Write for Your Life

A jaded author gets more mystery than she bargains for in The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz ’06.

Book cover "The Writing Retreat", A novel by Julia Bartz.

In The Writing Retreat, there’s more at stake than a book deal.

The idyllic title of Julia Bartz ’06’s debut novel, The Writing Retreat, belies its eerie narrative. But the deceptive moniker befits a book that follows a hopeful protagonist into an opportunity that proves too good to be true — or, rather, too sinister to survive.

Alex has all but abandoned her dreams of a writing career when she receives an invitation to attend an exclusive writing retreat hosted by an eccentric horror author at a haunted estate. The price of admission — competing with her friend-turned-nemesis and churning out 3,000 worthwhile words per day — pales in comparison to the prospect of a seven-figure publishing deal that could change her life. But after the ominous disappearance of a fellow attendee, Alex begins to realize there’s more at stake than a book deal.

Unlike the literary truism, this book is best judged by its cover: the overcast, blustery landscape etched with a ghoulish-green font delivers a sense of foreboding that Bartz expertly carries throughout the narrative. Just as Alex finds herself stuck in a retreat that is more of a trap, readers report finding themselves trapped among the pages of this haunting read.

“The book’s pacing — a slow roll of dread and horror, especially in the first half — is exceptional,” Kirkus Reviews writes. “Bartz hits all the gothic highlights, but, far from feeling stale, they work.”

The Writing Retreat was a New York Times best seller. Library Reads named it a “Top Pick” of librarians across the country, and it was a Book of the Month Club selection in February 2023. Bartz is a licensed therapist in Brooklyn, New York.

Published in the Summer 2023 issue


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