Priory Retreat

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