A Note from the Guild Director: Saying Goodbye To Cirenaica

The Cirenaica crew.

The Cirenaica crew.

By CVWG Director B.J. Hollars

On the last night of our last summer retreat at Cirenaica, I waved goodbye, wished the writers well, and then slipped out the door into the cricket-filled night.  

What I knew—but what few others did—was that it would be our last night there forever.  

After three glorious summers at Cirenaica, we are saying farewell once and for all.  The property was a perfect fit during our early years, but as our program grows, so too must our venue.  In chats with the property owner, patron of the arts Jill Postlewaite, it seemed the timing was right on both ends.  And so, on that last night, I closed the door, and with it, concluded the last of my magical nights out at the lodge.

I’ve been putting off this article for a while now.  Mostly because by writing it, I’m acknowledging that this chapter of my life is now closed.  And certainly, it’s one of my favorite chapters.  When reflecting on my various professional duties, it’s clear to me now that aside from my time in the classroom, nothing I’ve done—no meeting I’ve attended, no committee I’ve chaired, no anything—has offered me such a rewarding experience.  If you were a part of this magic in any capacity—as a participant, or a writer-in-residence, or a chef, or an assistant arts administrator, or simply as a guest—I want to thank you.  The truth is, you brought that magic.

Of course, that magic’s a little easier to come by when secluded in a beautiful lodge on 43 pristine acres.  But what remains true—and what I was reminded of throughout our combined 16, three-day sessions at Cirenaica—is that the magic resides in the people, not the place.  It’s the spirit of Cirenaica that must live on, and it will.  

Last summer was filled with all the usual fare: great writers, delectable food, and raucous ping-pong battles that raged deep into the night.  But what made this summer different was the way in which the participants seemed to take full ownership of their time there.  If there was a problem they fixed it.  If all was going well, they worked hard to make their time better still.  

One of my fondest memories involves a toilet seat, which, one afternoon, came a bit loose from the bowl.  A quick-thinking participant grabbed his tools, ran to Menards, and replaced the seat without so much as an ask.  And in doing so, he created a brand, new Guild award: The Toilet Seat Award.  After giving it a thorough scrubbing, we began awarding this toilet seat to the participant each week who, in the opinion of Cirenaica staff, best embodied a spirit of generosity.  And week after week, the recipient appeared to be over the moon at the chance to lift that toilet seat high above his or her head.  Yes, it was goofy, and maybe even a little strange.  But for me, it was confirmation of the bond we’d forged together.  In 72 hours, we’d grown comfortable enough to take pride in such a silly thing.  

Which, of course, isn’t a silly thing at all.  In 72 hours, strangers became friends and writers became a writing community.  That so much could be accomplished so quickly is a testament to that aforementioned magic.  Empathy was at the core of everything we did, and that will hold true for everything moving forward.

We’ve got something very, very special in the works for next summer.  And if I were you, I’d block off July 18-21 on your calendar right now. We’ll have more details soon, but for now, just know that though we’re saying goodbye to Cirenaica, we’re holding strong to its spirit.

It’s a spirit that you helped create.  And we’re hopeful you might bring it with you next summer, too.

Be inspired, inspire others,

– B.J. Hollars   

You Can Go Home Again: On Returning to the Midwest and Finding A Community At Cirenaica

credit: Justin Patchin Photography

credit: Justin Patchin Photography

by Ty Phelps

I grew up in Wisconsin: Summers meant farmer’s market cheese curds on the Capitol Square in Madison, swatting mosquitoes around the campfire at night, the smell of cow manure from the farms, the temperature drop after a thunderstorm. I became moderately comfortable with my adolescent body through the forced nakedness of tick checks and skinny dipping at summer camp. I was a Midwesterner through and through, attending Carleton College in Minnesota, canoeing in the north woods each summer, and even smugly muttering to myself when I traveled in France, yeah, France, you may have the Louvre, and Haute Cuisine, and vineyards up the yang, but where I come from, we’ve got Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark, the Boundary Waters, Walleye on Fridays, and Bob Dylan.

And then I left. I lived on the West Coast for over a decade.

The idea of moving back to Wisconsin had just started percolating in my mind when my mother mailed me an article cut out of a magazine. A review for a book called Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. Soon I had read it. I’m not sure I’ve ever read any fiction that more perfectly captured the overall feeling of my homeland. I cried after the first few pages, read the rest in a couple of days, and spent the next weeks scratching phantom mosquito bites, craving the North Woods sky and the tepid taste of bad Milwaukee beer.

Soon, I decided to move back. And just before returning, I applied for and was invited to Nick Butler’s weekend fiction workshop at Cirenaica through the Chippewa Valley Writers’ Guild. I couldn’t believe my luck: I was going to meet a Midwestern writing hero of mine.

The weekend was phenomenal. The mixture of writers was delightful: young, old, in-between, teachers and journalists and mothers and fathers. Camaraderie was quickly established among the group as we dove into critique under Nick’s focused but gentle guidance.

Cirenaica itself was lovely, nestled in woodsy farmland, with a beautiful kitchen, comfortable rooms, and ample nooks for writing, thinking, or sipping coffee. It was a productive weekend: I left with multiple friends, excellent feedback, and a complete first draft of a new story.

Also, we ate like kings.

An Interview with Lindsay Starck, 2018 Cirenaica Writer in Residence


By Emilia Hurst

I recently got the chance to chat with Lindsay Starck one of our writers in residence.  Lindsay is a professor at Augsburg University and the author of Noah’s Wife.  Get the chance to work with her at the Cirenaica retreat this summer, “Thickening the Plot: On Creating Tension and Suspense in Fiction” which will run from August 2-5.

Emilia: What would you say are some of your best personal writing experiences? 

Lindsay Starck: I heard another writer say once that 15% of writing happens when you’re sitting down in front of your paper or your computer, and the other 85% happens when you’re out interacting with the world—walking or cooking or talking with friends. 

Some of my best personal writing experiences have occurred when I’ve stepped away from the page and sat down to talk about the craft with fellow readers and writers who are willing to swap ideas and share experiences. 

How would you say writers can look forward to growing in their craft at this retreat? 

Writing is typically considered to be an activity you do in isolation, but this retreat provides the opportunity to reflect on the process and the product with other writers. Participants will share ideas about stories and techniques, and we’ll be able to experiment with new ideas and new styles. Ideally, we’ll all leave the retreat feeling more inspired and excited by our projects than we were when we arrived. 

What's something you'd like to tell us about your own writing? 

My first passion as a writer is for language. When I wrote my first novel, I believed that beautiful sentences would be enough to create a strong story. I revised that manuscript for several years, during which time I learned the importance of narrative elements—tension, rising action, questions—that help keep readers engaged. Now I’m trying to write stories that balance poetry with plot. 

What are some more specific things writers can look forward to at this retreat? 

Plenty of time to work and reflect on the craft; engaging conversations with fellow writers and mentors; delicious meals; insight into the publishing world of literary magazines; a few days free of all other obligations so that you can immerse yourself in the life of a writer. 

What are some things you've been reading and enjoying lately?

I’ve been slowly working my way through Prairie Fires, the new biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The book does a wonderful job describing the historical context surrounding the Little House series. It’s also very cool to be reading it while living in the Upper Midwest, since Wilder spent many of her early years in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The most recent novel I read was Jenny Offhill’s Department of Speculation, which was experimental and moving. I might reread Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels this summer, since I enjoyed them so much the first time around. 

How would you describe your writing process? 

I’m very type-A, so I like to plan out my project before I begin it. But once I start writing, the story goes in a different direction. So I have to scrap my plan and come up with a new one. Then I start writing again, and the story slips out of my grasp once more. So the writing process, for me, is a constant balancing act between plotting out the narrative and allowing the story to find its own shape. 

What is one of your favorite places/settings to write in? 

I like to write in coffee shops. Sometimes I put my headphones on and listen to white noise, and other times the din of the coffee shop is white noise enough. Lately I’ve been getting up and writing before doing anything else, like reading my phone or checking my email or even making my breakfast. I heard a writer say that this early morning hour is the perfect time to work because part of you is still in that hazy, vivid dream world, which gives you the space to form fresh sentences and ideas.

What do you do when writing gets tough? 

I spent five years revising my first novel, and I learned from that experience to be patient and have faith in the writing process. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a piece of fiction is leave it alone. Go outside, or clean the house, or play the piano. Let your thoughts wander, and when you come back to your writing, the solution might be waiting right there for you on the page.

8 Questions with Nickolas Butler: Cirenaica Writer-in-Residence


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?

I'm really into the Austrian writer, Robert Seethaler.  Check out his books, A Whole Life and The Tobacconist.  

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!

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply to Michael Martone's Prose Writing Workshop This Minute!

Credit: Theresa Pappas

Credit: Theresa Pappas

This summer (July 12-15), we’re thrilled to welcome University of Alabama (Roll tide!) professor Michael Martone to Cirenaica, where he’ll host “From Start to Finish: On Beginnings, Endings, and All the Words In Between”.  Michael’s the author of several books, including the newly released essay collection, Brooding.  In addition, he’s also the author of several beloved books, including Four for a Quarter, Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler’s List, Racing in Place, and Michael Martone (no, that’s not a typo).  Read on for 5 great reasons to sign up for his writers retreat today.

1.)   The Importance of the Parts

The workshop model often attempts to tackle a piece of writing “in total.”  What’s working, what’s not, etc., etc.  But in Michael’s summer retreat, participants will focus on the various parts of a piece of prose.  As the title suggests: beginnings, endings, and all the words in between.  It’s a unique approach sure to get writers thinking more critically about the various part of their work to ensure the improvement of the work at-large.

2.)   The Beloved Writing Teacher

Few writing teachers in America are as beloved as Michael Martone.  Perhaps the best way to describe Michael’s commitment to his students is to speak about his unique way of staying in touch.  For years, Michael has sent thousands of postcards to former students and friends.  He stresses the importance of maintaining connections, and of making new friends along the way.  Sign-up!  There might be a postcard in it for ya!

3.)   Process > Product

In the classroom, Michael stresses the importance of the writing process over the writing product. In short, if one’s writing process is attempted with enough repetition, eventually the product will come.  It’s a philosophy that, for decades, has made writers feel more comfortable with their words.  Like anything, writing is a practice.  And like everything, it becomes easier with time.

4.)   Special guest B.J. Hollars


Full disclosure: B.J. Hollars may (or may not?) be the one writing these words.  And so, it’s rather presumptuous (well, no “rather” about it, really) for him to hype himself in an effort to further hype Michael Martone.  To try to steer clear of that particular can of worms, he’ll just say this: B.J. Hollars studied under Michael Martone while receiving his MFA at the University of Alabama.  Under Michael's tutelage, Hollars learned the importance of experimenting.  From the hermit crab essay to writing in the third person (this paragraph’s a good example…), Hollars’ writing grew dramatically during his time working with Michael.  Michael served as Hollars' thesis advisor as well, and provided vital guidance in what would become Hollars’ first book, Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America.  And he's continued to be a major supporter and inspiration for every word since.  Suffice it to say: Hollars looks very forward to the reunion. Click here for a story on Michael and B.J.'s somewhat awkward first meeting.  

5.)   One word: food.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve heard this one before.  But trust us, food is vital at a writers retreat.  If you’ve got good grub, you’ve got good writing fuel.  This summer, we’re proud to welcome chefs Michelle Thiede and Kristen Dexter, co-owners of FORAGE, to the Cirenaica team.  They’re bringing their cooking skills out to the lodge to ensure that we’re all always well fed. From chilled corn soup to pepper crusted tenderloin, there’s something for every taste bud. Click here for the full menu.

The deadline is May 1!  Submit your application this minute by clicking here!

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply to Nickolas Butler’s Fiction Writing Retreat Right Now


This summer, we’re thrilled to welcome back Nickolas Butler, who will host “Building a Solid Base: Getting Your Fiction Off on the Right Foot.”  Nick’s the author of several books, most recently The Hearts of Men. Read on for 5 great reasons to sign up for his writing retreat.

1.)   He’s an award-winning novelist!

If we were to name all of Nick’s accolades, there’s a good chance we’d break the internet.  From the PAGE Prix America Award to the 2014 Great Lakes Great Reads Award, the 2014 Midwest Independent Booksellers Award, the 2015 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award, the 2015 UW-Whitewater Chancellor's Regional Literary Award, the…okay, better stop there.  Just last week he was the recipient of the Friends of American Writers award for The Hearts of Men. If you haven’t read it, you must!


2.)   Three words: generous, generous, generous.

Ask any of Nick’s past participants about their experiences working with him, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Nick is one generous writer.  For the past two summers, he’s hunkered down with writers of all levels to ensure that they leave his retreats with a clear path forward.  Some of our fondest memories of past summers involve Nick chatting with people on the back deck, providing personalized feedback on their work.  What an honor it is to have Nick’s editorial eyes on your writing.  

3.)   Peter Geye’s the special guest! 

In addition to working with Nick, we’re excited to have a special visit from novelist Peter Geye.  Peter’s the author of several books, most recently Wintering.  Of Wintering, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Russo wrote, “The last time I read a literary thriller so profound Cormac McCarthy’s name was on its spine.”  Not a bad blurb!  Click here to learn more about Peter.

4.)   Scholarships!

Thanks to Dotters Books, the Sultan Family, and an anonymous donor, this summer we’re excited to offer three scholarships.  If you’ve wanted the chance to work with Nick or another writer-in-residence, but the cost proved prohibitive, this could be your chance!  Apply today, and be sure to note your interest in our scholarships!

5.)   One word: food.

Yeah, yeah, this will be our fifth reason to sign up for every retreat.  But for good reason!  Food matters!  And nothing gets writers more ready for the hard work ahead than a wonderful meal prepared by wonderful chefs. This summer, we’re proud to welcome chefs Michelle Thiede and Kristen Dexter, co-owners of FORAGE, to the Cirenaica team.  They’re bringing their cooking skills out to the lodge to ensure that we’re all always well fed. From herb roasted fingerling potatoes to cheese and red pepper risotto, there’s something for every taste bud. Click here for the full menu.

The deadline is May 1!  Submit your application this minute by clicking here!

5 Reasons Why You Should Apply to Holly Hughes’ Multigenre Writers' Retreat Right Now

Holly&Foxy2 (1).jpg

This summer, we’re thrilled to welcome Washington-based poet and mindfulness expert Holly Hughes to Cirenaica where she’ll host “Words to Hold A Glittering World: Crossing Genres Mindfully.”  Holly’s the author of several books, most recently Passings, a collection of poems on extinct birds.  In addition, she’s the co-author of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World.  Read on for 5 great reasons to sign up for her writers' retreat.

1.)   It’s multigenre, which means it’s for everyone!

Whether you’re a poet or prose writer, this retreat is for you.  While Holly’s first genre is poetry, she’s published prose widely as well.  On her website she describes herself as a writer, poet, teacher and editor.  And she's all these things and more!  Her retreat is centered on “crossing genres mindfully,” which means exploring how to use all the tools in your writerly tool belt to select the perfect genre to write the perfect piece.  By expanding beyond genre distinctions, we give ourselves (and our work) new opportunities to grow.

2.)   She’s an award-winning poet!


In 2017 Holly’s book, Passings, was the recipient of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.  What an honor!  It’s a rare treat to work with a poet of this caliber, and she’s excited to work with you!   Click here to read about all of her work.

3.)   Three words: Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness.

What began as a correspondence between Holly and Brenda Miller soon turned into much more.  As the pair of writers continued exchanging letters they realized that their thoughts on writing in a busy world might be of use to others, too.  Their letters resulted in the formation of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, a book that discusses “how to achieve mindfulness and creative fulfillment in spite of long to-do-lists.”  The book couldn't have come at a better time.  Learn how to let the world go and give yourself to your words.    


4.)   Max Garland’s the special guest! 

Cirenaica alums surely know Max Garland, the former poet laureate of Wisconsin and the winner of the 2017 Brittingham Award in Poetry for his book The Word We Used For It.  Max’s commitment to his fellow writers is second to none, and he’s excited to spend a bit a time with us this summer.

5.)   One word: food.

No writing retreat is complete without a bit of gluttony.  At Cirenaica, we’re happy to accommodate by way of 9 chef-prepared meals at each retreat!  This summer, we’re proud to welcome chefs Michelle Thiede and Kristen Dexter, co-owners of FORAGE, to the Cirenaica team.  They’re bringing their cooking skills out to the lodge to ensure that we’re all always well fed. From Mason Jar watermelon feta salad to lemon caper grilled salmon, there’s something for every taste bud. Click here for the full menu.

The deadline is May 1! 

Submit your application this minute by clicking here!


Great Grub Awaits At Cirenaica!

No writing retreat is complete without a bit of gluttony.  At Cirenaica, we’re happy to accommodate by way of 9 chef-prepared meals at each retreat!  This summer, we’re proud to welcome chefs Michelle Thiede and Kristen Dexter, co-owners of FORAGE, to the Cirenaica team.  They’re bringing their cooking skills out to the lodge to ensure that we’re all always well fed. 

They agreed to give us a little taste (get it?) of their tentative menu.  Warning: you will be hungry after reading... 

forage 7.jpg

The tentative menu includes:

  • Lazy Monk Smoked pork country style ribs

  • Farmers market grilled vegetables

  • Herb roasted fingerling potatoes

  • Mason jar watermelon feta salad

  • Pulled buffalo chicken sandwiches 

  • Fingerling potato salad,

  • Crudité with bleu cheese dip

  • Lemon caper grilled salmon

  • Grilled asparagus

  • Cheese and red pepper risotto

  • Chilled corn soup

  • Red pepper purée tortilla strips

  • Gazpacho

  • Baked cheese crostini

  • Caprese salad 

  • Pepper crusted tenderloin

  • Shrimp cocktail

  • Parmesan grilled cauliflower

  • Fresh strawberries, pound cake and whipped cream

  • Fresh baked scones,

  • Banana nut pancake muffins

  • Fresh fruit with berry yogurt dip

  • Mini broccoli cheese egg cups

  • Smorgasbord with meat, cheese, hummus, spreads

  • Quinoa grain bowl with roasted veggies and…

I could go on...

Are you hungry yet?  What are you waiting for?  Nurture your stomach and your soul today! 

The Rundown: Meet This Summer’s Writers-in-Residence


by BJ Hollars

A successful writers’ retreat generally boils down to two factors: the generosity and enthusiasm of the writer-in-residence, as well as the generosity and enthusiasm of the participants themselves.  And so, when trying to find the perfect mix of people to place together in the woods for three days, we at the Guild are often left trying to use one’s words as an entry point into one’s intentions.  Does the writer-in-residence seem fully committed to the participants and their creative work?  And on the other end, do the participants seem excited to grow alongside the writer-in-residence?  We can never know for sure, though the applications go a long way in helping us determine how to best create the supportive community we so deeply value.  

Learn more about our Cirenaica Writers Retreats

My main job is to work hard to provide the best summer programs possible.  Which means I spend a lot of time getting to know our prospective writers-in-residence.  And this year, let me tell you, we’ve got quite a line-up, indeed. Read on for the stories you didn’t know about this year’s writers!

Holly Hughes: Queen of the Birds (And Mindfulness, Too!)

Let’s begin with Holly Hughes.  Holly and I first met, quite by chance, when we were thrust together for a joint reading on extinct birds at Magers & Quinn Bookstore in Minneapolis in the fall of 2017.  We’d never met one another, but at the bookstore’s prompting, we were glad to share the mic.  Holly and I had barely shaken hands before I knew she’d be a perfect fit for Cirenaica.  She exuded kindness, and as she shared her work, I sat quietly in the front row imagining just how much Cirenaica participants could benefit by her expertise both as a poet and a mindfulness expert.  Since our initial meeting, Holly and I have continued to keep in touch.  The writers-who-write-about-extinct-birds club is unsurprisingly small, and every time I think I catch a flicker of a Passenger Pigeon out of the corner of my eye, I always make sure to drop her a note.  Check out her retreat, “Words To Hold A Glittering World: Crossing Genres Mindfully” which runs from June 21-24.

Karla Huston: Wisconsin’s Bard

Next up, Wisconsin poet laureate Karla Huston.  So many kind things can be said about Karla that it’s hard to know where to begin.  But I suppose the story that touched me most involves meeting her last fall, when she took the time to hear me read as part of the Fox Cities Book Festival.  Given her many poet laureate duties, I imagine Karla’s time is a little tight.  Yet the fact that she was able to spare a bit of it to hear me was quite humbling, and further reaffirmed her kind and generous nature.  Over the past two years, Karla has toured the state promoting poetry.  And how lucky are we to share three days with her this summer.  Check out her retreat, “Speak, Write, Memory: On Writing Poetry By Searching Within” which runs from June 28-July 1.

Michael Martone: Modern Day Magellan (At Least Compared To Me)

And now, onto my mentor and friend, Michael Martone.  Michael, like me, hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  When I stumbled upon this fact as an undergraduate while reading one of his contributor’s notes, I immediately dropped him an email.  “There are two writers from Fort Wayne!” I said excitedly.  Of course, there are many more than just two.  Soon after familiarizing myself with Michael’s work, I begged my college to bring him to campus, and they obliged.  The one catch: I had to pick Michael up from the airport.  When the big day arrived, I picked both Michael and his son, Sam, up from the Davenport Airport and prepared to drive them back to Galesburg, Illinois.  The problem, though, was that I soon became utterly lost.  Utterly, utterly lost.  As the miles dragged on in the wrong direction, I found myself incapable of admitting defeat.  How far would I have driven, I now wonder?  Would I have driven us to California had Michael not intervened?  Thankfully, Michael intervened, and as politely as possible, suggested that I might consider turning around.  It was good advice.  And while I thoroughly enjoyed all that time together, what I enjoyed most was how charmed he seemed by the entire ordeal.  Or at least not utterly put out by my ineptitude.  Two years later, we studied together at the University of Alabama.  And a few years after that he served as my thesis advisor for my first book.  These days, when faced with a dilemma in the classroom, I often ask myself: “What would Michael Martone do?”  And then, I proceed just as he might.  Apply for his retreat, “From Start to Finish: On Beginnings, Endings, and All the Words In Between” which runs from July 12-15.

Nick Butler: Hometown Hero / International Star

Of course, international bestseller (and hometown favorite!) Nick Butler needs no introduction.  This is his third summer at Cirenaica, and each session with Nick just gets better and better.  Nick’s writing chops hardly need any endorsement from me.  (Though if you want my endorsement, here it is!).  But beyond his writing, he’s also about the kindest, most supportive guy you’ll ever meet.  In summer’s past, I’ve loved watching him meet individually with participants on the back deck, talking folks through their stories.  At the conclusion of each conference, participants always leave with a smile.  Nick always finds a way to help writers find their footing, and he plans to do so again this summer!  Click here to apply for “Building a Solid Base: Getting Your Fiction Off On The Right Foot” which runs from July 19-22.

Lindsay Starck: Writer/Teacher Extraordinaire

Last but not least, meet Lindsay Starck!  A professor at Augsburg University and the author of Noah’s Wife, Lindsay came highly recommended to us by way of Barstow & Grand editor, Eric Rasmussen, who has the pleasure of studying with her in Augsburg’s MFA program.  Last week the three of us enjoyed tacos together at a writers’ conference in Tampa.  What a joy it was!  Lindsay’s welcoming personality and writing talents make her a perfect fit for Cirenaica.  She, like the others noted above, is generous and enthusiastic.  Frankly, the summer can’t come soon enough.  Click here to apply for “Thickening the Plot: On Creating Tension and Suspense in Fiction” which will run from August 2-5.

In an effort not to bend your ear (or your eyes) too terribly, allow me to simply say that these writers are ready and waiting to work with you.  And did I mention that each session has a special guest as well (Max Garland, Jon Loomis, Peter Geye, Eric Rasmussen, and others)?  

In closing, there’s always a reason NOT to apply for a writers’ retreat.  And it’s easy to say, “Maybe I’ll try next year.” I’ll encourage you not to wait.  Your art deserves your attention, and we’re here to support your art as best we can.

So what are you waiting for?  Apply today!  Tell your friends!  We’ll save you a seat around the campfire.




Cirenaica Spotlight! On “Palpable Energy”, Poetry, and Loss” An Interview with Wisconsin Poet Laureate Karla Huston

Karla Huston

Karla Huston

by Emily Hurst

Calling all poets!  Are you looking for the chance to work closely alongside Wisconsin’s poet laureate?  Excited to share your poetry and contribute to the growth of other poets?  The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild has you covered! 

This summer, Wisconsin poet laureate Karla Huston will host a three-day writers retreat titled, “Speak, Write, Memory: On Writing Poetry By Searching Within,” from June 28-July 1. In addition to working closely with Karla, this retreat also will include a guest visit from poet and novelist Jon Loomis (The Mansion of Happiness, the Frank Coffin series, among others).

Read on for a Q&A with Karla Huston to learn more about her writing as well as what she is looking forward to this summer at Cirenaica.  

EH: What do you feel is going to be a unique experience or aspect about this retreat?

Karla Huston: There is an energy that's palpable in any writers retreat as folks get to know one another and feel comfortable sharing what they have written. It's like magic.

What part of the retreat are you most excited for?

Karla Huston:  I'm most excited to meet those who attend. It's always a pleasure meeting people who are invested in poetry and the arts. I love their stories about how they "came to poetry" or how poetry found them.

Who would most enjoy and benefit from this retreat?

Karla Huston:  Anyone who writes or is thinking about writing might benefit. Even beginners! The ideas and exercises can be used for poets and prose writers, alike. 

How would you say your latest book Grief Bone is unique to your previous work and poetry in general?

Karla Huston:  My book Grief Bone is about loss. The poems are perhaps less personal and with less (maybe) sass. But readers beware! Most poets are consummate liars. You can't believe everything they say as the "literal truth." Perhaps a metaphorical truth is more accurate. Poets are artists, and they may take an idea and create a new way to express that idea. 

What can people expect to take away from this retreat?

Karla Huston:  It is my hope that attendees will take away an abundance of energy (and inspiration?) for their own writing. They can also expect a handout that (I hope) will be useful to them after the retreat!

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity!  Click here to apply for this unique experience!  

Cirenaica Spotlight: An Interview With Writer-in-Residence Holly Hughes


by Emilia Hurst

This summer the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild will be hosting five amazing writers retreat.  Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring one retreat in each of our newsletters.  This month, we’re excited to share a few behind-the-scenes details on our first retreat, “Words to Hold a Glittering World: Crossing Genres Mindfully” featuring Seattle-based writer-in-residence Holly Hughes. This retreat will take place from June 21-24.  

I recently had a chance to catch up with Holly and ask a few questions about her personal writing philosophy, as well as what potential participants can look forward to this summer:

Emilia Hurst: What do you feel is a unique experience or aspect about these retreats?

Holly Hughes: First, I appreciate the philosophy that I believe underlies Cirenaica: that we’re gathering to learn from the natural world as well as from each other;  that we’ll be combining writing instruction with time spent writing; and that the focus is on building a community of writers during the time we have together.  Writing workshops and retreats can feel intimidating, especially if participants feel that they’re in competition with each other.  I like to create a supportive atmosphere in which we’re all there to encourage each other to become the best writers we each can be.  And as a former seafarer, I love that Cirenaica means “siren of the sea.”  In my experience, the sea has provided a rich reservoir of imagery for creative work—and I think that can be true for the natural world in general.   

What part of the retreat are you most excited for?

I’m excited about all of it!  But I must admit I’m looking forward to returning to the Midwest for a few weeks—I grew up in Winona, Minnesota—so it’s a chance for me to experience the landscape of my childhood again.  Walking is definitely an important part of my writing practice, so I look forward to walking in a different landscape.   I’m also looking forward to experimenting with writing in different genres—and helping participants discover how crossing genres can feel freeing. 

What kinds of people would enjoy and benefit from this retreat?

I hope that my workshop will appeal to anyone who’s interested in words and place and how the two interact with and inform each other.  I also hope it’ll appeal to writers of both prose and poetry who share a willingness to write outside their comfort zone.  Finally, I think it will appeal to anyone who wants to experience a supportive writing community, where the focus is on exploring the craft of writing, though I will address questions about publication briefly, too.  

How would you say your latest poetry collection Passings is different from your previous publications?

Passings is unique in that it’s a chapbook focused on a specific subject:  extinct birds, an interest/passion  I share with BJ Hollars.  It’s also unique in that it’s a fine-art limited edition letterpress book—only 375 copies were printed. Like the birds, when they’re gone, they’re gone.  I hope it will raise awareness not only of the bird species we’ve lost, but those we’re in danger of losing as birds’ habitats and ranges are affected by changing weather patterns.  And finally, I included a short prose essay as a Preface to establish a context for the poems, so it’s an example of a cross-genre book.  

What can people expect to take away from this retreat?

Through the time-honored tradition of walking as a means of inspiration,   students can expect to take away a variety of strategies for connecting with both their inner and outer landscapes.  More specifically, they’ll also learn a few hybrid forms, such as the Japanese haibun, and do some collaborative writing, by working on a renga together.  I hope everyone will come to the workshop with an open, receptive mind—what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind” -- and a willingness to try out new forms, all in an effort to hold the elusive beauty of our glittering world. 

What more could you ask for? Click here to apply today for this wonderful opportunity! 

Solving for ‘X’ and ‘Y’: Finding Identity at Cirenaica


By Erin Stevens

Two weeks before arriving at Cirenaica, I was having what I’d like to call an identity crisis. It had been two months or so since I’d been able to sit down at my laptop or notebook and write something of substance. Any ideas that had sounded promising in my head only seemed to fizzle out after a page or two一 or worse, after the first paragraph. 

If this sounds like your average bout of writer’s block, it’s a little more than that. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t get the words to come out—I wasn’t finding time to even try to write. I’d gotten out of my routine of getting up early and writing, instead found myself hitting the snooze button every morning (sometimes hitting it twice). When I’d get home from work, I’d opt for a book or Netflix, something that didn’t require the brainpower I’d already been using for the past eight hours. 

At the end of all this, I started having a recurring thought: what if I’m not a writer anymore? And considering that I started writing when I was in middle school, the next thought was, who am I if I’m not a writer anymore? 

When I got to Cirenaica for the Young Adult fiction writers residency, I was excited, but I also felt a little bit like a fraud. Do I even belong here right now? I wondered. 

About three hours later that first night, after reconnecting with old friends and eating my third plate of guacamole, Marsha Qualey, our fearless leader and writer-in-residence for the weekend, taught us the secret formula for writing a Young Adult novel or middle grade series: 

‘X’ + ‘Y’ = identity

In the equation, ‘x’ stands for power that either a character does or doesn’t have, while ‘y’ represents belonging. Both of these components contribute to a character’s identity. 

What struck me about this was that we were talking about fictional characters, but this equation could easily apply to me and my identity as a writer. While I had the power to write and to not hit the snooze button, I was choosing to give what power I had to the fatigue and laziness I feel after a long work day or week. Likewise, while the Twin Cities boasts many bookstores, publishing companies, and even a literary center, in the three years I’ve lived here, I haven’t been able to find a local writing community to help push me and keep me accountable; there was no sense of belonging. 

Should I have been allowing a lack of community to keep me from writing? Maybe not, but what the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild has taught me is that a writer is only as strong as the community that supports them. Without people to talk to about my writing, without learning from and being inspired by the creativity of others, it all felt a little pointless. 

As the weekend progressed, it turned out that Cirenaica was great for helping me solve this equation. Eager to make the most of my weekends and the four hours of quiet writing time each morning, I found myself setting my alarm much earlier than I normally would on a weekend一 and I didn’t hit the snooze button once! I’d enjoy my coffee and breakfast on the deck, and then tuck myself away in the library/loft area of the cabin to write. The writing time almost hit a reset button, and I felt myself regaining control (or power). Without even realizing it, I’d solved for x. 

As a Cirenaica returnee, I knew I could count on two things: gaining about twenty pounds because the food is so damn good, and finding belonging and community. Cirenaica reconnected me with old friends and connected me with new ones. We all came from different backgrounds, but our passion for writing was the common denominator that bonded all of us together. That bond led to positive, productive and constructive workshop sessions. It also led to friendships and commitment to keep one another accountable long after the weekend was over. And as if that wasn’t enough, on the final night of the residency, 11 of us read our work to a full house, with members of the community and Cirenaica alums coming out to show their support. 

If that doesn’t provide someone with a sense of belonging, then I don’t know what does, but for me this did the trick. This solved for y. 

Before I knew it, the weekend was over. We were packing our bags and loading up our cars, ready to head back to our regular lives. While I’d felt that I’d grown made a lot of progress as a writer, and I’d learned so much from Marsha and the other writers at the retreat, I worried if it would all be lost when I went back to work on that Tuesday, and when I had family and friends wanting to make plans. When the words wouldn’t flow, and I didn’t have four hours of dedicated writing time to wait for them. Would I slip back into my self-doubt as a writer?

Maybe at some point I will, but with only a few weeks passing since I last saw the YA writing crew, I’ve been more committed to my writing than I have been in the last year. And when I sense my confidence in my writing identity wavering, I’ll think about big paper writing exercises and positive, constructive workshops. I’ll think about sitting around a fire, sharing stories while the fireflies winked from within the woods. I’ll think about hot coffee enjoyed outside on a cool July morning, while talking with fellow writers about the endless possibilities for writers.

I’ll think of the community that always finds a way to reinforce my identity. 

Until next summer, Cirenaica. 

#Cirenaica2017 #MandatoryHashtag #Hashtag #RecoveringGuacamoleAddictThanksToBrent

Words From the Wilderness: Nickolas Butler's Fiction Residency

photo courtesy  Justin Patchin

photo courtesy Justin Patchin

by Geoff Carter

“You’re cheating! I smell lighter fluid.”

Guild Director BJ Hollars and I heard this from the Cirenaica lodge last Friday evening as we started the campfire…with a little help. In our defense it had rained the night before, so we could use a little help.

It was the second night of Nickolas Butler’s Fiction Residency at Cirenaica, and after a long day of tackling projects, workshopping, and gorging on succulent meals, a fire is just what we needed.

“Lighter fluid?” I lied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Fiction is a lie; this was Nickolas Butler’s most important lesson for the group. A lie that, while holding emotional truths, is still fabricated from our minds. Butler used the analogy of a police interrogation: if a crime was committed and an alibi was needed, we give our stories to the police; they, like the reader, will spot holes in the story, and with too many holes the story will fall apart. As writers, we need to fill the holes to keep the lie intact, and the story fulfilling.

All weekend long, the ten participants worked in a circle with Butler, perfecting their lies. Each writer had previously submitted a story or excerpt earlier in the summer for the other writers, and by Friday afternoon, they hit the workshops hard, returning to a circle to discuss the pieces over the next days. It was hard, it was taxing, and it was rewarding. Under Butler’s guidance everyone was constantly engaged and learning, even when their piece wasn’t being discussed.

photo courtesy Geoff Carter

photo courtesy Geoff Carter

The purpose of the workshops was to give each writer in-depth, genuine, and meaningful feedback which they could incorporate into their work. No individual story was perfect, but the workshops helped pushed each story closer toward perfection.

When the workshops were not in session, we still found ourselves in circles. In the lodge living room, on the back porch, or around a roaring fire. Even a loud circle in the kitchen around a midnight hummus snack. Within the circles we conversed about our craft. We talked over House Chef Brent Halverson’s glorious meals, and we talked when we should have been writing. Wherever we wandered on the green grounds, we were always together in this writing world.

And we congregated around those early evening fires that turned into late-night embers, breaking the wilderness slumber with our boisterous laughter and personal stories. The smoke drew our eyes to the stars while I plucked away on the guitar.

Our stories and our time here drew us into tighter circles. There were never enough chairs.

Writing is often a lonely craft. Solitary on laptops and notebooks with a single pen. Here at Cirenaica, writing is never lonely. With plans already made to meet in the future, I feel like writing, from now on, will be solitary but never lonely.

We could all use some help sometimes. So, Saturday night, after a stirring and invigorating reading, Butler helped BJ and I start that night’s bonfire without using lighter fluid, just like he helped us all work together, write together, and create together.  

photo courtesy  Justin Patchin

photo courtesy Justin Patchin




Words from the Wilderness: Allyson Loomis's Nonfiction Residency at Cirenaica

By Geoff Carter

Photos courtesy of Justin Patchin Photography

“There’s a lot of talent in the middle of nowhere.”

Early Friday morning I awoke while an old train whistle sounded from the Fall Creek tracks. It rolled over the waving greens and dead browns to the Cirenaica grounds. It was a sound not heard in cities, and it told me how special this would be. We were in the middle of nowhere, the perfect place for creativity to thrive.

Allyson Loomis grouped the writers  together Friday morning to begin the “hard work.” I joined in alongside eleven others as we gathered in a circle in the lodge’s living room. Steaming coffee cups in hand, generously shared donuts, and a calm through the log walls and outside wilderness. Allyson began by offering a lesson that would stay with us all: though nonfiction is often a story about us, it’s important that is speaks beyond us, too. We writers clung to this lesson, and over our three days together, wrote, crafted and, revised our stories with it in mind.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from my role as assistant arts administrator at Cirenaica. I was set to learn on the job, working alongside CVWG Director BJ Hollars and house chef Brent Halverson. Together we tag-teamed a number of tasks: from monkeying with the thermostat and arranging the rooms, to refilling the water pitcher (adding lemon slices for aesthetic purposes). In between these tasks, I worked with and observed these writers as they created their works and honed their craft while residing in this wilderness paradise.

The writers came from miles away, each with a story to tell, even if they hadn’t stumbled upon the idea yet. Some planned to write about their successes, others about their struggles. Through Allyson’s workshops, writing exercises, and thoughtful feedback, the writers allowed their creativity to thrive. They left Sunday morning with fond farewells and newfound friends, and each of them had created something to be proud of.

In between writing and revising sessions, the writers wandered the grounds. Walking among the trees or the gravel drive, gazing at a seamless wave of bright greens and dead dirt browns. I, like the others, marveled at the beauty of this place, a beauty that inspired us to hover over laptops with words spilling forth from fingers, taking occasional glances to the ceiling searching for words, meanings, or ideas. They frowned when words didn’t fit; they smiled when they did.

When the words ran dry after a successful day, we chatted in the kitchen and living room, sharing our work with one another while gathering around Chef Brent’s, anxious for permission to “dig in” and feast upon the delicacies he prepared for us. Laughter shattered silences. Records spun songs through the halls. The ping-pong table beckoned us to the basement. Then, we retreated to our chilled or stoic corners of the house for more writing

The upstairs library of Cirenaica was where I did most of my writing, mainly because my fingertips were within reach of century old books. Crumbling books yellowed with age that were older than the trees outside the window. Books that humbled me into the chair wondering how any words could ever survive for so long.

Will our words last that long? I wondered. Will they join this ancient collection or be forgotten?

Maybe, like the writers who came before, as we capture our successes and struggles and make sense of the wilderness of life, we can create something that might last a hundred years. It begins here with us writing word after word together.

As I shut up the lodge after a challenging but successful first residency, I heard, calling over the hills, a train whistle reminding me of the work that was done, and calling me forward to the work that has yet to be written.

Geoff Carter is the assistant arts administrator at Cirenaica this summer.

7 Questions with Cirenaica’s Memoir Writer-in-Residence June Melby

Credit: Parker Deen

Credit: Parker Deen

Love memoir?  Mini-golf? Wisconsin? Then allow us to introduce you to New York Times bestselling author June Melby, who we’re proud to host as a writer-in-residence at Cirenaica this summer!  June’s residency— “The Art of Memoir: Keep it Honest, But Keep it Interesting”—will teach writers of all levels great techniques for keeping readers riveted within the memoir form.  The author of My Family and Other Hazards (hailed as a “summer delight” and an “ode to Wisconsin” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune) is a must-read for all Wisconsinites (though especially those who want to hear about June’s adolescence amid golf balls and tricky putts).

We recently caught up with June and learned a ton about her writing style, her influencse and how to handle a truncated question (spoiler alert: her answer is “chocolate”).

You grew up in Iowa, but spent much of your career as a writer in California. Do you think your move back to the Midwest has affected how you write?

Sure, because I have a lot more time now that I’m not stuck on California freeways half the day.  But seriously, I think that moving period has helped me as a writer.  I have found that throwing yourself in an unfamiliar environment is incredibly stimulating.  Anything that makes you challenge your own assumptions is a good thing.  Moving away helped me get the distance I needed to really think about growing up in the Midwest.  Moving back has given me perspective on the years I spent in California.  Buy mostly, I admit that moving back to the Midwest had a huge impact on my writing, because I came back to attend graduate school and get my MFA.  That experience was about as educational (and humbling) as it gets.  I learned to hold my work up to a higher standard.  Best of all, in Iowa City I got the chance to hear many great authors give talks about writing.  I think that was school in itself. 

How has your background in standup comedy influenced your writing style?

Yes.  It got me wonderfully prepared for rejection.  Ha.  But seriously, I think that comedy was a wonderful place to start.  For one, you learn how to be concise.  Comedy is a lot like poetry actually.  You learn to pay attention to each word, as well as the rhythm.  Also, it’s empowering to write and then not have to wait around for a publisher to give you the go-ahead. 

What would you say is the most…

The question is truncated, but in any case, the answer is “chocolate.””

Your Cirenaica residency is titled The Art of Memoir: Keep it Honest, But Keep it Interesting. How have you struck that balance in your own memoir writing?

It may sound simplistic, but I discovered that I got stuck when I was trying to say things that weren’t exactly true.  And in this case, I don’t mean true to facts, but true to what I am really trying to understand about the events and people in my life. I am very interested in this topic, because in my experience, it is nothing short of a wonderful miracle that if you write about the things you are curious about, if you really try to grapple with this strange miracle of life,  the reader will be engrossed and travel with you.  However, on the other hand, if you write to impress people, it’s not going to happen.  If you are bored while writing something, guess what, the reader will be too!

Who (or what) most influences your writing?

This is a toughy to answer. But I will say that recently I got the chance to travel, and it was just wonderful for giving me ideas.  Putting yourself in a situation when you feel off-balance, humbled, or even just plain lost can be a very stimulating thing.  It makes you think.  Question your assumptions.  It’s almost impossible to say where inspiration and ideas really come from.   So I’ll just add this quote from Dorothy Parker, “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” 

Is there anything you’re working on currently?

Yes.  I have three projects in the works!  A collection of humorous essays, a new memoir, and a collection of short fiction in the form of fairy tales.

 How would you describe My Family and Other Hazards in one sentence?

I grew up on a miniature golf course that my family ran for thirty years (and which I hated), but when my parents sold it I freaked out, fell apart, and wrote this book in an effort to make sense of it all. 

Want to share your work with June this summer?  Then apply today by clicking here.

And check out an excerpt from My Family and Other Hazards by clicking here.

Oh, and a special treat for those who read till the end: for each referral application, receive 10.00 off your own potential acceptance! Just have your friend type in your name in the "referral" box on his or her application.

5 Reasons Why Applying for Allyson Goldin Loomis’s Nonfiction and Memoir Residency is a must!

by Erin Stevens

As a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumna, I'm well aware of Allyson Goldin Loomis's prowess as an incredible teacher and writer.  Which is why signing up for her residency is a must.  Check out 5 reasons below!

  1. Allyson is an accomplished writer. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction, Allyson has published great deal of amazing work一 she was even an honorable mention in the 2016 edition of Best American Short Stories. Check out her essay, “Learning to Sleep” published in The Sun.

  2. She is a great instructor. Allyson is a beloved professor at UWEC who has earned the praise and adoration of her students. From her knowledge and passion for writing, to her interest and enthusiasm in student work, Allyson will be great for writers of all experience levels.

  3. You’ll learn how to really bring your nonfiction piece to life. If you’ve been struggling with writing about the details that will really bring your memoir or essay to life, Allyson will talk about different techniques you can try to make your piece as strong as it can be.

  4. You’ll have hours of designated, uninterrupted time to work on your writing. In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to push our writing to the side. We have jobs to work, children to raise and various other commitments pulling us away from the keyboard and the stories, essays and poems we want to be crafting. Think of Cirenaica as the vacation/getaway that you and your writing need. No distractions, no work or kids一 just you and the memoir you’ve been dying to write. While there will be plenty of time reserved for workshop and instruction from Allyson, you’ll also have an abundance of time to write something new or revise the piece you submitted with your Cirenaica application. Find a sunny spot on the deck to enjoy your morning coffee and write a few pages, or pick one of the many comfortable chairs inside the cabin to and and type the morning away.  If you're really adventurous, try writing in a hammock!

  5. Special guest John Hildebrand. In addition to working closely with Allyson, you'll also get to meet writer-in-residence alumnus John Hildebrand, author of The Heart of Things  and  A Northern Front,  will be joining Allyson during the weekend to offer advice about all things nonfiction writing.

Don't delay!  Apply today!  Click here for more information!

5 Reasons Why NOT Signing up for Nickolas Butler’s Fiction Residency Will Be the Biggest Regret of your Life

                                                                                                                                                                                 Credit: Jeff Rogers

                                                                                                                                                                                 Credit: Jeff Rogers

by Erin Stevens

Okay, okay, forgive the hyperbole.  But as someone who attended Nick Butler's residency last year, I can tell you it's not something to be missed.  

Read below for 5 "must know" reasons to apply today!

1.) New Book Alert. When Nickolas Butler’s Fiction Residency rolls around, he’ll be hot off of a tour for his brand new book. The Hearts of Men, which was released in March and has been receiving rave reviews. While at the residency, you’ll have the opportunity to ask him about his new book, his writing process, the publishing process, and more.

2.) Opportunity for Local Publication. Did you know that the Chippewa Valley now has it’s very own literary journal? Special guest Eric Rasmussen, founder of Barstow & Grand, will talk to fiction residency attendees about the new addition to Eau Claire’s growing literary scene. Whether you have lived in Eau Claire your entire life, or you’re attending a residency in our corner of the world, any writer with a connection to the Chippewa Valley is encouraged to submit their fiction, nonfiction or poetry. And since you’ll be workshopping and revising your piece at the residency, you’ll be just in time to submit for the spring submission period!

3.) It’s a great place to ease into a writing group. Don’t believe us? Check out this testimonial: "This was my first exposure with any kind of writing group outside of a strictly business context. I have to say that [Nick’s workshop] was quite a life-changing experience. I learned so many things in regards to not only writing, but life in general. A fantastic experience recommended to all, not only those who consider themselves 'writers.'”

                                                                                                                                                                               Credit: Justin Patchin

                                                                                                                                                                               Credit: Justin Patchin

4.) Learn from a successful author in a supportive environment. Book List has called Butler "the front ranks of contemporary American writers of literary fiction..." His debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs was a New York Times Bestseller. And while this might seem intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Cirenaica is perfect for writers of all skill levels, and our writers-in-residence are here to make your workshop/residency experience enjoyable. Whether you’re a New York Times best-selling author, or you’ve written your very first short story, we promise that Cirenaica will b e great for you.

5.) Your fiction piece will thank you. Having attended Butler’s residency last summer, I can promise you that these three days will be instrumental in improving your fiction. Not only will you receive invaluable critique from Butler himself, but you’ll also have nine other readers carefully considering and offering feedback on your work.

Now’s your opportunity to learn from the best, while also forming a writing community that you can call upon long after the residency has ended.

Apply for Nickolas Butler’s fiction residency today!

                                                                                                                                                                              Credit: Justin Patchin

                                                                                                                                                                              Credit: Justin Patchin