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September 19, 2020 @ 9:00 am - September 20, 2020 @ 2:30 pm



Though the 2020 Washington Island Literary Festival: A World Apart, has been cancelled, the festival committee wants to provide our supporters with a way to connect with us and each other during these challenging times.

We can’t replicate the beauty of the drive through Door County, the exhilarating ferry ride to reach the Island, or the tranquility of the Island itself, but we can replicate the incredible opportunity to learn from other writers and to be in the company of others who care passionately about reading and writing books.

Committee festival members and others have offered to lead 90-minute writing craft talks and workshops, designed to encourage and inspire both novice and experienced writers.

We understand that this is a challenging time for many and want to ensure our offerings are accessible to everyone. Therefore, we suggest a donation of $65 per workshop, but people are invited to pay whatever they can. Even if that is nothing, we ant you to join us, so please don’t hesitate to register!

Registration is taken separately for each workshop. All sessions will be conducted via Zoom. You will receive a link to join your Zoom session three days prior to the workshop.

Please note: registration for all workshops closes on Friday, September 18, at 4 pm. You must register before this deadline to take part in these programs.



9 – 10:30 am

“JUST WHO ARE THESE EMBARRASSING PEOPLE?”: Formalist Poets and How to Become One, with James Scannell McCormick

This workshop will focus on two matters: first, on the nature of formal poetry itself—definition(s), history, practitioners—and second, on practicing writing it.

In terms of the nature of formal poetry, participants will learn about the rise of formal poetry, its decline, fall—and current rebuilding. How has the idea of form developed from defining poetry to destroying it, from shaping it to stifling it? Participants will also learn about current formalist poets and where to publish formalist poetry.

Afterwards, participants will be given the chance to practice writing formal poetry through exercises. Various handbooks of traditional forms, both common and less common, will be explored, too.

This workshop is for anyone, new hands and old hands alike. Come with something to write on, and something to write with.

James Scannell McCormick holds a doctorate in creative writing-poetry from Western Michigan University. His third collection of poems, First of Pisces, has just been published by Kelsay books. He lives and teaches college English in Rochester, Minnesota.

To register online for this workshop, please click here. For other registration options, please call 920.868.1457.


11 am – 12:30 pm

WRITING THAT MEETS THE MOMENT: Journalism and Creative Writing Converge in a Crisis, with Susan Zakin

Journalist and author Susan Zakin founded Journal of the Plague Year in response to two crises: the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenge to the country’s stability posed by our divisive political culture. Zakin will describe her journey as a journalist and literary artist and how she decided to launch Journal of the Plague Year. She’ll talk about the state of American journalism, as well as her conviction that both journalists and creative writers have enormous opportunities as publishing structures continue to change.

 Susan Zakin is a journalist and author of several books, including The Environmental Movement and Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First!. A graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Zakin holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona.

To register online for this workshop, please click here. For other registration options, please call 920.868.1457.

1 – 2:30 pm

BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES: Keeping Track of Time During Quarantine, with Kirsten Wasson

This is a workshop about capturing the way your world has changed since mid-late March. Through guided exercises, you will write some prose or poetry based on imagery depicting the highs, the lows, the presence/ absence of meaningful time during this period when we cannot engage in our usual activities. Has time slowed down? Sped up? Have you found a new perspective on living, or do you feel at sea in a sense of detachment? Both? Either way, I know you have plenty to say, and I will help you say it.

Kirsten Wasson is a professor of American Literature, a poet, and non-fiction writer. She publishes widely, and her work recently earned a “notable” in Best American Essays of 2019. She taught a memoir workshop at WILF in 2019, and is excited to be part of the virtual festival this September. She lives in Calabasas, California.

To register online for this workshop, please click here. For other registration options, please call 920.868.1457.


9 – 10:30 am

THE CRAB WALK: Playing with Form and Using it to Guide Our Writing, with Paula Carter

Sometimes we struggle to find the right form for our stories. We have something we want to say but no matter how many times we’ve attempted to write about it—and how many different approaches we’ve taken—it doesn’t come out right.

Enter the hermit crab essay.

According to Brenda Miller, who first coined the term with co-writer Suzanne Paola in their book Tell It Slant, “Hermit crabs are creatures born without their own shells to protect them; they need to find empty shells to inhabit. Hermit crab essays adopt already existing forms as the container for the writing at hand, such as the essay in the form of a ‘to-do’ list, or a field guide, or a recipe.”

By adopting the form of an online dating profile, a rejection letter, or operating institutions—to name a few—that thing you just couldn’t get a handle on suddenly has a built in structure. And some whimsy.

Join us in this workshop where we’ll read examples of writers playing with form, examine craft techniques used in these essays, discover how co-opting a common form can help when your writing is stuck, and most importantly try our hand at writing a few hermit crab essays.

Paula Carter is the author of the flash memoir No Relation. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. Based in Chicago, she is a part of the live lit community and is a company member with the storytelling group 2nd Story. She was the inaugural writer-in-residence on Washington Island, Wisconsin, in fall 2018. She holds an M.F.A. from Indiana University, Bloomington and is currently teaching creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.

To register online for this workshop, please click here. For other registration options, please call 920.868.1457.

11 am – 12:30 pm

THE NOVELIST’S SURVIVAL KIT, with Marianne Fons and Jerod Santek

Many people dream of writing a novel, many start with good intentions, but only a few make it to 100,000 words (or more). Those who complete a full-length manuscript face a second arduous task—finding a literary agent—if their dream includes publication.

Though writing is by necessity a solitary pastime, and a book-length work of fiction can take years, the journey can be made easier if you carry more than just a laptop and a few crumpled sheets of paper in your backpack. Taking sustenance with you in the form of a writing community (among other things) can fend off starvation along the way.

“The Novelist’s Survival Kit” is a conversation between Write On’s Artistic Director Jerod Santek and agented (but not yet published) writer Marianne Fons, a resident of both Iowa and Washington Island, and a student in Rebecca Makkai’s most recent “Novel in A Year” class via StoryStudioChicago.

Jerod and Marianne will talk about the emotional and practical supplies writers or would-be writers can carry with them on their novel-writing journey. Readers whose favorite genre is the novel will enjoy a glimpse of what it takes to make it to the final draft and beyond.

Marianne Fons holds BA and MA degrees in English from Drake University. She is the author and coauthor of many books on quilting and a cofounder of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine. For many years she cohosted a popular how-to quilting show on public television nationwide.

Jerod Santek is the Artistic Director of Write On, Door County. He has worked in literary arts administration for more than 25 years, working with both emerging and established writers. His poetry and prose have appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Blithe House Quarterly.

To register online for this workshop, please click here. For other registration options, please call 920.868.1457.


September 19, 2020 @ 9:00 am
September 20, 2020 @ 2:30 pm
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