Talented Writers Supporting and Encouraging One Another

(Pete Duval, Julie Moore, Joel Heng Hartse, Lydia Wylie-Kellerman, Heather Caliri, Paul Greene, Sylvia & me, Meg Eden Kuyatt, Evi Wusk, Katherine Shaner, Jen Crow)

I spent the past week and a half leading a workshop with this incredibly talented and openly loving group of writers. Together, they were the embodiment what we need right now: creative people supporting and encouraging one another in an increasingly harsh and fearful world. #collegevilleinstitute, #vortexesoflove

Beautiful New Children’s Book by My Co-Mentor, Patrice Gopo

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or just young friends in the 4-8-year-old range, consider gifting them this beautifully written and beautifully illustrated story.

The author is the amazing Patrice Gopo, my co-mentor in a Collegeville program for emerging writers this coming fall and winter.

Here’s a summary of the book:

In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories of far-off lands help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed’s richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child’s deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep.

You can learn more about the book and order a copy here.

Memento Mori

Illustration by Charlotte Ager (from Notre Dame Magazine)

I hope you’ll take a moment to read this honest and moving piece by Robin Bartlett, a writer I worked with last year at Collegeville: Memento Mori.

Here’s what Robin wrote when she posted it on Facebook today:

I am a preacher and not a writer, but today my writing is published in a magazine. The writing teacher that I worked with at Collegeville Institute, Michael N. McGregor, really pushed me to stop sermonating and start sharing more of myself. As a result, this essay is much more personal than what I typically preach, so it feels a little bit like “bleeding in public.” But here it is, in public anyway. Thanks, Notre Dame magazine, for giving me this forum. And thanks, Michael, for believing in me.

A Busy Summer of Online Teaching

I’m just coming up for air after leading several workshops this summer, all online and all for the Collegeville Institute. Few people would prefer Zoom to gathering in person on Collegeville’s beautiful campus, but all of the workshops had a pleasing feeling of camaraderie and purpose.

(Pictured above is the view I would have had if I’d been able to go to Collegeville this year.)

In addition to the workshops, I finished my work with three emerging writers I’d been mentoring throughout the past year.

Now, it’s time for my own writing!

Here are pictures of the groups, with the participants listed. For more information on any session, just click the session title. For general information on Collegeville’s summer writer workshops and mentorship program, click here.

Apart, and Yet a Part: June 2-9, 2021

2021 Apart, and Yet a Part participants (from top left to right): Michael N. McGregor (leader), Carla Durand (CI staff), Betsy Johnson, Liz Charlotte Grant, Robin Bartlett, Kerlin Richter, Andrew Zirschky, David Clark, Richard Peterson, Jessica Mesman, Karen Guzman, and Kaya Oakes.


Breaking the Academic Mold: Liberating the Powerful, Personal Voice Within You: July 21-26 (for academics wanting to write more creatively, co-taught with Sophfronia Scott and co-sponsored by the Wabash Center)

2021 Breaking the Academic Mold participants (from top left to right): Kimberleigh Jordan, Carla Durand (CI staff), Mayra Rivera, Lakeesha Walrond, Rolf Nolasco, Michael N. McGregor (workshop leader), Ralph Watkins, Maureen O’Connell, Willie Jennings, Miguel A. De La Torre, Sophfronia Scott (workshop leader), Shively Smith, and Nami Kim. (Not pictured: Lynne Westfield.)


2021-22 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program Workshop: July 30-August 1 (the kickoff event for a yearlong mentorship program, co-taught with Sophfronia Scott)

2021-22 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program participants (clockwise from left): Angie Hong, Sarah Ngu, Natarsha Sanders, Zeena Regis, Sophia Stid

2020-21 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program (participants: Catherine Hervey, Duncan Hilton, J. Jioni Palmer, Lea Schweitz)–click here to read about the these emerging writers, see their pictures, and read some of the work they produced during our year of working together.

Announcing a New Series of Posts about Writing and Being a Writer

Just over a year ago, I took early retirement after 20+ years of teaching writing at the college level to focus on my own work. Most of those years I taught literary nonfiction or fiction to both graduate and undergraduate students. The students at my last school, Portland State University, honored my efforts by voting me the English department’s Outstanding Teacher five times in 17 years, almost every year I was eligible.

I continue to work with individual writers and teach in summer programs at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota and the Manhattanville College MFA’s Summer Writers’ Week, but I no longer have regular, year-long exposure to students. So, before I forget all I talked about in those classes, I’ve started writing a book about writing and being a writer.

As I work on the book, I’m going to be posting a series of short meditations on different aspects of both writing and living as a writer, to be called Three Thoughts About… The thoughts in the individual entries might be formal or informal, technical or creative, practical or whimsical. I’m hoping mostly just to have fun with them and share some of what I’ve learned in my decades of both teaching and writing.

To see the many kinds of writing I’ve done myself, click on the About link above. And please let me know what you think of my Three Thoughts About… entries or, better yet, share them with others by linking to them on social media or your own website.

Looking for a New Read?

For some reason, a number of people I’ve worked with in the graduate program at Portland State University or my summer coaching at the Collegeville Institute have new books coming out right now.  Here’s a list for you to choose from.  All of these people are terrific writers or, in the case of David Naimon, a terrific interviewer AND writer:

*February 26: Crash Course by Julie Whipple, Yamhill Canyon Press–“The true story of a misunderstood airline tragedy that changed more about our daily lives than most people know.”

*March 6: The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir by Apricot Irving, Simon & Schuster–“Award-winning writer Apricot Irving recounts her childhood as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti during a time of upheaval—both in the country and in her home.”

*April 3: Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin and David Naimon, Tin House Books–“In a series of conversations with Between The Covers’s David Naimon, Ursula K. Le Guin discusses her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry―both her process and her philosophy.”

+April 10: Tree Dreams by Kristin Kaye, SparkPress–“An eco-literary, coming of age novel relevant for teenagers and adults alike.”

+April 10: The Shadow of Death: A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery by Jane Willan, Crooked Lane Books–“A charming and clever traditional mystery debut set at a bucolic Welsh convent.”

May 8: God, Improv and the Art of Living by MaryAnn McKibben Dana, Eerdman’s–“The central principle of “yes, and . . .” in improvisational theater has produced a lot of great comedy. But it also offers an invigo­rating approach to life in general, and the spiritual life in particular.”

And here’s one more–not by someone I’ve worked with but by a marvelous naturalist/biologist and friend:

+January 29: Everyday Creatures: A Naturalist on the Surprising Beauty of Ordinary Life in Wild Places by George James Kenagy, Dockside Sailing Press–“A collection of thirteen simply and elegantly told nature stories, set in time over the course of a naturalist’s lifetime.”


*first book

+first book in this genre


Kilian McDonnell Fellowship Supports Work On A New Writing Book

In addition to my two weeks as a writing coach at the Collegeville Institute this summer, I’ll be there for another six weeks in the fall as a short-term resident scholar, recipient of a Kilian McDonnell Fellowship.  The fellowship will support my work on a book about writing for a broader audience, intended primarily for those who write from a spiritual perspective but with plenty for anyone who wants to write well for the general public.

The genesis for this book is my summer writing coach work, particularly my presentations to those attending my Writing Beyond the Academy week the past two years.  Of course, my 22 years of teaching creative writing to both graduate and undergraduate writing students have given me plenty of material too.

If you’re interested in attending either of my summer weeks this year, go to the Collegeville Institute Summer Writing Workshops home page.  There’s still time to apply for these all-expenses-paid weeks but the deadlines are in February!

A Professor No More

On Monday of this week, I cleaned out my office in Portland State University’s Neuberger Hall.  On Tuesday, I filed my last set of grades.  On December 31, 2017, my retirement will be official.  After 22 years of university teaching and 17 years at PSU (during which I was fortunate to receive five student-selected teaching awards, one in almost every year I was eligible), I’ll soon be a writer only.  That should mean more time to post on this somewhat-neglected site.

I will continue to lead summer workshops at the Collegeville Institute and the Manhattanville College MFA’s Summer Writers’ Week–for information on either of these, including how to apply, go to my Talks page.

A big thank you to all of the students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching as a college professor.  I figure that over my 22 years at universities, I’ve critiqued more than 4,000 papers.  I’m happy to say that a fair number made it into print here or there.  I hope my comments on the others were at least somewhat edifying.

Look for more thoughts on teaching on this site in the weeks ahead, including some of the things I’ve taught and learned.

On to new pastures…


Apply for FREE Summer Writing Weeks at the Collegeville Institute–with Me as Your Writing Coach

In the summer of 2018, I’ll be the writing coach again for two different weeks at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University in Minnesota.  These weeks are all-expenses-paid, even your airfare.   The one requirement is that your writing should have a spiritual component.  Details are below:

Wednesday, July 25 to Tuesday, July 31, 2018Writing Beyond the Academy–for academics who want to reach a broader audience–application deadline is: Monday, February 5, 2018.  To apply, click here.

Thursday, August 2-Wednesday, August 8Apart and Yet a Part–for established writers–application deadline is Monday, February 12, 2018.  To apply, click here.

For more about the Collegeville Institute’s Summer Writing Program, click here.

Application Period Now Open for My Summer 2016 Week at the Collegeville Institute

Every summer I spend a week working as a writing coach at the Collegeville Institute at St. John’s University in Minnesota.  The week, called Apart and Yet a Part, is for experienced writers with a project that has a spiritual component.  The participants spend their days writing on their own and their evenings together in conversation and fellowship.  I work with the writers individually to help them strengthen their work or talk through questions about the writing process or being a writer.  All of the participating writers’ expenses are paid, including their airfare, and they’re housed in apartments spread along the shore of a lake.

If you or someone you know might be interested in participating, this year’s Apart and Yet a Part week will take place June 14-20.  You’ll find more information and instructions for applying hereThe application deadline is January 25, 2016.