The Writers Advance

Get Inspired. Get Focused. Get Writing.
Move Your Project Forward.

It is rare, even as a professional communicator, that I give myself dedicated writing time, time to be creative, to plan and dream and think. The Writer’s Advance Retreat was. . .the best gift I’ve given myself professionally or personally in a long time. . .The accommodations are beautiful, the experience well-managed, and I am grateful for every minute.

Tara Rolstad, 5-time participant

Are you ready to move your project forward?

The biggest obstacle to your creative work is the incessant interruption of life. When you’re in the flow, you are the most creative and productive.

Invest in a weekend that will move your project ahead. No chores. No obligations. Plenty of time for writing. Optional group feedback and one-on-one coaching available.

This is not a “sit-and-listen-to-experts” conference. It’s not a “drink-wine-and-get-backpats-for-being-a-writer” retreat. This is a working weekend, in a comfortable environment, with a small number of other writers who also came to write.

Retreat from the distractions of your life. Advance your project.

A Beautiful Venue

Nestled in a stand of Pacific Northwest Old-growth Rain forest, the Alton Collins Retreat Center offers a quiet and welcoming context for our creative work. Located in Eagle Creek, Oregon, less than an hour outside of Portland, this is a true retreat.

Time to Write

No crammed schedule of sessions here. A loose schedule is built around mealtimes and conversation, leaving large blocks of uninterrupted time for writing. We provide optional support activities, but your main job while you’re with us is to write — so we try to keep everything distracting out of your way.


We take care of everything. Great food, well prepared. Comfortable private rooms with private bath. Beautiful, quiet, introspective settings. Plus ample encouragement and gentle accountability to keep you moving forward.


You can also take advantage of optional one-on-one coaching, circle sessions for peer learning, group readings, toolbox training sessions, and more.

Real Feedback on the Last Event

This weekend helped me so much with learning how to relax and write, breaking bad habits, and creating new ones. The coaching was amazing…If you have anything you want to write or are already a writer, this is for you.

There has been a part of me that knew I was supposed to write for years. I have tried to work at it and made some progress. But I credit the two Advance weekends with Marc and the other great coaches with my finally owning that I AM A WRITER and coming up with the workflow and confidence to do the work.

I was able to pull from within myself and write. My favorite part was being around writers. Creative people should come to this event.

The Writers Advance Workshop taught me valuable tools that I can take home and use. Clear presentations on tools to stay focused and able to create were priceless for me as I am easily sidetracked…Having the option for one-on-one coaching from editors and seasoned writers was another gift. Thank you for a great weekend.

I’ve been to the Writer’s Advance multiple times, and it never fails to inspire! I always get meaningful input on my writing and process. I feel valued as a human and writer throughout the whole weekend.

Most productive writers’ conference I’ve experienced. A full weekend of uninterrupted writing time is a dream; totally worth the investment!

What to Expect

Time to Write

Unlike many writer’s events, you won’t sit and listen to experts teach. This weekend you will write. You’ll have the opportunity for optional supportive activities, but your main goal–and where you’ll spend the bulk of your time–is to write. Our goal is to support you so you can connect deeply with your project, make headway, and leave excited about your writing again.

A Flexible Schedule

Our schedule is built around our shared meals. Everything else is optional. Choose the activities that work for you. Rest, imagine, outline, write, edit. You’ll have the time and encouragement to attend to your creative work in the way that you need to.

A Reflective Atmosphere

We host the Writers Advance weekend at venues specifically chosen because they provide a rich atmosphere for focus, creativity, and deep work, like monastery guesthouses and forest retreat centers. In these places, you’ll often find art, quiet space, and a commitment to the intentionally slow and quiet pace of life. A perfect environment for reflection and creativity.

A Simple, Tested Process

Many writers struggle with both time management and staying focused.  The weekend will begin with a brief tutorial on the Pomodoro technique, a simple but incredibly effective tool to support focus and creativity. With this process, participants have seen bursts of productivity that surprised them.

Circle Sessions

Each day, you’ll have the option to participate in smaller conversations called Circle Sessions. Check in with peers about what you’re working on, the headway you’re making, and the obstacles you’re facing. This optional small group will help you connect with other writers in a way that’s been fine-tuned for writers.

One-on-One Coaching

You’ll be able to take advantage of one-on-one coaching with writing coaches. These are working writers, editors, and creatives who bring a depth of experience and insight to the conversation. They can help you connect the dots, fine-tune your premise, iron out your logical and narrative flow, or work through obstacles to your project or writing process.

Great Food

Our venues are chosen because they offer excellent food and can accommodate various dietary needs. You’ll be served fantastic scratch-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch & dinner. In addition, coffee, tea as well as other beverages and snacks will be available throughout the day. If you need a little boost to keep the creative juice flowing, you’re covered.

Comfortable Accommodations

All our venues have comfortable on-site accommodations so you can give your full focus and attention to your work. All venues have single-occupancy rooms with private bath. Some offer double occupancy at a lower cost. See the details for each retreat location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why not book a hotel and do this on your own?

That’s a great idea! You should do it. Seriously. But you know what? Most of us don’t. Maybe it seems self-indulgent. Maybe because we’re not famous writers we don’t feel like we’ve earned it. I don’t know why but most of us don’t do it. So, if that idea works for you, please do it. It will be an incredible investment in your writing life.

But there is something the Writers Advance offers that going to a hotel on your own can’t. The Writers Advance is a writer retreat with a small group of other writers. You won’t be alone. You’ll be with people who get the struggle. You’ll be able to get feedback on your work. You’ll be able to get one-on-one coaching. And best of all, you’ll be handed a simple structure that can help you keep moving forward, and gentle accountability to spend your time writing.  No hotel room can give you that!

Will this work for my genre?

The focus of this weekend is to encourage you to write. The tools we provide are chosen because they work for most writers. The style or genre of writing doesn’t matter at all! We’ve had folks who write non-fiction, essay, literary short story, children’s literature, poetry, self-help, science fiction, epic fantasy, memoir, and family chronicles. Regardless of the kind of work you do, you’ll find a supportive environment, and helpful insight.

Where is Alton Collins Retreat Center?

Our 2024 venue is the Alton Collins Retreat Center outside of Eagle Creek, Oregon. You can learn more about the retreat center at their website.

Alton Collins is less than an hour or so outside of Portland, about a 45 minute drive from Portland International Airport. Find directions here. The retreat center address is 32867 SE HWY 211, Eagle Creek, Oregon 97022.

What does the cost include?

This is an all-inclusive retreat. Registration includes your room with a personal bathroom and shower, linens and towels, delicious natural meals made from scratch on-site for every meal, all the coffee, tea, and snacks you need to sustain you. All optional support activities, like Coaching and Circle Sessions, are included.

What if I’m flying in?

That’s exciting! Here’s the information you need. Alton Collins is located about a 45-minute drive from Portland International Airport (PDX). It’s easy to get a rental car, cab, Uber, or Lyft at the Airport.

What about carpooling? That’s a possibility. People will be arriving at different times, but everyone will be leaving near the same time, and since some participants are from the Portland area, getting a ride back to the airport should not be a problem. If you are flying in and would prefer to carpool, email me. While we can’t guarantee a ride solution, we’ll see what we can arrange.

What kind of dietary needs or preferences can be accommodated?

Almost any need can be met! Alton Collins Retreat Center takes pride in creating high-quality fresh menus for every meal. During the registration process, you will indicate if you have dietary needs or preferences. Then, about two months before the event, we will contact you for detailed information about your needs and preferences. From this information, the chef curates a menu that will wow and nourish everyone, including vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, acid-free, gluten-free, allergy restricted dietary needs. Not only that, but you can even indicate preferences (I like blueberries! More potatoes, please.), and the chef does her best to make sure people are getting meals they enjoy.

What’s the difference between the 2-day or 3-day option?

The Writers Advance is designed as a 3-day weekend. You’ll arrive on Thursday before Dinner and stay through Sunday Lunch. However, you can choose a 2-day option, arriving on Friday afternoon. While you’ll have less time to write, this option works well if your schedule can’t accommodate the longer weekend. It’s also a good way to lower the cost.

How does multiple occupancy work?

Alton Collins offers single, double, and triple occupancy rooms. This creates a lower-cost option for participating in the Writers Advance and an option for sharing the weekend with a friend.  In all three configurations, everyone gets their own bed.

Indicate which occupancy you’re selecting in your registration. If you chose more than single occupancy, in the registration survey you’ll be asked to identify your roommate, if you have one in mind. What if you don’t have a roommate? You can still register for double occupancy. If someone else of the same gender registers for double occupancy, you’ll be paired with them. If no one else of the same gender registers for double occupancy, you will not be charged extra for the room.

The Triple-occupancy option is available only by special arrangement. You will be responsible for arranging two roommates who are interested in the event and willing to do triple occupancy. The triple-occupancy room is tight for three people, but workable. It includes two normal twin beds and a very sturdy bunk for the third bed. This bunk is adult-appropriate, accessed by a very sturdy ladder. This room has a private bath to be shared by the three roommates. All three parties must register at the same time. If you are interested in the triple-occupancy option, email us at

What is the refund policy?

Plans change. Life happens. That’s all understandable. You’re considering registering for an expensive event. Undoubtedly, you want to know what happens if you can’t attend. So, here’s the policy and options.

1. Due to the nature of events like this, your participation fees are non-refundable.

2. If your plans change more than thirty days prior to the event, we can roll your registration forward to a future event. Let us know that your plans have changed as soon as you know. We will lock in your registration for the following year’s Writers Advance and apply all your fees to your account for that event. Note that if the cost of the event increases for the following year, you may have an additional balance due at the time of the event. In that case, you’ll get an email. This change can be made, at no cost, up to 30 days before the event.

3. If your plans change less than thirty days before the event, you have two options. First, we can transfer your registration and balance to someone else. This can be a friend you choose to take your place. Second, you can designate your registration and balance-on-account as a scholarship. We always have a list of worthy authors who would like to come but can’t afford the event, and we’d be happy to invite one of them in your name. You let us know which option you want to go with.

4. What about sickness? If you are unable to attend due to COVID, or another transmissible disease, we can roll your registration forward to a future event at no cost.

5. What if we have to cancel the event? If something happens outside of our control that forces the event to be canceled, we will notify you as soon as possible and give you the option to roll your registration & deposit forward to any future event at the current rate.

Is this a religious retreat?

This question usually comes up like this: “Wait, I know you! You’re a pastor.” They’ve seen me posting online, or read one of my books, or, in some other way, know that I’m a Christian pastor. So, the question is a reasonable one.

The short answer is no.

The long answer? It can be if you want it to be. Hosting the Writers Advance weekend is a way that I use my gifts and experience to encourage and empower writers. For me, that’s a ministry, but the retreat itself is not designed as a religious retreat, and there is no religious content or programming. The sole aim of the weekend is to help you take tangible steps forward on your writing project.

Is this only for Christian authors?

No. Most of the authors I personally know and work with are Christians, and many of them write for Christians, but the focus of the weekend is to help you–whoever you are–take concrete steps forward in completing your project. The process we use will work for any genre, style, or audience. Past participants have been from a wide variety of backgrounds, writing in diverse styles and genres. The environment is positive and encouraging, and any writer who wants to focus on their writing with our support is welcome.

After spending a couple years writing circles around a memoir idea, Marc’s writing retreat launched my project in a clear direction. I was able to gain focus and perspective through personal mentorship and constructive feedback from other writers. In addition to brainstorming, meaningful conversations, quality meals and beautiful surroundings I was able to write nearly 10,000 words over the weekend and have doubled my writing productivity since attending. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to take their creative project to the next level. I’ll be back.

Astrid Melton, 2019 Spring Participant

Reserve Your Spot

Alton Collins Retreat Center

Fall 2024

November 7-10, 2024
The 2024 Writers Advance Alton Collins Retreat Center Eagle Creek, Oregon
  • November 7-10, 2024
  • All-inclusive event.
  • All meals (Options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, & allergies)
  • Snacks, coffee, tea, juice, and fresh fruit available all day.
  • Hours and hours for writing.
  • Optional Private coaching and group feedback.
  • Pricing Options include arriving Thursday evening (3 Nights) or Friday evening (2 Nights), and single, double, and triple occupancy rooms. Triple occupancy is by special arrangement only. Contact us first before registering (
Spaces are limited.

More Endorsements from Real Participants

I am a seasoned writer and I wasn’t sure how or what I would write about this weekend. What I came away with was so much more than I expected, not so much in the writing process but in validation for the guidance and direction of my work. That was worth gold!

This was my third time attending The Writers Advance! The weekend provided the space and feedback to move my novel forward. I am thrilled with the support I received and the progress I made! The participants are always amazing, and the environment supportive.

I came to Writer’s Advance to be productive and reach a writing goal – and I managed to write more words than ever before during this brief retreat. Every aspect of retreat was geared toward providing me and my fellow participants with focused writing time and support as a writer. I feel like I got more than I paid for, to be honest. The space was beautiful and inspiring. I had time and space to work. I got coaching that is helping me forge a writing career. And I connected with new, delightful friends. I cannot thank Marc enough for his hard work in putting this invaluable retreat together.

For most of my life I have thought I had a story that wanted to be written. However, although I had written a great many words, I had a lot of difficulty getting traction. Having two excellent coaches…allowed me to find a work flow that gave me the confidence that I can do this. It was especially helpful to have the time to do the work as we talked about sculpting the methodology. I would not have found the right balance between structure and intuition if I hadn’t been able to see how it worked in practice and then come back and talk to my coaches yet again to refine it…

Going into the writer’s advance weekend, my project had fallen to the back burner. I felt stalled out and unfocused. This weekend helped me refocus, prioritize, and get moving again. I moved through some personal hurdles and some project blocks and ended up with an additional 8000 words when it was all done. I love the environment Marc creates and will be back again.

Marc creates a space in which writers can create and collaborate. He provides meaningful feedback to support the writing process and individual pieces. I have participated twice now. Both times I have grown as a human and writer!

What a joy and gift to experience a pastor’s heart through Marc & The Writers Advance Weekend. I’ve never experienced anything like it in its unique and gifted delivery of wisdom, nurture & sacred space.

The event was a gift to myself. I needed the focused time, and also found direction from the coaching. I came away with a renewed passion for the stories I am writing for my family and some concrete ways to move forward.

A beautiful, spacious environment for words to find their way to the page. The wisdom, encouragement, and experiences of all those who gathered were truly inspiring!

This Writers Advance was just what I needed to move a project forward that has been in the making for over a decade. The coaching I received helped me really overcome some major emotional barriers to progress, the practical guidance from Marc helped me really have a clear path forward and the emotional support of the group provided a thoroughly safe and enjoyable weekend. As an introvert, I wondered if having a retreat would lead me to feel I had to be interacting with people too much and take away from my writing time, but it was the perfect balance of connection and utter freedom to just write. The setting of the Abbey is serene and the food is delicious.

I’ve come to see Writer’s Advance as a gift I can’t afford NOT to give myself. I got more work done this weekend than I have in months, and to do it in a gorgeous, peaceful, comfortable location in the company and support of smart, quality people like Marc attracts? Invaluable. I’m deeply grateful.

This weekend re-energized my commitment to my writing craft. It was an excellent blend of accountability, flexibility, creativity, and guidance. I felt supported as a human and writer throughout the whole time there.

I came to the event unsure of whether or not my idea was worth pursuing, and not only did I get enough feedback and encouragement to move forward but I got some key ideas that helped me reorganize my structure and bolster the strength of my premise. Overall it was a huge jumpstart for a project that felt like it was on life-support coming into the weekend.

This was an amazing weekend. The hosting was on target, the venue was peaceful and offered more than I expected. I loved the pacing. Often retreats such as these are nice getaways with lots of listening to people speak, I really appreciated the time to write and wind down with points of contact along the way. Marc is a great host and guide and provides just the right amount of encouragement and accountability. So looking forward to the next one!

The Writers Advance is a unique experience for those with a call to write! The beautiful environment of the Abbey provides ample places to release the words and focus on your project.

This is the most useful writer’s retreat because I had all the space and time I wanted to actually write. Beautiful venue, no distractions, no obligations, and tons of encouragement from other writers.

The Writers’ Advance weekend was well planned, carefully structured and provided time and space to do some very productive work, either to continue on a project or start an entirely new project. The cost was quite reasonable, and my plans include attending another weekend. I was more than pleased.

The support and encouragement provided, amidst the beautifully relaxing environment of Mt Angel Abbey opened my heart for a flow of words to spill onto the page! If you desire a place for your writing to move forward, this retreat is a gift!

One of the best writing events I’ve ever attended. Not only did I get to engage with other writers and learn some writing insight, but I also got TONS of uninterrupted time to WRITE on my current WIP.

Marc considered every detail to make this an experience that would motivate, encourage and challenge. I enjoyed having the space to write and process the writing journey with others… The amenities were lovely, and I left feeling inspired to keep pressing on in this project that has experienced so many stops and starts over the last few years. Not any more. Onward!

This writer’s retreat was the perfect combination of open time to write, access to helpful counsel regarding my project, and great, guided conversation with other writers. The food, venue, and company were all top-notch, and Marc is an incredibly insightful and helpful coach to have around!