Turning Moments to Memories: A Summer Now Gone, But A Wonderful Fall Ahead


By Guild Director B.J. Hollars

I’ve been putting off writing this for a while now.  Not due to a lack of enthusiasm, but due to too much of it.  When I think back on the summer residencies at Cirenaica, I immediately become so overwhelmed by my sugary-sweet sentimentality, that any attempt to write about it will surely test the readers’ gag reflexes.  (Yes, it was that great.)

The truth is, I often feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.  Though I’m no longer in a life position that allows me to travel to partake in too many writing residencies (two kids have made that a challenge), I am in a position to help provide such opportunities for others.  And the benefit to me, of course, is that I get to enjoy the residencies in my own backyard at Cirenaica.  I come, I go, I learn, I eat.  Then, I repeat it all the following week.

This past summer taught me all sorts of writing-related lessons.  But of equal importance, the summer residencies also reaffirmed for me the power of community.  Whether we were singing camp songs around the flames, playing a “best out of 11” never-ending ping-pong tournament, or reuniting with our high schools principals in an entirely new setting (well, I guess that last one only applies to me), every moment at Cirenaica became a fond memory, something I never want to forget.  Some of the summer’s best moments occurred spontaneously: when writer-in-residence Max Garland helped us celebrate Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday with a birthday cake, or when participant Ken Szymanski found the perfect structure to his essay just an hour before the public reading.  And there were plenty of others, too: assistant arts administrator Geoff Carter belting out a new song to conclude the evening, or Brent Halverson sharing his latest ice cream recipes.  Every day when I drove to Cirenaica, I always knew I’d leave with a new friend, a new insight, and a renewed motivation to keep writing.  And this proved true every day.  

Looking ahead, the Guild’s got all kinds of equally exciting programming on the horizon.  From the release of Barstow & Grand on October 26 at 7PM at The Local Store (more on that next newsletter!) to our second annual Winter Writers Residency at The Oxbow Hotel (more on that later, too!), rest assured, we’ve got you covered.  Which is to say nothing of our amazing craft talks headed your way, including UWEC instructor and poet Katie Vagnino’s talk, “Pitch Perfect: Navigating the World of Freelance Writing” (The Local Store / Oct. 12 / 7PM) and Madison-based poet Matthew Guenette’s “The Poetics of Voice: Crafting the Persona Poem” (The Local Store / Nov. 9 / 7PM).  And let’s not forget our annual fundraiser, “Suppertime in Lake Wobegon” (featuring A Prairie Home Companion writer Holly Harden and the food of chef Brent Halverson!) which takes place on September 16 at 6PM at Forage.  Ticket sales end September 13. Purchase yours today by clicking here! 

Last but not least, I’m pleased to announce that the Guild now has an advisory board!  This board will do much to ensure that our diverse range of programs continues to flourish.  Already, the board’s many insights have proven invaluable.  Get ready for the Guild to grow!

Wishing you many wonderful words in the coming month.

Until next time, 
BJ Hollars