Would you prefer to speak with someone directly about the Salt Cay Writers Retreat? Feel free to telephone retreat administrator Christopher Graham with your questions: 732-267-6449.
SALT CAY, BAHAMAS
Tell me about Salt Cay.
Salt Cay [pronounced “key”] is a private coral island less than one mile off the coast of Nassau, Bahamas. Owned by a local family, the island boasts breathtakingly clear turquoise waters including a lagoon, hundreds of native coconut palm trees, pristine white sand beaches, beautiful natural vegetation, tropical birds, and coral reefs teeming with native fish species.
Although Salt Cay is easily accessible from Nassau and Paradise Island where the retreat hotel is located, it is completely secluded, allowing students and faculty a rare opportunity both to learn and to relax in a tranquil, inspiring environment.
Known locally as Blue Lagoon Island, Salt Cay is also the home of the dolphins and sea lions of Dolphin Encounters. Students and faculty will swim with the dolphins and write about their experience as part of a unique, one-of-a-kind workshop.
To reach Salt Cay, fly into the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau (Airport code: NAS). From there, a 45-minute taxi ride brings you to your accommodations at the Comfort Inn Suites on nearby Paradise Island. Cost of the taxi from the airport to the hotel is approximately $35 U.S. dollars each way. Be prepared to pay for the taxi ride with cash. U.S. currency is accepted throughout the Bahamas on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Check-in time at the Comfort Suites is 3 p.m., so if you’re coming in on Monday, we suggest timing your flight arrival forapproximately 2 p.m. The poolside cocktail reception and orientation program begins at 7 p.m. on Monday, so you’ll want to be registered for the retreat and settled into your hotel room by 6 p.m. at the latest. Retreat registration takes place from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. in the hotel lobby.
Ferry service to Salt Cay departs each morning at 8:30 a.m. and returns each evening at 6:00 p.m. The dock is a short, 5-minute walk from the retreat hotel. Cost of this daily transportation is included in your tuition fees.
(Please note: Ferry service to and from the island continues throughout the day, so if you get off to a slow start one morning, or you need to return to your room early for any reason, you can easily do so. Commercial ferry service departs Paradise Island at 8:30, 10:30, 1:30, and 3:30 and return at 9:00, 11:00, 2:00, and 4:00. The 6:00 p.m. return ferry Monday-Thursday is a special, non-commercial run for Salt Cay Writers Retreat faculty and students, and their guests. On Friday, this ferry returns at 9:00 p.m. at the conclusion of the island feast.)
Do I need a passport?
Yes, you need a current, valid passport from your country of origin to enter the Bahamas.
Will my cell phone work?
While Salt Cay does not have its own cell tower, Nassau is close enough that cell phones function reasonably well. Be sure to check your individual phone and data plan regarding international charges.
What about Internet access?
Both the Comfort Suites hotel on Paradise Island and Salt Cay offer free high-speed Internet. Please be aware that Internet service on Salt Cay tends to be spotty.
What’s the weather like in October?
Beautiful — it’s the tropics! The temperatures range from the 70’s to 80’s. It can rain in October, but it is usually sunny and warm. The islands experience some humidity which can make the temperature feel higher than it is, but the constant breezes cool the temperature during the day and night.
The rainy season in the Bahamas runs from May to October, and October and June are the two wettest months. Hurricanes are not a major risk, but generally miss the islands and head west towards the United States.
Should I purchase travel insurance?
It’s always a good idea to purchase travel insurance or refundable airline tickets when you travel. Although we’ve scheduled the retreat at a time when hurricanes are relatively rare, there is always a possibility of travel disruptions and delays, and you could be out the cost of your flight if you purchase nonrefundable airline tickets.
What can I expect from the retreat facilities on Salt Cay?
The two gift shops on the island, snack shop, changing rooms, indoor and outdoor showers, lockers, restrooms, and dining facilities are all available to you. Snacks can be purchased (a buffet lunch with soft drinks and bottled water is included with your tuition) and there is a full bar.
In addition, shaded areas with tables and chairs will be set up in secluded places around the island where students will meet with faculty members for small-group workshops and individual instruction. There is also a conference/meeting room where you can recharge your laptop, and where panel discussions will be held.
Retreat registrants enjoy guest access to the entire island–not just the public areas. There are many hammocks strung around the island, as well as chaise lounges and picnic tables where you can seek out a quiet spot for solitude and inspiration during your free writing time.
Should I bring my laptop?
Definitely! In addition to workshops and individual instruction, the Salt Cay Writers Retreat offers plenty of scheduled free writing time.
Do I need a power adapter for my electronics?
Electrical power in the Bahamas is the same as in the U.S. A power bar will be available to retreat registrants where you can charge your electronic devices while on the island. A printer will also be available.
Are the ferries and Salt Cay handicapped accessible?
Both the island and the dolphin encounter program (which is different than the dolphin swim as explained below) are wheelchair accessible. That said, please keep in mind that the retreat involves some amount of walking – the 5-minute walk between the hotel and the ferry each day (cement sidewalks), and a short walk from the boat dock to the private retreat area (wooden walkways, rubber “tiled” walkways, and beach sand). The island walking tour and the snorkeling excursion, as well as the dolphin swim all require an average level of physical mobility.
Please let us know in advance if you require assistance so we can make arrangements to accommodate your needs.
Lunch on the island each day is included in your tuition fees, as are evening meals on Sunday and Friday.
On Wednesday evening, transportation will be provided to the world-famous “Fish Fry” on Arawak Cay, where you can purchase your meal at your choice of colorful kiosks and restaurants. Or you may dine at nearby Atlantis Resort & Casino, or explore The Straw Market and eat at one of the many fine restaurants in downtown Nassau.
An American-style breakfast buffet is included with your room at the Comfort Suites hotel. You can change up your morning routine by dining at your own expense at one of several nearby restaurants.
RETREAT HOTEL: COMFORT SUITES, PARADISE ISLAND
Why isn’t the retreat hotel on Salt Cay?
Aside from a caretaker’s residence, there are no overnight facilities on Salt Cay.
Why isn’t the cost of my hotel room included in the tuition fee?
Booking your room separately gives greater flexibility. Perhaps you’d like to extend your stay beyond the dates of the retreat (conference rates are valid 3 days before and 3 days after the dates of the retreat). Or perhaps you’re a smoker and will need to specify a first-floor room. Making your own reservation lets you make arrangements to suit your needs directly with the hotel, instead of having to work through the retreat organizers.
Reserving your own hotel room also makes it more convenient for you to arrange to share a room with a friend — or to bring your family. At the Comfort Suites, registrants pay a special discounted rate of only $120 per night (plus applicable taxes) for 1- or 2-person occupancy, and $20 for each additional person (plus applicable taxes) for up to 4 people per room. Share a room, and share the costs!
If you happen to own a timeshare or have other rooming arrangements available to you during your stay, separating your sleeping room from the tuition fees makes it possible for you to take advantage.
Will you help me find a roommate to share hotel costs?
We’re happy to help. On your retreat registration form, simply check “yes” to the “I would like to share a room” option. If you are accepted to the Salt Cay writing program, along with instructions on how to book your hotel room at the discounted rates, we will send you a link to a list of postings from students who would also like to share a room. Please note that roommate requests are posted as a service to registrants. Room-sharing arrangements are the sole responsibility of the parties involved.
What amenities are available at the Comfort Suites hotel?
Each suite offers either 2 double beds or 1 king-sized bed and a pull-out sofa. In addition, each room includes:
- Complimentary hot American buffet breakfast
- Free access to facilities at Atlantis
- Lobby bar
- Copy machine / Fax machine
- Coin-operated guest laundry
- Outdoor pool
- Poolside bar / swim-up bar
- Crusoe’s Restaurant – open for breakfast & lunch
- 100% smoke-free hotel (PLEASE NOTE: smokers can request a first-floor room and smoke outside on the patio or terrace)
- Cable flat screen TV
- FREE high speed WiFi Internet
- Hair dryer
- Air conditioning
- In-room coffee maker
- In-room safe
- Iron & ironing board
- Mini refrigerator
- Voice mail
- Wake-up service
That said, please understand that the Comfort Suites is a 3-star hotel. Rooms are comfortable, but not luxurious, and the American-style breakfast buffet is typical of similar business-class hotels. However, the hotel’s close proximity to the ferry, and the guest access to Atlantis they offer make the Comfort Suites a terrific value.
As a guest at Comfort Suites, you and/or your family have full access to Atlantis Resort & Casino and its 34 acres filled with water parks, restaurants, casino, pools, beaches, shopping, live entertainment, and golf course at no additional charge (guest access normally costs approximately $100 per person per day).
You can see a list of all Atlantis facilities here.
If my family comes with me, will I be able to time to spend with them?
Absolutely! Our writing workshops take place primarily in the mornings, leaving most afternoons and evenings free for writing or family time. During those evenings for which activities have been arranged, such as the sunset dinner cruise around Nassau harbor or the island feast, your spouse or traveling companions are welcome to join you for a small fee.
Registrants and their families have free daily access to Salt Cay’s lagoon beaches, double hammocks, beach chairs and picnic tables, fresh water showers, bathrooms and changing rooms, volleyball, ping pong, coconut bowling, unsinkable float mats, innertubes, big boss noodles, inflatable aqua park, and inflatable tropical paradise park, as well as access to the island’s interactive animal facility to observe friendly dolphins and amazing sea lions.
Dolphin swims for family members and sea lion and dolphin encounters can be booked at a reduced rate. Or family members can explore the Atlantis Resort within easy walking distance of the Comfort Suites hotel, or wander the charming streets of Nassau. The concierge at the hotel can help arrange day trips including golfing, shopping, out-island adventures, and more.
Do I have to stay at the retreat hotel?
Retreat registrants are welcome to make other sleeping arrangements if they prefer. But remember: one of the highlights of the retreat experience is hanging out with faculty members and fellow writers after hours. The program might be over for the day, but the great conversation never stops!
THE SALT CAY WRITERS RETREAT
Where can I see a copy of the daily schedule?
You can view the detailed program schedule including workshop and panel titles and descriptions here. A pocket-sized, laminated copy of the retreat schedule that you can carry with you on the island for easy reference will be included in your registration packet.
Will I be able to pitch to the agents and editors at the retreat?
The Salt Cay Writers Retreat is primarily geared toward developing the craft of writing, providing guidance and mentorship to students in an atmosphere that fosters creativity. As such, there are no formal pitch sessions. However, agents and editors are an integral part of the retreat, and you’ll have plenty of time to talk to them about your writing during your stay.
Why are so many of the literary agents on the faculty from the same agency?
Including agents from the same agency helps to alleviate the spirit of competition that sometimes develops at writers conferences (“Did you see Author X’s work? Are you going to try signing them? I’m going to!”). Agents who share an agency are supportive of each other and play well together in the sandbox (or sandy beach!). This allows all of our faculty members to focus on what is most important in writing: writing. It’s also very much in keeping with our mission to allow writers to focus on their craft, while still providing the useful perspective of literary agents.
What can I expect from the dolphin swim?
Each student will have the opportunity to participate in a dolphin swim through Dolphin Encounters, which is owned and operated by a local family.
The swim begins with a brief orientation that covers the natural history of dolphins, animal training techniques, ocean conservation, and Watchable Wildlife Guidelines. Trainers will guide you through close interaction with the dolphins including holding them in your arms, dancing with them, and even being propelled across the lagoon by dolphins swimming under your feet in what trainers call the footpush.
If I’m swimming and writing in the same day, where will I store my laptop while I’m in the water?
Lockers in which you can store your laptop, wallet, and other valuables are available as part of the changing facilities on the island.
I can’t swim/I’m not fond of dolphins/I have a fear of water. Do I have to do the dolphin swim?
Participation in the afternoon activities is completely up to you, although we encourage registrants to try out any activity they feel comfortable with. Just let us know of any issues that might prevent you from enjoying our scheduled activities, and we’ll work with you to determine another activity.
That said, you do not need to swim to take part in the dolphin encounter (you do need to swim in a dolphin swim). A dolphin encounter includes standing on a waist-deep platform to interact with the dolphin. You do not get in the water with the sea lions — that all takes place on dry ground. There are other animals to enjoy including an interactive pool with conch shells, starfish and other sea creatures, and an iguana in a special habitat.
Will I have time to write?
Unlike some retreats which more closely resemble conferences with a daily agenda packed with speakers, we believe a writers retreat should allow participants plenty of time to write. To that end, we’ve scheduled small-group workshops and individual instruction in the mornings and set aside afternoons for writing time – some of it structured and some unstructured.
Who can apply?
While the Salt Cay Writers Retreat curriculum is particularly suited for literary and upmarket commercial fiction writers, memorists and narrative non-fiction writers, any author (published or not-yet-published) who wants to take their writing to the next level is welcome to register. Attendance is limited to 35 students.
CLICK HERE to view each day’s program in detail.
Do I have to workshop the same writing sample I send in with my registration, or can I submit something else for the workshops?
Your registration sample and workshop sample do not have to be the same.
Does the manuscript I bring to the retreat need to be finished?
Your manuscript does not need to be complete. Naturally the more polished your pages, the more meaningful our faculty members’ feedback will be, but our faculty members can help you take your writing to the next level no matter what stage your work in progress happens to be.
Each student will work with multiple faculty members.
This is the third year your retreat is being offered. Other writers retreats have been around for decades. How do I know the Salt Cay Writers Retreat will be as fabulous as it sounds?
Your hosts for the Salt Cay Writers Retreat, Backspace co-founders Karen Dionne and Christopher Graham, have been organizing and directing the highly respected Backspace Writers Conferences held in New York City twice annually for the past nine years. You can read a sampling of what attendees and faculty have to say about the outstanding quality of Backspace events here and our first Salt Cay Writers Retreat here.
In addition, our Salt Cay faculty members have decades of experience participating at writers conferences and retreats, and their input has been an integral part of shaping the Salt Cay Writers Retreat experience.
Resort wear is entirely appropriate for the retreat. When traveling to tropical climates, it’s recommended that you pack 2 swimsuits (one to wear while the other dries out). You should also bring your own beach towel.
Do I need to dress up for the island feast?
While a dress or lightweight suit jacket are certainly appropriate for both events, they are not required. In addition, keep in mind that both of these events take place out of doors in the evening.
Writing implements (laptop, pen, paper), a waterproof beach bag with swimsuit and towel on the days you are scheduled for a dolphin encounter, or in case you get the urge to go for a swim (bringing your own towel is a must; towels are available for purchase on the island, but are not handed out free or rented), sunscreen, sun hat, camera, flip flops or sandals, a wrap or cover up, cash or credit cards (U.S. currency is accepted), sunglasses, any medication you need (inhaler, etc.), and anything you would ordinarily take on a beach trip.
Drinks and snacks are available at the different shops and cafés on the island. There is an ATM machine at the Paradise Island Ferry terminal.
I have questions that aren’t addressed here. Is there someone I can talk to?
Certainly. Feel free to telephone retreat administrator Christopher Graham with your questions: 732-267-6449.