"I am still searching for words," says one writer, "because what happened at stout's was so huge." watch this space for information about reserving 2016, and join the mailing list to make sure you get first notice!

summer solstice retreat for writing & yoga

JUNE 14 – JUNE 19, 2015


Join us at magical Stout's Island for the Third 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!


This retreat is officially sold out ... but cancellations sometimes occur. Email elephantrockretreats@gmail.com to be alerted if a spot opens! And for early notice on all future retreats, sign up for our free newsletter, which is crafted with curiosity and love about once a month.

Break Open Your Fierce, Original Voice

Writing something truly new is easier said than done. Did you know that 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 Emily Vizzo

All are welcome, regardless of previous experience with writing or yoga! 

Back by Popular Demand!  Fireside chats for sharing ideas and exploring all things literary, complete with a book swap on our last evening. Plus, a handful of longer writing prompts in the mix of the daily sessions. And finally, an exciting (and completely optional) opportunity: writers who have writing projects/manuscripts in process may schedule a brief meeting for mentorship on your writing and goals, with manuscript review if desired. To take advantage of this optional meeting, you need only send a maximum of 10 pages of fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry before May 1.  Email for more specifics if you're interested in manuscript review and/or an individual session. Don't worry if you are nowhere near ready for this kind of review. You are not required to have a manuscript or even a page of polished writing for this retreat, which is devoted first and foremost to creative catalysts accessible to all writers. That's where the magic happens at Stout's.

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

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


Brilliant, non-linear, inspiring: Jeannine Ouellette is a masterful teacher and her workshop was the most fun and creatively liberating writing class I've ever experienced. Eric Utne, publisher, educator, author, and social entrepreneur; founder of Utne Reader and founding publisher and editor of the New Age Journal, past workshop 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 disappear 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 each evening will provide a space to talk shop and seek advice, and private consultation about your writing is available upon advance request. Finally, select multi-sensory immersion activities and artistic work (all optional but highly recommended!) 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!


Instructor Bios


Jeannine is an award-winning writer of memoir, essay, and creative nonfiction as well as narrative journalism. She is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she is working to complete her first novel. She has been writing, editing, and teaching for more than twenty years. She is the founder of Elephant Rock. You can read her full bio here.

Emily Vizzo photo.jpg




Emily is a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher as well as a recent MFA in writing graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Emily's work has appeared in FIELD, North American Review, Ellipsis literary journal, and Jet Fuel Review. Her essay, “A Personal History of Dirt,” was listed as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. Emily deeply understands the synergy between writing and yoga. She has practiced yoga regularly since 2001 and began teaching in 2009 to small-group and private clients in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and ran the yoga program at an urban Title I charter school in San Diego. Emily has also taught "The Art of Journaling," a workshop for adults.  Currently, she teaches yoga at the University of San Diego and serves as assistant managing editor with Drunken Boat literary magazine.


Retreat Schedule

Our Solstice retreat opens gradually on Sunday afternoon with a welcome reception with light refreshments as participants arrive during the  afternoon and evening. Guests will have free time for settling into rooms and exploring the lodge and island and to eat dinner at their leisure. Sunday evening, we will have an opening circle for introductions and orientation. The daily schedule will include two writing workshops, yoga and meditation, outdoor adventures and humorous competitions (yes, get ready!), evening fireside chats about craft, books, writing craft, and specific projects,  nightly bonfires, and of course the third annual ritual dock jump!  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). Plus, a celebratory closing dinner on Thursday night (in previous years we've been "fancy" so you may want to bring something fun to wear that evening!)
  • 2 writing workshops per day
  • 2 yoga/meditation sessions per day
  • Nightly bonfires
  • Outdoor activities  (kayaking, croquet, swimming, tennis, etc.)
  • An evening of writing presentations
  • 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

$1795 per person, single occupancy

$1595 per person, double occupancy

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, or securely via PayPal.  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, but your retreat fee may be transferred to another participant if mutually arranged and agreed upon with Elephant Rock.

Register Now!

Simply request forms via email to begin the registration process, or download them here:

Registration / Photo Release / Liability Release / Responsibility 

Don't worry, the registration form is simple and the releases are just the standard fare, and no, we would never publish swimsuit photos without your permission (yes, many have asked, due the wonderful dock jump tradition!). Other questions? Please ask. No question too large or small.

Lodging Options

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!


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! 



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, no one has to do anything she or he is not ready for. 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—we are prepared to inspire you.

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 magic 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 sidedoor 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 raucous laughter and shimmering stillness. They make the hairs on your arms stand on end.   In addition, Jeannine will offer individual support for writers who come with specific goals, manuscripts, projects, and who have hopes of earning a living with their love of language. 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 say 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. We're even planning to try a bit of simple chanting. I can't wait to feel what magic can happen for all of us on that island under the summer stars!