Write On, Door County’s coop inspires authors

23 08 2017


posted Aug. 15, 2017 7:56 a.m. (CDT) by / Benjamin Wideman, Regional Editor | ben.wideman@ecpc.com

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

JUDDVILLE — Typically, writers don’t enjoy being cooped up.

But, then again, not many writers try letting their creativity flow inside a converted chicken coop.

Those who have done so at Write On, Door County emerged invigorated by the experience of working in a coop once utilized by the late Norbert Blei, a well-respected Door County author.

“Walking through the squeaking door into the coop became like passing through a veil, where the world I was creating was more present than all the workaday cares that had been tethering me to literal reality all year,” said Zoe Zolbrod, a novelist and memoirist from Evanston, Ill.

Athena Kildegaard, a poet from Morris, Minn., said it was “a privilege to spend time at Norb Blei’s desk … knowing that those who I admire have sat there, too, all of us blowing as hard as we can into the weird and beautiful world.”

Singer/​songwriters like Tim Johnson of Lake Geneva also have embraced the coop, saying, “The coop was great and inspired more than one new song. I’m going to miss going to work each morning in that cozy space. … Nature and nurture. That’s what it’s all about here.”

They’re among more than 80 writers stretching from California to Massachusetts who completed residencies at Write On, Door County. The organization, which formed in 2013 and received nonprofit status the following year, occupies 39 acres of serene property midway between Egg Harbor and Fish Creek, just a stone’s throw from the shoreline of Green Bay.

Writers are inspired by Write On’s winding walking paths, beautifully renovated main home and its most unique feature, the coop, which overlooks a tranquil meadow.

“The coop offers a feeling of inspiration and accomplishment that other writers respond to. There’s a wonderful energy,” said Jerod Santek, Write On’s executive director. “The view out the window from the writing desk is really inspirational. It’s also the history of the coop that really draws people in.”

Blei worked in the coop for 45 years until his passing in 2013. He wrote novels, essays, short stories and poems — many of them advocating for the preservation of Door County’s natural environment. In 2014, the coop was transported about 20 miles from Blei’s home in Ellison Bay to Juddville. Several of his old typewriters are perched on rocks outside the coop.

Nearly all of the writers who take up residency from May through October use the coop. Most stay for a week, but some remain for several weeks. During the colder months, writers often work in the home (where they sleep in one of the two bedrooms).

“We’ve had fiction writers, poets, children’s authors, songwriters, playwrights, nonfiction writers — it really runs the gamut,” Santek said. “We don’t put any limitations on that.”

Perhaps the most well-known writer to use the coop was New York Times best-selling author Michael Perry, who during a week-long residency produced a stage adaptation for his book “Population: 485.”

Write On offers numerous free programs, both on and off site, to writers of all ages and skill levels. They can range from 5-year-olds to 90-year-olds to someone like Naomi Shihab Nye, an internationally acclaimed poet from Texas, who recently participated in one of Write On’s events. Book clubs also use the coop for small gatherings.

Write On began as the brainchild of Door County residents Michael Brecke and Anne Emerson, who wanted to develop a year-round outlet for anyone interested in writing. Santek, a native of Pittsburgh, connected with them, and not long thereafter an anonymous donor purchased the home and surrounding property for the benefit of Write On.

Santek worked with the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis for 19 years, but he was so enamored with Door County and Write On that he moved to Sturgeon Bay and assumed the role of executive director from day one. The administrative assistant is Jaime Jorns.

“This really is a wonderful place of inspiration, and I’m happy to be part of it,” Santek said.

And the writers who visit feel the same way.

“Nothing inspires a writer more than a change of scenery, a change of pace, a change of lifestyle,” said Todd Boss, a poet from Minneapolis.

Fellow poet Donna Hilbert traveled from Long Beach, Calif., and noted, “This place is paradise for writers — the grounds, the walking trails, the coop, the porch swing and most of all the people.”

If you go

What: Write On, Door County. / Where: 4177 Juddville Road, Juddville.

Information: For details about residencies, visit http://www.writeondoorcounty.org or call 920-868-1457.

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3 responses

23 08 2017
Christo

On what would of been Dad’s 82nd birthday today, this article rings true.
Thanks Klaus!
Christo

24 08 2017
Paula K

It’s August 23rd – Happy birthday, Norb! Your inspiration continues, your legacy bears fruit.

24 08 2017
Christo.

Thank you Klaus for posting this on what would of been my father’s 82nd birthday today. Much appreciated!
Christopher

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