Hurry! This retreat always sells out!

Elephant Rock's 8th annual

summer solstice retreat for writing & yoga

JUNE 14 – JUNE 19, 2020


Join us at magical Stout's Island for the Seventh Annual Elephant Rock Summer Solstice Retreat for Writing and Yoga! Leap over the edge of doubt, where new things come from, and crack open a space for the unexpected. You will be challenged and inspired … and laugh –  a lot! – while becoming a vessel for creativity. This is your time to break new ground ... on the Island of Happy Days! Inquire soon, this retreat sells out.

Break Open Your Fierce, Original Voice

 "i am still searching for words ... because what happened at stout's was so huge." ~retreat participant

Writing something new is not easy. Did you know 95% of the 65,000 thoughts you had today are the same ones you had yesterday?  We constantly recycle our thoughts and memories and experiences, interpreting them in the exact same ways, telling ourselves the exact same stories. Learning to break free and tell new stories is one of the most powerful ways to transform our writing (and our lives). 

To be truly creative, we need to enter the vast space of the yet-to-be discovered. This Summer Solstice retreat will help you cross the threshold of the unknown while providing you with dozens of concrete tools and strategies for expanding and refining your ability to do so more freely in the future, long after the retreat is over. Read love letters about last year's retreat here. 

Photo by Elephant Rock retreat participant

Photo by Elephant Rock retreat participant

"Real alchemy in poetry or prose occurs at the frontier between what we think we are and what we are about to become; what we believe of the world and what it is about to overwhelm us, often against our will. Good writing is a conversation between seemingly immovable and movable worlds, and is made real by the writer asking beautiful and difficult questions that shape a living, breathing identity ripe for surprise and revelation. The writer’s practice is to cultivate a friendship with the unknown, to overhear their own voice speaking out of that unknown into the world and to ask for help along the way from those elemental powers encountered on the pilgrim road to discovery." --David Whyte


Writing workshops guided by Jeannine Ouellette
Yoga and meditation by Zoe Kingman

All are welcome, regardless of previous experience with writing or yoga! Elephant Rock does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of age, color of skin, national origin, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender expression or identity, sexual orientation, or anything else. We expect the same from participants.

Stout's Island Lodge View from the Boathouse, photo Debbie Zeitman

Stout's Island Lodge View from the Boathouse, photo Debbie Zeitman

truly remarkable

Jeannine was an excellent facilitator: open, sensitive, warm, and sharing of her expert knowledge. She treated each one of us as a unique individual and created a bond with us on that individual basis. This I found truly remarkable." Patricia Wylie, drama teacher and theatre director of Sierra Madre Playhouse, Sierra Madre, California, Solstice participant

eyes open and flame alight

 The  Solstice Retreat was truly a life-changing experience.  I'm so much more attuned to the world around me and beginning to see myself as an artist. I already miss yoga three times a day. Hoping to keep my eyes open and my flame alight. Allison Coffelt , author of Maps are Lines We Draw, Solstice participant

About the Retreat

Morning and afternoon writing workshops free up your thinking about words and loosen the binds on your creative process in unexpected ways. Your inner critic will fall away as you surrender to your innate ability to imagine the unknown.

Writing exercises engage powerful aspects of writing craft, including the senses, imagery, dialogue, and sound, among others. For writers with specific goals and projects, fireside chats will provide a space to talk shop and seek advice on specific projects as well as universal challenges of the writing life. Finally, select multi-sensory immersion activities and artistic work will echo and amplify the themes of the writing sessions.

Daily yoga and meditation foster and support creative synergy. As you connect your body, mind, and senses through movement and stillness, you release tension and cultivate insight and balance.

We will also explore a daily writing exercise for release, with a culminating celebration at the fire on Summer Solstice Eve. Get ready to transform!

about the Instructors

Jeannine, writing in her studio at Millay Colony for the Arts, 2018

Jeannine, writing in her studio at Millay Colony for the Arts, 2018


Jeannine is an award-winning writer of memoir, essay, and creative nonfiction as well as narrative journalism. She is the author of several nonfiction books as well as a children’s picture book, and her essays and short fiction have appeared widely in literary journals and magazines. Her work has been supported by Millay Colony for the Arts, Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and Tin House, and has been a winner or finalist in many contests including those sponsored by The Iowa Review, Masters Review, Narrative, Chattahoochee Review, Fairy Tale Review, Orison, December, Cutthroat, Tiferet, New South Review, and others. Jeannine has been writing, editing, and teaching for more than twenty years and is a writing mentor and instructor with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She also mentors students at the University of Minnesota, where she works as a writer and editor. Jeannine earned her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and recently completed her first novel. She is the founder of Elephant Rock. You can read her full bio here.

Zoe, practicing in the beauty of the world

Zoe, practicing in the beauty of the world


Zoe holds a bachelor's degree in Traditional Eastern Arts with a focus in Yoga Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She has also completed Naropa's 1,000-hour Yoga Teacher Certification. Her focus is the contemplative study of yoga, with a teaching style rooted in the cultural and historical context of the tradition while remaining relevant to today's lived experiences. Yoga is more than asana (yogic postures). It is the cultivation of connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga has been a powerful healing force in Zoe's life and she is excited to share it with you. Many in our culture spend very little time in an embodied state. Zoe knows personally how difficult true embodiment can be, especially after physical or emotional trauma. Personal experience has led her to teach in ways sensitive to traumas that might arise during embodiment practices. We will practice embodiment through the medium of physical yoga, intentional breath work, guided meditation, and non-denominational chanting. Zoe invites you to come as you are and move into all aspects of your being.

Retreat Schedule

Our Solstice retreat opens on Sunday afternoon with a casual welcome reception with light refreshments as participants arrive at the boat landing during the afternoon and evening. You will have free time for settling into your rooms and exploring the lodge and island and you may eat dinner at your leisure. Sunday evening around 8 p.m., we gather for an opening circle. The daily schedule includes two writing workshops, yoga and meditation, outdoor adventures, evening fireside chats and bonfires, and of course the seventh annual ritual dock jump in honor of Mary Ann Johnson!  A detailed schedule will be presented the first evening of the retreat.

Retreat Includes

  • Lodging at beautiful Stout’s Island Lodge (5 nights)

  • All meals except Sunday dinner (due to staggered arrival times of participants). Definitely included is our celebratory super-fancy closing dinner on Thursday night (in previous years we've "dressed up," so you may want to bring something fun to wear that evening!)

  • 2 writing workshops per day

  • 3 yoga/meditation sessions per day

  • Outdoor activities (kayaking, croquet, swimming, tennis, etc.)

  • An evening of writing presentations

  • Concert by songwriter Brianna Lane

  • Special session for candlelight yoga and intention setting on Summer Solstice Eve

Not Included: Dinner on Sunday (participants may dine in the Stout’s Lodge Dining room as they arrive if they wish), lunch on Friday, otherwise all meals included. Alcohol is available but not included (if you choose to imbibe, please do so only after scheduled programming and only responsibly). Transportation to and from Stout’s Island Lodge (parking and 10-minute ferry ride to Stout’s are complementary), incidental fees, damages, or optional excursions while on the island.

Retreat Fee

$2,295 per person includes private room, all meals, and all programming

Space is Limited

Please register early! Occupancy preferences (single or double) will be honored on a first come, first served basis as per availability at Stout’s. Double occupancy is especially  limited.

Payment Options

Payment by check, money order, Zelle, Venmo, or Square.  After March 15, full payment is required at time of registration unless you've arranged an alternate payment plan (see "Alternate Payment Plans" below).  

Cancellation and Refund Policy

No, don't cancel! But seriously, we do understand that sometimes, things happen. After March 15, we regret that no refund is available.

travel info

Stout's Island Lodge is an easy 2.5 hour drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. If flying, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is by far your best option, even though Google may try to send you to Madison (an option we do not recommend because flights are more frequently cancelled and delayed). From Minneapolis, you can rent a car and drive to Stout's or arrange to carpool from the airport with another participant(s), since you will not need a car once at Stout's. Once the retreat is fully registered, we help you connect to others interested in carpooling to compare flight times, etc. Final note: we recommend arranging the earliest possible flight on Sunday and the latest flight you can on Friday to ease travel stress. Many writers even arrange travel to arrive a day early and/or depart a day late. Feel free to send questions about arranging your travel to

Register Now!

Request forms via email to begin the registration process!

Alternate Payment Plans?

If you need an alternate payment plan (e.g., four smaller payments over a longer time) please email or call. Alternate payment plans may be available depending upon full registration. We want you to be able to attend if possible.

Questions? We'd Love to Hear From You!

  • Send an email

  • Call 612-801-2566 (note: Jeannine is traveling in Sri Lanka until January 26, but will resume returning calls on her return).

  • Visit us on Facebook


Stout’s Island Lodge

Stout's Island Lodge is an historic treasure is nestled on a secluded island in the middle of a quiet lake. The only distractions on the island? Birds and sunsets. Wind in the trees. Water lapping. Moments of natural silence. The sound of your own muse. You'll find no TV or phones in rooms (but don’t panic … wireless can be accessed in common areas and we’re assured that cell reception is good).

Stout’s sits proudly in the center of Red Cedar Lake, an 1800-acre lake in northeastern Barron County, Wisconsin (just two hours, 114 miles east of the Twin Cities). There are two islands connected by a 100-foot walking bridge. The two islands have a combined acreage of 18 acres. All lodging is located on the West Island; the East Island has walking trails as well as a small picnic cabin on the northern tip. Red Cedar Lake is known for its water quality, its fishery, and for its quietude.

At Stout’s Island Lodge, every room is different, every nook and cranny holds some unique surprise.

As described by Minnesota Monthly Magazine

“The main lodge is something out of a Bavarian fairy tale – dark wood, four-inch plank floors, and a vaulted ceiling crossed by heavy carved beams imported from Germany ....The cabins blend into the trees; dark-stained, their roofs green with moss, they seem to rise organically out of the ground. Railings are often made of sticks. And of course, it’s quiet – no cars, no interlopers. For real solitude, wander the smaller, uninhabited island linked by an iron bridge, a structure given to Frank Stout by Andrew Carnegie.”

Dining at Stout’s

Stout's culinary approach is inspired by the rich traditions of the Upper Midwest and the incredible local farmers, artisans, and purveyors who supply the Lodge. Much of the summer produce served at Stout's is grown organically. Note: Our included meals are vegetarian and delicious,  but don't worry! If you crave that bison burger or maple encrusted salmon, you'll have enough down time to indulge on your own.



Q & A

What if I love the idea of a writing retreat but am deathly afraid of yoga?

Don't worry. I (Jeannine) was deathly afraid of yoga when I first started practicing in public, and I sometimes still am. It's normal. But remember, yoga is not a competitive sport. It is a spiritual practice, of which the asanas (physical poses) are just one element. Yoga is therefore available to everyone, and there is no such thing as being "good" or "bad" at yoga. You don't have to be super fit or an extra twisty bobcat pretzel or have any extraordinary skills to loosen your body and mind with some gentle yoga postures with meditation and chanting. You'll be in a mixed group of all levels, you can take as many breaks as you wish, and skip as many sessions as you wish, as well. Sit in nature and watch the waves on the lake if that's what feels right. As poet Mary Oliver would say, you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. This is your retreat. Just think of it as a chance to pamper your body, loosen your tight muscles, quiet your mind, and inspire your imagination.

What if I'm a super twisty bobcat pretzel yogi? Will I be satisfied by the yoga on this retreat? 

Yes. You will be able to make this yoga experience entirely your own and will be invited to take poses to the maximum expression available to you. You will also have access to the yoga room throughout the retreat for your individual practice, if desired.

I've never really thought of myself as a "writer" but I'm really drawn to this retreat. Will I fit in? What if I suck?

You won't suck, or you will, since in fact we all do. Isn't that the point of shitty first drafts (ala Anne Lamott?) And yes. You will fit in! The writing exercises rest on a foundation that is universal, which is our relationship to words, language, expression, the world, and ourselves. To whom does that not apply?

I'm a serious writer trying to make my living at this arduous and competitive craft. Will this retreat offer me anything in that regard?

Yes. First, the writing exercises are truly innovative and will infuse your work with a fresh and unpredictable quality that can't be quantified but can certainly be felt, immediately. These exercises are unlike your typical writing workshop. They take you through the side door of the unexpected. They occupy your rational mind in order that your subconscious can guide you back to your own wildly beating heart. They crack you up and crack you open with fits of laughter and, every year so far, bursts of tears, as well. They sometimes make the hairs on your arms stand on end. Plus, we have craft talks at meals and in the evenings, where you can bring specific questions about the more concrete aspects of writing professionally. Everyone has to pay the bills, and writing is a very fulfilling way to do that. There is no shame in writing for money, and if you want some useful advice in that regard, it can be found in June at Stout's Island.

Hmm, what about this meditation? I want to be able to meditate, I know it's valuable, but whenever I try it just feels like obsessing with my eyes closed.

So you're human, are you? Seriously, though, isn't this why they call meditation and yoga a "practice?" The wonderful thing about retreat is having the opportunity to meditate in a group--both in silent stillness and as guided by a skillful voice.  I can't wait to feel what magic can happen for all of us on that island under the summer stars!