Sayanora, Cirenaica: Writer’s Guild moves summer retreat to Priory

Lauren Fisher

WRITING IN THE WOODS. UW-Eau Claire’s Priory Hall is located on 120 acres of hilly, wooded wilderness.
WRITING IN THE WOODS. UW-Eau Claire’s Priory Hall is located on 120 acres of hilly, wooded wilderness.

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild is moving its signature summer retreat series to Eau Claire in 2019 for a bigger, more collaborative, summer camp-flavored writing experience. The Priory Writer’s Retreat will take the best components of the Cirenaica Writer’s Retreat – connection to the outdoors, access to published professionals, and a chance to focus on specialized writing craft – and improve upon them by increasing program occupancy, bringing the event closer to Eau Claire, and allowing all kinds of writers to grow, learn, and explore together.

The Priory Retreat will be July 18-21, and will include meals, instruction, and three nights of lodging in a private room. Some commuter slots will be available at a slightly discounted rate. On the last evening of the experience, the writers in residence will perform excerpts from their writings at a live event at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.

“In many ways, we simply outgrew our previous location,” Writers Guild founder B.J. Hollars said. With each summer, the guild saw more applicants, resulting in the need for more space than the seven-room Cirenaica cabin could offer. Priory Hall, the retreat’s new home at 1190 Priory Road, is a UW-Eau Claire property offering 120 acres of wooded hills and 48 single-occupancy rooms for aspiring and practicing poets, authors, playwrights, and more.

“I think the opportunity that presents itself in our new location is that poets can learn from prose writers, and prose writers can learn from poets,” Hollars said, illustrating the collaborative nature of the program. The previous retreat was split into several sessions over the course of the summer, each featuring a single writer-in-residence with a particular focus. The Priory Retreat will host four professional writers, each of whom will oversee a module of as many as 12 participants who will immerse themselves in studying fiction, memoir/nonfiction, poetry, and comedy. While the program provides plenty of time for specialized practice and collaboration, it also brings writers from different genres together to share ideas.

Each evening, participants will come together for open mic sessions where they can share their work or listen to others. There is no pressure to present, Hollars said. “There is great value in staying in the seats and learning from other writers,” he said.

Applications for the Priory Writer’s Retreat will open Feb. 1, and close May 1. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance status by mid-May.

The retreat might take on a slightly more “summer camp” feel at the new location, Hollars said. With more writers in attendance and more nature to explore, he expects attendees to forge meaningful connections and come to powerful realizations. A summer camp lover himself, Hollars is excited to feed into that feeling. “There’s nothing I’d like more than to have 50 writers singing by the campfire,” he said.

More information about the Priory Writer’s Retreat will be available at cvwritersguild.org.