The Nook & Cranny Writing Retreat 

a weekend exploration of poetry and prose

with award-winning writers Lauren Carter and Ariel Gordon





held at Bell Aura Bed & Breakfast in Carman, MB,

on Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Red River Métis.

Join award-winning writers Lauren Carter and Ariel Gordon for a creative and inspiring extended weekend of community, delicious food, and explorations of the nooks and crannies of your literary imagination at Bell Aura Bed & Breakfast in Carman, Manitoba, only one hour west of Winnipeg.

Write your heart out in workshops focused on poetry and fiction. Chat about words, stories, and writing under the century-old stained glass. Make a tea and grab a hardback gothic novel in the B&B’s cozy library or take a river-side walk before exploring the quaint shops and historic art gallery in Carman’s cute downtown. Want more creative time? Retire to your writing-themed room, notebook in hand.

Share your work (optional!) at our after-supper open mic and celebrate Ariel’s new collaborative poetry collection (written with Brenda Schmidt) before donning a flamboyant hat from the proprietor’s costume collection for our fancy dress karaoke house party.

Held in a setting that fires the imagination, this weekend will be full of creative surprises, imaginative explorations, indulgent meals, and fun. Spots are limited; grab yours today! 

“This retreat gave me the jumpstart I needed to get back into my writing project!” The setting was serene, and the food was delicious. I felt welcomed and encouraged at every moment by participants and session leaders alike!” – Heidi Casper

“I’m coming away from the Nook & Cranny with a greater sense of purpose and hope for my poetry collection. Ariel’s advice and strategies for exploring language in new ways was a game changer. I can’t wait to dive back into the writing. Thank you! Thank you! – Leanne Fournier 

“Creating/strengthening community. Revealing/sharing techniques and tools. In a beautiful town, hosted by the beautiful people at Bell Aura. Fun and fine people and a head full of inspiration and joy!” – Denise 

About the Facilitators

Lauren Carter (she/her) is the author of five books. Her latest–short story collection Places Like These–was a Globe & Mail recommended read in Spring 2023. Her last novel This Has Nothing To Do With You won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction from the Manitoba Books Awards, when she also received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Her first novel Swarm appeared on the CBC Canada Read’s longlist. She has also published two poetry collections: Lichen Bright and Following Sea. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and has taught creative writing to students from around the world, including Syria, Qatar, and California, while running writing retreats with other writers, including Wild Writing in the Boreal, held annually in April.  

Ariel Gordon (she/her) is a Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory-based writer, editor, and enthusiast. She is the ringleader of Writes of Spring, a National Poetry Month project with the Winnipeg International Writers Festival that appears in the Winnipeg Free Press. Gordon’s essay “Red River Mudlark” was 2nd place winner of the Kloppenberg Hybrid Grain Contest in Grain Magazine and other work appeared this year in FreeFall, Columba Poetry, Canthius, and Canadian Notes & Queries. Gordon’s third collection of poetry, Siteseeing: Writing nature & climate across the prairies, written in collaboration with Saskatchewan poet Brenda Schmidt and will appear in fall 2023. Her second book of CNF, Fungal, will appear with Wolsak & Wynn in spring 2024.

About Bell Aura Bed & Breakfast

Built in 1898 in the Gothic revival style, this church-turned-bed-and-breakfast is full of art and antiques, not to mention the stained glass originally shipped from Scotland in crates of molasses! Each of the bedrooms is themed for a writer or evocative book–Agatha Christie (formerly Brittania), Hemingway, the Manderley–while the library and living room are full of cloth-bound historic hardbacks and cozy seating. Host Barbara has earned praise for her delicious meals (accommodating all dietary restrictions) which are served in the large dining room, and generous and easy-going hosting. Listed as one of the 23 Most Unique Places to Stay in Manitoba on Road Trip Manitoba, Bell Aura is custom-made for story-making!

All Bell Aura photos by Kaleigh Karlenzig

About the 2023 Workshops (stay tuned for our offerings for 2024)

Fiction and Freewriting Stream with Lauren 

Prodding the Past for Invented People –

We will write to several historical and interesting objects to see what – and who – emerges, then place our discovered characters into the context of their eras.

Pick-A-Prompt Silent Write-In –

Writing is a solitary endeavour. Come and write with others using self-serve prompts. We’ll spend an hour in silent writing and then chat about whatever arises and the writing process.

Embroider and Embellish –

You’ve discovered characters, themes, and story ideas, so what now? We’ll explore and practice ways to embellish, embroider, expand this early work so you can go home and keep writing!

Poetry Stream with Ariel

Dispatches from the World –
What does it mean to slow down and pay attention to the natural world? What lives there? What’s moving? We will be focusing on close observation of urban nature, writing poems about what we see/hear/smell/taste.

Thrifting Poems –
For this workshop, we’ll walk over to the Carman MCC Thrift Shop, where your goal is to find an object (or objects) to write to. We’ll chat about writing strategies on the way back to Bel Aura, where you’ll spend the remaining time exploring the lost and found, the now and then, of your finds.

Strategies for Poetry Editing –
How do you take your freewriting, your first drafts, to the next level? We’ll explore techniques to refine your poems: leaning on line and stanza breaks, amplifying the soundwork, and using the page like a canvas.

About the 2023 Itinerary (2024 details to come)

  • 4-6 pm: registration, swag bags, and getting settled
  • 6 pm: delicious family-style supper
  • 7-10 pm: getting to know one another and beginning to create with introvert-friendly connecting and guided writing exercises

  • 8-9 am: breakfast
  • 10:00-12 am: Session #1
  • 12-2 pm: lunch on your own (or with new friends). Try the Crazy Lady Diner (delicious food and every cookie cutter you ever wanted…). Wander the town, curl up in the library, write some more, or stretch in the large basement yoga studio.
  • 2-4 pm: Session #2
  • 4-6 pm: free time
  • 6 pm: supper
  • 7-11 pm: Book launch to celebrate Ariel’s new poetry collection, a collaboration with Sask poet Brenda Schmidt, followed by open mic, and our fancy dress, karaoke after party

  • 8-9 am: Light breakfast
  • 10-12 pm: Session #3
  • 1 pm: Lunch
  • 2-3 pm: Raffle with fabulous prizes, feedback, goodbyes



Take advantage of our early bird rates, which end Sept 6th.  

2024 Pricing To Come 

Secure your spot by filling in the registration form and paying a deposit of $200 (remainder due September 25th). 

Sleeps Until We Enter the Nook and Crannies!