emailed and fell asleep. I awoke to amazing news: they had room and I was welcome to come. On her website, Sandy describes Rockvale as a haven for writers. It was in every way for me those four days. As a restless writer, I made use of Rockvale’s beautiful communal spaces, inside and out. I wrote and I moved around. Through those days and nights, part of me went from weary to restored. The halls and rooms of Rockvale Writers Colony feel infused with love from its former owner and inn occupants, enhanced today by its current owner, Sandy Coomer, who followed her dream and gifts it to others. Your mission matched my need. God bless you, Sandy! I hope you’ll have me again.
Lisa Werner, writer
I want to write a love letter to RWC! This has been one of the best experiences of my life as a writer. I’ve never known the extravagance of an entire week to have completely devoted to pursuing my craft. Thank you for this opportunity!
The environment here at RWC couldn’t be more conducive to creative thinking. The quiet was restorative, the house comfortable and accommodating and well-appointed. I finished every day of writing with a swim in the pool, then a relaxing bath and jacuzzi!
You have created a real haven for writers. Something sort of magical and mysterious happened for me in the front rooms of the old house and on the front porch. Maybe the old beams and floorboards have soaked in enough history that they radiate a grounding kind of energy. Whatever the source of the magic, I hope for a chance to return to RWC!
Cynthia Ezell, writer
Rockvale Writer’s Colony is a lovely and peaceful place to work. During my week-long stay, I was able to truly focus on my novel, but I was also able to enjoy that focus. I had the space and freedom to remember why I love to write. Although my visit to RWC only lasted a week, that week set the tone for my whole summer, making it a productive and writing-centered time. I’m already hoping to return next year!
Elizabeth Wagner, writer
My week at Rockvale Writers’ Colony was highly productive and restorative. I edited my poetry manuscript, worked on my novel, read a book of craft essays, and sketched out my ideas for a new chapbook. I swam in the pool and soaked in my big tub. I nuzzled the horses and petted the cats. I sat on the front porch in rain and shine. I walked the country roads and photographed the beautiful surrounds. I talked writing and politics with my colony-mates. But most of all, I experienced a rare, for me, sense of peace, in which I luxuriated. Rockvale Writer’s Colony is a perfect place–a real gift to writers–and I hope to come back at least once a year.
Kathleen Brewin Lewis, writer
My retreat at RWC for three weeks was incredibly inspiring and productive for me both as a writer and a person. The physical facilities are top-notch with all the creature comforts—garden bath, chef’s kitchen, pool, beautiful natural scenery, etc. I can’t think of anything that I needed materially that Sandy and Heather had not already thought of. Creatively, the energy of the space is incredibly affirming and encourages a high level of productivity without any unnecessary stress and anxiety. As writers know, this state of mind is the Shangri La of head-space, emergent and harmonious. And you don’t have to go to the mountains of Tibet to get there, just beautiful Middle Tennessee. I encourage writers from every genre, career stage, and life-path to give your creative self and your future readers the gift of some time here.
Heather Palmer, writer
Once my week at Rockvale was scheduled, my whole body relaxed. I’d been to one writer’s colony before and learned I can accomplish a lot in a concentrated burst, so my expectations for my week in July at Rockvale were high. Curving around green hills and barns being reclaimed by trees, I saw peacocks and knew before I turned to enter Rockvale: this place is magic. Each morning, I had breakfast on the writing porch, and then returned to my desk to watch birds, rabbits, and farm cats from my window while I revised poems, wrote a new short story, started a series of flash non-fiction pieces, and organized a manuscript’s worth of poems into recognizable sections. I intended to work on the manuscript, but somehow time alone with myself let my brain unfurl—out came nonfiction, which I’ve never written before. Out came a longer short story, which I was not expecting. Out came a new method for making a series of odd erasure poems. I worked until I was hungry, then I ate, then walked around to the front porch and watched deer come down the hill at sunset. My last night at Rockvale, a great storm rumbled up as I sat on the porch with another writer; the temperature dropped, and the insects went nearly silent. Rain came in waves; everything around me was alive. At Rockvale, I was my best writing self, fully focused and open to the universe for a week. Rockvale is now a green island in my mind, which allows me to return to the world, knowing I can return to Rockvale.
Amelia Martens, writer
“I loved every bit of my time at Rockvale. It does my soul good to spend so much time in nature, in the country quiet. At the end of the day, I’d go for a walk and rub the soft muzzle of the horses. It was easy to forget about the worries of life and home and focus simply on words. The farmhouse is spacious and the rooms are lovely. Sandy and Heather work hard to maintain the grounds and make everyone as comfortable as can be including a delightful welcome dinner so that writers can become acquainted with one another during their stay. Rockvale is a much needed gift to this part of the country and I feel sure it will help keep the tradition of the Literary South alive and well for years to come. I can’t wait to return!”
Marsha McSpadden, writer
“My time at RWC allowed me to work in a beautiful setting without distraction. In one wonderful week I was able to complete what would have normally have taken me a month. Grateful to have a place like this close to home.”
Sheba Karim, writer
“Off a country road, far from the hustle of work and family, sits Rockvale, a haven for writers. Here, surrounded by pastures and trees, you can think deeply, which leads to writing deeply. Time spent at Rockvale is a gift.”
Karen Bonner, writer
Patricia Feager, writer (retreat participant)
Flower Mound, TX
“From the moment I drove down Giles Hill Road towards Rockvale on a Friday afternoon in late July, passing neat wooden fences enclosing pinto and bay horses, I was enchanted by the natural world that coaxed me outside like a kind friend. A peacock and two white speckled pea hens wandered onto the pavement. I drove slowly as every curve brought its fresh surprise: a small flock of bluebirds glinting into the trees, a giant chocolate-colored draft horse in the shade of a tree, swallows fishing insects from a field of wheat. Finally, I passed a barn on a hill with two horses that came to be a familiar sight in the coming weeks. I turned into the driveway, stopping my car to allow a flock of wild turkeys to run across the road. They dunked under the fence, across a creek and up the hillside.
At the top of the driveway was another surprise. Heather guided me towards a weathered building. This was the Granary where I would spend the next three weeks. Inside the rustic building was a gem of a studio, complete with a kitchen and bedroom, and In addition to the beauty of the space, I appreciated the amenities, especially a luxurious bathroom complete with a huge bathtub, a shower, and very pretty wallpaper printed with shepherds and shepherdesses and also, given that I would be here through August, good air-conditioning.
The Granary with its huge window over-looking the horse pasture became the center of my creative world for the month of August. When I felt my writing become abstract or disembodied, I could look up from my desk and check out what the horses were doing at any given moment. These two horses, a chestnut and a bay pony, were not only a constant source of amusement, they were my two muses as they enlivened me with their physical presence and their playfulness.
Rockvale gently drew me out of the abstraction and “busyness” of my workday life, into the gentler world of nature. I fell into an easy routine, following my own rhythms, my writing rippling along easily as the creek that follows Giles Hill Road. I slipped into a flow state every morning and wrote the kind of poems that only nature, solitude, and time can produce. I sat down at my desk each morning, pausing every now and then to see the horses galloping to the shed during a rainstorm or playfully chasing each other to the fence-line and back to the shed. I’d look up and it would be three o’clock.
I wrote 20 new poems in my time here and revised numerous others. I also arranged the poems in my third book, a task I’d been dreading for months. Supported by the wonderful atmosphere of Rockvale, I found the courage to get this task completed. Rockvale has truly felt like the friend that supported me through it.
I need to make a shout out to the people here. Sandy’s thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and creative spirit animate the grounds, the farmhouse, and the outbuildings. The Monday night dinners prepared by Heather were delightful. I had wonderful talks with other writers—Jack, Kim, and Lisa— in the farmhouse and by the pool (did I mention that the pool and its setting nestled into the mountains are gorgeous and serene, perfect for evening swims after long afternoon walks?).
Finally, I loved exploring Columbia and Franklin. The history of this region gives depth and shadow to Rockvale. There is such a sense of place and history, and yet, because of nature and beauty, a sense of timelessness as well. My three weeks here have been a gift. I have felt supported and nurtured by this wonderful place. Thank you, Sandy, for creating the beautiful world that is Rockvale.”
Katherine Smith, poet
“I saw an ad in a local paper for Rockvale Writer’s Colony. It showed a beautiful old farmhouse/bed and breakfast in a beautiful serene country setting. I reserved a spot and contacted the owner, Sandy, and asked if there would be anyone to help me unload as I was having some physical health issues. She graciously answered that she would gladly help.
“Perfect. That’s the first thing you’ll think when settling into Rockvale, a lush setting in the Tennessee hills surrounded by horse pastures, a granary, a crystalline pool, and acres upon acres of room to reflect. The spaciousness carries over into the interior of this circa 1850s farmhouse expanded to accommodate 5 writers at a time in climate-controlled solitude. There’s enough character-filled rooms, comfy chairs, and porches to explore for days. When you need a break, there’s the kitchen where you can trade inspiration and stories with your fellow writers, if you’re so inclined, prepare a gourmet meal with Gaggenau and SubZero appliances, and again have plenty of space to create. Wander into the towns nearby and you’re immersed in history and charm that sparks connections anew for your poems or prose. One week is sublime, two weeks is better—Sandy has made this a true writers’ retreat that helps ideas and drafts flow like smooth Tennessee whiskey, smoky and fragrant, steeped in the heritage of the land.“
Jack Englert, writer
White Plains, NY
“I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at RWC twice so far, once for a goal-setting workshop and the other for a writing retreat—both times in inspiring and beautiful rooms. The colony provided me the headspace and physical space to write and escape the noise and rush of Nashville, my teaching job, and my sweet but all-consuming family. During my second stay, I sat at the writer’s desk in the bay window of my private room and completed the first draft of my second middle-grade novel. From that peaceful view, I tallied several deer, the farm cat, a groundhog, and countless birds while I wrote. RWC allows writers to carve out the extended time and respite they need to be creative and supports them in their journey. Thank you, Sandy and Heather, for the lovely experiences at RWC!”
Caroline Dubois, writer
“I loved my time at RWC! The farmhouse—the entire property!—is a writer’s dream. Private rooms, desks with a view, hiking trails, and hours of uninterrupted writing. Sandy was a wonderful host and took much care to make my stay as comfortable and productive as possible. I only wish I had stayed longer. Next time!”
Jacob Schrodt, writer
“The only thing I wish I could change about my experience at Rockvale is that I had come sooner! I spent a wonderful week here in July for an individual residency and was truly surprised at how quickly I settled into the beautiful surroundings and got some serious work done. My writing output greatly exceeded my expectations, and I completed difficult projects that I would not have had the time or quiet space for at home. Sandy and Heather are perfect hosts and the atmosphere for writing couldn’t be better. I loved all the little writing nooks throughout the property and the care to details throughout that draw the eye and awaken the senses.“
Hayley Haugen, poet
“As I neared the completion of my project I knew I needed a concentrated period of time with no distractions to go over it all again. Rockvale Writers Colony seemed like the perfect opportunity and thankfully my application was accepted. I had looked at the pictures and read the information provided, but what I found was even better than expected. I started my days with early morning walks around the beautiful property and then up and down the country road where I saw neighboring farms or got to stroke horses’ noses. My room was light and spacious, perfect for the seven or eight hours a day I spent at my computer there. The house was quiet – it disappeared from my awareness as I concentrated on my writing. Sandy and Heather (and the kitties) were the most gracious hosts. I met other writers as we prepared meals together or enjoyed conversations on the porch late in the day. By the end of my week I had accomplished all that I hoped for on my project, but the internal shift that calm beauty gave me lasted well beyond my days at Rockvale. It was exactly what I needed, right when I needed it. I can’t wait to go again!”
Courtney Hill Gulbro, writer
“Settling in at Rockvale for a weekend writing workshop was like stepping out of the noise of everyday life and falling into a quiet, lovely realm where the most important focus was the work of writing. I came away with fresh ideas and renewed energy, and I look forward to returning soon to that beautiful, comfortable setting, a different world so close to home.”
Gloria Ballard, writer
“My one-week residency at RWC was a wondrous gift. My room was spacious, very light, and so comfortable. And the best part was that my writing desk was set in a bay window overlooking a pasture and gorgeous tree, replete with birds and butterflies. I took long walks, photographed the lovely grounds, communed with cows and horses, picked wild flowers and kept them in vases on my dresser, and generally luxuriated in the boundless beauty. I enjoyed cooking in the kitchen, sometimes with the other writers for shared meals, and I wrote for many hours every day, producing more than I had expected to. (The lack of interruptions and freedom from responsibilities at home/work allowed me to be incredibly focused and productive.) Sandy and Heather provide so many little touches that make RWC warm and inviting: a community dinner, a personal welcome note, a library, lots of writerly resources. An added benefit is Sandy’s lovely visual art that adorns the house and is available for purchase (very reasonably priced!). I had such a wonderful experience that I am planning to return as soon as possible!”
Annette Sisson, poet
I wonder if you might write a testimonial about your stay at RWC. – Sandy Coomer
The perpetual sunlight paints the rolling hills
the biblical green of Lebanon. The incessant
breeze, the chirrup of the summer tanager,
and the exasperated soliloquy of the cicada
hush the bumper-to-bumper remnant
of Los Angeles. I hear the rhythm of Saroyan’s
words in my breathing, Everything begins
with inhale and exhale. A deer in the distance
munches on mulberries. Two cats frolic
on the deck of the back porch. I sit
on a chair next to a picket fence. Slices
of yellow wood bequeath Believe in blue.
I wait to write. When a pencil
caresses a paper, it whispers.
Shahé Mankerian, poet
Sherman Oaks, CA
“Every window at Rockvale Writers’ Colony offers a view of fertile Tennessee land that is both balm and inspiration for a writer. I could gush about the private bedroom and bath and the lovely writing desk, but I would rather you know about the creative energy that seems to imbue every corner of the house and land. It whispers through the corridors and trees, encouraging words to spill onto the page. By following her passions, Sandy Coomer was led to create this magical place. It exists for all writers, but each writer will make it her own.”
Rita Bourland, poet
“If you are seeking a quiet, clean, cozy place to get away and write overnight, for a couple of days or for a week or longer, Rockvale Writers’ Colony will make your dreams a reality. From the moment I arrived to the prolonged leaving (prolonged because I was so happy and satisfied there!), my wants and needs were met with expediency and generosity. Meals were delicious and healthy. The bedrooms are just the place for reading in an overstuffed chair, writing at an organized desk, or sleeping under soft linens including the necessary quilts that make for the best rest. RWC is stocked with games and books, and everywhere there are lots of nooks and crannies that invite sitting alone or with a newfound friend. Set upon a hilltop in Middle Tennessee, RWC is a rare jewel that dares writers to believe in our power to create. I plan on returning often.”
Cindy Phiffer, writer (Retreat Participant)
“My three-week stay at Rockvale was exactly what I needed: a chance to focus on my writing in a place that was comfortable, quiet and far from my normal world. Rockvale is in a gorgeous natural setting. The Tennessee hills and wide, ever-changing skies are inspiring. The only sound you hear is the mooing of nearby cows. The rooms are exceptionally comfortable, the bed a dream. (Even for a Princess and the Pea sort like me.) Having my own big tub AND shower was far beyond what I’d expect from a writers’ colony. Being around other writers working on very diverse projects from mine, was a plus. Sandy Coomer and Heather Meek are the consummate hosts and Monday dinners with everyone in house was a perfect way to start each week. I highly recommend Rockvale!”
Jennie Fields, writer
“I needed time to focus on my writing without distractions, and RWC is an ideal place for this. It is clean and well furnished with numerous common rooms where you can go to work or chat with other writers. My room had a bed with comfortable mattress, a desk, dresser, chair, and private bath. And the water was hot. The kitchen had everything I needed, and I was happy to make my own meals on my own schedule. Sandy and Heather did a great job of welcoming us and keeping in touch.”
Bonnie Stanard, writer
“Writers take note! A new state-of-the-art writers’ getaway is open for business in Middle Tennessee! If you’re looking for: days full of peace and quiet; clean, well-appointed rooms , each with a private bath; do-it-yourself functional and inviting kitchen and pantry; all outdoors to walk in between novels; an extra helping of thoughtful amenities investigate Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove TN. You CAN get there from here, wherever ‘here’ is.”
Wilmoth Foreman, writer
“Give yourself the gift of a peaceful and restful place to write. RWC is a lovely retreat with beautiful vistas outside of every window. Comfortable furniture, many antiques, spacious rooms, high ceilings, and a huge kitchen made for a perfect place to get away from all the distractions of home and work. I brought food for simple meals and found everything I needed to prepare them. Interactions with other writers were encouraging and interesting. Sandy and Heather were kind, attentive, and encouraging. I hope to return!”
Anne Kerr – https://truenorthfp.org/
“Rockvale Writers’ Colony is the perfect place to step away from the hectic pace of life and focus on your writing. I stayed in the Carriage House which was cozy and welcoming with views of horses grazing out in the pastures. Such a beautiful venue. My only regret is my time there was too short.”
Sharon Sigler-Allen – writer
Winter Park, FL
“Every writer is different. We come from different places with different stories. But we all share a desire to commit our stories to pages and seek ways to do it. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I’m at my best, my least distracted and my most productive when I’m away, particularly when I’m surrounded by writers.
Recently, I have found a creative and spiritual home at Rockvale Writers’ Colony. There is a palpable feeling of connection with the land, with myself, and with my art there. My experience was one of retreat, not away from things, but to myself and to my words. It is easier to breathe there. It is easier to create there. It is the creation of an amazing artist and creative, Sandy Coomer, who is an accomplished writer and understands us because she is us. Each writer’s room is beautifully decorated. I seldom left mine during the day as I wrote page after page looking out over lush landscapes. The kitchen and dining spaces are amazing and designed for community when the writers gather for meals or coffee or tea.
If you decide to venture out, there are amazing places all around the grounds to write and create. There are hiking trails to walk and trees to sit under.
In short, I was more productive during my too few days at Rockvale Writer’s Colony than I’ve been for months before or any time after. I’m already looking at my schedule so I can make application for future visits. It is a treasure and a writer’s heaven located in one of the most beautiful areas of Tennessee.”
Terry Price – writer, creative coach, labyrinth facilitator
“My time at the Rockvale Writer’s Colony was marked by a sense of relaxation and wonder. Every inch of the property appealed to my creative process, from the cozy nooks throughout the main house to the gorgeous gardens and sprawling pastures. I enjoyed dividing my time in a variety of disciplines — reading in the library, writing on the porch, hiking the grounds with my camera, and sitting among the hydrangeas in the garden with my sketching materials.
Self-care is an essential part of my creative process, and the Colony catered to that need with an expansive and well-equipped kitchen, cozy beds, plenty of linens and towels, an outdoor pool where I enjoyed swimming laps, and whirlpool tubs in each room that were nice at the end of a long day. The writing desks in each room are all equipped with writing essentials — including a small sand timer which I found helpful in responding to prompts. Sandy and Heather go out of their way to make the space special and welcoming, and I felt truly at-home during my stay.”
Ashley Trabue – poet, artist, and educator
“I visited RWC during a crossroads in my writing life. I was preparing applications for MFA programs, yet I felt acutely disconnected from the writing process, distracted by day-to-day obligations, both at work and at home. I needed somewhere to run away to, a place where I could reconnect with my writing and myself. RWC gave me that. I found myself alone with a pen in my hand, a notebook resting on the table in front of me, and then I was wandering down the hallways of my mind, opening doors, dancing through rooms, jumping on beds. I remembered how much fun it was to play with words. And how important it could be. Four months later, I still feel refreshed, engaged, excited to put words on the page. I have RWC to thank for that.”
Trey Adams – writer
““Wow!” That’s the first word I spoke aloud after I arrived at Rockvale Writers’ Colony. It was a word I uttered throughout my stay. From the simple beauty of the setting, tucked in the quiet rolling Tennessee countryside, to the tastefully and thoughtfully appointed rooms, to the big sigh I felt as my body let go of all that work-stress and life-stress, as I settled back down into myself a little more each day I was there, as I settled back into my characters, my narrator, my story.
Uninterrupted time and space is the writer’s most precious commodity. While many of us may have some sort of writing space at home, we don’t always have the chance to fully disconnect from the rest of our lives and completely immerse ourselves in our writing. Enter Rockvale Writers’ Colony!
You can tell the colony was created by a writer and artist passionate about having just the right vibe, just the right touches, to allow writers exactly what they need. With quaint rooms and sitting spaces sprinkled throughout the property, from rocking chairs on the front porch to a charming sunroom, there are wonderful places to hunker down and write outside of your own private bedroom. The big, open kitchen is a great spot for socializing; for getting together with like-minded folk in the evening. The sense of community and connection made at RWC was an unexpected takeaway.
The way Rockvale is structured allows each writer to dictate her/his own schedule, the amount of writing time and time for interacting that speaks to the individual writer, ensuring that each person gets what she or he needs from their stay. I can’t wait to return to this special place, lovingly curated by special people who have put their hearts and souls (and an awful lot of thought) into creating just the right environment in which writers can thrive.”
Lafayette Wattles – poet
Elmira Heights, NY
“From the minute I walked into the sunny farmhouse kitchen, I knew coming to Rockvale was a great decision. The staff is welcoming and warm, the rooms are beautiful and carefully thought out to serve a writer’s needs, and the grounds are perfect for taking a nice long walk. Plus there are horses and a swimming pool! Taking my tea and a notebook to the sun porch became a daily morning ritual.
It’s easy to have as much or as little interaction with other residents as you want. Because the colony used to be a bed and breakfast, noise from socializing in the kitchen is well insulated from the bedrooms, and everyone is respectful of each other’s time and space.Rockvale is an ideal environment to focus on your work.“
Christina Stoddard – author of Hive
“This place feels a little magical. Every view is spectacular, and wherever you turn you find a cozy nook perfect for reading, reflecting, or writing. My short stay at RWC gave me the headspace I needed to complete two long neglected chapters. Though it’s only a short drive from my “real life” it felt like I was in a completely different world, where writing is like breathing. Can’t wait to go back!”
Jennifer Wachtel Kates
Instructor, MTSU Dept. of English
Director, MTSU Write
Executive Director, Southern Literary Festival