Appledore Island Writers' Retreat

Photo of author writing in a journal

The Isles of Shoals, and Appledore Island in particular, have exerted a pull on authors and writers for hundreds of years. Naturalists, Transcendentalists, and now Environmental Scientists, have found inspiration and insight in the Isles’ subtle combinations of starkness and abundance, wave and shore, light and sound. Bell buoys, a lighthouse, and nesting gulls fill the air with their calls and alarms. Waves and kelps constantly redefine the rocky, striking shoreline, alternately sheltering and exposing intertidal animal life. Migratory songbirds carry seeds from the mainland to the sunlit island soil. In the presence of such beauty and interconnectedness, it is easy to imagine oneself into the history and environment of Appledore, easy to wonder at the nuance and correspondance, and easy to start writing it all down.

Led by the poet and essayist Caryl Pagel and poet Ossian Foley, participants in the Appledore Island Writers' Retreat will have opportunities to sample some of the research projects conducted by Shoals Marine Lab faculty, students, and staff, as conditions allow, possibly including migratory song bird banding, intertidal flora and fauna observations, and marine mammal population surveys, through field excursions into the natural environment of Appledore Island and surrounding waters. Our days might begin, to focus our attentions and tune our instruments, with short readings from authors such as Rachel Carson, Basho, Celia Thaxter, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Guests from the scientific faculty and island staff might share insights, findings, and research practices. Participants will look, listen, and imagine, and then translate from the natural world into new writing through a variety of writing prompts designed to encourage creative, imaginative immersion in the historical and natural environment that has inspired authors, artists, and academics for generations. Our writing may range from the experimental to the reportorial and documentary, whether poetry, prose, or hybrid forms. Toward the end of the course, we will make opportunities to share our new work with each other and consider possible revisions and ways forward. 


Start Date End Date Registration Deadline Register
August 20, 2018 August 24, 2018


Caryl Pagel

Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University
Director, Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Photo of Caryl Pagel
Caryl Pagel

Caryl Pagel is the author of two collections of poetry, TWICE TOLD (H_NG M_N Books, 2014) and EXPERIMENTS I SHOULD LIKE TRIED AT MY OWN DEATH (Factory Hollow Press, 2012) as well as two chapbooks, MAUSOLEUM (WinterRedpress, 2013) and VISIONS, CRISIS APPARITIONS, AND OTHER EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES (Factory Hollow Press, 2008). Her poems and essays have appeared in Entropy, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Essay Press, The Iowa Review, Jacket2, The Mississippi Review, and Devil's Lake, among other journals, and she is currently at work on a collection of essays entitled THE REALITY OF THE UNSEEN. Caryl is the co-founder and editor of Rescue Press, a poetry editor at jubilat, and the Director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. She teaches undergraduate classes in creative writing at Cleveland State as well graduate poetry and nonfiction classes in the NEOMFA Program in Eastern Ohio.

A recent essay on art, nature, and travel by Caryl can be read here.


Photo of Ossian Foley
Ossian Foley

Ossian Foley

Ossian Foley is the author of OF: VOL. I (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), selections from which were anthologized in Best American Experimental Writing 2014 (Omnidawn Publishing). With Emily Liebowitz and James Longley, he edits LVNG Magazine. His work has recently appeared in jubilat, Boog City Review, and the Academy of American Poet’s poem-a-day series. He teaches creative writing in Northeast Ohio, where he lives with Caryl Pagel and their dog, Satchel, and captains research vessels for Shoals Marine Laboratory.

A recent work combining poetry, memoir, and nature writing by Ossian can be read here.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation received

  • At least 30 days before departure = 100% refund
  • 29-15 days before departure =  50% refund
  • Less than 15 days before departure = 0%


6:00am Optional - Banding Station is open in the Grass Lab

7:30am Breakfast

8:30am Group meeting in the Laighton Hall classroom - special writing topic with Caryl and Ossian

10:00am Break out writing sessions (individual time)

12:30pm Lunch

1:30pm Optional - Documentary writing field activity with SML staff, faculty or researchers (i.e. guided hike, seal cruise, intertidaling, etc.)

3:00pm Optional - One-on-one discussions of participant work with Ossian and Caryl and/or individual writing time

5:00pm Social Hour on porch of Laighton Hall

6:00pm Dinner

8:00pm Optional - Evening activity (guest lecture, salon, or reading) or individual writing time


By Ossian Foley

Springs and summers in my mid-teens I’d ship aboard a 112 foot tallship, sailing about the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. I made my last trip aboard her as a 17-year-old deckhand, a return transit from Alaska to Washington through the Inside Passage. I climbed to the masthead and carved my name into the main cap with a knife, 89 feet above the water, where the rolling of waves of even a couple feet can translate into a 20-foot arc through the air. I saw on one watch for the first time both the Northern Lights and bioluminescence — full vibrant sheets of light above, bright sea-drift scudding by beneath.

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Event Type

Coming soon!

Price is per person. All-inclusive with: overnight accommodations, all meals, snacks and beverages, all program activities, and round-trip boat transportation between Portsmouth, NH and Appledore Island. This program is open to adults 18 years and older.


(603) 862-5346