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Culture Club: Write On, Door County Defined

Since joining the Write On, Door County family in June, I’ve found this time of transition to be one of invaluable introspection. It’s an interesting thing, going from being a teacher and always knowing a slice of the Door County youth and their families, to a role that finds me most often sitting quietly and alone behind a desk, watching the gentle traffic of Juddville Road (mostly bikers and hummingbirds) pass my window. In the conversations I’ve had with folks this summer who know me from my old world, so many of them begin with this question:

“So what is Write On, exactly?”

I value this question. I value it especially because it’s a question I’ve asked myself a great deal during the last few years. I’ve asked myself this question as I collaborated with the organization in my classroom. I’ve asked myself this question as I offered my poetry at Midsummer’s Music Festival. I’ve asked it as I enrolled my son in a Write On workshop. And I’ve asked it when I was invited to join the organization. And like some of the questions that are most challenging or puzzling to answer, living inside the question and allowing it to just exist can be powerful. Often, the answer will appear.

Write On, Door County’s mission is to inspire people to write and tell their stories because everyone has a story to tell. 

It’s a lovely mission, but it does not paint the entirety of the picture of what Write On is. 

It’s also a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. As a nonprofit, it joins many other groups in Door County to serve the greater community. Write On’s mission is to facilitate and promote writing in Door County by nurturing the work of writers, supporting readers and audiences, and developing opportunities that encourage broad participation.

But how? How has Write On been doing this? And where is it?

I intend to shed light here. 

If you were to get in your car and head north on Highway 42 from Egg Harbor, you will have to let your foot off the gas as you coast through the 45-mph speed zone that is Juddville. A hundred years ago, a school – now the Juddville Clay Studio Gallery – indicated the crossroads of the Scandinavian and Polish settlement and farms in this now-unincorporated community of Gibraltar. 

If you were to turn your car east at Juddville Road, you would very quickly arrive at the heart of the Write On, Door County world. To your right, at 4177 Juddville Road, you’d see the current home of Write On. It looks like a residential home, because, well, it is. One of the core ways that Write On has been supporting the writing community has been through offering residencies to authors. It’s an exchange of sorts. Authors apply to do a residency, and in their application, they proffer a community-service project to carry out while they stay. The results of their collaborations with the community have been deep and inspiring. 

Just this summer, my own eyes and ears witnessed a group of children find their voices and words as they wrote a collective graphic novel at our Kids WOW summer program. I listened as a 72-year-old man read, through tears, a poem that he had just written about his childhood friend who had been killed in Vietnam. I spent a morning walking in the silent, verdant woods with new friends, reading aloud the words of writers along the way. 

Our writers-in-residence program is only a singular facet of what we do. Workshops and outreach into the schools and retirement facilities are other pieces. This spring, a group of Latinx Sturgeon Bay High School students wrote a collective poem about identity. Write On also collaborated with the Door County jail to work with inmates. And Write On helped survivors of sexual assault tell their stories.

Back on Juddville Road, if you were to look left, you would see a giant hole in the ground on our 34-acre property. 

In the spring of 2020, our new writing center will open to the community as a place of sanctuary and collaboration, a place for writers to gather, teach, dream and create. It will be our new heart, nestled among the shady birches and winding trails. 

I’ve found, too, that what Write On truly is, is the people who dreamed up this organization from passion and vision. They are community members from all over Door County whom you know. They are kind, generous, good people who cared enough about reading and writing to throw their energy behind this organization.   

I am lucky and eager to share this new, unfolding chapter of Write On with you. Learn more about Write On, Door County and become a member at writeondoorcounty.org.

The Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance, which contributes Culture Club throughout the summer season, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enhance, promote and advocate the arts, humanities and natural sciences in Door County.

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