We are grateful to the following writers who shared their experiences and thoughts about Rockvale Writers’ Colony:
My weekend guided retreat at Rockvale was a true pleasure. Sandy and Heather welcomed guests with kindness, providing restful rooms, sunlit writing spaces, contemplative nooks, and inviting trails. Meals were simple and healthy, served on beautiful dishware at cozy tables. A gathering of strangers on Friday grew into a trusted community of new friends by Sunday. I’m still glowing from my time petting kitties in the cottage garden, and writing new work at my spacious desk with an expansive view of Tennessee fields and golden, rolling hills.
Cathy Cultice Lentes, October 2023, Retreater
Rockvale Writers’ Colony is nothing short of heaven for writers. It was everything and so much more than what I expected. From the second I walked inside the farmhouse I dreaded leaving, and I’m already making plans to return.
Sandy and Heather have cultivated a beautiful haven for those of us who need peace and space to create. If you’re thinking of going, do not hesitate because disappointment isn’t a possibility.
Elicia Hyder, September 2023, Retreater
Spring Hill, TN
Note from RWC: The following testimonials were written by the same writer, capturing two different creative expressions of the same stay. Please enjoy!
For Those of You Considering Rockvale!
Do it! I give it six stars out of five and I’ll briefly tell you why. You’re isolated – I went a week without TV and am a better man because of it, as I didn’t hear the news or media telling me what to be scared of or what I needed to buy to be better. It was a psychological success as I learned how to be with my own self, which led to writing more and writing easily. Even the cats are friendly around here, and as far as living arrangements, it wasn’t too shabby having a Jacuzzi in my bathroom either.
My final thrill from atop a Rocky Top Hill
Not sure how it comes out when you mix a good pain in your gut with the lump in your throat with a big, fat glass of gin and tonic. Ironic for me to say, but perhaps in the most important times even words – as much as I dearly love them – aren’t the clearest form of communication.
How much you enjoyed your trip, for example, is in perfect proportion with the movement of your gut and the lump in your throat and the happy feeling tears when you drive away. Writers far better than I can put this into syllables if they want, but I prefer the feeling, the good pain, the laughing times.
I experienced high school now and then – to begin with – two things not on my “to do” list when I packed. By the Grace of a Gracie and an old Pal Named Hal, however, I got to appreciate my now, to only a day later laugh about my then, which served as better gauges than my defective GPS in winding me through these Tennessee back roads while avoiding all the deer.
On the unfortunate side of things, my Walden’s Pond will be replaced by interstates and billboards and a lot of “time is money” philosophies soon, Ahab will return in life with more to chase than just one mere whale.
On the good side, I dwell not just in a home but in an oasis, said oasis perhaps being a lifesaver. There’s this place, you see, where I share the halls with 571 others and, speaking of feeling – I feel the agendas of all those verbs, – those active verbs – who have no time to slow down for commas or periods or punctuation marks of any kind.
It’s positively chaotic, random events waiting to happen, adolescent minds trained and forced to hear so many adult voices. I sit off to the side, trying to explain the unexplainable, and I laugh whether I succeed or whether I fail because I know the God that I believe in knew what He was doing when he lifted and captured me and placed me right where I belong.
To be clear, I feel guilty about feeling this way, because many – oh so many – can’t relate to feeling this way about where they are. With this said, I write not to flaunt but to serve up so much gratitude it flows out of my gin cup, spills on this Tennessee floor, and trying to clean it up won’t work because I’ll throw more wet down there with tears of joy.
And finally, it’s love not ego I wish to express, winding up here instead of …….. God please don’t let me even finish this sentence.
So, thanks for a week with NO television. Where did I get my news, you ask? NO damn where and it was GREAT! Thanks for the unplug, the reset, the Gracie and the Hal and the deer and the runs through Rocky Top parks and farmland and even that pesky freakin’ dog that chased me through Hoover Trail.
With that said, I’ll travel home a week less “educated” with what the world or the media wants me to think, what I’m supposed to be ordering to look better, feel better, whatever better.
And that is as it should be.
Because as much as a writer appreciates the words, it is the feeling within that overrides it all, as I sit one last time on this Tennessee balcony – looking out at green and grass and horses and rabbits and deer at play.
And if I ever lose my oasis – first come looking for me, but second – if you find me – it might be at a place very similar to this one.
And perhaps I’ll sum it up this way, in the words that Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt in the movie “As Good as it Gets,” which are my thoughts on these Tennessee hills:
“You make me want to be a better person.”
Good day. Goodbye. God Bless.
My introduction to Rockvale Writer’s Colony happened in early 2020, the year that changed and is continuing to change everything. I first arrived on Giles Hill Road in February for the Artist’s Way Retreat. What an amazing and eye-opening weekend for this emerging author! What a fabulous, supportive, and loving group of women surrounded me! I’d already been accepted for my first 2-week residency here, and I couldn’t wait to return a month later to what in such a short time already felt like home.
However, by mid-March, the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, directly effecting my immediate family, as well as everyone else’s lives, so my residency was put on hold. Due to the ensuing chaos, I hardly touched my manuscript for six months. By the time I was finally able to return to Rockvale on September 7, 2020, my state-of-mind was nowhere near where it needed to be in order for me focus. However, as I drove the winding country backroads, I felt my burdens lifting off of me. Because of the pandemic, many things had changed, but once again, RWC welcomed me with open arms.
Thank you, Sandy, for creating and continuing to maintain RWC! Even though I didn’t get as much done on my novel as I’d hoped, my time there was invaluable. One new song, two new poems (including “Limestone Glade Musings”), and several new scenes within my book were written, plus many new ideas for future projects were conceived. But probably the most important to me were the new friendships that were forged in tears, love, and laughter, as well as the leaps and bounds I experienced in healing, personal growth, and self-actualization. So thank you, thank you, thank you for creating a safe place for both seasoned writers and budding authors to evolve and flourish.
Debbie Hamilton Schindehette, poet, lyricist, author
Rockvale was a gift I didn’t know I needed.
As many writers have said, the grounds are beautiful, the solitude soothing and the reprieve from the world fortifying. But I expected all of that – although I had underestimated the pastoral beauty of middle Tennessee. What a wonderful surprise that was!
For me, however, the true gift came in the form of Sandy, the other writers and the time and space to really get to know my novel and find its flaws, which were many. Without all of this, I would not have the opportunity I now enjoy to fix what is broken. Clarity. That is what came to me.
First, Sandy. As the hours at my desk ticked by, I would find myself staring out the window, feeling daunted by the complications of writing a novel. At some moments, it seemed near about impossible. So, I’d look out again. There would be Sandy atop a tractor with two huge mowers attached. She would ride for hours, taming nature, knowing she would have to do it again soon. But she persisted, undaunted.
A few hours later, I would find her in her office, classical music in the background, her brow pinched as she leaned over pernicious accounting ledgers. She was trying to work magic. She insists the writer’s colony be affordable for all, no matter what the numbers say. What a herculean endeavor. But she persisted, undaunted.
In the late afternoons, I would walk the halls of the farmhouse and study her art, which hangs along the long corridor on the backside of the house. I did not realize it was hers, for she had said nothing, another hallmark of this strong but humble woman. As the end of the day approached, I’d read a handful of poems from one of her poetry books. I recommend reading only a few at a time. They are wonderful, and you feel the weight of them, the weight of grieving. A weight she carries every day. Again, undaunted.
Just before dinner, I’d walk the gardens she tends herself, relish the word “believe” she has hidden in every nook and cranny she can find. And, after a week or so, I was surprised to find I did believe. How could I not? How could I possibly feel daunted over a mere book? Of course I would finish it. Eventually.
The other writers also inspired. It was a pleasure to be around people who were trying to do this crazy, impractical, dream-state thing I can’t seem to escape. I loved hearing the stories of their lives and their work. The journeys of writers are always interesting to me. These were also people who think about writing in critical ways, almost forensic in their analysis. As every intentional writer knows, there is the story, and then there is how to tell that story. These are very different species, critical to one another, symbiotic, but also separate and in need of individual attention.
This point was brought home to me with utter clarity in a conversation with a writer who has spent considerable time analyzing the craft of writing. This conversation alone may be what saves my book. I had begun at the wrong place. I liken it now to a hike in the woods. I had veered off on a spur trail, and my story suffered because of it. Sure, spur trails can be great and even useful, but they better lead you somewhere – or you could be lost forever.
I am deeply grateful for my two-week stay at Rockvale and hope to return again soon. If you have the chance to go, take it. You will learn something, probably different from what I learned, but something important and unique to you. One thing is for sure. You will not regret your stay at Rockvale, so jump.
Rockvale Writer’s Colony is a gem for writers who need an inspiring place to unplug and create. I turned off all of my notifications as well as all of my outside responsibilities and reconnected with my internal compass. I took some energizing hikes (if you follow Choctow Road to the split and go back to RWC, it’s five gorgeous rolling miles), met some sweet animals and people, and relished the quiet, which drew forth unexpected words and images in my writing. I rediscovered how essential solitude, long periods of focus, and the beauty of the natural world are to my work. I can’t wait to return to RWC.
My time at Rockvale was a much-needed escape that served to revitalize my writing and my spirit! Every morning, I began the day with a walk in the beautiful countryside followed by a peaceful swim in the pool. Being active in nature unlocked my writing and helped me tap back into my creative side after being in the trenches of early motherhood for the past 18 months. I enjoyed the unique combination of solitude and solidarity I found at Rockvale and was struck by the level of care placed in all facets of this magical place. I have a special fondness for the tables by the pool, where I wrote beneath the watchful gaze of a mama horse and her baby.
I loved taking breaks and having coffee or tea on the porch or finding inspiration in the garden. Though I was only at Rockvale for four days, it was enough time for me to reset and to feel inspired again.
I finally sent my middle grade novel—a manuscript I revised at the colony—to my agent. RWC gave me the space and the resources I needed to rediscover my writing and my sense of self. The photography on the site simply doesn’t do this place justice. What a beautiful, special place Rockvale is. I’m already plotting ways to return next year.
The first time I stepped through the doors of Rockvale Writers’ Colony, I felt relief. I knew I had found a home and a place that I would return to. There is magic in this place that is difficult to explain until you feel it. The quiet of the farmhouse and the land inspires writing and creativity.
I have been to Rockvale for both retreats and a weeklong residency. Each time is special. My work has opened up in ways I could not have imagined in the uninterrupted time to work. I have met wonderful people each time I have been at RWC. Some have become friends who I have remained in touch with since my visits.
I look forward to returning.
Thanks to Sandy and a wonderful collection of writing peers, my week at Rockvale was peaceful and productive, joyful and reflective. In between bike rides and walks, petting the cats, refreshing swims in the pool, socializing with new friends, and observing from the desk in my room two foals playfully dancing in the pasture, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Quite simply it was a perfect week. The accommodations and setting are flawless. My only regret is staying one week instead of two.
I did a final walk around the farmhouse this morning before leaving Rockvale. I was struck once again by how open and creatively-inspiring each space in the house is. Having two weeks to be here, I let myself sink into the experience of Rockvale and middle Tennessee. I was not disappointed. I found it easy to spend a full day working at my computer, and, come five o’clock, wander into the kitchen and socialize again. I walked the land and found snail fossils and coyote scat. I sat on the front porch in the swing in the late afternoon and read, or just listened to the birds or the cows across the way lowing. Some days, I took off and explored the area for a couple of hours. (Highly recommend a drive over to Thompson’s Station and the 1819 Coffee House, or Spring Hill’s The Fainting Goat.) Everything about Rockvale felt fulfilling and serene. I’m grateful to have gotten to spend time here.
Rockvale is its own world – and a beautiful, magical one at that.
There is inspiration everywhere: in the farmhouse, around the property, the energy from your fellow residents, the animals (special love to Oliver and Finn!). Every space feels so carefully curated, open, airy and inviting but private.
As someone who values A Space, being able to settle into RWC and make my desk area feel like mine, while also being removed from the day-to-day responsibilities, thoughts and expectations was a dream. In addition to peace provided by the physical space, I also had the mental space to work through some more difficult pieces, and focus on the craft and what I wanted to say, versus having to meet a deadline, or get things done quickly because of the other demands on my time.The very first night, I had a burst of inspiration, and by the morning of my second day, I was able to work through and generate content that I know wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
I also so appreciated making my own schedule – mealtimes at my leisure, walks when I needed a break, even flopping on the bed and staring at the ceiling to zone out a little. The other writers and I ended up finding a synchronicity that allowed us to spend days separately, but come together at night. We even had a community dinner and reading evening, which was a lovely experience.
I am so grateful for all RWC offers and I genuinely hope to return in the future. In the interim, I’ll be drawing on RWC’s enchantment for as long as possible.
I cannot thank you enough for this week, and for this space you’ve created here. I was finally able to focus and make progress on my story. I was able to connect with other writers whom I now call friends. We’ve already shared contact info so that we can continue sharing our progress after we return to life. The four of us were able to connect in so many ways. We ate together, we walked together, played games, read some of our work to each other, and encouraged each other. It was exactly what we all needed. I don’t believe anything is random, and in a unique example of that, we’re all working on non-fiction pieces (three of them memoirs!).
This place is truly magical. The beauty of creation around me helped to spur my creativity and inspire progress in a way I could not accomplish at home. I’m already trying to work out my schedule for a return, but my stay here has motivated me to a new level of commitment to the craft. I’m looking forward to the new trails I find when I come back to RWC.
I can’t tell you how much my stay at Rockvale meant to me. The time away from daily tasks, along with the peaceful farm setting, left me feeling balanced and ready to write. One of my favorite things about Rockvale is the love that’s been put into the land. Walking the garden and the trails, I came upon dedications and poems that made me slow down and open to what the natural world was up to. I’ve never experienced bird song and water drips like I did on the Fern Moss Trail, where a dedication sign encouraged me to pay attention to the earth’s music. These outdoor meditations rejuvenated me and gave me energy and space to write and heal.
My project-based work was fruitful, and I left very proud of what I had accomplished. I wrote in a month what I had been struggling to find time to write for the past five years. None of it is perfect, but it is written, and I am so grateful to Sandy, the space she has put together at Rockvale, and the people she brings together within it, to allow that writing to happen.
Meeting and living with the other writers in the farmhouse exceeded what I could wish for in a shared experience. While we didn’t have any formal workshops or reviews (although I would be open to it!), we constantly discussed our processes, our ideas, our challenges, and our inspirations—being surrounded with people who shared similar passions, interests, and challenges was so helpful in my own writing journey.
I hope to return to Rockvale and to the sanctity it offers. Thank you Sandy and team!
Rockvale is magic! I found it was the perfect place to come and reset after weeks and months of struggling with revisions – re-learn how to concentrate and find the rhythm and generally take care of oneself. The house is rambling and cozy and ancient, the landscape is beautiful, the trails just rugged enough to break a sweat after a few hours of bending over a manuscript. I loved the community I found with the other guests. There’s an atmosphere of shared work and respect, a mini-culture that respects quiet and privacy but is always around in the evening to share jokes and war stories over drinks. And everyone is right about Sandy’s attention to detail in keeping the house immaculate and luxurious. I left feeling regenerated and inspired, and I miss it already.
A Writer’s Dream
I have been studying the craft of writing for a long time. Writers’ conferences, workshops, critique groups, organizations, and literary competitions are some of the interactive tools that helped my writing grow. In 2021, I added a Rockvale Writers’ Colony Residency to that list.
Looking at the RWC website gave me a beautiful preview of what to expect, but the reality of having days and days free for writing turned out to be one of the best and most unique experiences of my writing life. The green hills and fields around the farmhouse took me away from the worries of the rest of the world as I stepped into “a writer’s dream.”
Settling in is restful here. The old walls and floorboards welcome. There is no hurry, the gentle touches of history seem to say. Sit a spell and soak. Writers come and go as they choose, our own words calling us back to our individual rooms and other sheltered nooks: the library, the writing porch, the sitting room, the garden. I take walks and photographs that inspire me. There is more to writing than research, keyboard, and pen.
We need solitude and time. A writer’s words come from everything he or she has experienced, every emotion, sight, or sound, every touch and taste and smell and every movement and balance. Yet, somehow, the words are none of those things. They are more, brand new. Such crafting cannot be rushed.
That is what Rockvale Writers’ Colony has given me. I return home refreshed and refilled. We all need space to recover from life, to heal. We all need a place to dream.
Jan McDaniel, writer & Flash Fiction Contest fellow
RWC has just enough of everything you need–and nothing that you don’t–to be productive, focused, and comfortable. I was amazed at the level of detail and thoughtfulness Sandy has put into making this place the perfect blend of escape and engagement. It was also spotlessly clean, and she must have worked some kind of magical spell to make that bed as comfortable as it was. I want the incantation!
Sarah Schiff, writer
This week at Rockvale has been invaluable. The peacefulness and cooperative spirit I felt here was exactly what I needed to write. Everywhere I went–my bedroom, the trails, the writer’s porch, that great armchair in the living room–every place seemed as though it were specially made as a place that invited writing and reflection. Partly, it’s the details that Sandy has attended to–everything from encouraging words blazed across fences and rocks, the bookshelves full of Rockvale writers’ published books, the “unwind” shelves, all the cozy corners you can curl up in and write; and it’s also the history and beauty of the land and house, which suffuse the whole place with a spirit that made it feel like a second home. I knew when I was accepted that a week-long writing residency was going to be amazing, but I had no idea just how much it would mean to me. My only regret is not having more time to live in this little heaven. I already look forward to the time I can return.
Tanya Bomsta, writer
I’ve been a writer for decades, but I’ve never written a book. For the last five years, I’ve dreamed of researching and writing a book about an extraordinary (but forgotten) woman in the Gilded Age. But in the midst of endless distractions and to-do’s — especially after having moved cross-country to a new state in the midst of COVID, I couldn’t seem to make any headway.
Then I spent a week at Rockvale Writers Colony. “Renaissance woman” and gifted poet Sandy Coomer has poured herself, body and soul, into transforming an already-beautiful historic (1850s) farm and B&B in the serene green hills of Middle Tennessee into a true writers’ Shangri-La. In just six days, what I received inwardly and through pivotal conversations with the other writers enabled me to accomplish more than I’d ever thought possible in such a short period of time. If you have the opportunity to spend a week (or more) at RWC, don’t hesitate for a moment.
Carol Hubbard, writer
Believe (A little ditty)
On a hill above Flat Creek
A daughter of Tennessee
Invites those who believe
To come, create
And in the silence of an early morn
And the majesty of evening storm
Those believers open up their hearts
And find just what they need
Belief in the goodness of their own creations
For they are filled with joy and love
Belief in their own good hearts
In a world that mocks good hearts
“Believe.” The daughter says.
And then she opens up the ground
And plants a tree that she believes
Voices of fear surround us
Is there peace to be found in this world
The Tennessee daughter assures
“Listen to your own voice. Believe.”
Believe in the goodness of your own creations
For they are filled with joy and love
Believe in your own good heart
Even though the world mocks good hearts
“Believe.” The daughter says.
And then she opens up the ground
And plants a tree that she believes
To those who believe. RWC June 2021
Richard Lawson, poet
If you are a writer at any place in your career, a visit to Rockvale will prove to be the creative retreat you need. Sandy welcomes you with the same peace and kindness that the idyllic landscape does as you drive through the central Tennessee hills to the colony. The tranquil environment made me feel that I had arrived at a place where I had always wanted to be but hadn’t realized it until I was there. The lush and pastoral property provides an interminable amount of open, natural space to explore and absorb, which truly unlocked a level of creativity and drive that I didn’t even know I had. This was one of the best things I’ve ever done, not only for my growth as a writer, but as a human being as well. I recommend the retreat for any writer and wish Sandy and the staff the best in their vision and passion for the colony. I can’t wait to come back. I heartily recommend it!
Scott Beard, writer
There comes a time where you need to just get away from it all and get some writing done. That was all I was looking for when I applied to Rockvale Writer’s Colony, and that was exactly what I got – and more. Every inch of RWC made me feel at ease, whether it was the dozens of comfortable seats around the Farmhouse, the professional desks of my personal bedroom, or the relaxing couches of the various reading rooms.
As someone who needs to exercise and eat a meal before I can get my day started – let alone write – RWC had me covered. Everything was spaced out well enough that I could do my routine without worrying about getting in someone else’s way, but close enough that I never felt too isolated or far away from people. All of that and more helped me get about a month’s worth of writing done in just a few days. Maybe that says more about my ability to focus when I’m back home, but RWC definitely helped me keep my writing habits sharp.
Last but not least to love is Sandy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone more dedicated to making you comfortable and welcome as the RWC director. If you have a question, she’ll answer it. If you have a problem, she’ll help you solve it. If you need a tennis partner… well I don’t play tennis, but I’m sure she’ll join you when she’s not too busy.
All told, it was a terrific, rewarding experience and one that really helped me decompress at a tough time, all while getting some solid writing work done. Looking forward to going back real soon!
Tzvi Machlin, writer
It’s hard to say what the best thing was about my first experience at Rockvale. I had a terrible case of Imposter Syndrome when I went there. I was sure I didn’t have anything to share or learn, even though I am in fact, almost 75% done with a manuscript. I still doubted myself. I figured I would likely only see my fellow writers in residence in passing and would mainly keep to myself. I came there to write after all. I was going to put my nose down and produce chapter after chapter!
But as we know, writing doesn’t go in a straight line, and hearing that while meeting the other writers in the kitchen or on the porch, was very helpful for me. Regardless of our differing genres, I don’t think any of us did exactly what we came to do, but what we did do was actually enough in the end. Each of us had moments when we shared our struggles and at least one of us was able to offer a listening ear or a comment that seemed to help. Just walking down the hall, past the closed doors of the others’ rooms, was somewhat reassuring: we were all facing our challenges and doing what we could to move forward at least a little on our projects.
Rockvale is a place of deep beauty, peace, safety, and support. There’s a chair, a desk, a porch, a room, a view for every mood, whether you are writing, researching, finding a book in the library, or watching the sun rise or set. You can walk with the cats for acres and acres, listen to the birds, visit the garden or barn, or listen to the cows calling to each other on the hill in front of the house. The hot water, bed, rooms, and buildings are amazing too!
I greatly appreciate Sandy’s creation of this amazing place which specifically supports and nourishes writers at every stage of their project. I will definitely return again to let it work its magic on me.
Kathleen Rugel, writer
I recently had a six-day residency at Rockvale. It could not have been more successful. Rockvale is a place of openness, beauty, peace, and inspiration. The accommodations are beautiful. There were other residents there, but enough separation to feel safe from the dreaded virus. It took two days to settle in and then it was write, write, write. I am grateful to Sandy for creating SUCH a wonderful writers’ haven. I will be back.
Jean Peelen, writer
Flat Rock, NC
During my stay at Rockvale, I was master of my own time, and my days were mine without any distractions; however, if I needed any distractions, all I had to do was sit on the front porch and take in the beauty of the surroundings. In my two-week stay, I gained serious focus, and as a result I produced, reaching several of my writing goals. HUGE shout out to Sandy and Heather, the amazing caretakers of Rockvale. It is a magical place mainly because they make it so.
John Baum, writer
When my poems began to speak to one another during one of the most stressful times in our global history, I was hit with the unmistakable knowledge that it was time to retreat into a silence strong enough to support the crafting of my first poetry collection. I thank the stars above every day—and that is no exaggeration—that I found RWC to support that dream. During my serene and wildly productive week in that magical farmhouse (although I prefer to think of it as a sacred cathedral of creativity), I tapped into a level of my subconscious that I had never known before. I discovered a new voice, and it’s all thanks to the specific mysticism of RWC. The opportunities for solitude abound, but should a writer need the special communion of nature and activity, RWC offers that everywhere, as well. The animals, sounds, sights, and activities make it an artist’s absolute dream. I don’t think I could ever invent a better investment in myself and my creativity, and I cannot wait to return.
Kelly Baron, poet
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 & 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 <strong
“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
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
Testimonial 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, writer
“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, MTSU Dept. of English Director, MTSU Write Executive Director