Motherhood & Words

madeline island school of the arts

Last weekend, the girls, D and I drove 4 hours from Minneapolis to Bayfield, Wisconsin, where we stopped in at the adorable Apostle Island Booksellers as we waited for the ferry to Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.

We had been invited to the island by the staff of the Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA). I’ll be teaching a five-day Motherhood & Words retreat/class there June 17-21, and they wanted me to come up and check out the campus.

It’s a dream come true for artists and writers. I can’t imagine any place I’d rather spend a week writing, talking about craft, biking around the island, and canoeing in the Big Bay lagoon. (And sipping wine on the porch of the Farmhouse!) The campus is gorgeous and serene—a restored dairy farm that overlooks prairie and forest.

Charles, one of the founders of the school, couldn’t be more gracious. He greeted us when we arrived and gave us a tour of campus.


The Barn has cozy places to meet and talk with students or write. This is where the meals are served.



We stayed in the Farmhouse, the original homestead, which has been updated, and is lovely and incredibly comfortable. (Complete with an old phonograph.)


The student lodging is perfect, and Charles explained that they would be constructing more cabins this spring. (They are also building the Lookout, which will house the writing classes).

After our tour, D and the girls and I headed out to explore the island, which is only 14 miles long. We ended up on Big Bay Beach, an impossibly long crescent-shaped beach. Stella and Zoë waded into the frigid lake, collecting rocks for their fairy house, which they constructed on the beach with their rocks, bark, grass, and driftwood. It was only hunger that finally allowed us to drag them away from their creation.

We ate pizza at Grandpa Tony’s in town (their last night open for the season), and then drove back to MISA, where Charles and I talked about the work he was planning. In the morning, we woke to fog on the prairie and a wolf hunting for rodents along the edge of the woods. Hot coffee and breakfast awaited us in the Barn.

Later in the day, we once again boarded the ferry and headed back to the mainland, but I already felt the pull of the island. I can’t wait to be back there in June with a group of students, soaking up that place as we read and write and relax.


For more information about MISA, check out their website.  I’d love to see some of you there in June!

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Mary on October 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Such a beautiful post — now I am feeling the pull of the Island too.

  2. Andria on October 27, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Did you SEE a wolf?! I have never seen a wolf in the wild. This, plus that gray whale on your drive along the CA coast — now you’re just bragging, Kate!! 🙂

  3. Carin on October 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Oh wow! It sounds and looks like a fabulous place for you to be teaching! Shame I live on the other side of the world… 🙂

  4. Andria on October 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    OK, not to be a pest, but you need to change your “welcome!” blurb on the side of your blog. It’s not being shopped around — it’s coming out in print! 🙂