Open House…Open Coop

6 05 2015

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.

Write On’s Second Annual Open House
May 30 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4.

Date: May 30, 2015 | Time: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Write On, Door County Center, 4177 Juddville Rd, Fish Creek, WI 54212 United States

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.





Norbert Blei | August 23, 1935 – April 23, 2013

23 04 2015

Norbert Blei | August 23, 1935 – April 23, 2013

 





Alice D’Alessio | Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award

9 04 2015
Norbert Blei (on the left) & John Lehman, who presented the Award to Norbert Blei in 1999 (John Lehman is the Founder and Editor-at-large of Rosebud, a Literary Magazine)

Norbert Blei (on the right) & John Lehman, who presented the Award to Norbert Blei in 1999 (John Lehman is the Founder and Editor-at-large of Rosebud, a Literary Magazine)

Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award

In the winter of 2013, the Board of the Council for Wisconsin Writers renamed its Nonfiction Book Award the Norbert Blei/August Derleth Nonfiction Book Award, to recognize Norb’s significant contribution to the Wisconsin literary archive.

The Council for Wisconsin Writers holds an annual contest to award notable achievements by Wisconsin Writers who have published work in the preceding year. Norb himself was winner of two awards over the years. The eight categories of awards include short and book-length fiction, short and book-length non-fiction, poetry, and children’s literature, as well as a young-writers essay award. There is also an award for Major Achievement and another for Contribution to Wisconsin writing.

Last year at the awards banquet in May, the Norbert Blei/August Derleth prize was awarded to B. J. Hollars, of Eau Claire, for his historical book Opening Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa, published by the University of Alabama Press.

B.J. Hollars is a writer of essays and other non-fiction, including the book Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America. Hollars’s essays have appeared in, TriQuarterly, Brevity, The Collagist, North American Review, Quarterly West, and many other literary journals.

I think Norb would be pleased that a writer who focuses on social injustice would win an award named for him.

Honorable Mention in the contest went to Nicholas Hoffman and Jesse Gant of Appleton for their book Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycling State, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

On May 9 of 2015, the next cycle of awards will be announced at the banquet held at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee. Entries in the contest, which closed on January 31, are currently in the hands of judges.

The winner of this year’s Blei/Derleth award has been chosen, and will be announced at the banquet May 16. You can find out more by going to CWW’s website: http://www.wiswriters.orgAlice D’Alessio

award

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The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop

23 03 2015

blei

The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop

August 2-8, 2015
Albert DeGenova, instructor

  • “First-Person Confessional” with a focus on personal writing
  • Overview of Creative Writing
  • Writer Independent Study

at The Clearing Folk School, Ellison Bay (Door County), Wisc.

Registration now open! Limited Space! Details at The Clearing Folk School (click here)

NORBERT BLEI WRITING WORKSHOP
August 2-8, 2015
With Instructor/Writer
Albert DeGenova

These classes are taught in the tradition of renowned writer and teacher Norbert Blei (1935-2013), who passed the torch of his 40+ year writing class at The Clearing to Albert and Susan O’Leary (Susan will be teaching “The Writer’s Craft,” Sept 13-19, 2015, also at The Clearing). Albert will be continuing Norb’s vision of a week that includes introductory and advanced classes, individual conferences, and the camaraderie of a community of writers.

Please choose one of these classes when registering:

  • Mornings – Overview of Creative Writing
  • Afternoons – “First Person Confessional” (includes more advanced writing assignments)
  • Writer Independent Study
  • Overview of Creative Writing

Burgeoning Writers.

This class will explore the major areas of creative writing: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Students will consider various writing techniques, discuss journal writing, poetry and prose poems, short story writing, the personal essay and blogs, and the significance of poetic devices as the basis of all creative writing, what “story” means in our lives, as well as an overview of the promises of publication. Class sessions will be devoted to discussion, in-class writing, and constructive criticism. No one need feel intimidated or out of place regardless of age, background or ability…all that is a 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 closely 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, students will explore how much confession is too much confession. 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
  • Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

Additional reading (recommended but required):

  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Birthday Letters, by Ted Hughes
  • Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac

Advanced Writing Individual Conferences

For practicing writers (any creative genre) with some history of previous publication. Albert will work individually with those Advanced Writers who submit manuscripts and/or writing projects to him one month in advance of the first class.
For further information (and before submitting materials), please contact Albert: al.degenova@yahoo.com.

Independent Study

Open to anyone with a desire to spend a week at The Clearing during the writing workshop session. No class work, writing assignments, or reading obligations. Consider yourself welcome to monitor the writing classes and programs. This could be a valuable week of insights into the writing life. Recommended as well for people who love to read and would enjoy spending a week as part of a community of fine writers.

The Clearing

Write, relax, learn…getaway from it all!!! This is famed landscape architect Jens Jensen’s dream come true. Read Albert’s essay on his relationship to The Clearing and Norbert Blei here: “Jensen’s Great Poem.”

Albert DeGenova

Your instructor

Albert DeGenova began his studies with Norbert Blei at The Clearing in 1996. He is an award-winning poet, writer, editor and publisher. He is the author of four books of poetry, and for the past 30+ years has worked as a journalist, public relations practitioner, copywriter, 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. DeGenova holds an MFA in Writing and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University, River Forest, IL. Albert is also a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine. Read more on his website. Click here.





Norbert Blei – Watercolor Artist | by Jude Genereaux

16 03 2015

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Norbert Blei | Watercolor Artist by Jude Genereaux

I wonder how many of Norb’s readers know, along with all else he accomplished, that he was a prolific water color artist?

Particularly in the late 1970-80’s, Norb turned to painting when he needed to refresh his spirit or give his driven energies a break from the keyboard. On a narrow, tall table behind his writing desk, he laid a simple 23”x 18” flat board where he stood to paint. The only photo I’ve ever seen of him so engaged is found on the back of his book “Paint Me A Picture, Make Me a Poem”, taken in a time zone when he wore his hair long, falling to his shoulders.

The most well known of his paintings may be his collection “Die Mauer”, a series on the Berlin Wall. After returning from a trek to Germany at the time “the Wall” was being dismantled, Norb was haunted by the artful grafitti covering the west side of it. What began as a simple painting to commemorate it for himself, grew into an obsession – in the end he found he’d amassed 46 paintings! Arlene LewAllen, Norb’s close friend and art gallery owner in Santa Fe, was so excited to learn of Norb’s creation that early in 1993 she had him send them to her to be framed and hang in her gallery in Santa Fe. In April, 1993, Norb flew to Santa Fe to host an Opening to show his work, presenting a narration of how the series came to be and talk on the individual pieces.

I later found buried under piles of video and cassette tapes, one of only two VCR tapes that were made of this notable event; be assured copies were made, initially VCR, then transferred to CD’s for the family, a few friends and – history. Many of these provocative and moving paintings were sold, but a number of the Berlin Wall series remain in storage.

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Prolific as this collection was – there were others … SO! many others, ranging widely from the whimsical to the erotic, from his early years of experimental dabbling:

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through borrowings from his favorite artists, Henry Miller, Ken Patchen, Marc Chagal:

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Cover of “Once I Loved Him Madly” | click the image to enlarge…

Over the years Norb’s work evolved into adept expressions of his experiences and personal history. He used painting to express emotional zones he was prone to, naming his collections as he became gripped by them. Some exposed dark side fascinations, as in the “Mr Death” collections:

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One collection sprung from years of growing up as a “Catholic Boy”:

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Others he referred to as the “Angel” series, “Southwest”, “Santa Fe” and “Three Women”.

Norb worked poetry and emotion into much of his work:

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The “Tango Dancers” are among my favorites –

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Norb also painted expansively of Eros … anyone knowing Norbert Blei recognized he was a romantic, a poet, a man in love with life and art; his water colors reflect this.

Norbert Blei

Coyote Woman

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The King and Queen of Bohemia” | click the image to enlarge…

Much of Norb’s work has been sold, but probably far more was given to friends and fellow writers, becoming treasures in private homes from here to California. Some remains in storage. All of his work is a treasure, and “Another facet of Blei”, not everyone knew existed.

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“These paintings are not souvenirs. They are small joys, dreams, meditations, mystical journeys, adorations of the private sort for those seeking what they know not. It is not my business to paint. Just paint.” “The Watercolor Way” Norbert Blei





Myles Dannhausen Jr. | How Norb Blei Found the Internet

30 01 2015

Monsieur K.

How Norb Blei Found the Internet

In his final years, the writer found an audience online through a transatlantic connection
By Myles Dannhausen Jr.

If an editor had worked up the guts to suggest that writer Norb Blei start a blog in say, 2002, Blei probably would have blasted her with an avalanche of disgust for suggesting he acquiesce to the whims of the day, to fit his prose into some new definition of what the reader would buy.

Blei’s relationship with that editor might end right there.

Blei acquired a love for the web the only way he could, in a stroke of serendipity, improbability, and with a great story.

In August of 2007, Norb Blei sent out his Poetry Dispatch newsletter to his email list of devoted readers, This one, edition 179, included a review of a poetry chapbook by Los Angeles-based Mark Weber and Ronald Baatz. That email made its way to the inbox of a man living on the beach of Saint-Nazaire in Bretagne, France, who goes by the name Monsieur K. A fan of jazz and poetry, Monsieur K. had a website, Metropolis Free Jazz, where he sold hundreds of jazz, free jazz, improvisation and other obscure genres, including work by Weber.

Monsieur K. dropped Blei a note to let him know more about Weber, whose website he managed. Blei was fascinated both by Weber and by this strange new connection.

Blei wrote then that he “immediately loved everything [Monsieur K.] did on Weber, not to mention the beauty, design, quality of the website itself. Somebody doing something thing like this, somewhere outside one’s own country, immediately removes chapbook-poet Weber writing from Albuquerque, New Mexico and puts him and his work in a whole other dimension.”

Blei and Monsieur K. exchanged emails, leading the then 72 year-old Blei to take his words to a new realm.

“After catching up with Norbert Blei I came up with the idea to transform his Poetry Dispatch email list into a web page,” Monsieur K. explains. “That’s how poetry Dispatch was born. Norbert sent me all the dispatches and Notes from the Underground in his archives so I could add them to the web page, and we began adding new posts as he produced them.”

Monsieur K. took the text from Blei’s “old fashioned” emails and posted it to the website, adding images, additional information, links, and a visual touch. He had the relationship with Blei that a long line of editors only wished they had.

“Norb always gave me carte blanche,” he says. “It was really easy working with him. We were in contact on a daily basis and I still have thousands of his emails stocked on my computer.”

Now the words of an aging writer, one disenchanted with the deteriorating state of the publishing industry, made their way out of an old chicken coop tucked into the lonely woods at the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula to readers worldwide. The blog has since been visited 642,000 times and still gets 250 more visitors every day, about half from the United States, but the rest from England, Canada, Italy and dozens of other countries.

Blei was enthralled by this worldwide audience. He learned the language of the web – links, trackbacks, CSS. “He was very keen on following up new web techniques,” Klaus said. “Sitting in a converted chicken coop didn’t make him unaware of new forms of communication.”

The lone day I got to spend with Norb in his coop, he was energized when he talked about the blog. Where a typewriter once sat on his desk, a flat-screen monitor now held his words. It took him a while to make that switch (he loved the sound of the old ones. “It seemed like you had more ownership of the manual typewriter,” he told me.) but the ease of editing sucked him in. His first computer was a Tandy with a green screen, found up down the road in Sister Bay, at Hammersmith’s Radio Shack.

Twenty-five years later he found the internet. Being discovered anew by readers in far-flung countries in the age when the book was dying gave him hope for the writer, hope for himself. The blogs brought him new followers, new people with which to communicate, to talk writing and words. But to some who had come to correspond with him over decades, something was lost.

“He got lost in the internet,” said his close friend Jean Feraca, the longtime host of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Here on Earth. “I hate to say this, but it became almost annoying to get so much. When he was sending me stuff in the mail it was so personal. Before the internet came along he would send copies of articles. I missed that.”

Dave Pichaske, Blei’s longtime publisher, thought the blogs took Blei’s attention away from his books, and lamented the work left incomplete.

“If he had got the projects together I would have published the books,” Pichaske said. “But as a writer, you need an audience, you need to perform. At the end he didn’t have that in print. He did blogs, and that made him happy.”

Still, Feraca realized that the blog, email and this new audience were doing for Norb what the publishing industry no longer could.

“He saw it as the antidote to his isolation. The Internet was the way he could really be a contender.”

One good reason today’s writer might hope to be heard in our world of constant distraction, diminishing readership, a culture gone kaput, rests in what you are now reading on the screen : the community of cyber communication which as writers we’re going to have to live with, study, understand, and utilize if we expect any audience at all. The time when editors, publishers, and agents rang you up for work, courted you with lunch, drinks, promises and blank checks is long gone– if you were fortunate to experience any of this at all. “You’re just going to have to do it yourself” is as true today as ever. Yes, there are still, and will always be publications out there to sell (basically give) your work to, and a handful of quality publishers large and small that might conceivably even invest in your work at their expense in the hope that it might make a little money for them – and maybe you. However, it’s increasingly unlikely these days you will find a publisher who truly believes in your vision as a writer.

Dannhausen_mugMyles Dannhausen Jr. wrote a profile of Blei in the winter 2015 edition of Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine. Dannhausen is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. He is a native of Door County, Wisconsin.

 








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