The Institute got its start when a monk, finding that his spiritual life was greatly fed by writing poetry, wanted to establish a place where people of faith could come to write and to learn from one another. Many famous writers have attended one of the summer workshops or participated in the Resident Scholars program or other program of the Institute. Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota and other best-selling books on spirituality is an alum. When I arrived, I found a whole book shelf full of titles by Institute alums. (Forgive my shameless abuse of the Latin; I do it to make it inclusive.)
Anyone who is writing on religious/spiritual themes can apply to attend a workshop. If you are accepted (12 are admitted per one-week summer workshop), all your expenses are paid by a grant from the Lily Foundation. I felt incredibly privileged to be included in such an honor and in such a luxury of time, with such excellent writers.
Every day, we were free until about 2 pm, then met in group to critique one another's work until about 5 pm. After dinner there was often a special outing such as Vespers in the main Chapel on campus, or a meditation at the House of Prayer, a retreat center run by the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota at the invitation of the Abbey. Then we had an opportunity to gather once more before the day was over to read aloud to one another from our own work or from a writer who had been formative for us.
My writing is better because of this, and I respect my vocation as a writer more because of this. I am intensely grateful for the loving, honest feedback from my colleagues and mentor. My spirit is definitely refreshed! I recommend you to check out the web site and see if any of the workshops fit your needs. You won't be sorry you did, even if you never apply. The new workshops for next summer will be announced after the first of the year.