Write on the French River


MAY 8 – MAY 13, 2020 

We invite writers of all skill levels to take part in the 9th annual Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat, Friday, May 8th to Wednesday, May 13th, 2020, at the magnificent Lodge at Pine Cove.

Limited to 25 participants and taught by some of Canada’s leading writers, Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat offers wordsmiths, travellers, innovators, poets, dreamers and creatives the gift of time on a storied waterway.

Whether you want to tackle that novel, draft a memoir, query editors, or make a living with your pen, you will find expert guidance and good-natured support at this 6-day blend of nature, culture, gourmet meals and superb accommodations.

Applications are due by April 5, 2020.

If you haven’t visited the French River, it’s time.



The 2020 retreat has remarkable instructors, see their bio’s below. They will allow you to step away from the busyness of life to write, reflect, rejuvenate, and have direct access to some of Canada’s finest writing talent.

Success in writing is built on dedication to the craft. The retreat’s instructors will help you hone that craft to whatever it is that you wish to create. The 2020 experience is built around the best of the retreat’s lively traditions, balancing innovative workshops, teaching and talks. The beautiful setting is very private and you will have plenty of time
to enjoy it all.
See below for details..

When you apply, you will need to choose one of two options: either the Standard Retreat (Option A) or the Self-Guided Retreat (Option B, limited space available). See below for details.

Meet our 2020 Instructors

Helen Humphreys

Author of the novels: The Reinvention of Love & An Evening Chorus 

Helen Humphreys is the acclaimed author of over a dozen book. The sought-after mentor, teacher and consultant has been awarded the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Toronto Book Award and the Harbourfront Festival Prize. The Toronto Star calls her “one of this country’s most beautiful writers.” Helen has written several novels, four books of poetry, and four works of creative nonfiction. The Evening Chorus (2015) was released to critical acclaim, as was The Ghost Orchard: The Hidden History of the Apple in North America (2017). Helen’s latest novel, also from HarperCollins, is Machine Without Horses. Born in Kingston upon Thames, England, Helen lives and writes in Kingston, Ontario.

More about Helen

Alison Pick

Author of the novels Strangers with the Same Dream, Far to Go and more.

Alison Pick’s best-selling novel Far To Go was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, and won the Canadian Jewish Book Award. Far To Go was a Top 10 Book of 2010 at NOW magazine and the Toronto Star, was published around the world to international acclaim, and has been translated into several languages. Alison won the 2002 Bronwen Wallace Award for most promising writer under 35 in Canada, back when The New Quarterly was featuring her early poetry. Critics are calling Alison’s latest novel, Strangers with the Same Dream, “brilliant,” “astonishing,” “riveting,” “ambitious” and “haunting.” Alison Pick lives and writes in Toronto.

More about Alison

Andrew Westoll

Author of The Riverbones and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

Andrew Westoll is “a born storyteller,” says none other than the eminent Dr. Jane Goodall. Andrew’s travel memoir, The Riverbones, is set in the jungles of Suriname, and draws on the year he studied wild troops of capuchin monkeys. His next book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, the biography of a family of chimpanzees rescued from a biomedical research lab, won the 2012 RBC-Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, was shortlisted for several book awards, and selected as a Book of the Year by The Globe and Mail, Amazon.ca, and Quill and Quire. His celebrated debut novel, The Jungle South of the Mountain, is about a lonely primatologist who’s spent too long in the rainforest. Andrew teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where he was selected a Professor of the Year by the Underground student newspaper.

More about Andrew

Meet our 2019 Consulting Editors

Pamela Mulloy

Editor, The New Quarterly (TNQ)

Pamela MulloyPamela Mulloy is TNQ’s award-winning editor and the creative director of the annual Wild Writers Literary Festival, in Waterloo, Ontario. Her short fiction has been published in the UK and Canada, most recently in Polish(ed), an anthology of Polish Canadian Writing (Guernica Editions, 2017). Her debut novel, The Deserters, will be published by Véhicule Press in 2018. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her husband and daughter.

More about Pamela

Susan Scott

Lead nonfiction editor, The New Quarterly (TNQ)

Susan Scott Teacher, writer, editor and guide, Susan specializes in memoir, the well-wrought essay, and in helping authors to release powerful, transgressive stories. She is the editor of Body & Soul: Creative Nonfiction for Skeptics and Seekers — an anthology (2019) of essays by diverse women writers — and a member of Native-Immigrant arts collective. Susan has been editing with TNQ since 2009, and teaching at the Retreat since 2013.

More about Susan

Meet our special guests


This year’s special guests will help us tackle thorny questions around how and why to go public with a deeply private tale. What are the costs of speaking up and out, and should we care who might be counting?

Lamees Al Ethari

Iraqi poet, memoirist, teacher

Artist, poet, and educator, Lamees is the author of From the Wounded Bank of the Tigris (Baseline, 2018) and a forthcoming memoir, Waiting for the Rain (Mawenzi Press). She teaches writing at the University of Waterloo, and serves as a consulting editor to TNQ.

To learn more about Lamees

Sharon Bala

Novelist and finalist for CBC’s 2018 Canada Reads

Sharon Bala was born in Dubai and raised in Ontario. The three-time recipient of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Letters Award now lives in St. John’s. Critics around the globe call The Boat People, her debut novel, “illuminating” and “necessary.”

To learn more about Sharon

Nicola Ross

Retreat founder, adventurer, author

The award-winning author of several nonfiction books – her Loops & Lattes series alone is a self-publishing sensation – Nicola is the former editor-in-chief of Alternatives Journal, Canada’s national environmental magazine. She set up the adventure programs at The Lodge at Pine Cove, founded the Write on the French River Retreat, and now pursues her love of writing, travel and sport full time.

More about Nicola

Retreat options

Option A, Standard Retreat

Small Groups with Instructors

Now is your chance to work closely with an award-winning writer and Instructor, in a small group (maximum of 7 participants) setting. Groups meet each afternoon, for exercises, readings and discussions specific to your interests.

Groups in 2019 will explore the power of narrative. Andrew Westoll plunges into creative nonfiction, while Alison Pick trains the gaze on fiction, and Helen Humphreys tackles fiction and nonfiction.

Will you have a chance to learn from all three instructors? Yes!

Each instructor also offers a Writer’s Craft Workshop open to everyone attending the retreat. Sample topics include: exploring poetry, developing characters, writing historical fiction, submitting your work for publication, leaping from lit mag to book deal, social media strategies and so on.

See the Retreat Schedule, below, for a general overview of the weekly schedule.

Option B, Self-Guided Retreat

Consulting with Editors

The Self-Guided Retreat option allows you to focus on your project then consult, one-on-one, with an editor when you’re ready for guidance and perspective. With this option, you will still enjoy the Lodge’s warm, immersive environment; you will not be obligated to sign up for group work.

If you choose this option, you will be directed to one of two editors: Pamela Mulloy, for fiction, or Susan Scott, for nonfiction.

Please plan to correspond with that editor in advance of the retreat to discuss a work plan. Your editor will need time to read your work well before May approaches, so you can have productive conversations when you finally meet in person.

Please note: enrollment in this option is limited to 4 writers only.

This Self-Guided Retreat is ideal for those who want more writing time, coupled with a fresh perspective on their work. Suitable for seasoned writers or for those new to the writing community who want to learn how to work with a professional editor.

Note: If you choose this option, you are also welcome to attend the Writer’s Craft Workshops as well as talks and panels with our Special Guests. Your time is your own; make the most of it!

See the Retreat Schedule, below, for a general overview of the week’s layout.

Retreat Highlights


Certain traditions bear repeating because, well, they’re just too good to miss. Here are two to keep in mind as you plan your packing list.

Student Readings

A highlight of the retreat experience is the closing banquet and student readings.

Your imagination has been firing for days on end. The final night is the time to enjoy the spotlight and to share a short selection of your work. Everyone is encouraged to read an excerpt – 3 minutes, max – from whatever piece they have developed over the week.

Field Trip

Another not-to-be-missed tradition is the guided river trip with our host, Alex Strachan. Alex brings this historic route to life with lively tales about the region’s extraordinary geology and river lore, including stories of the coureurs des bois – intrepid adventurers on route between the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River, who followed the voyageurs’ route to the west, filling their Montreal canoes with fur pelts.

Retreat Schedule

To view this years retreat schedule, click the link below.

Retreat schedule

The Lodge at Pine Cove

Why venture to the French River? Because Ontario’s premiere lodge in the heart of the Canadian Shield offers something special. Kim T, a lodge guest, writes, “This is a piece of Canadian heaven. We had the most wonderful getaway, and plan to return every year. A beautiful location, great food, an awesome little cabin.”

When asked what she liked best about the Lodge, a retreatant wrote, “We liked the screened porch, the cleanliness, the ambiance, the bed, the linens…everything!”

To understand how beautiful the Lodge is, please read some of the 200+ reviews on Trip Advisor Our guests will tell you about their canoeing, kayaking and hiking experiences, the delicious cuisine (including hamper breakfasts), our immaculate cottages, friendly staff and attention to detail. The Lodge at Pine Cove is a haven.

Cottages have from one to three bedrooms. All cottages have full kitchens. All cottages have a river or cove view, a refrigerator, kettle, coffee-maker, fine coffee and tea, modern bathroom, natural soaps, creams, shampoo and conditioner, screened-in porch, living area and fabulous beds.

Useful information


Your artisanal breakfast arrives at your cottage each morning in a wicker hamper filled with homemade granola, yogurt, fresh fruit salad, juice and freshly baked croissant. Lunch and dinner are served in the Lodge. For dinner, you will be offered a soup or salad, entre, dessert and coffee. Wine, beer and spirits are available at an extra charge. Please make us aware of any food restrictions you may have.

Explore our kitchen

Other Activities

You will have access to canoes and kayaks to explore the French River and Wolseley Bay. Hiking trails that begin onsite lead to spectacular spots along the river. There is a pool table in the Lodge as well as a selection of games and historical books in the Lodge’s Toni Harting Library. We also encourage you to explore the villages of Noelville and Monetville, about 20 minutes away by car, lie in the heart of Ontario’s historic francophone region.

Explore activities


Internet service via satellite is available in the Lodge at no charge. Since our use of broadband is limited, you will not be able to download or view movies, download music or other large files. There is no cellphone reception and Skype is not available. You are, however, welcome to use our telephone.

Explore the lodge

Getting to the Lodge

The Lodge at Pine Cove is a 3½-hour drive from Toronto (Hwy 401 and Hwy 7) and one hour from Sudbury. If coming from farther afield, you can fly into Toronto and either rent a car or take the bus (ontarionorthland.ca/en/). Or, you can fly into Sudbury. Pick up from the bus stop or in Sudbury is available for a fee.

Get in touch

2020 fees

Early Birds

Apply by February 15th for a $125 discount

Your retreat fee is based on your choice of accommodations. A limited number of private cottages is available. Why not venture out and consider sharing? Year after year we hear about roommates who go on to become lasting friends and writing partners.


Based on Private Cottage

(your own deluxe cottage with a private bedroom and bathroom)
Tuition + accommodations for five nights + all meals:
$1,850 + gratuities (10%) + HST


Based on Single-Occupancy

(your own deluxe bedroom in a cottage with a shared bathroom)
Tuition + accommodations for five nights + all meals:
$1,650 + gratuities (10%) + HST



Meet great writers and poets before they’re famous – once your enrollment is complete, you will receive a complementary one-year subscription to TNQ, publishing partner for our 2019 retreat.


How to Apply

The Retreat is a haven for writers of all ages and appetites. Instructors and editors are looking for distinctive voices, and for a diverse mix of new and seasoned writers.

Enrollment is limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.

Download application form


Download our application form, complete and return it by email to The New Quarterly’s Susan Scott, at: sscott@tnq.ca. Once we have received your application, we will contact you to arrange a 50% deposit that then guarantees your placement.

Full payment is due April 5, 2020.


Cancellation Policy

Paddlers If any applicant is unable to attend the retreat due to illness or other health problems, he or she will receive a refund for the amount paid, minus a $100 application fee, ONLY if we can fill that person’s spot at the retreat. If an applicant cancels on or before April 6, 2020 and we are unable to fill their spot, their deposit (minus the $100 application fee) can be used as a credit toward a future booking at The Lodge at Pine Cove throughout the 2018 season. Should an applicant cancel after April 6, 2020, and we are unable to fill that vacancy, their deposit will be NON-REFUNDABLE. We will endeavour to fill a spot left vacant due to illness or other health problems, but we are not able to guarantee it.

More Events

Early Spring - Summer

Paddle the Canadian Shield

Arrange a kayaking or canoeing event with Lodge at Pine Cove, on the French River.

Read more