Writing on the Door:
Washington Island Literary Festival 2021

The Washington Island Literary Festival is a moveable feast of writing, reading, discussion, and thought about the written word. Writers’ workshops, author panels and presentations, readings and parties are scheduled at various quaint, historic and beautiful venues around the Island.

Participants have a unique opportunity to share time with prominent authors and dedicated readers in the intimate, friendly setting of Washington Island, a half-hour by ferry from the Door County mainland, in September’s color and warmth.

If you aren't an Island resident, we recommend you secure your housing soon. If you are an Island resident and have housing to offer, please contact us. Because housing on the Island may be difficult to secure, we suggest you look into lodging in Ellison Bay, Gills Rock, and other far northern points of the peninsula. This will make for a short and easy drive to and from the ferry. For those with bicycles, Trueblood Performing Arts Center is an easy ride from the terminal and will make it easier and cheaper for you to take the ferry.

Join us for all or a part of the Festival!

The registration deadline is September 15, 2021. Due to COVID-19, we will not be taking walk-up registrations as in years past.


Thursday, September 16: Creative Lab with Alexander Weinstein

Free community event! Though free, registration is required to comply with our Covid-19 policy (see below). To register for the lab, click here, or select this option through the Festival registration link below. 

Friday, September 17: Writing Workshops

Saturday, September 18: Panel Discussion and Individual Author Presentations



Due to the ever-evolving status of the COVID-19 pandemic, Write On, Door County will now be requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test result within 48 hours of any classes, workshops, or conferences. An image of a vaccine card or an image of negative test results within 48 hours of the Write On event are both acceptable. Both are not required - only one is necessary.

To submit your vaccination or negative test status, please contact Artistic Director Jerod Santek.


2021: A World Apart

Lesley Nneka Arimah is the author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Riverhead, 2017). The story collection won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award. Arimah’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Granta. She grew up in Nigeria and the United Kingdom before eventually making her home in Minnesota.

Chris Cander is the award-winning author of the novels  Whisper Hollow, 11 Stories, and the children's picture book The Word Burglar.   Her latest is the USA Today-bestselling The Weight of a Piano, which the New York Times called, "immense, intense and imaginative.” The novel was an ABA Indie Next Great Reads pick in both hardcover and paperback, and has so far been translated into twelve languages.


Christina Clancy is the author of The Second Home, and Shoulder Season, her forthcoming novel. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Sun Magazine, and in literary journals including Glimmer Train Stories, Hobart, Pleiades, the Minnesota Review and elsewhere. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and lives in Madison.



Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His poetry collection Mixology won the 2008 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. Other titles include The Devil’s Garden, The Big Smoke, and Map to the Stars. His fifth collection, Somebody Else Sold the World, will be published by Penguin in July 2021. He teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington and served as Poet Laureate of Indiana for 2018-19.



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.





Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, winner of the 2017 Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in Best American Essays, New York Times, The Believer, Poets & Writers, Tin House, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Goodman Theatre, and classrooms, conferences, weird backyard art parties, and Zoom spaces across the country. She is a 2021 Civic Media Fellow with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California and teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.


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.


Alexander Weinstein is the author of the short story collections Universal Love and Children of the New World which was chosen as a notable book of the year by The New York Times, NPR, Google, and Electric Literature. His fiction and interviews have appeared in Rolling Stone, World Literature Today, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Best American Experimental Writing. He is the Director of The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and a Professor of Creative Writing at Siena Heights University.


Noon - 2:30 pm

Join other community members on the terrace of the Trueblood Performing Arts Center at noon for a bring-your-own brown bag lunch social. Then, at 1 pm, Alexander Weinstein leads our free community lab.

Creative Lab: Freeing the Inner Writer

As we grow as writers, both artistically and professionally, it's so important to continue to approach the page with a sense of play, curiosity, and wonder. In this creative lab we will explore ways to keep this sense of play alive in our writing, we'll embark on some literary experiments, and we'll refuel the creativity of our inner writers.

This is a class for writers of all genres.


10 am - noon

FICTION: Writing Place: Where the Story Happens with Christina Clancy

Even if place isn't the starting point for your writing, it runs through your fiction or nonfiction like the bass line in music, dictating how characters interact with the natural environment and each other. A well-rendered place creates context: how do characters speak? Which customs, traditions and social mores do they observe or transgress? In what ways are your character's actions informed by the socioeconomics and demographics of the cities, towns and areas where they fit in, or where they are oddballs or strangers? In this workshop, we'll consider the ways in which you can transport readers to evocative settings that matter.

NONFICTION: Urgency and the Personal Essay with Megan Stielstra


This workshop examines our personal stories as a contribution to a wider cultural and political dialogue. We’ll start with the gut—what do you need to tell, the memories and questions that live not in your head but your bones—and then move into craft—how to tell our own stories in ways that are equally urgent to an audience.

Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we’ll engage in a series of activities to get our stories out of the body and onto the page, encouraging risk and discovery and examining literary craft in new ways. How does telling a story aloud heighten our understanding of its movement and structure? How does the presence of an immediate audience influence the rewriting process? What do we do with these things once they’re written, and how do we keep the writing going?

All are welcome, regardless of experience or genre. We’ll listen to each other, learn from one another, and adapt as we go.

POETRY: Publishing Without Perishing:  How to Get Your Poems Out There with Jim McCormick

About the only aspect of poetry more challenging than writing it is getting it published.  This workshop is designed for poets at all levels who want to learn the tips and tricks of finding venues for their work.  We’ll be looking at how to target poetry markets for both individual poems as well as entire collections, whether chapbooks or manuscripts.  Factors for consideration are the types of poetry currently published; the role of editorial preference; websites to take some of the mystery (and work!) out of searching for publishers; and the basics of sending out poems.


2 - 4 PM

FICTION: Creating Reality in Fiction with Chris Cander


In nonfiction, an author reveals a world; in fiction, they construct one. From speculative to literary and all genres in between, an author decides—and sometimes invents—the story’s setting, environment, culture, dialect, and technology, among other key elements. In this workshop, we’ll discuss how to balance research and realism in order to keep the readers’ attention, why specificity is the key to universality, and why you need well-chosen details in order to trick the reader into believing the lies they’re being told.

POETRY: With a Voice Like That, You Should Be on the Radio with Adrian Matejka

The most important tool a poet has is their voice. In this workshop, we will explore the different linguistic components that go into developing a unique and surprising point of view on the page. We will read a range of poets including Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Lucille Clifton, Ross Gay, Terrance Hayes, and James Wright in an effort to better understand their habits of voice and borrow their habits for ourselves. This workshop will be relaxed, supportive and ideal for beginning poets as well as advanced writers interested in experimenting with voice and persona.

SPECULATIVE FICTION: Magical Worlds, Imaginative Realities & Invisible Cities with Alexander Weinstein

In this class we will be exploring the wild and wonderful world known as Speculative Fiction. The genre of speculative fiction is a wide umbrella which can include stories that engage with elements of magical realism, sci-fi, fantasy, fairytale, and the gothic, while maintaining a foot in the traditional world of literary realism. We will discuss the genre, its strengths and pitfalls, and then dive into exploring the craft tools we have as writers to create magical worlds and imaginative realities within our fiction.

MEMOIR:Our Voices, Ourselves. Or Not: Writing A Memoir or Personal Essay with Kirsten Wasson

Writing about your life, your experience, your perspective on events can be a very satisfying exercise. YOU GET TO TELL YOUR STORY! But to compel a reader to really listen to their work, a writer must create a compelling voice. This workshop will explore how to find an "on the page" voice that is authentic and powerful. Short readings and three exercises involved.


Write On members receive a 10% discount.



8:00 - 8:45 am

Pick up registration packets. Coffee and refreshments. Backstage Bookstore open.

8:45 - 9:00 am

Welcome and announcements

9:00 - 10:00 am

Panel discussion moderated by Elizabeth Evans Sachs

10:15 - 11:00 am

Author Presentation by Christina Clancy

11:15 am - 12:00 pm

Author Presentation by Adrian Matejka

12:00 - 2:00 pm

Lunch Break

2:00 - 2:45 pm

Author Presentation by Lesley Nneka Arimah

2:45 - 3:30 pm

Author Presentation by Chris Cander

3:45 - 4:30 pm

Author Presentation by Megan Stielstra

4:30 - 4:45 pm

Closing Remarks


Connect and Celebrate with Literature:
What Past Participants Love

An intimate engagement with world-renowned writers.  – Paula Carter

Intelligent and challenging workshops in an absolutely gorgeous setting.  –Sandra Lindow

Washington Island is a perfect place to read and write and therefore a perfect place to immerse one’s self in the spoken and written word. - Libby Sachs

The venues chosen for all the events were just perfect. The barn was magical with its lights and chickens and beautifully laid tables. The banquet was wonderful, the food extraordinary.  I appreciated being able to give my workshop on the veranda of such a lovely hotel!  The auditorium was perfect for the panel and readings. It was lit so well and the sound systems were flawless.  Believe me, as planning chair I appreciate these things.  - Marion Boyer