The Sandhill Writers Retreat

Saturday, May 20, 2017
9:00am - 5:30pm
Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida

The Fifth 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 thirteen hands-on writing classes in fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry, spoken word and writing for veterans. A faculty of nationally-acclaimed writers/poets includes columnist Ernest Hooper of the Tampa Bay Times; poet Jesse Millner (The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow); journalist/nonfiction writer Lyn Millner (The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet); fiction writer Spencer Wise, (whose story "Work," was named a "Story of the Week" by Narrative Magazine); and Iraq war veteran writer Brooke King. These renowned writers will be joined by Saint Leo writing faculty members Patrick Crerand, John David Harding, Steve Kistulentz, Marissa Glover McLargin and Gianna Russo 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.

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 10-12 pages of fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  Manuscripts of up to 10 pages of poetry, fiction and nonfiction must be submitted to Retreat Director Gianna Russo by May 1, 2017.  


Who Should Attend

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, active and retired military and the general public are all invited to attend.

2017 Faculty:


Ernest Hooper 

A passion for writing and a yearning to connect with people has sustained veteran journalist and columnist Ernest Hooper through an award-winning career chronicling Tampa Bay's most intriguing stories and personalities. He currently serves the readers of the Tampa Bay Times as a community columnist and bureau chief. Hooper writes two columns a week for the paper, often mixing personal observations with pointed political commentary and musings about his wife and kids. He also oversees the content of the Times' Hillsborough County community news sections that publish every Friday and Sunday. Hooper also represents the paper as a frequent keynote speaker and emcee. In 2016, Hooper co-authored his first book, The Best Bet, with Jamall Anderson. The moving memoir tells the true-life story of how Anderson's once promising football career spiraled downward into the biggest gambling scandal in NCAA College Football history.



Jesse Millner's poems and prose have appeared in River Styx, Pearl, The Prose Poem Project, Gravel, Pithead Chapel, Wraparound South, The Best American Poetry 2013 and other literary magazines.  He has published seven poetry chapbooks (most recently, Noonday Duende by Kattiwompus Press), and two full-length collections, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow (winner of bronze medal in 2010 Florida Book Awards) and Dispatches from the Department of Supernatural Explanation  (Kitsune Books, 2012).He has been a writer in residence at Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain, Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyoming, and at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Jesse teaches writing courses at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.




Lyn Millner is the author of The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet. Her radio stories and essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s "Morning Edition" and "Weekend Edition" and on American Public Media’s “Marketplace." Her print work has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, Oxford American, the Hollywood Reporter, and Boca Raton magazine. She is an associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, where she founded the journalism program. She has an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University. 



Spencer Wise is a Visiting Lecturer at Florida State University. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in journals such as Narrative Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Florida Review, Salt Hill, New Ohio Review, Evansville Review, and Hobart among others. His short story, "Work," was named one of Narrative Magazine’s top "Stories of the Week" in 2012 and his essay, "The Second Worst Rug My Father’s Ever Seen," won second place in their 2012 Fall Story Contest. He currently lives in Tallahassee where he is finishing his debut novel, The Emperor of Shoes.


SLU Writing Faculty:


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 New Ohio Review, North American Review, 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.


John David Harding teaches writing and research as a faculty member in the Cannon Memorial Library at Saint Leo University. His creative work includes publications in fiction, poetry, visual art, and nonfiction in journals such as The Pinch, monkeybicycle, and The Collagist. He coedits Lightning Key Review and Florida English, and serves as Assistant Director of Sandhill Writers Retreat.



Brooke King served in the U.S. Army, deploying to Iraq in 2006 as a wheel vehicle mechanic, machine gunner, and recovery specialist. Her work has been published in theO-Dark-Thirty,War, Literature, & Arts,Prairie Schooner, Hudson Whitman Excelsior Press AnthologyRetire the Colors,as well as many other publications and literary accolades.  She has also appeared as featured veteran author on the KPBS literary seriesIncoming. Brooke is working on her memoir,Full Battle Rattle.She earned an MFA from Sierra Nevada and  teaches veteran writing in Saint Leo University’s MA Creative Writing program. 


Steve Kistulentz  is the director of the graduate program in creative writing at Saint Leo University. He is the author of the forthcoming novel Panorama, to be published by Little, Brown & Company in early 2018, and two volumes of poetry, Little Black Daydream (University of Akron Press) and The Luckless Age (Red Hen Press), a collection which won the 2009 Benjamin Saltman Award. He holds an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University, an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a doctorate from the Florida State University, where he was the Edward and Marie Kingsbury Fellow for Excellence in Thought. His short fiction has appeared in Narrative, the Mississippi Review, Crab Orchard Review, Quarter After Eight  and elsewhere. 


Marissa Glover McLargin is an Instructor of English and Professional Writing at Saint Leo University and the faculty advisor for Saint Leo’s Slam Poetry Club. Marissa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Philosophy from Mercer University. She later earned a Master of Arts degree in literature and a graduate certificate in creative writing from the University of South Florida. She has performed her poetry at various events and conferences including Friday Night Open Mic. Her work has been published in Rat’s Ass Review: Love & Ensuing Madness  and Sandhill Review. When she’s not reading or writing, Marissa enjoys sports, the arts, and wide open spaces.


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. 

Registration Information

All participants must be pre-registered to attend. .  Early registration will close on at midnight May 12, 2017.  Late registration from May 13-19, 2017, incurs an additional late fee of $15 per registrant. Retreat registration includes access to all activities. Both a box lunch and a one-on one-manuscript conference may be purchased for an additional charge. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch. 



General Public


Teachers, student, seniors


SLU Alumni


SLU faculty, staff, students


Veterans and active duty military



One-on-one manuscript consultation


Box lunch


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

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


Click Here for Registration Page


Hotel accommodations are available at:

Retreat Administrators

Gianna Russo, Director, is Instructor of English and Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of Sandhill Review.

Angel Jimenez, Associate Director, is a Saint Leo faculty member.

John David Harding, Assistant Director, 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 creative writing faculty member, Gianna Russo, at (352) 588-8282 or