Rivendell Writers’ Colony


Location: Sewanee, Tennessee, USA


Mission: Rivendell Writers’ Colony is a haven for literature, art, fellowship and creative solitude. We aim to inspire the imagination by offering residencies, workshops and other programs to both published authors and aspiring writers. Rivendell is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and proudly calls Sewanee, Tennessee home.

Our purpose is to:
1. Bring together aspiring artists, writers, and the general public in an atmosphere of acceptance, collaboration, and creative fervor, with the ultimate goal of fostering great writing and art;
2. Provide educational experiences and opportunities to aspiring artists, writers, and the general public that will promote imagination, creativity, spirituality, and self-realization;
3. Relieve the financial burdens on aspiring writers and artists by providing subsidized residencies so that they may pursue their crafts;
4. Promote literacy and to share the joys of reading and writing with others; and
5. Share the beauty of nature and to educate the public on ways to preserve the natural environment and prudently utilize its resources.

The manor that is now home to Rivendell Writers’ Colony was built between 1905-1910 by Malcolm MacDowell. After changing hands several times over the next 80 years, the home was acquired by Mary Elizabeth Nelson in 1990. Ms. Nelson began renovations on the home in 2005, envisioning a space that would cultivate the imagination of writers and inspire possibility. Today the home still sits on much of its original footprint, the hardwoods floors laid by the MacDowell’s in the early 1900s gently yielding to the footsteps of the home’s rotating residents.


It was during the 1980s, when a family with small children resided in the main house, that the property was named Rivendell. The home and surrounding land, positioned on the edge of a bluff secluded from the rest of Sewanee and often covered in a dense but comforting fog, reminded the children, avid readers of J.R.R. Tolkien, of the world Tolkien created for the elves in THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Rivendell Writers’ Colony adjoins and builds on the legacy of the historic Brinkwood property once owned by William Alexander Percy, and later his novelist cousin, Walker Percy. “Uncle Will,” as he was affectionately known to Walker and his two brothers, and his home at Brinkwood provided the foundation for Walker’s vivid imagination and keen sense of observation, as well as access to numerous well known authors and artists who often stopped by to visit. Walker Percy spent many summers at Brinkwood during his young adult life and his entire first year of marriage. It is here where he developed many of his characters, as well as references to settings like Lost Cove, the area Brinkwood and Rivendell overlook.

But Rivendell’s literary legacy doesn’t end there. Located between Nashville and Chattanooga atop the Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, Tennessee, Rivendell shares the mountaintop with the Sewanee Review, the nation’s oldest continually published literary quarterly, founded in 1892 and publisher of original works by Flannery O’Connor, T.S. Eliot and Wendell Berry. For the last 25 years, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference has brought authors, publishers and literary critics from around the world to Sewanee each summer through funding provided by the Tennessee Williams estate. And now heading into its twelfth year, the Sewanee School of Letters, an MFA and MA degree program offered at the University of the South, brings writers, both creative and academic, to the Mountain each summer as part of its low-residency program.

We welcome each of these wonderful literary institutions to participate in life at Rivendell, offering their rich traditions and literary resources for our residents.

Ms. Nelson has committed over twenty years of her energy, resources and hope to Rivendell. Her enduring efforts, along with her love and care for the natural beauty and land surrounding Rivendell and Brinkwood, continue to create opportunities for writers to deepen their imaginations and awaken possibilities.

We hope you’ll join us as we help write another chapter in the literary history of Sewanee.

Cost: All new applicants are considered for one of our fellowships, each covering the cost of a two-week residency.

The cost to writers seeking residency is $250/week, requiring a two-week minimum stay up to a one-month maximum.

We understand, however, it is not always possible to get away from day-to-day life for two weeks or more. In that case, we are pleased to offer our unique Reader Residency to writers (and readers) looking to spend a weekend or week with us. This program is available to guests without an application but does require a two-night minimum stay. For Reader Residency rates, please email info@rivendellwriterscolony.org.

Residency Fellowships and Stipends: We offer several fellowships for first-time residents to cover the cost of a two-week residency. Residents are responsible for their own meals. If selected for a fellowship, applicants may request residency extending beyond the two weeks covered by the award.

Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship: This fellowship, honoring the benefactor of Rivendell Writers’ Colony, is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work. It covers a two-week residency. Awardees are responsible for their own meals. ($500)Wendell Berry New Agrarian Fellowship: This fellowship is awarded to a writer seeking to have an impact on the care of the land. It covers a two-week residency. Awardees are responsible for their own meals. ($500)

William Alexander II & Lisa Percy Fellowship: This fellowship is awarded to a poet. It covers a two-week residency. Awardees are responsible for their own meals. ($500)

Frank & Pardis Stitt Fellowship: This fellowship is awarded to a writer in the culinary arts. It covers a two-week residency and includes a $250 stipend. Awardees are responsible for their own meals. ($750)


Application Fee: $30


Number of Artists: Up to 10 Artists at a time


Length of Stay: 2-4 weeks. We also offer 3-10 day residencies, however, fellowships are not available for those stays and availability is limited.


Accommodations: Rivendell Writers’ Colony features a main house—the Manor—with two full kitchens, two dining rooms, ample shared living space, a large wraparound porch with rocking chairs, and six bedrooms. Each bedroom has its own workspace and bathroom. The living room also features a wood burning fireplace, a library and resource corner (craft and style books, office supplies, writing prompts, etc.)

At Pondview, affectionately known as our house of porches, we offer a more intimate residency with only two bedrooms. Each bedroom features its own workspace and bathroom. Pondview, just a short walk through the woods from the Manor, also offers a kitchen with all the necessary cooking utensils provided as well as a shared living room, writer resource corner, and porches. Lots and lots of porches.

Our property also offers two one-bedroom cottages.


Demographic/Medium: As Tennessee’s first writer residency, we have been fortunate to host a broad range of writers from those who are well established to those who are just beginning their writerly journey. This mix of emerging and established writers, along with our rolling application process, is just one of the things that makes Rivendell so special and different. We do look for self-starters as we do not offer instruction or feedback on work as part of our residencies. While some residencies require or strongly encourage group meals, we do not. Your time is your time at Rivendell though we find many writers will gravitate toward one another for meals or other fellowship.

Sewanee is just under two hours away from the Nashville airport. Transportation is available for a fee from the airport to Sewanee. While it can make life easier at Rivendell to have a car, we do have residents who do just fine without one. International guests are always welcome, too.

Rivendell is open to writers of all genres. We are certain our idyllic surroundings will foster the creative spirit in all who stay with us.


Benefits: In evaluating a writer’s work, many publications look for residencies as part of a writer’s bio, evidence of focused effort toward a project. We are pleased to give people the space to not only continue to build out their bios and resumes but also to generate, edit or complete new work. The word we hear most often when residents leave Rivendell is “magic.” Writers find their time here, in and outside the writing arena, to be both incredibly generative and restorative. Residents seem to always find something they didn’t know they were looking for when they arrived.

Because we never have more than ten writers-in-residence at a time, many of our residents develop friendships with the other writers on property that extend far beyond their time together at Rivendell. Connection and fellowship are some of the most wonderful byproducts of a Rivendell residency.We are honored to offer a place that allows writers a space to both seek and find so that they may continue to create work that fulfills a need in the world.

Deadline: Ongoing


Website + Facebook + InstagrameNewsletter signup




5 thoughts on “Rivendell Writers’ Colony

  1. Rivendell Writers’ Colony is even more wonderful than advertised! It not only met, it exceeded, its every aspiration to be the perfect retreat for serious writers. I recommend it without reservation to all who value literature, writing, natural beauty, solitude and an ineffable sense of place you will long to return to.

  2. 5 stars, and more! My 2 weeks at Rivendell were the most productive writing time I’ve had in years. The atmosphere is almost holy – quiet, calming, comfortable (and beautiful!) rooms and writing spaces in an early 1900’s manor house, but with all the amenities that border on luxury, including a fully stocked kitchen and on-site laundry facilities. Because of the relatively low number of artists in residency at any one time, there are opportunities for sharing and creating deep friendships. This certainly happened while I was there with the group I was with. But there is also enough space and quiet time to be fully alone, concentrate deeply and accomplish much work. If that weren’t enough, the director’s gift of hospitality and the friendliness of the Sewanee community put my experience over the top. It’s truly a rare and wonderful place – a gift, a blessing. I’ve already scheduled a time to go back!

  3. My time at Rivendell was the most productive, spiritual, and peaceful experience of my entire life. This serene setting offers incredible dwellings, a sincere reverence, and immeasurable kindness from the most compassionate hosts imaginable (Michael and Carmen). It’s the kind of place you carry with you when you go, and I’m grateful Rivendell will always be a part of me.

  4. In a word Rivendell is a gift, one both tangible and intangible.
    I had no idea what to expect before arriving; it was my first visit and my first poetry workshop experience. I discovered at Rivendell a thin place, where spirit and matter coexist in close harmony.  It is a place of physical comfort, with the overlay of age that only a great old house can offer, as well as one of hospitality (thank you Carmen, Kate, and our resident chef, Suze). As a newcomer, I especially appreciated Leigh Anne Couch, a gifted poet and wise, patient teacher, who honored all the poets gathered round her. Having learned I will always be welcome as a member of the RWC, I can’t wait to return!

  5. Rivendell was everything I thought it would be and so much more. I went into the weekend with high expectations, and the experience surpassed them all. The food, prepared for by a marvelous cook, was delicious! The staff was very helpful. The accommodations were cozy and allowed me to focus on my writing. The site, near serene ponds and atop the Cumberland Plateau, was beautiful. The workshop, led by two knowledgeable writers, was very informative. Needless to say, I cannot wait to go back!

Write a Review

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s