Dear writers: this weekend is in the middle of nowhere, with little to no access to the outside world. One of the intents of this retreat is to disconnect from the outside and connect with yourself, your writing, and your process. You will be sharing meals, bathrooms, bedrooms, outdoor space, and downtime with other people. You will be participating in writing workshops, dialogues, communal meals, and you will be experiencing fellowship with people that are brand new to you. You will have time to yourself, and everything you participate in is your choice. Please take this into consideration before applying. If you have any questions about this, please reach out to Desireé.

The Heart of it is a 4 day, 3 night writing retreat in a private retreat house in Jemez Springs, New Mexico facilitated by Desireé Dallagiacomo. Each day is filled with writing workshops, independent project time, dialogues, and performance workshops. 9 new writers, 1 returning THOI alumni, Desireé, and her dog Kala will be in attendance. Desireé provides her private library of poetry and writing books, and each writer will have fill access to it throughout the weekend. The property is expansive, and each day there will be time to explore the outdoors in whatever way feels comfortable for you.

The Heart of It was founded by Desireé Dallagiacomo as an alternative to academic writing retreats and fellowships. Desireé created this space because she felt out of place in academic settings, and wanted a space that was rooted in communal knowledge and the principals of community education. There are many writing retreats that honor this, and The Heart of It is just one of them.

Through The Heart of It, Desireé hopes to liberate resources and shared expertise and help facilitate a space in which fellows can share the valuable knowledge they carry within them and learn from each other. Though the weekend is facilitated mostly by her, it is a space built by and for the fellows. Each fellow will have the option to lead a workshop, dialogue, or activity. We believe that everyone in the space has a wealth of knowledge.

The Heart of It Writing Retreat is meant for writers of all skill levels, with particular interest in writers with limited access to a consistent community and resources and writers with working class and community backgrounds. The Heart of It is for writers that want to give themselves time, space, and structure. With minimal access to everyday distractions, writers have the opportunity to dive into their process and their projects.


There are 3 iterations of The Heart of It 2020.
January 24-27, 2020 (first years)
January 31-February 3, 2020 (alumni only)
February 7-10, 2020 (first years)

Due to the nature of the selection process, we do not allow applicants to request a specific weekend.

The Heart of It is open to all writers. We’ve had mother’s that write in their free time and have never published a word of it, college students that wrote their first poem shortly before they applied, viral youtube poets, extensively published poets, folks with MFAs and long lists of residencies they’ve attended, motivational speakers, creative non-fiction writers, fiction writers, and poets of all skill levels.

Most workshops focus on poetry and creative, personal non-fiction writing. 

First, let us say that it is impossible to describe how magical the retreat house is. It is on a dirt road, and was built by poet Ava Haymond as a poet’s retreat house. Beginning in 2017, she has generously allowed us to use the space. It is decorated almost exclusively in local handmade artifacts from the Jemez region, and it is meant to be a space for solitude, writing, and connectedness to self and others.

The retreat house is located in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. It is just over an hour from Albuquerque and very rural. The house runs on a well, has no television, no internet, and one landline for phone calls. Many people have no cell phone reception. 

You will have a twin bed (with the except of 2 fellows that will share a queen sized bed) with bedding, and you will share a room with 1-2 other people. Some rooms are more private than others, and each writer picks their own bed and room. Some are quiet, some are loud, some are cold, some are warm. All are beautiful. There is one double bed, which will be shared by 2 fellows. This is always consented into, and you will not be forced into any sleeping arrangement that does not feel good.

All activities, workshops, and meals will happen in the West House, and 3 fellows will sleep in the East House. The houses are about 20 feet apart, and both within a fully enclosed adobe fence.

Each room is attached to a bathroom, and the bathrooms are shared. 
The house is heated by a wood stove, and it has a fully equipped, updated kitchen.
The house is not wheelchair accessible, as it has 3 steps leading into the space and is surrounded by gravel.

Desireé’s rescue dog, Kala, will be in attendance as well. She is a 40 lbs pitbull mix, and she has attended every THOI retreat.

Desireé structures the weekend and the fellows solidify the schedule for each day during breakfast.

There are 3-5 workshops a day, the majority of which are writing workshops with some performance workshops and guided dialogues. 

You will be provided with 9 meals, and each member of the household is asked to contribute to the preparation process (chopping, setting the table, doing dishes, cooking, etc).

You will have allotted downtime and quiet time, and there will be space to share your work with the group.


This weekend can feel socially demanding, and it is. It is full of conversation, feeling, laughter, shared meals, shared ideas, invitations to be vulnerable, and space to be yourself. 
If group settings are not your thing, please consider that deeply before applying.

The retreat house is made of adobe and is at 7,000 feet elevation. There are sprawling views and desert wildlife. The house sits on a few acres, and behind it is national land. The house is updated and has electricity, running water, plumbing, and all of that jazz. You will be comfortable, we promise.


The retreat fee must be paid in full by December 15th, and there are no refunds.

Each weekend, there are 10 writers, plus Desireé and Kala, in attendance. Through the experience of past THOI weekends, we’ve learned that 11 is a comfortable number. In order to cover costs, the cost-per-person has gone up from previous years.

Your tuition goes towards food, supplies for the weekend, ground transportation for each fellow (from the ABQ airport to the retreat house and back), Desireé’s labor, house maintenance, paying the groundskeeper (Jo Ann), and any incidentals that may come up. 

Each year, we receive scholarship donations, but those don’t become available until about December, once all donations are collected. 

Each year, selected folks have received scholarships that cover 25%-75% of tuition.