Quiet venue serves as escape for local authors
Authors can find respite from daily life at The Writing Barn, located on 7 acres in the heart of Southwest Austin, owner and Creative Director Bethany Hegedus said.
"Local writers don't have to drive three hours away from their families to have the full quiet that they need, but at the same time they can get here quickly and get to work," she said.
Surrounded by trees, the versatile venue has served for some as a secluded haven to complete a novel or a welcoming setting for a book launch party, she said.
Once a working horse barn, the barn includes a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room with high ceilings, a small loft space and a screened-in back porch decorated with Texas-themed chairs and tables. Outside, paper lanterns and twinkle lights are strung between mature trees.
"When people pull up, they feel like they've driven to Dripping Springs or somewhere out in the Hill Country," she said.
Hegedus said her husband, physicist Vivek Bakshi, has owned the property for more than a decade. The land also includes the couple's house and a small cabin.
Hegedus has written children's books and has a new book due out next year. At first, the barn was just going to be her office, but she decided to open The Writing Barn in January 2012 to support Austin writers. This year, she said she is branching out by bringing in New York publishing professionals to offer master classes.
"This is a creative place," she said, noting that classes focus not on how to query or find an agent but on the craft of writing, with subjects including character development, story structure and finding inspiration through exercises such as meditation and yoga.
The barn's motto, "Retreat. Create. Celebrate," encompasses the different types of events that take place at the business, Hegedus said.
The barn has hosted writers' retreats, lectures and advanced writing workshops. Speakers have included writer and teacher Saundra Goldman, Jodi Egerton of Write Good Consulting, young adult book author Sara Zarr and children's book marketing expert Kirsten Cappy.
"It's an amazing space," said author Sean Petrie, who attended Zarr's workshop in April on emotional pacing in writing. He explained that about 15 writers shared copies of their works in progress with each other, sat at a table together and discussed their critiques and comments on each story.
"It was extremely helpful," he said, adding: "I don't know of any other space like that in Austin for holding workshops or presentations that's just so open and friendly and conducive to writing and to that classroom setting."
Additionally, writers can rent the barn for a few nights to work. Hegedus also offers mentorship privately at the Barn for one-on-one help with developing stories.
The Writing Barn is "not a coffee shop where you just drop by and write," she explained, noting visitors must pre-register. Most clients are authors who are preparing to publish or are already published—but she noted exceptions have included University of Texas students working on dissertations as well as corporate board retreats.
"We keep finding new ways to use the space, which is fun," she said.
The barn is also a bed and breakfast and hosts book clubs, baby showers, bridal showers and small weddings. The back porch is the barn's party spot, and Hegedus said she invites published writers and illustrators to autograph the porch.
"Those who are yet to be published, they're excited to come back someday when their book comes out and they get to sign," she said. "It's a rite of passage."
Memoir Writing Workshop Session I
Led by Spike Gillespie, author of The Maine Event. July 5–7; Cost: $225
Memoir Writing Workshop Session II
Led by Spike Gillespie, author of The Maine Event. Aug. 2–4; Cost: $225
Writing for The Tweens and Teens Market
Led by Shana Burg. July 10, July 17, July 24, July 31 and Aug. 7; Cost: $365
Advanced Writer Workshop
Led by Francisco X. Stork. Nov. 8–10; Cost: $375
Workshops and rentals vary in price.
- Half-day classes: $85–$150
- Full-day classes: $100–$250
- Weekly classes: $350 for five-week session
- Special events (including application-only Advanced Writing Weekend Workshops): $375
- Overnight rates: $250 for barn (sleeps four), $200 for cabin (sleeps four)
Note: Rentals are subject to availability. Some discounts are available for writers.
The Writing Barn, 10202 Wommack Road, 512-665-0886, [email protected]