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Producers of the National Black Writers Conference

Celebrating 10 Years of Honoring Literature by People of the African Diaspora

The North Country Institute
For Writers of Color


Scheduled Retreats

Travel & Lodging

Frequently Asked Questions

History of the Retreat

2010 North Country Institute Sponsors

NCI Writing Fellows Application

Also Download the Application from Survey Monkey at:http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H8F8VVQ

2011 - Winter Retreat

Location: Medgar Evers College, CUNY, 1650 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, New York

Dates: Thursday, February 24 – Sunday, February 27, 2011
Time(s): Each day is scheduled as follows, 10 am - 3 pm unless otherwise indicated by Workshop Leader.
Tuition: $400

NCI Writing Fellows Application

2011 Winter NCI Workshop Leaders:

author bernice l mcfadden Fiction:
Bernice L. McFadden
 is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels, including the classic Sugar and Nowhere Is a Place, which was a Washington Post best fiction title for 2006. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of two fiction honors from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is working on her next novel.

author willie perdomo Poetry:

Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, which received a PEN American Beyond Margins Award. He has also been published in the New York Times Magazine, Bomb, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, OCHO, and African Voices.  His children’s book Visiting Langston received a Coretta Scott King Honor and his follow-up, Clemente! was recently published. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Woolrich Fellow in creative writing at Columbia University and is a 2009 fellow in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is cofounder/publisher of Cypher Books. Visit his Web site at www.willieperdomo.com.

NCI Writing Fellows Application

The Goal

The North Country Institute and Retreat a) provides a retreat and institute for emerging and established writers of color, b) provides writers of color with an opportunity to draw upon their experiences as writers in a racialized society and c) provides the broader New York State area with an opportunity to become knowledgeable about the issues and concerns facing writers of color. Writing fellows are invited to study the genres of fiction, poetry, and memoir.

Scheduled Retreats

Applications will be reviewed as received until all spaces have been filled for each scheduled retreat. Scholarships are made available based on sponsorship.

Tuition fees vary based on location. Tuition fees include lodging based on double occupancy and meals at the Valcour Educational Conference Center. Please see the hotel options if traveling from out of town for the Medgar Evers College location.

Applicable Deadlines for this Retreat:

If you are interested in participating in an upcoming retreat please download the application below or call 718.804.8883 or e-mail writers@mec.cuny.edu

Please note that all dates and instructors are subject to change without notice.

Applicants’ materials must include:

Past NCI Faculty include:

Jeffrey Renard Allen, Martin Espada, Indira Ganesan, Aracelis Girmay, Marita Golden, Tonya Hegamin, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Victor LaValle, Tony Medina, E. Ethelbert Miller, Greg Pardlo, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Sonia Sanchez.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can students apply?Yes. Students at the upper level of high school and above may apply. If in high school they should be exceptional in the genre of writing for which they are submitting an application.

  2. Do I have to be a professional writer? No. Anyone with an interest in the craft may apply.

  3. How are Fellows selected? Fellows are selected by a committee that includes writing instructors, writers and other qualified individuals for the genre. All recommendations for potential writing fellows and sample writings are reviewed.

  4. Do I have to submit my references with the application? No. References may be submitted separately via mail or internet to writers@mec.cuny.edu with your name and “NCI” in the subject heading.  References must be received at least one to two weeks prior to the first day of the scheduled retreat.

Notes: Applications received without the $25 application fee will be considered incomplete until the payment is received by the Center for Black Literature.

Travel and Lodging

Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College site:
Out of State Participants:
Lodging is not included with the tuition fees and all out of town participants are to make their individual arrangements for accommodations and meals for the duration of the Retreat. A hotel list has been provided by the Center for your consideration for Medgar Evers College, CUNY Retreat location.

Nearest Airports:

Nearest Train & Bus Stations:

Valcour Educational Conference Center site:

Tuition fees include lodging based on double occupancy and meals at the Valcour Educational Conference Center. To learn more about the Valcour Educational Conference Center and travel options visit: http://www.plattsburghcas.com/valcour/about-valcour.htm

Nearest Airports:

Burlington International Airport – Vermont*

Nearest Train & Bus Stations:

*Additional travel required from these locations.

History of the Retreat

The North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color developed in response to the Paden Retreat for Writers of Color, which provides writers with an opportunity to work on their writing in a cottage located in Essex, New York. In August 2003, alumni from the Paden Retreat came together and held a series of readings in Elizabethtown, New York. This event was co-sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing, John Brown Lives, the Alice Moore Foundation, the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at SUNY, Albany. Former Paden writing residents, Brenda Greene from Medgar Evers College, CUNY, and Jose Torres-Padilla from SUNY, Plattsburgh, came together, established an advisory board and created the North Country Institute and Retreat in Valcour, New York www.plattsburgh.edu/offices/academic/writersofcolor.

The first three retreats were held in northeastern New York at the Valcour Educational and Conference Center, which overlooks Lake Champlain; the Fourth Annual Retreat was held at Medgar Evers College. The retreat is a collaboration between several organizations and is a continuation and expansion of the alumni program for the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color.

Funding for the First and Second Annual Retreat was provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Winkel Foundation. Faculty workshop leaders for the first retreat in July 2004 included poet Sonia Sanchez; fiction writer Indira Ganesan; and poet, essayist, and children’s book author Tony Medina. The second retreat was held in June 2005 and included nationally renowned poet Martin Espada; journalist, nonfiction and memoir writer Patrice Gaines; and novelist Sandra Jackson-Opoku. Award-winning poet and memoirist Ethelbert Miller and fiction writer and poet and novelist Jeffrey Renard Allen were faculty workshop leaders for the Third Annual North County Retreat and Institute. Funding for this retreat was provided by the Winkel Foundation at SUNY, Plattsburgh, and the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. The Fourth Annual Retreat at Medgar Evers College featured poet Gregory Pardlo and fiction writer Victor LaValle. The Fifth Retreat was held at Medgar Evers College, in Brooklyn, New York, in February 2009. Faculty workshop leaders were Tonya Cherie Hegamin, conducting fiction workshops; and Aracelis Girmay led poetry workshops. Additional sponsorship was provided by the Office of New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. The Sixth Retreat, which was held at the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color, took place in July 2009 and featured award-winning poet Major Jackson, who conducted both fiction and poetry workshops. The Summer 2010 Retreat was held at the Valcour Educational Conference Center and featured author Marita Golden, cofounder and president emerita of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and author Ernesto Quiñonez.

As a result of the challenges related to supporting a retreat for a small number of writing residents (12 at the Valcour Educational Conference Center) and in response to our desire to impact more writers of color in the New York City area and to expand the number of writers of color who can benefit from the retreat and institute, we have restructured the North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color to include venues at Medgar Evers College as well as Plattsburgh, New York.

What the Fellows are saying…

"This experience was cleansing and it taught me to dig deeper or at least deep enough to write more honestly."
—Eartha H., Legal Assistant. New York, Fiction Fellow

"This was my first workshop that the instructor allowed, suggested, and expected to have you write from your spirit, and it instantly worked for me."
—Miriam F., Paralegal, New York, Fiction Fellow

“I enjoyed the personal relationships that were formed. [Valcour ] was a wonderful venue. One of the best experiences in my life as a writer.”
—Sean A., Program Director, New York, Fiction Fellow

“I enjoyed discussing literature and the fellowship. This was the perfect retreat, and I believe that I worked with the best writers in the country.”
—Maggie C., Teacher, New Orleans, Louisiana, Fiction Fellow

“The feedback from the faculty, the independent writing, goal orientation [writing projects] getting to the breakthrough… it was great and on point because the fiction and nonfiction groups met together for class and received personal feedback from the genre specialist. They were great.”
—Elaine F., Consultant, Albany, New York, Memoir Fellow

“The best part of the workshop was the community of writers (my peers) with whom I had the privilege of interacting during all times of the day and night….”
Sergio R., Los Angeles, Fiction Fellow

"This was my first experience in a true writers' workshop. And it was outstanding. Sharing my story with the instructor and my fellow participants has really helped me to see my work in a new light. And I got some great practical advice and ideas."
—Holly E., Journalism Professor, Columbia, Missouri, Fiction Fellow

“The NCI Retreat was a fabulous experience... having the chance to be exclusively with other folks of color allowed for a certain kind of safety, idea development and freedom of expression that I have yet to encounter in non-POC workshop spaces. Strong relationships were generated with other writers who I now consider good friends and allies. In four days, we established networks to exchange and share our work; raising the workshop roof, if you will, to maintain the dialogue and run with it beyond the time constraints of the Retreat.”
Amalia A., Creative Writing Instructor, California, Poetry Fellow

“The Retreat was everything I hoped it would be! Our instructor gave us exercises and readings that made us seriously consider not only the craft of writing, but also our personal development as writers. And, when it was time to workshop, [Victor] explored each piece with great sensitivity…My classmates, too, impressed me with their insight and commitment to writing.  From them, I learned how varied the contemporary fiction of writers of color can be…Overall, I am so glad that I was able to be a part of a workshop that truly respected what each individual writer wanted to accomplish.”
Rochelle S., Freelance Journalist, Georgia, Fiction Fellow

2010 North Country Institute Sponsors

New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus

New York State Senator Eric Adams

New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

Poets & Writers

Department of English, SUNY, Plattsburgh

Past Retreats

2010 Summer
Location: Valcour Educational Conference Center, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Dates: July 6–July 10, 2010
Memoir: Marita Golden
Fiction: Ernesto Quiñonez

2009 Winter
Location: Medgar Evers College, CUNY / Brooklyn, NY
Dates: Thursday, February 26, 2009 Sunday, March 1, 2009
Each day is scheduled as follows, 10 am - 3 pm unless otherwise indicated by instructor.

Genres offered:
Fiction - Tonya Cherie Hegamin www.tonyacheriehegamin.com
Poetry - Aracelis Girmay http://www.curbstone.org/authdetail.cfm?AuthID=167

Additional sponsorship provided by the Office of New York State Assemblyman Hakim Jefferies.

2009 Summer

Location: Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color
Dates: Sunday July 26- Thursday July 30, 2009
Genres offered:
Fiction/Poetry Major Jackson - www.majorjackson.com

2011 NCI Retreat Application

2010 Description of NCI

2010 NCI Retreat Application

Flier for Winter Retreat 2009

Hotel List

Plattsburgh State University NCI