Giving Back: Clockhouse Writers’ Conference & Retreat

I love parties. I also love the opportunity to get to know people one-on-one, in some quiet book-walled room or garden corner. Perhaps most fundamentally, I love the chance to be of help in a good endeavor if and when an opportunity presents itself. Luckily for me—and for others similarly inclined—such things are part of the Clockhouse Writers’ Conference & Retreat. What’s even better is that they’re opportunities to give back to the MFAW program we all love.

Goddard Plainfield campus in the summer
Plainfield Campus in the Summer

Conference & Retreat participants make themselves available for informal conversations with students before and after the Visiting Writer and other events, during meals, and as we meet by happenstance on one of the campus’ many paths. I remember being overwhelmed in my first G-1 days by all the talk of packets, annotations, and “the process” (let’s be honest, I remember thinking I might not be up to all of this and that they’d made a mistake in admitting me), and how very much it meant to me to have an alum stop by to chat about those very things. I’m glad that the Conference & Retreat offers these informal mentorship possibilities, and that it’s now my turn and privilege to talk with our program’s new and progressing students.
A more formal mentorship opportunity is the “Life After Goddard” panel. In this session, we share what we’ve learned about such varied post-degree activities as writing a query letter, getting an agent, being published in small press or commercial venues, becoming publishers ourselves, composing an academic C.V., working as an adjunct, on-line, or tenure track professor, and more. More than once, this session has gone on past its reserved time as questions and answers became a deeper conversation about not only the nuts and bolts of the writing life, but its sometimes unavoidable hardships and most genuine rewards.
Giving back is also highlighted at the Preview Reading & Celebration for the new volume of CLOCKHOUSE, the national-submissions literary journal that’s published by CWC in partnership with Goddard College.   Each volume of this journal is created, produced, and sent into the world by an all Goddard MFAW-alumni staff, and it’s funded by the CWC alumni community.  When the newest volume of CLOCKHOUSE is held up for the first time, I hope we’ll all feel proud of how well it represents both CWC  and the MFAW program, and how well it fulfills its Goddard-inspired mission statement:
Dare. Risk. Dream. Share. Ruminate.
How do we understand our place in the world, our responsibility to it, and our responsibility to each other? Clockhouse is an eclectic conversation about the work-in-progress of life—a soul arousal, a testing ground, a new community, a call for change.

By the time CWC hosts the Residency’s closing party, I’ve always found myself saying goodbye not only to long-time fellow travelers, but to new friends as well.  Volunteers pick flowers and fill vases, decorate the Manor Lounge, see to iced tea and lemonade deliveries, and arrange the food and napkins. We have a wonderful few hours of wandering conversation, finding out from one what has happened during the past week, finding out from another what the hopes are for the coming year, and stealing last glances all the while at Goddard’s high-season gardens. Then it’s time to say a year’s goodbye to the MFAW faculty, the students, and each other.
But let me not get so misty-eyed just yet–hello is still nine weeks away, goodbye is a full ten, and registration is still open for another two weeks!  If you’d like to join us in giving back to our program while also continuing your own practice, please know there’s a place waiting for you.
Kathryn Cullen-DuPont is CWC’s lead steward, and she’d love the opportunity to meet you on a winding path, in a paneled room, or any other spot on Goddard’s beautiful Plainfield campus. The 2016 CWC Conference & Retreat will take place from June 27 through July 1 on the Goddard College campus in Plainfield, Vermont. Registration is open until May 15.