Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators


Whispering Pines Retreat

In 1995, after attending a week-long Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Workshop in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Linda Crotta Brennan hoped to develop a similar program in New England. She envisioned an intensive and intimate weekend-long getaway for dedicated writers. She and Laurie Smith Murphy searched for a venue and found the idyllic Whispering Pines Conference Center, on the University of Rhode Island’s Alton Jones Campus.

Initially, the retreat featured an established author and an editor, and was limited to twenty-five attendees. Each person received a 30-minute in-depth critique. After a few years, an illustrator was added to the faculty.

Over the years, Linda and Laurie continued to stay involved in the retreat, sometimes as coordinators and sometimes as attendees. In 2005, Lynda Mullaly Hunt became involved in the planning, and from 2007 to 2015, she was the guiding force behind the event. When Lynda stepped down from this post, Julie Kingsley and Cameron Rosenblum took charge for a year before handing over the reins to Kristin Russo and Pam Vaughan in 2017.

By the mid-2010s, the retreat had become so popular that, each year, the available slots filled quickly and many people who wanted to attend had to be turned away. In 2018, more than 100 people applied for the retreat’s 45 slots. Rather than disappoint so many members, Pam Vaughan decided to quickly plan a second retreat—with a different set of faculty (three or four editors and agents as well as an established author)—at Whispering Pines. Thanks to Pam’s herculean efforts and the assistance of Julia Boyce, both retreats were a tremendous success. Pam and Julia also planned two retreats in 2019.

Due to very bad winter weather in 2019, the University of Rhode Island, which manages the Whispering Pines Conference Center, decided that they would no longer be open from November to April. As a result, SCBWI-NE was forced to change the timing of their retreats from late winter to early autumn beginning in 2020. To ease the transition, an additional writing-only retreat with no faculty was held at Whispering Pines in autumn 2019. To learn more about Whispering Pines retreats, please visit the website,, which Pam Vaughan created in 2017 and continues to maintain. The retreat also has private and public Facebook pages and Twitter account: @wpretreatwriter.

Year   Retreat Coordinators
1995    Linda Crotta Brennan, Laurie Smith Murphy
1996    Laurie Smith Murphy, Linda Crotta Brennan
1997    Linda Crotta Brennan, Laurie Smith Murphy
1998    Laurie Smith Murphy, Linda Crotta Brennan
1999    Barbara Keevil Parker, Andy Frew
2000   Barbara Keevil Parker, Kathy Pacheco
2001    Kathy Pacheco, A. Michelle
2002   Laurie Smith Murphy, Cynthia Mitchell
2003   Laurie Smith Murphy, Cynthia Mitchell
2004   Linda Crotta Brennan, Laurie Smith Murphy, A. Michelle
2005   Laurie Smith Murphy, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, A. Michelle
2006   Laurie Smith Murphy, Lynda Mullaly Hunt
2007   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Jan Kozlowski
2008   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Lucia Zimmitti
2009   Lynda Mullaly Hunt
2010   Lynda Mullaly Hunt
2011    Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Mary Pierce
2012   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Mary Pierce
2013   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Mary Pierce
2014   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Mary Pierce
2015   Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Mary Pierce
2016   Julie Kingsley, Cameron Rosenblum
2017   Kristin Russo, Pam Vaughan
2018   Pam Vaughan, Julia Boyce
2019   Pam Vaughan, Julia Boyce
2020   Pam Vaughan, Julia Boyce

Retreats in Cape Cod, New Hampshire, and Vermont College of Fine Arts

In 1999, Linda Crotta Brennan decided to begin a second weekend-long retreat on Cape Cod and coordinated an event at the Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster, MA. The same year Amanda Marrone oversaw another weekend-long retreat at The New England Center, Durham, NH. These retreats weren’t as well attended as Whispering Pines, so the Region decided to stick with just one annual retreat for the time being.

In 2005, Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan volunteered to coordinate a weekend-long retreat geared toward members writing novels at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT. This popular program continued annually until 2008 when Sarah moved out of the area.

In 2013, Julie Kingsley and Cameron Rosenblum volunteered to organize a small, craft-focused writing retreat at the Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake in Holderness, NH. In 2015, Julie and Cameron decided not to run the retreat again and advertised for a new coordinator on Facebook. Melissa Fischler Hed saw their post and contacted them.

While it was too late to plan a retreat for 2015, Melissa, later joined by co-coordinator Jilly Ganon, organized a 2016 retreat that provided about 30 writers with the opportunity to write, network, receive in-depth critiques, and attend workshops given by talented industry professionals. Melissa and Jilly followed a similar format for the next 2 years. In 2018, they were assisted by newly-appointed Co-Regional Advisor Denise Ortakales.

After the 2018 retreat, Melissa and Jilly stepped down as coordinators, and Regional Advisor Emerita Marilyn Salerno began working with Co-RA Shawn Anderson to coordinate this popular event.

Year  Retreat Coordinators
2013   Julie Kingsley, Cameron Rosenblum
2014   Julie Kingsley, Cameron Rosenblum
2015   hiatus
2016   Melissa Fischler Hed, Jilly Gagnon
2017   Melissa Fischler Hed, Jilly Gagnon
2018   Melissa Fischler Hed, Jilly Gagnon, Denise Ortakales
2019   Shawn Anderson, Marilyn Salerno