Priory Retreat

5 Reasons To Apply To The Priory Writers’ Retreat This Minute

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B.J. Hollars 

For the past three summers, I had the great privilege of welcoming writers from across the country to Cirenaica—our wondrous writers’ retreat in the Wisconsin wilderness.  In total, we hosted 16, 3-day sessions, and in doing so, created a nurturing environment where 160 writers could write, workshop, listen, learn, and thrive. 

This summer, we’re thrilled to bring the spirit of Cirenaica to our new location at The Priory. Originally established as a monastery for Benedictine nuns in 1964, today The Priory serves as an ideal location for creativity to flourish.  Situated on 120 wooded acres just miles from downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the property features 48 single-occupancy, air-conditioned rooms, several common areas, and no shortage of natural splendor.  And from July 18-21, it’s all ours.

As the snow begins to melt and I turn my eyes toward summer, nothing makes me more excited than the prospect of joining you and others for three days of creation, collaboration, and celebration.  While there are dozens of reasons why you should apply, I’ve narrowed down my list to the top five.  Read on, and then, apply today!  Your writing deserves it.

 

1.)   Personal Feedback From Writers-in-Residence.

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At some writers’ retreats, you get to brush shoulders with greatness.  But at The Priory, you get a lot more than that.  For our inaugural summer, we’re thrilled to welcome four incredible writers-in-residence: Dasha Kelly Hamilton (poetry), Nickolas Butler (fiction), Mary Mack (comedy/humor writing), and David McGlynn (memoir/nonfiction).  When you apply to work with these writers, you’ll really work with these writers.  By capping each workshop at 12, we guarantee it.  Each day you and your fellow participants will partake in a private workshop led by your writer-in-residence.  Not only will your creative work benefit from this process, but you’ll be playing a vital role in supporting the creative work of others, too.  In doing so, we all improve our writing, and we all learn collectively.

2.)   Learning Beyond Genre.

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One way The Priory Writers’ Retreat distinguishes itself is by fostering an environment in which all writers of all levels and genres can learn from one another.  While our individual workshops focus on genre (fiction, poetry, memoir, and comedy writing—interpreted broadly!), participants will have the opportunity to learn from all of our writers-in-residence by way of daily craft talks.  Simply put, our poets can learn from our prose writers and our prose writers can learn from our poets.  In addition to shared learning, this interdisciplinary approach is geared toward encouraging collaborative opportunities.  What happens when you put 48 writers in a room together?  We’re about to find out!   

3.)   Field Trips.

credit:  Justin Patchin

Hailed as an “outdoorsy cultural mecca” by Time Magazine, Eau Claire, Wisconsin is, indeed, a city on the rise.  And there’s never been a better time to check us out.  (Want a preview?  Just click here!). While much of our time will be spent on The Priory’s 120 wooded acres, on Saturday night we’ll board our chartered bus to downtown Eau Claire.  The evening will begin with a reading by our writers-in-residence at our brand-new Pablo Center at the Confluence.  Then, our bus will shuttle folks to various downtown locations, including The Brewing Projekt and The Lakely—two of our city’s finest establishments.  Grab a drink, enjoy some live music, and celebrate your work alongside new friends.

4.)   Putting the World on Pause.

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As every writer knows, there are always plenty of reasons not to write.  Our house is a mess, the laundry needs folded, the dishes need washed—the list goes on.  At The Priory, we create the conditions for you to create.  Each participant will enjoy a private room, as well as all on-site meals and drinks.  When you’re with us, you don’t waste a minute cleaning, or folding, or placing a single plate on the drying rack.  Your only responsibility is to be a writer and to give every minute to your craft.  Trust us, by the end of our retreat, you’ll leave feeling happy, rejuvenated, accomplished, and inspired.   

5.)   The Best Friend You Haven’t Met.

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A successful writers’ retreat depends on many factors: the writers-in-residence, the offerings, the food, the rooms, the property, the list goes on.  Yet it’s the participants who ultimately ensure a retreat’s overall success.  That’s right.  It’s you.  And you.  And you.  By bringing us together in this shared space for three uninterrupted days of writing, reading, learning and relaxing, we’re merely creating the conditions for the magic soon to come.  No one leaves our retreats without a few new writer friends.  Writer friends, I’ll add, that often serve as great editors, too.  There’s nothing we love more than watching these friendships blossom over our shared love of writing.  Join us, and make a friend, and be a friend, too. (Also, refer a friend and, upon acceptance, receive 10.00 off your fee!)

So what are you waiting for?

Click the button below and apply today!

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JUST ANNOUNCED: Eggplant Heroes to Play at The Priory Writers' Retreat!

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Musicians are some of our favorite writers. And Eggplant Heroes are some of our favorite musicians. In the spirit of collaboration and shared learning, this summer The Priory' Writers’ Retreat is THRILLED to host the always-literary Eggplant Heroes for a Friday night concert!

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As their website notes, “Eggplant Heroes is a musical collaboration including Duffy Duyfhuizen, Joel Pace, Olaf Lind,  Max Garland, Lucas K. Fischer, Caleb Horne, and Dan Zerr. Blending multi-part harmonies with guitar, trumpet, violin, mandolin, and bass, Eggplant Heroes present an eclectic mix of originals, literary adaptations, mountain gospel, and folk—Americana music in the full sense of the word.”

Check out their music here!

And apply for our retreats by clicking here!

Deadline to apply is May 1!

3 Questions with Max Garland--Deliverer of Keynote Addresses and More!

credit: Justin Patchin

credit: Justin Patchin

Former Wisconsin poet laureate Max Garland is the author of The Word We Used for It, winner of the 2017-18 Brittingham Poetry Prize. Other books include The Postal Confessions, winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and Hunger Wide as Heaven, which won the Cleveland State Poetry Center Open Competition, and a chapbook, Apparition, from the University of Wisconsin Press. This summer, he’ll provide the keynote address at The Priory Writers’ Retreat.

I recently chatted with Max to learn more about his experiences as a rural letter carrier, humility, caffeine, and Dylan Thomas. Read on!

B.J. Hollars: This summer you'll be giving the keynote address for our inaugural summer at The Priory Writers' Retreat.  First, no pressure (though this address will surely go down in literary lore as the moment dozens of writers reaffirmed themselves to their craft).  the talk is titled "What I Learned On My First Day Of Writing" or "Don't Quit Your Job."  Without giving too much away, what inspired this talk?

Max Garland: After working almost 10 years as a rural letter carrier on the route where I was born, where I lived, my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles lived, my first true love lived (we were 6-year-olds at the time), I quit that job, placed the last letter in the last mailbox on Rural Route 7, Paducah, Ky. 42001, and drove my mail car 442 miles to the Iowa Writers' Workshop for my first official day of Poetry School. My talk is a cautionary tale inspired by the mixed results of this journey.

BH: Over the years, you've had the privilege of working with thousands of writers in a variety of settings.  What conditions do you find to be the most conducive to creativity?

The conditions I find most conducive to creativity are attentiveness, humility, and the stubborn conviction that you are the one best equipped to tell your own story, and also, of course, there's caffeine. I realize these aren't really "conditions," but more like qualities or attitudes, and in one case, a psychoactive drug composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, which, coincidently, are the four most abundant elements in the human body.

BH: Finally, was there a poem or poet or piece of writing that inspired you to take the poetic plunge?  If so, what, specifically, inspired you?  A line?  A phrase?  An idea?

MG: Writing that inspired me early on? I'd have to say the Elizabethan cadences (I didn't know it was poetry at the time), of the King James Bible rolling off my grandmother's tongue in her western Kentucky accent. Then in college we were assigned a poem by Dylan Thomas that went-- "Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs/About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green/...Time let me hail and climb/ Golden in the heydays of his eyes/ And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns/ And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves/ Trail with daisies and barley/Down the rivers of the windfall light.."  By the end of that poem, when I read, "Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means/ Time held me green and dying/ Though I sang in my chains like the sea," I thought my head might fall off. The words were simple, but the order cast them like a spell. I was a goner. 

Hear Max’s keynote address this summer at The Priory Writers’ Retreat! Click below to apply!

Jokes So Good Even a Llama Will Listen: 5 Questions with The Priory's Comedy Writing Writer-in-Residence Mary Mack

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You know her from Conan, Last Call with Carson Daly, Comedy Central, WTF with Marc Maron, and more. Now, get to know folk humorist Mary Mack this summer at The Priory Writers’ Retreat. Mary’s writing workshop—”Finding The Funny: Make Millions With Humor (Just Kidding)”—is open to all writers of all levels. Whatever you write (stories, op-eds, eulogies, whatever!), Mary will help you find the funny!

I really chatted with Mary between stops on her comedy tour. Read on for more on Mary!

B.J. Hollars: How did you find your way into the comedy world?  Do you remember the first joke you ever heard or ever told?

Mary Mack: I started on a dare while teaching music and band in Nashville, TN. This was after my polka band broke up and I told my roommate I missed performing. It was a way to perform where you didn't need an entire band or even an instrument. My first joke was fictional. It was about how I was the first house clarinetist hired for NASCAR. I wrote a six minute story about it--way too long. I don't think it went great, but I was just shocked I could write something and people would listen. Nobody had listened to me in my family of eight growing up, nor was anyone really listening when I taught beginning band. They just wanted to make noise, understandably. Even silence (not laughter!) was welcomed when I was on stage after that: At least they were listening. Because of that, I got hooked on both the writing and performing.

BH: What, in your opinion, is the key to making people laugh?  Is there a key?

MM: Yes. Scientifically, it's catching people off guard, not with something shocking, but something unexpected that makes them laugh. There's a lot of variables, so the key is never the same! Know your crowd and you situation maybe? Also, it helps if it seems like you are having fun while you're up there!

BH: If comedy can be taught, how do you teach it, and how have you learned it?

MM: Observation! Analyze WHY something is funny. It can be any situation, not just a stand up show.

BH: Can you share a bit about how your own work moves from the page to the performance?  Do you revise?  Try out the material?  How is your process similar (or different!) to what writers in other genres do?

MM: I write down something I think is funny with sort of a set up and punch format, but fluid (just with caution that I'm not abusing the audience's time). Then, I go for it on stage at an open mic usually. Most times, it goes pretty bad. Or if it does get laughs, I'm usually suspicious of that. I tape all my sets on my phone. Then, LISTEN, REWRITE, REVISE, TAPE, TRANSCRIBE, REVISE, REPEAT FOR YEARS AND YEARS till you think something might be finished. I get instant feedback in stand up via a live audience's reaction; whereas, if you write a novel, it takes forever to get your feedback. Sometimes I read my essays on stage so I can revise them. All the slow parts, I try to shorten or repair when I feel the audience has lost interest there. But I'm having trouble finishing a book. I can't necessarily expect to get immediate feedback on every paragraph. This is part of the reason it's taken me so long to write a book. I'm addicted to the live trial and error!

BH: Finally, what was your proudest moment as a comedian?

Doing well on my Grand Old Opry debut this past December was a highlight of my career. That Nashville crowd sits there for hours, so to get them to enjoy a non-musician feels good! And they don't really have comics on, so they aren't a trained comedy crowd which feels even better. The second biggest highlight of my career is when a llama listened to my entire hour-long set at the Washburn County Fair. I thought it was a stuffed animal, but 45 minutes into the show, he turned his head a little. I was elated.

BH: Bonus question: Any good stories from the road?

MM: Too many, but they aren't often appropriate. 

Want to find your funny with Mary this summer! Click the button below to apply!

Huge Changes: All-New Summer Writers Retreat for 2019

We’ve got big, huge, exciting news to share for 2019! Check out our latest press release …

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Chippewa Valley Writers Guild To Host New Writers’ Retreat in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

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EAU CLAIRE, WIS. – From July 18-21, the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild will host its inaugural summer writers’ retreat at a new location in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Situated on 120 wooded acres just miles from downtown Eau Claire, The Priory Writers’ Retreat seeks to provide a vibrant, inclusive, and collaborative experience for writers of all genres.  

This summer, The Priory Writers’ Retreat is thrilled to welcome four writers-in-residence: Dasha Kelly Hamilton (“Power Lines: Crafting Poems with Punch”), Nickolas Butler (“Stepping into Story: The Theory and Practice of Fiction”), Mary Mack (“Finding the Funny: Make Millions with Humor (Just Kidding)”), and David McGlynn (“Flirting with Disaster: Turning Personal Obsession into Memoir”). Additionally, the keynote speaker, former Wisconsin poet laureate Max Garland, will present “What I Learned on My First Day of Writing or Don’t Quit Your Job.”

Clockwise: Dasha Kelly Hamilton, Nickolas Butler, Mary Mack, and David McGlynn

Clockwise: Dasha Kelly Hamilton, Nickolas Butler, Mary Mack, and David McGlynn

For the past three summers, the CVWG has hosted writers’ retreats at Cirenaica, an intimate, cabin setting in Fall Creek, Wisconsin.  This summer, they’re excited to bring the spirit of Cirenaica to their new location in order to create additional opportunities for writers to create and collaborate alongside one another in a shared space.  “When writers come together for three days of intensive, yet rejuvenating, writing and fellowship, there’s no limit to the magic that can occur,” says CVWG director B.J. Hollars.

The 450.00 cost includes three-nights lodging, on-site meals and drinks, personalized instruction and critique, field notebook, craft talks and keynote address, bus transport to and from the Pablo Center at the Confluence, complimentary ticket to the Writer-in-Residence Reading, and all other on-site events.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on The Priory Writers’ Retreat (including daily schedule, available workshops, and applications), go here: www.cvwritersguild.org/2019retreat

Contact CV Writers Guild Director B.J. Hollars at chipperavalleywritersguild@gmail.com

The Priory Writers’ Retreat grounds

The Priory Writers’ Retreat grounds