Retreats

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

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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.

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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!

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... 

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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 Every Person’s Writing Retreat

credit: Justin Patchin

credit: Justin Patchin

Erin Stevens

It isn’t often that I get an uninterrupted moment to write, much less an entire weekend. As a single-cat Mom who works a traditional 8 to 5 desk job who also tries to keep up with a social life (JK, what social life? I have a cat), there seem to be a million other things that I should be doing instead of writing (i.e. laundry, cleaning, calling my Mom to tell her about her grandcat, etc.).

It’s this lack of focus and a nagging sense of guilt that I was neglecting the stories and essays I wanted to be writing, that made the CVWG’s Winter Writers’ Weekend last year seem so enticing. A whole weekend spent away (from my cat), staying in Eau Claire’s very own Oxbow Hotel with nothing on the agenda but to write (and eat, but mainly to write).

I hesitated, though. While I graduated with a degree in creative writing and fancy myself a writer, I knew I probably wasn’t writing half as much as I assumed some of the other writers were. After all, aren’t retreats only for really serious writers?

I decided that I really had nothing to lose (other than my dignity and self-respect) and signed up, and I’m so glad that I did. As it turns out, the Winter Writers’ Weekend is actually a really great retreat for writers and  “non-writers” alike.

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What do I mean by non-writer? I’m talking about those who have had an idea for a story or poem, but have never actually tried writing it. I’m talking about those who used to write pretty regularly, but have since fallen away from their craft and are a little rusty. Basically, any person who wants to write, but is struggling to make this happen.

Why is this retreat perfect for non-writers?

Because everyone starts at the same place. No one starts the weekend by bringing in a completed manuscript or collection of poems. The only things participants need to bring are themselves and something to write with. From there, writers will be given a series of prompts to work with, and then they’ll pick the prompt that they’d like to use in the development of a short piece (a poem, a short story or short essay).

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The precious weekend dedicated to writing alone would be enough for me to return for a second year. Combine that with food from The Lakely and the atmosphere of The Oxbow, and I've already got the phone in my hand, ready to reserve my spot for this year.

And yet what really has me eager to return again this year (and leave my cat once more) is the sense of community I felt last year. This isn’t a surprise, really, as everything that the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild sets out to do is based around community, and providing a supportive environment for writers of all experience levels. So again, for anyone out there who has never written before, or for anyone who is looking comeback to writing again, this retreat is absolutely for you.

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It’s good for me to remember this, too. Unsurprisingly, I’ve fallen back into the trap of letting everyday life distract me from all of the stories and essays I should be writing. It starts with skipping a few days, which then turn into a few weeks, which can even turn into a month or two if I’m not careful. And once I’ve slid away from a routine of regularly tapping into some creativity, it’s hard to get going again, and I end up leaving my desk in frustration.

And then a few days ago, I got an email reminding me that registration for this year’s Winter Writers’ Weekend opens Friday. While initially my old hesitations came back, I knew that I needed to get back to my community and to all of the pieces in my head that want to exist on paper.

I can’t think of a better place to help me get started again than the Winter Writers’ Weekend.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

7 Reasons to Sign Up For the Winter Writers’ Retreat at the Oxbow Hotel!

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John Paluta

The Winter Writers’ Retreat isn’t far off and it is the best option for you to improve your craft! Here are seven reasons why you should sign up:

1.     The Attendees!
Writers-in-residence Melissa Range (her book, Scriptorium, was the 2015 winner of the National Poetry Series), Nick Gulig (Eau Claire native and winner of the 2017 Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest), Max Garland (Emeritus professor, former state poet laureate and the 2017 Brittingham Prize winner) and Austin Segrest will all be at the retreat! These four are all accomplished writers who represent a wide range of skills, from poetry to prose. You won’t get a better opportunity to learn what these four can do for your writing!

2.     Discount!
If you sign up before December 25th, you’ll get a hefty discount! Spots are limited, so saving cash as well as securing your spot now are excellent reasons to sign up.

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3.     Improve Your Craft!
The time spent with these writers will be dedicated not only to learning, but to writing and revising your work! Workshopping will further improve your pieces as you build connections with not only the writers, but the other attendees of the residency.

4.     Community!
If you’re looking for somewhere to not only hone your writing, but also develop a community to share your writing with, then the Winter Writers’ Retreat at the Oxbow is the right place for you. Guild Director BJ Hollars remarks, “When I think back on last winter's retreat, what I remember most is the celebration following our Saturday night reading. People left the retreat proud of their work and excited to continue their writing. We hope to repeat that.”

5.     Relaxation!
Spend time escaping from the “real” world and enjoy the company of your fellow writers. Write, read, revise, grab a drink, eat some great grub, and spin a record on the turntable in your private room.  Not to mention, the Oxbow's not a bad place to avoid that winter chill.

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6.     Anyone Can Come!
Whether your write poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, this is for you. The retreat is not meant for one particular discipline, but rather to encompass them all and assist you with whichever is yours!

7.     Fun!
And most importantly, it’s going to be fun. This weekend will not be one you’re likely to forget any time soon.  Join us for an inclusive atmosphere among friends.  Enjoy the perks, while also getting to work!  

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So what are you waiting for? The Winter Writers’ Retreat takes place January 27- 28 at the Oxbow Hotel. The sign up process begins on December 1st, so save the date and get ready to write!  Click here for more!