A Retreat of One’s Own ~ Shake Rag Alley

shake rag

Mining for Story

A writer once said something like this: What no spouse of a writer understands is that a writer is working when she is looking out the window. It’s true, isn’t it? Non-writers are hard pressed to understand the pursuit of the perfect word, the best story, the most complicated characters. And so, why not join a community of writers for a few days? Spend time with them in their (your) natural habitat, at the writing desk in front of the page? Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, Wisconsin offers such an opportunity: Mining for Story, a retreat for writers.

Workshops in writing for young people, fiction, and memoir are part of a three-day event featuring panels on self-publishing, blogging, keeping a journal, making books, readings, conversations, lunches, and manuscript consultations. Writers will gather together in the beautiful Mineral Point, a small arts town that looks like an English mining village; we will talk about writing, and most importantly, we will write, write, write!

All of this at a remarkably affordable price: $295!

Shake Rag Alley Writers Retreat Schedule:


10–11am        Welcome and Self-publishing Panel.

11am–noon     The Writer’s Blog, Good Practices. Philip Hartigan


1:30–3pm        Keeping a Writer’s Journal. Patricia Ann McNair & Philip Hartigan

3–4:30pm        Life into Fiction, a brief generative workshop with novelist Shawn Shiflett

4:45–5:45pm   25 minute Manuscript Consultations (Hammond, Rice, McNair – 4:45 & 5:15)

5–6:30pm        Meet and Greet

7–9pm             Workshops: Hammond (writing for young people), Rice (fiction), McNair (memoir)


9–10am           Manuscript Consultations (Shiflett – 9 & 9:30)

10am–noon     Workshops continued.


1–4pm             Workshops continued.

4:30–5:30pm   Writing Instructors panel Q&A

6–7pm             Open mic – participants


9–10am           Manuscript Consultations (Rice, Hammond, McNair, Shiflett – 9:00 & 9:30)

10–noon          Handmade Books, Philip Hartigan & Judy Sutcliffe


1:30–3:30pm  Workshops conclude.


Registrations are going fast; there is one week left to sign up. Please join us. We would love to hear your story!

Have a Great Summer ~ And Don’t Forget to Write!

IS-1dlujp8qcxrh9I am one day away from a self-imposed writing retreat to our Mt Carroll, IL house (it’s up for sale, by the way, in case you are looking for your own retreat) that will start with a writing weekend with two of my best writing buddies, Gail and Jana. (I just noticed that I have written the word “writing” three times in that sentence. I guess I want to remind myself that this retreat must be about the writing.) Anyway, once my buds have gone, I will need to be my own inspiration for a while. No internet in the house, no television or other distractions. Lots of neighbors close by with whom I enjoy raising a glass now and again, but I will have to use that glass-raising as my reward for a good day’s work.

The semester has just finished, and as always, at the end of it, I remind my students not to give in to the temptation to put the writing off. You know how it is at the end of a school year; the first thing you want to do is sleep (okay, maybe the first thing you want to do is drink, but after that, you really do need to catch up on all the sleep you have missed.) The last thing you want to do is anything that feels remotely like homework. So you save the writing for the next day. And then the next day, and IMAG0339the next. And before you know, the summer has passed and you have–indeed–forgotten to write. (This procrastination action is not limited to students, by the way. Teachers. Parents. Single guys and gals. Anyone who thinks that they will have more time to accomplish what the really want to in the summer when the days are longer and the breezes are warmer can be caught in the trap of “I’ll get to it tomorrow.”)

So want a little nudge? How about a writing getaway for yourself? As it happens, I will be teaching four workshops of various lengths and purpose this summer, and I would love to have you join me.

First: Journal & Sketchbook at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in beautiful Mineral Point, Wisconsin. June 8 & 9, 2013.


I co-teach this class with visual artist Philip Hartigan, and we gear the class toward writers and artists of all levels. Activities will help you use visual note taking, writing, and expressive mark making to help you record memories, observations, imaginings, stories, and visual narratives. This pairing and interplay of text and image is a time-honored artistic tradition, practiced by writers and artists from Mark Twain to Henri Matisse to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and is useful for all manner of creative expression.

Participants may sign up for either one or both days—for a weekend of writing and drawing and creative practices. New activities will be undertaken each day.

Second: Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat in gorgeous and green Interlochen, Michigan. June 17 – 20, 2013.

My fiction workshop for this retreat is already full to capacity, but there is still room in Memoir (Anne-Marie Oomen,) Poetry (James Arthur,) and Writing for Children and Young Adults (Louise Hawes.) main-entrance-sign

Second-and-a-half: Blogging for Artists and Writers. Interlochen, Michigan. June 21, 2013.

The brilliant artist and writer Philip Hartigan will be teaching a one-day workshop on New headshotbuilding and maintaining your own blog.

Third: Journal & Sketchbook: Florence. July 4 – August 2, 2013.

This is a big one, folks. This college-level, study abroad course offered by the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago is also open to interested participants who are not currently Columbia College Chicago students. A month in Italy drawing and writing? Yes please. 75498_221057628035837_387282161_n(Co-taught with Philip Hartigan.)

Fourth: Creating Story: A Fiction Writing Workshop at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts. Mineral Point, Wisconsin. August 10 & 11.

Always wanted to write that short story? Eager to keep at that novel? Know you have a story to tell, but haven’t quite figured out how? Creating Story is for you. Drawing on memory, imagination, and observation in order to create fictional work, this two-day workshop is designed for writers at all levels. Activities will help you develop new work and reconsider work-in-progress, and will assure that you have new pages written by the time you leave the beautiful confines of Shake Rag Alley. Fiction writers of all genres are welcome, as are memoir writers who are eager to explore the fictional possibilities of their life stories.


So, hey, yeah it is summer. Have a good one. But don’t forget to write.

→My Shake Rag Alley workshops offer discounts to writing group members. Contact me through my templeofair account at gmail if you want details. Interlochen Writers Retreat offers discounts to members of Michigan Writers. And you don’t have to be a resident of Michigan to be a Michigan Writer. Hope to see you this summer. And as always, thanks for reading! -PMc←

Writing in Mineral Point

I’ve been invited to teach a writing workshop at Shake Rag Alley Center for Arts and Crafts in lovely Mineral Point, WI. Much of this charming little town west of Madison was settled by early miners and has a feel similar to a Cornish village. A stroll from the high street, Shake Rag Alley, Inc., occupies nine buildings in the 2.5 acre oasis of gardens, trees, and rambling brick paths.
A description of the workshop from Shake Rag’s website is below:
Writing Workshop with Patricia Ann McNair

Thursday-Sunday, June 2-5
Thur-Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 9:30am-noon

Join award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer Patricia Ann McNair for an intensive four-day workshop. A Carnegie Foundation U.S. Professor of the Year nominee and Columbia College Chicago Teaching Excellence Award winner, Patty brings her years of experience as a professor and writer to the workshop. Student manuscripts will serve as the basis for workshop discussions, and participants will be engaged in writing activities and strategies for developing, deepening, and furthering their work. In addition, each student will have one 30-minute manuscript conference with Patty. Workshop discussions are adapted to all levels; beginners, dabblers, and experts are all welcome. Please submit your 10-20 pages of prose fiction or nonfiction prior to May 2nd. Call Karla in Shake Rag office for instructions.
Maximum students: 15 Register by: May 2
Class code: 11B100 Fee: $250

Shake Rag Alley Center for Arts & Crafts, 18 Shake Rag Street, Mineral Point, WI 53565
Telephone: (608) 987-3292 :: www.ShakeRagAlley.com :: info@shakeragalley.com