Norbert Blei Literary Award

29 09 2015


Norbert Blei Literary Award

Washington Island, September 19, 2015

In 2013, founders and supporters of the Trueblood Performing Arts Center on Washington Island, just north of the Door County mainland, created a grandly successful Literary Festival, bringing authors and readers together for three days of island living, tours, presentations, dinners and workshops.

The success of the first year insured the continuing efforts of the many reading enthusiasts on the island, and most recently of the Elizabeth Wallman family, Dick Purintin, Karen Yancy and Jerod Santek of the Write On! Center for Writers. At the second such event, it was learned that island residents John and Karen Yancey had provided the funds and dedication needed to establish the first ever “Norbert Blei Literature Award” in the categories of Poetry and Short Story.

Over the course of the subsequent year, writers everywhere were encouraged to submit their work to the contest, with winners to be hosted and announced at the 2015 Literary Festival. Judges for the event were Jean Feraca of Madison, WI and NPR fame, and Judith Barisonzi, retired professor of English Lit at the UW Fond du Lac and UW-BC, and adept at short story.

The winners in both categories each received a prize of $250 and were provided registration and lodging to attend the event. Names were announced in early September by founder of the contest, KarenYancey. They were introduced and given their Awards during the Literary Fest by Jude Genereaux, Norb’s partner prior to his death in April 2013, who noted “Norb would be greatly proud of this event; his love for the art of writing and the support he gave to writers throughout his lifetime was well known, as well as his love of Washington Island”.

The award winner for the Norbert Blei Award in Poetry is Catherine Jagoe of Madison, WI, for her poem The Bargain. Catherine is a freelance translator and recently won a Pushcart Prize, as well as the Council for Wisconsin Writers 2014 Kay W. Levin Award for an essay in Gettysburg Review. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Casting Off (Parallel Press 2007) and News form the North (Finishing Line Press 2015); her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Poetry Daily. Ms Jagoe’s poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in numerous literary magazines, and she is a contributor to WI Public Radio’s “Wisconsin Life” series. She has a website at

First Place in Short Story went to Sue Wentz of Portage, WI. Sue notes that she was “privileged to have been mentored by the great Norbert Blei”. Her literary novella The Bluff was first published by Blei’s Cross+Roads Press in 2003. Her second book, Servant to the Wolf, a young adult historical, was originally published by Echelon Press. Sue is a former winner of the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Contest, Al P. Nelson Feature Essay contest and she is a two time winner of WWA’s Florence Lindemann Humor Essay contest.

Two Honorable Mentions in Poetry were also acknowledged: Sheryl Slocum of Milwaukee, for her poem Gravity, and Georgia Ressmeyer of Sheboyan, WI for Sea Level Rising, which was read to those attending by poet Sharon Auberle.

Several of Norbert’s former students and authors were in the audience to honor the recipients and take part in the third, very successful Washington Island Literary Festival.

Happy Birthday Norbert!

23 08 2015
Artwork by Norbert Blei

Artwork by Norbert Blei

všechno nejlepší k narozeninám !

Norbert Blei Writing Workshop Summer 2015

20 07 2015


degenovaNorbert Blei Writing Workshop

Albert DeGenova

August 2 – August 8, 2015

This class is in the tradition of Norbert Blei (1935- 2013)—a week that includes introductory and advanced classes. Students choose one of these options when registering: Class #50: Overview of Creative Writing for beginning writers. (Class meets in mornings.) Class #51: First-person confessional for advanced writers. (Class meets in afternoons.) Class #52: Independent Study.

Overview Of Creative Writing: For burgeoning writers, this class will explore the major areas of creative writing: poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Writing techniques, journal writing, poetry and prose poems, short story writing, personal essay, blogs, the significance of poetic devices as the basis of all creative writing, what “story” means in our lives, and an overview of the promises of publication will be discussed. Sessions will be devoted to discussion, in-class writing and constructive criticism. All that is required is the urge and desire to write.

First-Person Confessional: As “autobiographical” detail has become the norm in contemporary writing, this class will look at how the confessional writers opened the door to the 21st century phenomena which is slam poetry and the explosion of personal memoir onto the best-seller lists. With a focus on this writing genre, the class will explore how much confession is too much. Poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath let their first-person personas detail personal experiences deeper and more honestly than any women who had preceded them. Their “confessional” style was courageous, but not without criticism. Students will examine their own writing for those recurring themes of personal experience and detail that may or may not enhance their work. Core reading: Selected Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton, Ariel by Sylvia Plath and Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros. Additional readings: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes and Big Sur by Jack Kerouac.

Advanced writers with some history of publication may schedule individual meetings with Albert if they submit manuscript excerpts and/or writing projects to him one month in advance of class. Please contact Albert at before submitting materials. Overview Of Creative Writing: For burgeoning writers, this class will explore the major areas of creative writing: poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

Independent Study: This is open to anyone with a desire to spend a week as part of a community of fine writers. There is no class work, and there are no writing assignments or reading obligations. You are welcome to join the writing classes and programs.

Albert Degenova began his studies with Norbert Blei in 1996. He is a poet, writer, editor and publisher. Albert is the author of four books of poetry, and for the past 30-plus years has worked as a journalist and marketing communications professional. In June of 2000, he launched the literary/arts journal After Hours, for which he continues as publisher and editor. In 2014, After Hours Press published The Professor’s Quarters, student perspectives on Norbert Blei and his class at The Clearing. Albert holds a master of fine art in writing and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois. He is also a blues saxophonist and a one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine.

$985 Dorm Room Package
$1025 Two-Person Room Package
$1435 Single-Person Room Package (limited availability)
$550 Commuter Package (limited availability)

Level: Beginner

Be sure to read Registration Information for complete registration details.


Corbin Buff | Norbert Blei: a Grandson Remembers

20 06 2015
Corbin Buff

Corbin Buff is currently a senior at Stroudsburg High School. This is his first year on the Mountaineer newspaper staff. Corbin also plays tennis for Stroudsburg’s boys tennis team.

Norbert Blei: a Grandson Remembers

It has been said before that the highest form of art is life itself—the art of life. The idea being that a life well-lived, a human being who has sculpted not simply clay or marble, but their world view and inner essence, shines forth more brilliantly than any ordinary work of art. Walking paintings, breathing sculptures, symphonies that write and rewrite themselves each second; these are the highest strivings of the artist—to become what Henry Miller would call a “living book:” a man or woman who has shaped him or herself into a verifiable work of art.

Norbert Blei was one of these living books. For my grandfather, it was not enough that the books be written. The books are, of course, wonderful and immensely important, but I have always felt that they were part of the bigger work: the life, the man himself. Norbert Blei embodied every book he had ever written, every book he had ever read. And at the same time, he realized that helping other artists along the way, laughing, giving gifts, and any other single action was worth just as much as a book or painting, especially when added up over the course of a lifetime. More simply put, it is both the big and the small things that count.

I don’t think I need to talk about the big things—the books. This is certainly not to undermine them, or what my grandfather achieved in their pages. Rather, it is simply that the books need no one to speak for them. They are there, waiting, and—all deities willing—always will be. And I do highly recommend you read them, if you haven’t already. But although my grandfather’s epitaph does in fact read “find me in my books,” I thought I might try to provide another way of finding Norbert Blei, particularly for anyone reading this who did not have the pleasure of meeting or interacting with him beyond the books. I think a portrait of my grandfather can be glimpsed through his actions; in this case the ones that stand out in my memory.

I mentioned earlier the idea of helping others, artists or not, along the way. I can personally testify that few calls for guidance that came Norbert Blei’s way were left unanswered. Indeed, I still have email after email of his, all written with patience, full of advice for the stuff I myself was writing in my preteen years. No work, however bad or unpolished, was deemed underserving of his attention—even my bizarre, amorphous hybrid poems, which at that point were some strange fusion of Robert Frost’s verse and the lyrics of the Grateful Dead. (I was later informed, somewhat to my chagrin, that he printed out and saved these now embarrassing experiments of my past… That’s how much they meant to him)

I believe I mentioned gifts earlier as well, and anyone who had a good relationship with Norbert Blei knows that he had a gift for giving gifts. For each Christmas and birthday, us grandchildren were given books, and, thanks to my grandfather, they always suited the reader perfectly. Although Norbert was obviously a “literary” writer/reader, he did not force his preferences on you. I suppose the idea was that if one fell in love with reading, they would be led to the “great books” soon enough on their own. I’m currently trying to read my way through the entirety of Kenneth Rexroth’s written work, but one does not start with such stuff. It would hardly interest a 10, 11, 12, 13-year-old, and my grandfather was aware of this. Science-fiction/fantasy books like Eragon or The Rangers Apprentice (gifts of Grandpa’s) are the reason I fell in love with reading as a younger kid. “Love is easy,” as they say, and now reading anything (well—almost anything) is an easy and joyful experience. I owe that to my grandfather.

There were smaller gifts, too, like the gift of food. One of his favorite meals, both to make and to take others out for, was cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Being very chubby when I was younger, I can hardly say I disagreed with his taste. One of the saddest things I remember from my grandfather’s later years was seeing him lose his appetite. This was somewhat odd, as he never lost the love for cooking. My mother always joked that when she was growing up, Norbert used to make 10x more breakfast than anyone could eat, and things were no different when he visited us grandchildren. One of my favorite memories is of him working very hard at night on these Czech dumplings, which we ended up having for dinner. He saw that I liked them so much that he got up with me at 5:30 a.m. the next day and scrambled them into this massive hodgepodge of eggs, dumplings, and bacon. All before I had to leave for school.

One year we went to California to visit our aunt and uncle and grandmother for Christmas. Grandpa was there too. On the kitchen table of my aunt/uncle’s house was an elegant display of nuts and other snacks, where I would return constantly to consume every last cashew that had been put out, thinking that no one ever saw. Later though, when we got home to Pennsylvania, there was a box waiting in the mail for me from Norbert Blei. Weird, I thought. I had already received my customary birthday gift of books. What could it be? The box was opened to reveal a large can of salted cashews and a note: “Happy Birthday, Corb. Love, Grandpa Blei.”

I could go on and on with stories like this, but you hopefully get the idea. I just think it’s very important we all remember Norbert Blei the man, the father, the grandfather, the gift-giver, the cook and the food-lover, as much as we remember Norbert Blei the writer. I was fortunate to be close enough to him to witness all these multitudes, and thus consider myself lucky and blessed to be influenced by my grandfather not just in the sphere of writing and literature, but in my entire way of life. I hope the anecdotes I shared bring forth memories of your own time with Norbert, and shine light on who he was as a person for those of you not fortunate enough to have met him. — Corbin Buff

Norbert Blei and Corbin Buff

Norbert Blei and Corbin Buff

Norbert Blei and Corbin Buff

Norbert Blei and Corbin Buff

D. Zep Dix | Tribute for Norbert Blei in pictures

5 06 2015

I had a long correspondence going with Norb. But we never met face to face. He wrote and drew from a chicken coop near Ellison Bay in Door County WI for over 40 years after living in hometown Chicago. — D. Zep Dix

Please click the images to enlarge…

Karen Ebert Yancey | Blei’s coop dedicated at Write On, Door County site

4 06 2015
Karen Ebert Yancey | Blei’s coop dedicated at Write On, Door County site

The refurbished chicken coop that served as the writing studio for the late Door County author Norbert Blei is now on display at Write-On Door County in Juddville. More than 150 writers and poets turned out for the dedication on Saturday. Jude Genereaux, Blei’s longtime partner, left, talks with writer Catherine Hovis at the entrance to the coop.(Photo: Karen Ebert Yancey/Gannett Wisconsin Media)

More than 150 of Door County’s most esteemed writers and poets turned out on a cold Saturday afternoon last week to dedicate the refurbished chicken coop that the late Door County author Norbert Blei used as his writing studio.

The coop had been moved from his Ellison Bay home to the site of Write On, Door County in Juddville last year following Blei’s death in 2013.

“Every day for almost 45 years, energy crackled from a little spot near Europe Lake,” wrote his longtime partner Jude Genereaux for the text at the entrance to the coop. “Now only a small footprint remains where an old cedar-shingle chicken coop once stood. Converted into a tiny writing studio – the humble, creative cove was where Door County’s best-known writer, Norb Blei penned his novels, short stories, essays and poems.”

The three-hour event featured many of Blei’s contemporaries and students reading tributes to the author, as well as musicians honoring his work in song and instrumental music.

“The day and range of speakers really paid good service to Norb,” said Ralph Murre, Door County’s poet laureate and a former student of Blei’s. “We owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership in writing in this county.”

Blei wrote about Door County in many of his 17 books, as well as advocated for preservation of the county’s natural environment. Write On, Door County, which promotes writing in the county and offers classes and writing space for writers, restored the coop after moving it to its 40-acre site at 4177 Juddville Road. The organization plans to allow writers to work in the studio, which overlooks a meadow behind an existing building on the site.

“It is important to us that the literary and cultural history of Door County not be lost,” said Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County. “Having the coop here, as a place where writers can work, preserves that history without making it a museum piece.”

The first Norbert Blei Scholarship awards were presented at the event to two Gibraltar High School students: Makenna Ash of Ellison Bay and Evan Board of Egg Harbor.

The event also featured the introduction of a new poetry book, “Soundings: Door County in Poetry,” published by the Door County Poetry Collective. The collective includes several poets who were Blei’s students.

The anthology includes poems by more than 50 poets reflecting their visions of Door County.

“The day was a celebration of writing and the inspiration for writing in Door County,” Santek said.

“Sounds: Door County in Poetry” will be on sale at The Peninsula Bookman in Fish Creek and other bookstores throughout the county this summer. — Karen Ebert Yancey


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 706 other followers