By Emilia Hurst
I sat down with hometown hero and international bestselling novelist Nickolas Butler to chat about his writing as well as his past summers at CVWG’s Cirenaica writer’s retreat. Here’s what he had to say.
Emilia: What are some of your favorite memories from Cirenaica?
Nickolas Butler: Honestly, what springs to mind are the mornings at Cirenaica. Typically, I'll leave my house and drive over to Cirenaica about eight in the morning. And even before we begin our first workshop of the day, all the attendees are generally working away quietly, or bouncing ideas off one another. You can see that it is a very productive time and space; I always expect to find a few of the attendees either sleeping-in or hungover, but that's never happened. Everyone really utilizes their time.
What have you learned about writing from teaching at Cirenaica?
Just that everyone has a different path, a different vision for what they want to do with their writing. People are coming from different starting points in terms of how much they've read, how much they've workshopped in the past, how much they've worked on their own craft, what they want for their careers... It's good for me to be reminded that we all come to Cirenaica because we love writing, and hopefully books.
How would you say writers can look forward to growing in their craft at this retreat?
It can be really difficult to find unbiased readers of your work—folks who will give you honest feedback. To me, it's rewarding to watch attendees become friends, fans, or at the very least, supporters of one another's work. And I'm part of that, too. I'm really honest with attendees; I write every attendee a personalized letter, every attendee gets individual feedback from me, and I read every story over multiple times. Our workshops are positive, safe places for criticism - we're trying to make the work better. And sometimes, it's reading another person's work, or witnessing their workshop that really brings into focus some aspect of your own work.
What's something you'd like to tell us about your own writing?
That's a huge open-ended question...I don't know. I've published three books, my fourth will be published in early 2019...I'm a full-time writer who feels like the luckiest guy on the face of the planet. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing as long as I can and hopefully I can get better at it along the way.
What are some more specific things writers can look forward to at this retreat?
Great food, great camaraderie, a cool rural setting, nice people, a restorative blend of work and relaxation, good conversations, cold beer…
What are some things you've been reading and enjoying lately?
How would you describe your writing process?
I have none. I write when I can, when I'm inspired, when I'm afraid I'll forget something... Sometimes I write at the kitchen table, sometimes in my bed, sometimes in a cafe... Some folks need a routine or a process. I'm not one of those people. I'll take 8 months away from writing to just read books or think or work in my garden, and I don't feel guilty about that.
What is one of your favorite places/settings to write in?
One of my favorite places to write is the L.E. Phillips Public Library in Eau Claire. My kitchen table has also been a pretty productive spot.
Don’t miss out on the chance to work side by side with this accomplished writer at “Building a Solid Base: Getting Your Fiction Off On The Right Foot,” which runs from July 19-22 at Cirenaica.
See you there!