Jeremy Pataky | Louise Erdrich Coming to Tutka Bay

Word went out via email a while back to those on our mailing list announcing the exciting news that Louise Erdrich will be our guest instructor this year at our 8th Annual Tutka Bay Writers Retreat. We’re awfully excited that she’s coming and have heard—and seen, as reflected in the high number of applications coming in—that many of you are excited, too.

Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her debut novel, Love Medicine, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and more.

We’ve made two changes this year to the program—the price has been adjusted upwards and we’ve switched to an application model in favor of the usual first-come, first-served model. I’d like to offer comments on both changes.

For years, the exceedingly low registration fee for our retreat has been a result of great generosity on the part of our hosts at Within the Wild and Tutka Bay Lodge. Though we haven’t emphasized it as such, every participant has effectively been granted a partial scholarship through the years. Some of our hard costs, though, (air, land, and sea transportation; insurance; instructor fees; etc.) have risen. Especially within the context of a complete roster of 49 Writers programs, it’s important not to undersell something when its great value is matched by high demand. We’ve prioritized keeping the retreat affordable all these years, and still regard it as a great deal, at $845 for members or $895 for nonmembers, inclusive of meals, round trip water taxi from Homer, lodging, instruction, and recreation opportunities. We’re looking at ways to implement a true scholarship program in the future to prevent financial need from being too much a barrier to entry.

The decision to switch to an application model has also grown out of the program’s popularity as well as feedback from attendees. Every year, we’ve had fantastic cohorts of students who experience this retreat as a highlight of their literary year. The camaraderie, inspiration, and productivity that burbles up like the tides around the lodge is indelible and real. Still, with the genre focus shifting from year to year, the introduction of a simple application into the process allows some match-making to happen, establishing a diverse cohort of students most likely to benefit from the unique talents and insights that each instructor offers. We still plan to give priority to members and alums, as first expressed by giving them the head start this year, but we also look forward to welcoming new writers, including those from out of state. Again, the goal is to serve the most people as well as possible, which is not necessarily the same as simply serving the “best”, most experienced writers. If you’re an emerging writer, please don’t let the application intimidate you away. We chose not to include an application fee as part of the process this year, and get the sense that the higher fees and the slightly-more-committing effort of entertaining a pretty simple application will not impact overall interest. It’s clear that this years’ retreat, as usual, will fill and then wait-list.

We will notify applicants no later than June 30, 2017, if not sooner, so learn more and get your application in soon. Email me with any questions or with any requests for future instructors at Stay tuned, as well, for an exciting lineup of regular classes coming this fall, to be announced late this summer.

Thanks to all the students and instructors over the years behind so many great Tutka Bay Writers Retreat memories. Looking forward to more where those came from!


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