The Nook & Cranny Writing Retreat


October 24-27, 2024

at bell aura bed & breakfast
in carman, mb
treaty one territory
& the homeland of the mEtis Nation


waking up with golden Prairie sunlight streaming through the window of your literary-themed room. 

A feathery idea floats in your mind and you reach for your notebook to quickly capture it, writing until the smell of fresh coffee tugs you downstairs. 

In the glow from the stained glass windows, you settle in for a delicious home-cooked breakfast. 

Laughter and conversation fill the dining room as you ready for a day of exploring your stories and the cute prairie town of Carman, guided by award-winning, supportive writers, unfettered by the demands of everyday life. 

Lean back, relax, pop another sweet strawberry into your mouth. 

You’ve found your people. You’re ready to write!

What People Say

The setting was serene, and the food was delicious. I felt welcomed and encouraged at every moment by participants and session leaders alike!
Hand writing in book balanced on knees with lawn in background
Heidi Casper
I’m coming away from Nook & Cranny with a greater sense of purpose and hope for my poetry collection. Ariel’s advice and strategies for exploring language in new ways was a game changer. I can’t wait to dive back into the writing. Thank you!
A woman holding an open book in front of a lake
Leanne Fournier
Creating/strengthening community. Revealing/sharing techniques and tools. In a beautiful town, hosted by the beautiful people at Bell Aura. Fun and fine people and a head full of inspiration and joy!
Hand writing in a blank book with a pen and a nearby cup of coffee

About Bell Aura B & B

Built in 1898 in the Gothic revival style, this church-turned-bed-and-breakfast is full of art and antiques, not to mention the stained glass originally shipped from Scotland in crates of molasses! 

Each of the bedrooms is themed for a writer or evocative book–Agatha Christie (formerly Brittania), Hemingway, the Manderley–while the library and living room are full of cloth-bound historic hardbacks and cozy seating. 

Host Barbara has earned praise for her delicious meals (friendly to dietary restrictions), served in the large dining room, and generous and easy-going hosting. Listed as one of the 23 Most Unique Places to Stay in Manitoba on Road Trip Manitoba, Bell Aura is custom-made for being creative!

Your Hosts

Lauren Carter (she/her) loves to help writers connect with their intuitive creativity. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and a certificate in teaching and training adult learners. Her latest book, the short story collection Places Like These was recommended as a Spring 2023 read by the Globe and Mail while her last novel This Has Nothing To Do With You won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, while she also received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Her sixth book, The Longest Night, will be published by Freehand Press in Fall 2025.

She has studied creativity coaching with psychologist Dr. Eric Maisel through the Creativity Coaching Association, has taught creative writing across North America and coached writers from around the world, including Syria, Qatar, and California. Writers she’s worked with have obtained agents, signed publishing contracts, won awards, and/or learned how to accept anxiety and settle more deeply into their work. 

Ariel Gordon (she/her) is a Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory-based writer, editor, and enthusiast. She is the ringleader of Writes of Spring, a National Poetry Month project with the Winnipeg International Writers Festival that appears in the Winnipeg Free Press.TreeTalk (At Bay Press, 2020) is the first book out of Ariel’s public poetry project where she hangs poems in trees and asks passersby to add their thoughts, ideas, and secrets. It was nominated for three Manitoba Book Awards. Her most recent book is Siteseeing: Writing nature & climate change across the prairies (At Bay Press, 2023), written in collaboration with Saskatchewan poet Brenda Schmidt, was shortlisted for the poetry award at the 2024 Saskatchewan Book Awards. In June 2024, her second collection of creative non-fiction, Fungal: Foraging in the Urban Forest, will be published by Hamilton’s Wolsak & Wynn.

The Workshops

Enjoy a wide variety of writing sessions, focused on fiction, poetry, and creative exploration, and suitable for all levels. Connect with new writer friends and find inspiration within the historic bed and breakfast and the town of Carman (including the local thrift store and art gallery) to fuel your writing! 

Two Truths Make a Lie (Lauren) Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth, said Albert Camus. But what does this mean? How do you transform your terrible marriage or your cousin’s adoption story into a novel that isn’t contrived? In this fun session, we’ll mix up truths, lies, and the imagination to create  something entirely unique and new (so your family won’t recognize themselves!) OR     

Ekphrastic Experimentation (Lauren): The term ekphrasis means to describe with vivid detail. During this workshop, we’ll visit the Golden Prairie Arts Council  gallery, read some examples of ekphrastic poetry and prose, and try our hand at the form or just see what writing emerges in response to viewing their latest exhibition. 

Embroider and Embellish (Lauren): You have some words on the page… now what? In this workshop, you will play with what you’ve made over the weekend, discover what has energy, and explore ways to intuitively enrich, deepen, expand, and keep working on your work OR 

Dispatches from the World (Ariel): What does it mean to slow down and pay attention to the natural world? What lives there? What’s moving? We will be focusing on close observation of urban nature, writing poems about what we see/hear/smell/taste.

Thrifting Poems (Ariel):  We’ll walk over to the Carman MCC Thrift Shop, where your goal is to find an object (or objects) to write to. We’ll chat about writing strategies on the way back to Bell Aura, where you’ll spend an hour exploring the lost and found, the now and then, of your finds.

Strategies for Editing Poetry (Ariel): How do you take your freewriting, your first drafts, to the next level? We’ll explore techniques to refine your poems: leaning on line and stanza breaks, amplifying the soundwork, and using the page like a canvas. We’ll also look at web tools that will help you loosen up while editing. 

What Else Do You Get?

  • Accommodations in relaxing shared or single literary-themed rooms 
  • A welcoming swag bag of writerly goodies 
  • New friendships with writers 
  • Time away from the daily grind to reconnect with your words 
  • A chance to share your work at the low-pressure open mic 
  • Delicious meals, plus a help-yourself tea and coffee bar
  • The chance to chat writing and writing life at the table (and beyond!) 
  • Guided visits to sites in the picturesque village of Carman
  • A closing raffle of handcrafted items to say thank you!

But, wait, there's more!

To support you in your writing journey, we’ve also added: 

  • Connection Call – 20 minutes of 1:1 time with Lauren pre-retreat so she can get to know you personally and provide the best support 

  • Pre-Trip Group Zoom Call – a fun opportunity to meet everyone in the group, share your intentions/hopes, and discuss how to get ready for the retreat. 

  • Post-Trip Group Zoom Call – we’ll gather to help you integrate your learnings and stay connected once we’re back at home!

 Early bird pricing now on! 

Secure your spot with a $200 deposit before August 1st and save $100, with final payment due August 29. Visit this link to review our terms + conditions including inclusions/exclusions and cancellation policies.

You get meals, accommodations, programming, use of the B&B, and loads of fun, inspiration, writing support, and new friends for: 

Triple: $879; Double: $989; 

Single: $1370; Commuter: $669

Still wondering if this retreat is for you? 
Book a video or phone call with Lauren to find out more about the space, the content, the facilitators, or just to feel things out. 

Read Our FAQ

Like any writing retreat, we will be writing a lot! But we’ll also be eating delicious food, taking walks around Carman (or drives if you have mobility issues), lounging in the B&Bs library, lounge, and dining room, sharing our work (optional) and making new friends :) 

You are free to participant in the retreat in whatever way works for you. If this means burying yourself in one of the MANY books at the B&B and joining us only for meals, that is fine. So is writing with us as much as you can but staying silent about what you produce. It’s up to you! You always have the option to voice your preferences or any concerns and decide what you need to support yourself. Having said that, if we can provide support or customization to help you take part, please do let us know! 

You bet! Ariel and I are used to flexing our instruction to a range of learners. I also utilize the Amherst Method which supports the discovery of one’s unique voice and proclaims that if you write, you’re a writer (like if you bake, you’re a baker). This is a weekend to explore your love of words–whether you’re just getting to know them or you’ve been hanging out for awhile! 

Yes, please! Barbara, the B&B owner and amazing chef, did a fabulous job last year accommodating dietary needs. On the registration form, tell us your requirements and we’ll clearly communicate your needs.  

You can do either! We have rates for both single and double accommodation. The registration form outlines the room possibilities and you can also view them on the Bell Aura website, here. 

There is a ramp leading up to the side door of the B&B. Most bedrooms are upstairs but one on the main floor is reserved for accessibility (it can either be a double (with a queen bed and a cot) or a single. Because it’s a century-old building, the bathroom doors aren’t wide enough for wheelchairs, unfortunately. 

Great question! You can review all of our Terms and Conditions at this page. 

Carman is an hour’s drive west of Winnipeg. If you need ride-sharing, you will have a chance to do this on our pre-trip ZOOM call! 

You can check in at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 24th.  Departure is around noon on Sunday, October 27th. 

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