Free writing retreat in Bulgaria writing contest!

Free writing retreat in Bulgaria writing contest!

For several years I’ve been thinking about holding writing retreats or author-training events in beautiful, inspiring locations around the world. Now that I’m finally finished with my PhD (wahoo!) I’m ready to get started.

Ideally I would sell spaces and split amazing AirBnB rentals, to at least pay for my own costs -and I might do that later as well – but for the moment I think it’ll be more fun (and less work) to simply rent a place I want to live in and throw out an offer for people to join me.

To research my own books, this year I’ll be heading to Sophia Bulgaria and some Thracian sites in the Rhodope mountains; the ancient site of Delphi in Greece; and Portballintrae, Ireland to see Dunlace Castle and the Giant’s Causeway.

Rather than booking a cheap hotel or being crammed into a hostel, I want to rent inspiring, beautiful places that make me excited to get out of bed and spend all day writing and enjoying the view. For example, this place in Ogled Bulgaria is as beautiful as it is impractical: as far as I can tell, there is no internet, it’s hard to access without a car (and even then), and it’s in a tiny town with possibly a little store or market but not much else.

bulgaria writing retreat

I was planning on renting it all for just my wife and I, but that’s kind of a waste of the two other bedrooms. There’s not a lot of shared communal space it looks like, other than that main table, so we might get a little stir crazy together. But the view though!

It would make a lot more sense to rent THIS amazing place near Delphi for a month or THIS massive place or THIS incredible complex of castle-ruins in France for a week, and have more people and more space: I’ll probably do those too later. If I was doing a real, serious, professional writing retreat, I’d need to figure out food and transportation and we’d probably need internet.

That’s not what this is.

I just really want to stay in this completely unreasonable apartment in the middle of nowhere for awhile, and since it has extra rooms, you can come stay there too if you want.

writing retreat

This will be a writing and work retreat: while I can help you out with book marketing and building a platform and the craft of writing, and we’ll probably take some amazing day trip adventures, you’ll be expected to spend a LOT of time quietly pounding away on your own books or projects while I work on mine.

You can come stay a week, for free, probably the first week in September.

I think I can arrange to have the host prepare and cook us meals, but this will definitely not be resort living (again, it would be smarter to just rent nice hotel rooms in the nearby Pamporovo resort area and get a buffet breakfast, pool and gym, plus plenty of space.)

You’ll need to get to Ogled, Bulgaria (or very nearby so I can pick you up) on your own. I imagine for most people, this offer will be interesting but not really that attractive… for some of you, though, I think it might sound like an ideal opportunity for an epic experience (and if you’re already in the UK or Europe, a flight to Bulgaria won’t cost that much).

In the future, I’m interested in developing the kind of co-working and co-living businesses that are popping up right now for digital nomads (check out this post) but focused on writers rather than coders or designers.

How will it work?

This isn’t exactly a “writing contest” though I hope to do more of those later… instead we’ll keep it super simple:

Comment down below on why you want to come and what you’d work on during your one week stay. It can be fiction of non-fiction. I’ll help you (if you want) map it out or plot it, and keep you focused on getting a great deal of work done. You probably can’t finish a whole book in a week, but you could get a lot done… or, if you’ve written a book and it needs editing, this might be the right setting and environment to help with that.

Please also comment with a link to your website or email (sometimes I read comments and there is no way to track you down afterwards). If you don’t want to share that info, add your Facebook or Twitter handle and I can find and contact you.

Please only apply if you can seriously make this happen (getting here, taking a week off, etc.) If this one isn’t for you, don’t worry – I’m going to be doing more stuff like this from now on. Sign up on my email list if you haven’t already so you don’t miss out on future opportunities.

Finally if you think this is a fun idea and would like to see more giveaways like this, please share!


  • Emily Posted

    If I go I’d be working on putting together my next nonfiction book outline. I’ve been going full throttle on a children’s book I funded through Kickstarter and am eager to have a little space to launch my next project.

  • Spencer Hawke Posted

    Derek is the best, very talented. Re-designed the covers for my Ari Cohen series. 2 out of 4 completed. If you are looking for help, email him. You can check his work out at your favorite ebook retailers website. Look for Arrows of Islam or The Swiss Conspiracy by Spencer Hawke.

  • Kim Lambert Posted

    I am so tempted. Making this work would be one hell of a challenge. I am in Australia. I have to be in New Orleans from 14 September to 22 September. A round the world ticket from here is about the same price ( and sometimes less than) as a return ticket…… I work for myself, from home, so scheduling is not as hard in that way. I have around 20 more books in my historical fiction plotted out, so I would be working on whichever one I am up to by then, and enjoying not doing client work for a while. Working out exactly which flight segments would work, and how much extra I’d have to add for internal to continent flights would be complex, but I’vr done that sort of thing before.

  • Mary Sullivan Esseff Posted

    This would be an amazing adventure. I’d love to join you, Derek. I am working on my 4th book and part of it takes place in what was Germany and is now Poland. It takes place in the 1500s during the time of Martin Luther and involves my ancestors who were followers of one of the Reformationists who didn’t agree with Martin Luther so he began his own movement: Caspar Schwenkfelder von Osig. My relatives were persecuted by Catholics and Lutherans so they had to sneak out of the country en mass and they immigrated to America in 1734. The book is written like a novel and is more fictitious than fact. The 2nd part of the book is about my husband’s Lebanese ancestors and takes place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The 3rd part is about the main characters, Rebecca and Khalil who were featured in the1st 3 books.

    I’d love working with you. I’ve been following you for a couple of years and love your energy which feels very close to mine at your age. I have a Ph.D. in instructional technology and a BA in English Lit. I’ve traveled all over the world for business and pleasure and have been married to the love of my life for 50 years (this years). I’d love to participate in a writing retreat with you in Bulgaria.

    Thanks for your consideration.
    Many blessings,
    Mary Sullivan Esseff,
    author of The Butterfly & The Snail; Wedding Tales, Book One: Love’s Journey; and Wedding Tales, Book Two: Honeymoon Caper.

  • Gabrielle DiBona Posted

    So, to be clear, I don’t actually want to go to Bulgaria, travel just seems personally exhausting atm. But I did want to thank you for that comment about the isolation of online writing in your newsletter this week and I hope whoever does win, that you share your experiences. I’ve been struggling with the difficulty of just feeling absolutely on my own in the ether of the Internet, writing daily, for some reason looking to my readers to fulfill some sort of communication void when now I wonder if I shouldn’t be looking towards other writers in the same boat. Creatives have a great ability to just spark off each other and kind of light up a room with their many ideas–it’s great. Possibly addiction forming. It might be the manic-depressive of social interaction. Anyways, I hope you all have fun, and you’ve reminded me I want to find some sort of writing group in my area.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Yea it’s awful to feel alone when creativity can be so social; I think you need a support group or community you can bounce ideas off, even if you spend most of your time in isolation doing the work.

      • Gabrielle DiBona Posted

        It definitely surprised me when starting this writing gig. I guess because you have to be so self motivated when it comes to creating and self-publishing, I just assumed the well replenished. But there are times I feel like I’m pouring more out of me into a character or setting than I’m ever getting back energy wise. And my family, much as I love them, seems to know how to drain me even greater depending on the day. Getting to read about your adventures has been helpful. I love the idea of you going off to rent a castle and travel the world (not on a whim, but from my perspective it seems so fanciful and fun.) You seem to have a healthy relationship with your craft I hope to find a similar balance to one day.

  • Alma Alexander Posted

    I was born just a border away – in a country that doesn’t exist any more, in what used to be Yugoslavia. I can attest first hand to the sheer beauty of the Balkans. Oh boy, would I love to go and write in the Bulgarian mountains – if I could stop staring at the backdrop long enough to remember to breathe. But alas, getting to Bulgaria from the West Coast of the USA is a little prohibitive right now. (but rent that castle in France….? I might morgage my cats to get there…) (just kidding. But you know what I mean.)

  • MZ Lowe Posted

    Hey Derek. A big congrats on becoming Dr. Murphy!! I won’t be available the first week of Sept for Bulgaria, but maybe one of your other places might work. Just wanted to stop by and say “Way to Go”

  • Lilla Ban Posted

    Dear Dr Murphy, I’d finish my second book – a soft psychothriller about a young girl from India, who gets seduced by a psychopath and taken to Hong Kong. Also, while working on that, I’d help my daughters (5 and 8) completing their third tale, that take the little readers on a quest to figure out if golden serpents indeed exist. By the way, we are Hungarians. Fb is lilla.ban, Skype is wangzengfa.

  • Ian Blake Newhem Posted

    “The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them …”

    Dear Derek,

    Your thesis topic immediately called to mind this line from “The Lottery,” which I taught – along with Chaucer, Milton, and Blake, of course – for 17 years as an English Professor in the SUNY system. Alas, all that came to an abrupt halt in October 2015 when Timmy came to town. Timmy is a Stage II oligodendroglioma—a brain tumor. He’s sitting “one neuron away” from the language expression center in my left frontal lobe. The craniotomy I underwent in November extracted only most of his corpus. But not all. It’s only a matter of time before I lose my most precious possession—my acumen for language.

    I’ve worked a successful ghostwriter for about 12 years—collaborated with some super cool people, and played with the big boys of several major houses. But what I REALLY want to do is break through with my fiction. Over the years, I’ve had a bunch of short stories published, but I’ve not yet managed to see a novel in print. Obviously, this legacy I wish to leave has become rather more urgent of late. I’m 85 percent done with an ambitious novel, which I believe could be my successful debut. What I need now is to leave the ambit of appointments and all existential dread—and get back to work!

    I’ve always wanted to visit Bulgaria—I set one of my short stories there. I cannot wait anymore for “someday” to travel and to make my mark.

    Hope you’ll consider me. [email protected]

    By the way, I wound up on your mailing list because I was in dire trouble: I (with zero design experience) found myself in the awkward position of having to design a book cover on extremely short notice. Your counsel – and your template – was invaluable.

  • Sue Weems Posted

    Congrats on your PhD! Such an accomplishment. Love the community you are intentionally building both on and offline. I can’t get away for the amazing contest prize, but I wish you all the best. Appreciate all the work and resources you share here.

  • Amy Laurens Posted

    Man, I would so LOVE to do something like this! Unfortunately, I can’t get the time off work this year, but I’m definitely planning to keep an ear out for future opportunities like this next year :o) In the meantime, I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all the awesome advice you offer on your blog and across your various sites/newsletters. Your work is truly appreciated 🙂

  • Debbie Browdy Posted

    Congrats on the PhD What a feat. Your help is amazing and I am sure I speak for many- We appreciate you. On the trip wish I could go but with work and all it won’t be possible. This would be amazing. It is something out of my dreams and it sad knowing they will not let me go. I have my first book just being tweaked. To be able to sit with other writers and hear their ideas along with sharing mine for a second book is the chance of a lifetime. Ps. Your tools are amazing and I love the templates, thank you!

  • artur didsbury Posted

    Your advice about not editing just write, has invigorated me, advice I knew but had forgotten. And surprisingly most of what I had written wasn’t shite!!! (first draft) Thank You.

  • A. M. Offenwanger Posted

    I don’t actually want to go to Bulgaria, just wanted to say Congrats, Dr. Murphy! Is there anyplace we could read your thesis?

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Nope. 🙂 I’ll turn it into a book later, but I won’t promote hard, it’s really different from my main platform, all about good and evil, ethics, history, philosophy, etc.

  • Elisabeth Scheffer Posted

    What a generous and great idea. I would LOVE to have a week just to get writing done.

    I am working on my first book to self-publish on Amazon. I am a psychotherapist and the book is for women on transforming trauma and abuse. I want to donate a portion of the income from the book to children that I met last year in Nepal.

    I am American but already live in Europe and work from home so it would be easy for me to get there. My email: [email protected]. Congratulations, thank you and good luck to you!

  • Bill Cokas, Writer Posted

    I’m a firm believer in the environment having an impact on the story–or at least the process. So I’m sure anything I wrote in such amazing surroundings would undoubtedly be amazing itself! It’s almost like gaming the system!

  • John Posted

    I would love to, I am working on a sci fi novel!

  • Ondřej Vašíček Posted

    Hi Derek,
    I don’t usually join discussions or contests, but your last newsletter truly forced me to share some thoughts of mine with you.

    At first, thanks for the great offer to writers. I hope you and everyone who wins will enjoy the stay. Bulgaria can be nice place for spending some time. Have been there few times. I’d be happy being a part of the trip, but I’m not a good candidate. My first book (a desperate story of a woman awaking to dystopian future) is only in beginning and it’s not written in English (my English is really poor), but in Czech (I’m a Bohemian – from Czech Republic – have seen a few pictures of yours on Instagram from Prague, our capital city – hope you had great times in our country). So I believe other people can create better synergy with you.

    I wanted to congrats you on the PhD. The topic it’s actually quite interesting and important for the future I believe. I’d be more than interesting to see some of your point of view and conclusions, if you end up with any. I can easily imagine, there’s more question in the end than answers.

    But mostly I wanted to tell you, that the whole idea of making these sessions on great atmospheric places, sharing quite place, experiences and common time, is absolutely marvellous. Just the idea of this took me far away from the reality right into my imagination. In fact, it was so strong that I started rethinking my current life and long-term goals. I know, it’s a bit funny, what can come out from one little newsletter. But I was surprised as well. Maybe just a strange combination of coincidences and my current mood I guess.

    But anyway, I wanted to thank you for your work and attitude.

    Sending greetings from the middle of Europe.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Thanks so much for your comments! Yeah we love Prague, just looking for somewhere with a bit more nature for awhile.

  • Cat MacRury-Gilbert Posted

    Just finished the Audio Book webinar. I enjoyed it very much. I’ll be in Ireland in Oct. on a little book tour. Are you sure of your Bulgaria dates? Early or late Sept. Thanks, Slainte, Cat

  • Jillian Brenner Posted

    This sounds amazing! I am currently working on a magical realism collection of eight short stories. My project is nearing the end, and I am working with wonderful editors. This collection means the world to me, and I was just thinking yesterday about applying for writing retreats. My collection experiments with making abstract, fundamental aspects of our society– such as grief, memories, or leaving childhood behind– and making them concrete elements with which my characters can interact.
    I will be backpacking in Europe during September, and, coincidentally, the first week of September is the only time I have nothing planned. I would absolutely love to be a part of this generous offer, if possible! Thanks so much for offering this wonderful retreat to the writing community, and congrats on your PhD!
    I can be reached at: [email protected]

    All best,
    J.C. Brenner

  • Lori Colvin Posted

    Wow – what an awesome opportunity! I would love to participate 🙂
    I’m an Indie publisher and author who has a successful series of novellas, but I’m looking to branch out into writing full-length novels in another genre, and would use the time in Bulgaria in two ways:

    1, I would shamelessly pick your brain for marketing, platform and publishing ideas, hints and handy tips.

    2. I would enjoy the peace and quiet, and use it to begin work on a novel in another genre.

    I’m a digital nomad who loves to travel and I find immersion in other cultures and locales to be tremendously inspiring. In June I published one book from a resort in Napa, and another from a public library in Dillingham, Alaska, a town of 2500 people where 80% of the population was Native – it was heavenly. I’d have no issue with the time or resources required for the trip, and would be thrilled to be selected. Thanks!

  • Eandyil Posted

    It sounds like quite a bit of fun. I could see living life like that; it would be amazing! A nice retreat away from distractions would be a great way to eliminate most of these distractions that get in the way of writing. Many of the things that inspire me also keep me away from the writing desk. It’s a great idea, good luck in your endeavors!

  • jhw120a Posted

    Ive attempted to write my material with a laptop resting on my lap while setting on a recliner in my living room. Have I wasted my time? I think not. The words that on paper are what is in my soul and its been a journey to where ever the words take me. The idea of living and working in a new world has intrigued me. That is why Ive applied as a volunteer for the Peace Corps in the Kosovo area. Work with and write about the people there may help me gain a successful novel for my time. Maybe I will see you around..sometime.

  • Antara Mann Posted

    Congrats! I just read your other posts, the cardinal sin, too! I liked the tarot cards. i recently (well, a few months ago) ead Chris Fox’s book Write to Market. I’m planning to craft an UF series based on Chris’ advice: first crafting the title, blurb and cover and THEN writing the novel. I’ll be very happy to come as I’m a native Sofianer (in Bulgaria it’s lovely, especially in the mountains, seaside, etc but in the capital not so much!) and finally meet you in person; have some writers talk and chat on the write to market stuff, etc. As a Bulgarian and East European, I can be a help to the bulgarian psychology. There’s one caveat, though: i’m a vegetarian.
    My email is [email protected]

  • Robin Divine Posted

    Congratulations on the accomplishment! I’d like to come to the retreat so that I can edit a book that I self-published last year and also get support with marketing. My book did not reach the audience I had expected even though I have a solid following. I now know that there were many things that I should have been doing prior to the launch of the book. My book is non-fiction and tells the story of a 9 month cross country road trip that I took after finding myself homeless. What (I think) makes my story unique and relevant is that I took the trip entirely on the kindness of strangers I met along the way. I continually meet people that seem to believe that the world is not a good and kind place to be anymore. When I speak to those that have read the book, they often tell me that my story gave them hope. I’d love to figure out this marketing game so that I can share it with a wider audinece. I can be reached at [email protected]. What an awesome opportunity, thanks it for sharing it.

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