On a Writing (Center’s) Path

Jerod Santek. Photo by Len Villano.

Last May, a group of visionaries who would form the founding board of Write On, Door County, trampled around overgrown land in Juddville. An anonymous donor who had learned about the organization made a gift of nearly 40 acres of land, complete with a 4-bedroom house, on Juddville Road, just east of Highway 42. Much has happened in that time, including receiving our nonprofit status in January of this year.

Today, that land is much easier to traverse. The juniper that dominated the landscape has been tamed, thanks to the efforts of Leadership Door County Class of 2014, who chose Write On as their spring project. The path is not unlike the path most writers follow. It alternates through patches of bright sun in the meadow and the darkness of the woods. Creeping vines and the stumps of old junipers can cause a stumble if you aren’t paying enough attention. Under fallen leaves and in rotting logs, there is the constant movement of lives far beyond our own. The past, present, and future exist simultaneously here in the orchard remnants, the rock piles, and the ever-changing sky. All around, there is the continuous blend of mystery and magic. Anything can happen; anything is possible.

When a writer picks up a pen or sits down at a keyboard, the same is true. Anything is possible. Magic and mystery co-exist. The path leads anywhere the writer’s imagination allows. The mission of Write On, Door County is to help people along that path. We help the writer who didn’t pay enough attention and tripped. We guide writers along when they’re not sure where the path leads. We can provide the permission to slow down, stop, and observe the world. And we are here to encourage those who think that they’d like to travel down this trail, but they’ve never tried it before.

As a new nonprofit organization in Door County, Write On finds itself on a similar path. We have both crawled and raced down that path. Certainly we have stumbled along the way, and no doubt we will again. During that time, we have presented programs from Maplewood to Sister Bay, and have reached writers and readers from Washington Island to Green Bay and beyond. Participants in our programs have ranged from fourth graders through writers in their nineties. We have worked with Door County writers, as well as writers who have visited us from Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Boston.

We have collaborated with expected partners such as the Friends of Door County Library and Door Shakespeare, as well as some possibly surprising organizations like the Door County Humane Society and the Sturgeon Bay Skatepark Initiative. This summer, we are proud to collaborate with the Door County Land Trust, presenting workshops on writing about nature, the land, and the environment.

Such writing will be core to future programs at Write On. Door County’s natural beauty provides inspiration to generations of writers, both year-round residents and seasonal visitors. In addition to such programs, Write On will be the new home of the Coop, the studio of award-winning writer Norbert Blei (1935-2013). Blei wrote about and advocated for the preservation of Door County’s natural environment. We are honored to have this piece of literary history on our property and to offer it a home in a beautiful and inspiring place for writers to respond to the creativity within nature by finding the creativity within themselves.

The sun is shining warmly along the Write On path, penetrating through even the thickest branches in the woods. A strong breeze moves through the trees, making them dance and sway. From a clump of juniper, a cedar waxwing flies up towards the sky. A doe leaps from a grove of trees and disappears down the hillside. Overhead, a hawk circles, intent on the hunt of something only it can see. A writer pauses beside a birch, pulls out a composition book and begins to make notes. The notes may become a poem or an essay, a story or a song. Whatever form the notes take was made possible by starting off on this wonderful path.

We invite you to travel that path with us, whether you’re just thinking about writing or have finished a couple of books; whether you’re five or decades past that age; whether you make your home in Brussels or Gills Rock or in some other state. To learn more about our programs and how you can support or work, please visit or call 920.868.1457.

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

Upcoming Events Presented by Write On, Door County:

July 12, 10:30 am – noon: “Chasing Our Tales” workshop for young writers age 5-10, presented with the Door County Humane Society, 2475 County Road PD, Sturgeon Bay.

July 16, 9 – 10:30 am: Writers Social Coffee Hour at Blue Horse Beach Café, 4113 Main Street, Fish Creek.

August 7, 9 am – 4 pm: The Story in the Land hike and writing workshop with nonfiction writer John Hildebrand.

Join Write On and the Land Trust for a morning hike through the Oak Road Nature Preserve. Participants will be encouraged to take notes of their observations throughout the guided hike. Following lunch, Hildrebrand will lead participants through writing activities that add shape to a story in which land isn’t just a backdrop but a main character. Participants will share and discuss their work.

The cost is $75 per person; call Write On to register.