Write on the French River


May 26th, MAY 31ST, 2024 season

We invite writers of all skill levels to take part in the 11th annual Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat, 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 wonderful accommodations.

Please read on to learn about this unique opportunity that combines excellent instruction with superb meals and accommodations at Ontario’s top specialty lodge.

If you haven’t visited the French River, it’s time. Click on the button below for an article about the French River and the writing retreat – its a gift.

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The 2024 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 2023 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..

Meet our Instructors

Don Gillmor

Author of the novels: To the River, Canada: A People’s History, Kanata, Mount Pleasant and Long Change. Don Gillmor’s most recent book To the River won the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. He is the author of a two-volume history of Canada, Canada: A People’s History, and two other books of non-fiction, The Desire of Every Living Thing and I Swear by Apollo. He has written three novels – Kanata, Mount Pleasant and Long Change – as well as nine books for children, two of which were nominated for a Governor General’s Award. He was a senior editor at Walrus magazine, and his journalism has appeared in Walrus, The Globe and Mail, Rolling Stone, and GQ magazines. He has won eleven National Magazine Awards and a National Newspaper Award. 

More about Don

Marni Jackson

For three years Marni was Rogers Chair of the Literary Journalism program at the Banff Centre, where she’s currently on faculty with the Mountain and Wilderness Program. A former senior editor at the Walrus magazine, Marni is the author of three nonfiction books that challenge conventional thinking on subjects as diverse as motherhood and the medical treatment of pain. In 2016 she published her first book of fiction, “Don’t I Know You?”, a top-twenty CBC Book of the Year which the Toronto Star called “Nothing short of brilliant”. She is the co-writer of the Soulpepper stage show “The Secret Chord: A Leonard Cohen Experience

More about Marni

Lindy Mechefske

Lindy Mechefske is the author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens – Taste Canada Gold Award for Culinary Narratives 2019;  Sir John’s Table – Taste Canada Gold Award for Culinary Narratives 2016; and A Taste of Wintergreen (2011). Her work has also appeared in a number of anthologies, literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. Lindy is the food columnist for the Kingston Whig-Standard, writes regularly for a variety of magazines and is a freelance editor. Earlier in her career, she was a scientific copy editor. Her love affair with food and history began in her grandfather’s ancient Yorkshire kitchen in England. You can find her blogging sporadically about her adventures in the kitchen. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

More about Lindy

Meet our special guests


Writers who want to combine their many interests need a lot of pluck! This year we’ve invited guest speakers who can help us broaden our reading and writing habits to include journalism, blogging, social media, food writing, travel writing and history. This year’s special guests will tackle questions around publishing your work, working
with an agent and what it takes to get your work onto a retail bookshelf and on-line.

Jackie Kaiser

Jackie Kaiser has been a literary agent for twenty years. Her clients have won numerous awards including the; Man Booker Prize, Commonwealth Writers Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize, RBC Taylor Prize, Governor General’s Award, Trillium Award, Orange Award for New Writers, BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, Redbridge Book Award, California Young Readers’ Medal and Silver Birch Award. Prior to this Jackie spent a decade as executive editor at Penguin Canada, and her experience there – considering submissions, working with agents, negotiating offers, reviewing contracts, editing manuscripts, and working with my colleagues in design, production, marketing and sales – informs her collaborative approach to agenting.

More about Jackie

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

Small groups with instructors


Now is your chance to work with an award-winning writer and instructor in a small group (maximum of 9 participants) setting. Groups meet each afternoon, for exercises, readings and discussions specific to your interests. 

Groups in 2023 will explore the power of narrative. Don Gillmor plunges into using your own experience in your writing in fiction or creative non-fiction, while Marni Jackson trains the gaze on her “ Twenty-two ways to Improve Your Writing,” with a focus on narrative writing, and Lindy Mechefske tackles that big question of voice and how to find it in your writing. Have a further look at each instructors workshop format in the Retreat Schedule section below and its attached pdf. 

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


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 trip down the French River with our host, Alex, who brings this historic route to life. You will learn about the region’s extraordinary geology and river lore, including stories of the coureurs de 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

Please click below to check the retreat schedule.

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

2023 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:
$2340 + gratuities (10%) + HST


Based on Single-Occupancy with private bathroom

(your own deluxe bedroom with private bathroom in a shared cottage)
Tuition + accommodations for five nights + all meals:
$1595 + 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:
$1545 + gratuities (10%) + HST


Based on Shared-Occupancy

(shared bedroom – twin beds- with a shared bathroom)
Tuition + accommodations for five nights + all meals:
$1495 + 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 Alex Strachan, at: Alex@frenchriver.com. 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 4th, 2023.


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 $200 application fee, ONLY if we can fill that person’s spot at the retreat. If an applicant cancels on or before April 4th, 2023 and we are unable to fill their spot, their deposit (minus the $200 application fee) can be used as a credit toward a future booking at The Lodge at Pine Cove throughout the 2023 season. Should an applicant cancel after April 4th, 2023, 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.

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