by Geoff Carter
Photos by Brent Halverson / Justin Patchin
When I first entered the Cirenaica lodge, the woody smell of rough-cut lumber filled my senses. I gazed around at the smooth logs stacked upon one another, forged into strong walls. Walking around that handcrafted masterpiece made me feel right at home. All the while smelling that rustic air. That scent stole me back to my youth as a kid venturing north for a yearly family vacation at a cabin resting by a lake.
Retreating to the north woods filled my tiny heart with joy I could never duplicate. The days spent building relationships with my brothers, cousins, and family are cherished as some of my best. Though I had to retire from Cirenaica’s last writing residency early to embark on another family trip to that same cabin, I will cherish my summer at Cirenaica in a similar way to those old family memories. Meeting fellow writers from across the country, building relationships with strangers, educators, peers, professionals who are all now new friends. The stories we shared on the porch or the living room and around fires or Chef Brent’s food. How our goodbyes sometimes took hours.
Cirenaica was dubbed “Writing Camp,” and the name fits it well. For a weekend, we could retreat into the wilderness to disappear into our words. It was a place where anyone could go and feel a youthful spirit taking hold of their pens and minds. It’s where we feed the dreams of our younger selves. Marsha Qualey’s Young Adult Fiction Residency solidified this idea of jovial youth being achieved here. We can stay up late and play records and eat celebratory cake. Where we can embrace childlike innocence and train whistles. We never really grow up, Cirenaica just helps us realize it. I felt young every time I stepped inside that lodge, and I know I wasn’t alone.
When I first stepped into Cirenaica, I had no idea it would be so hard to leave.
Stay tuned for participant perspectives on Marsha Qualey's residency coming soon!