The Sandhill Writers Retreat

Saturday, May 16, 2015
9:00am - 5:30pm
Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida

The Third Annual Sandhill Writers Retreat will renew the writer in you.

The full-day retreat will take place on the beautiful, serene University Campus, located in rural Saint Leo, Florida, approximately 35 miles north of Tampa. The retreat will feature twelve hands-on writing classes in fiction, nonfiction, journalism, young adult writing and poetry. A faculty of nationally-acclaimed Florida authors includes fiction writer Karen Brown (The Longings of Wayward Girls, Little Sinners and Other Stories, and Pins and Needles: Stories); creative nonfiction writer and editor of Florida Review Jocelyn Bartkevicius; poet Michael Hettich (The Animals Beyond Us and Systems of Vanishing); Tampa Bay Times columnist and bureau chief Ernest Hooper; and young adult writer Amy Christine Parker (Gated, and the sequel, Astray). These four renowned writers will be joined by Saint Leo writing faculty members Dr. Patrick Crerand, Gianna Russo and Dr. Kurt Wilt to guide attendees through lessons in craft and imaginative exercises that lead to new works The retreat will also include a faculty reading and book signing, a reception, and an optional lunch-time open reading for participants. Participants are encouraged to bring their own lunch or order a box lunch for an additional charge.

A very limited number of private one-on-one manuscript consultations are available on a first come, first served basis. There is an additional fee for the 15-minute consultation of up to 10 pages of fiction, nonfiction or poetry.

Who Should Attend

You are invited! The Sandhill Writers Retreat is open to writers of all levels who wish to hone the craft and renew the joy of writing. Teachers, students, the military and the general public are all invited to attend.

2015 Faculty:

Karen Brown

FICTION: Karen Brown is the author of a novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls, and two short story collections—Little Sinners and Other Stories, which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and Binghamton University’s John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and Pins and Needles: Stories, the recipient of AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, and Good Housekeeping, and in many literary magazines, most recently The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, and Epoch. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of South Florida.

Jocelyn Bartkevicius

CREATIVE NONFICTION: Jocelyn Bartkevicius teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida and edits The Florida Review. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Hudson Review, The Missouri Review, The Bellingham Review, The Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, TriQuarterly, and Sweet, and has received The Annie Dillard Award in the Essay, The Missouri Review Prize, and the Iowa Woman Essay Award. She is working on a collection of essays about war, genocide, and mass deportation in Lithuania.

Michael Hettich

POETRY:  Michael Hettich has published over a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently The Animals Beyond Us (2011) and Systems of Vanishing, which won the 2013 Tampa Review Prize in Poetry and was published in April, 2014. His poems have been published in numerous journals, among them Orion, The Sun, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ploughshares and Poetry East. In addition to the Tampa Review Prize, his awards include three Fellowships in Poetry from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, the Tales Prize, The Yellow Jacket Chapbook Prize, The Swan Scythe Press Prize. Active in collaborations with visual artists and musicians, he has been instrumental in Miami's Sweat Broadside Collaboration project and was one of the founding members of WAIL (Word and Image Lab) also in Miami.  He teaches English and Creative Writing at Miami Dade College.

Ernest Hooper

JOURNALISM:  Ernest Hooper is a columnist and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper has handled a number of duties since joining the Times in 1992, including TV/radio sports columnist and NFL writer. Hooper became a news columnist in 2001 and added the role of SouthShore and Brandon bureau chief in 2012. In addition, he serves as an unofficial ambassador for the paper, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at nonprofit events and civic functions. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Amy Christine Parker

YOUNG ADULT:  Amy Christine Parker is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novel, Gated, an Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month Spotlight Pick for July 2013 and a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and its sequel, Astray, which was released in August 2014. Currently Amy is working on her third book for Random House Children’s, SMASH and GRAB, which is scheduled to release in early 2016. She writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat.

SLU Writing Faculty:

Patrick Crerand

DIALOGUE IN FICTION: Patrick Crerand teaches writing and literature at Saint Leo where he is a co-founder of the on-line literary magazine Lightning Key Review.  His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Collagist, New Orleans Review, the Tampa Bay Times, and other magazines.  He lives in Dade City with his lovely wife and three kids.

Gianna Russo

NARRATIVE POEMS: Gianna Russo (Retreat Director) is Instructor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University.  She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Moonflower, winner of the Florida Book Award Bronze Medal, the Florida Publishers Association Silver Award and an Eric Hofer First Horizons Honorable Mention.  A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has also had publications in Tampa Review, Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others.  Ms. Russo is editor-in-chief of Sandhill Review and founding editor of YellowJacket Press, currently the only publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts in Florida.

Kurt Wilt

WRITING FLASH: Kurt Wilt has taught Literature and Writing at Saint Leo for over 30 years.  He is author of The Visionary: Entering the Mystic Universe of Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painter Arrow). He co-founded Sandhill Review with Thomas Abrams and is founding editor of Lightning Key Review.

Registration Information

Retreat registration includes access to all writing workshops, a reception and book signing, the faculty reading and an optional open mic. Both a box lunch and a one-on one-manuscript conference may be purchased for an additional charge.

Manuscripts of 10 pages of poetry, up to 10 pages of fiction and up to 10 pages of nonfiction may be submitted for close personal review and private conference with the appropriate faculty. Slots for one-on-one conferences are extremely limited and will be arranged based on a first come, first served basis.

All participants must be pre-registered to attend. Early registration will close on at midnight April 30, 2015. Late registration from May 1-12, 2015, incurs an additional late fee of $15 per registrant.


General public $100
Teachers, student, seniors $80
SLU Alumni $65
SLU faculty, staff, students
Veterans and active duty military
One-on-one manuscript consultation (All consultation spots have been filled)
Box lunch


*Five student internships, for which there is an application process, waive the registration fee. To apply for an internship, contact the director.

Retreat Administrators:

Gianna Russo, Director

Angel Jimenez, Assistant Director, is a Saint Leo faculty member

John David Harding, Staff, is a Saint Leo faculty member

The Sandhill Writers retreat is supported in part by the School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Language Studies and the Arts, and the Cannon Memorial Library.

Questions should be directed to Retreat Director and Saint Leo English and creative writing faculty member, Gianna Russo, at (352) 588-8282 or


Click Here for Registration Page


Hotel accommodations are available at:

Retreat Schedule

Saturday May 16, 2015

8:30-9:00 Check in sign up for Open Reading
Donald R. Tapia School of Business
9:00 Fiction with
Karen Brown
Poetry with Michael Hettich
YA with
Amy Christine Parker

Journalism one-on-one with Ernest Hooper
10:15 Break sign up for Open Reading    
10:30 Journalism with
Ernest Hooper
Poetry with
Michael Hettich
Fiction Diaglogue with Patrick Crerand
Nonfiction one-on-one with Jocelyn Bartkevicius

Lunch and Participants' OPEN MIC - Patio of Cannon Memorial Library

1:00 Fiction with
Karen Brown
Nonfiction with
Jocelyn Bartkevicius
Narrative Poetry with Gianna Russo
Poetry one-on-one with Michael Hettich
2:15 Break
Book Sales
2:30 Nonfiction with
Jocelyn Bartkevicius
Journalism with
Ernest Hooper
Writing Flash with Kirt Wilt
 Fiction one-on-one with Karen Brown
3:45 Break
Book Sales
4:00 Faculty Reading
5:00 Farewell Reception and Book Signing
5:30 Conclude


Contact Information

For questions about the conference, please contact:
Gianna Russo, 2015 Retreat Director
(352) 588-8282