Helping All Our Stories Flow: Why YOUR Gift Matters TODAY

credit for all photos:  Justin Patchin Photography

credit for all photos: Justin Patchin Photography

B.J. Hollars

In the fall of 2002, as a prospective student at  Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, a creative writing professor named Robin Metz sat across from me at a table and said, "You, my friend, might have what it takes to be a writer." Only later did I learn that he hadn't actually read a word I'd written. (Why would he have? I was a prospective student!) But the sentiment was still true.

Maybe I did have it!

Also…maybe not.

But at 18, what he said was what I needed to hear most: he planted the seed of a possibility, and he dared me to dream it to be true.

Robin Metz died on November 27, 2018.  He leaves behind over half a century’s worth of students.  I count myself lucky to be among them.

Robin taught me many lessons, though the most important was the one he shared with me late one fall evening in 2014.  I’d returned to campus to visit my alma mater, and while there, crossed paths with my mentor outside the campus library.  It was dark out, the stars shone overhead, and I was so caught up in the swirl of nostalgia that I asked Robin I question I’d never considered asking him before: “What’s the most important lesson we can teach our students?”


Robin leaned in close, and in a voice that bordered on a whisper, said, “It’s your job to persuade students that their stories matter.  And that ultimately, all of our stories flow into the very same river.”

Spoken like a true poet.

Though, of course, I know exactly what he meant.

Since February of 2016, the Guild has worked tirelessly to do just that: persuading writers of all levels and genres that their words matter.  We’ve hosted dozens of craft talks, dozens of readings, published two issues of Barstow & Grand, created the 6x6 Reading Series, the Sound and Stories Series, The Weekend Writers Retreat at The Oxbow, Cirenaica Writers Retreat, as well as a brand new venture to be revealed shortly. 

Along the way, our work has been recognized at both the local and state level.  Most recently, by our invitation to become a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, a commission whose charge it is to serve as a “statewide emissary for poetry and creativity,” in addition to selecting the state’s poet laureate every two years.  We’re proud to join the ranks of so many literary leaders, including the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, the Wisconsin Center for the Book, the Wisconsin Arts Board, Write On, Door County, and the Council for Wisconsin Writers.  Our role on this commission speaks to the good work we’ve accomplished both at home and afar.  And with your help, that good work will continue to grow.

Cirenaica Sunset.jpg

It’s hard to measure the work we do .  Do we measure it in publications?  In programs?  In partnerships?  Or by way of the nearly $25,000 economic impact we contribute to our local economy year after year?

My preferred measurement is by way of people.  How many lives have we touched?  How much writing have we supported?

If, as Robin Metz says, the most important lesson we can offer is to persuade people that their stories matter, then how many people have we persuaded?

Moreover, if all our stories indeed flow into the same river, then how wide must that river be?

Please.  We need you.  Make your tax-deductible gift today.

Together, we’ll make that river overflow with words.