Cozy Spaces, Creative Minds

Cozy Spaces, Creative Minds

Writers’ Colony honors the local and the legendary


“In addition to providing a retreat for writers, the Writers’ Colony benefits countless numbers of the reading public who will find joy, edification, entertainment, empathy, inspiration, or solace through words that were written here.”

— WCDH Executive Director Michelle Hannon


handout photo for 11/10/98
Crescent Dragonwagon and Ned Shank invite you to visit the dairy hollow house before January while its still an inn. In 2000 it will become a writers’ colony

Thousands of people know Dairy Hollow in one of its incarnations.

Back in 1980, it opened its doors as a country inn and restaurant, once described as “a kind of Algonquin Round Table of the Ozarks” by The Washington Post. Founded by writer and culinary creative Crescent Dragonwagon and her husband, Ned Shank, Dairy Hollow House introduced the idea of farm-to-table dining and “Nouveau’Zarks” cuisine to Eureka Springs and welcomed locals from throughout Northwest Arkansas to sit down alongside famous guests like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Betty Friedan, Helen Walton and Dragonwagon’s parents, Maurice Zolotow and Charlotte Zolotow, both acclaimed writers.

In 1998, Dragonwagon and Shank transformed the inn into a nonprofit called the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, intended to provide “uninterrupted writing time for writers of all genres and all levels of experience,” says its current executive director, Michelle Hannon.

“When writers are on deadline or having trouble with some step of their project, they come to the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow to focus without the distractions of family, work and home,” Hannon says. “Many of our writers forge bonds that last a lifetime and they return together to the Writers’ Colony in future years.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/JEREMY SCOTT
Ned Shank (middle) of Eureka Springs, the Executive Director of the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, inc. talks with Dr. Pat Carr (left) of Elkins and his wife Crescent Dragonwagon (right) as they go over applications to join their writers colony Wednesday afternoon at Common Grounds in Fayetteville. 01/05/00

Now, in 2020, Charlotte Zolotow and Crescent Dragonwagon are both returning virtually to Dairy Hollow. As part of a colony-wide refurbishing, mother and daughter are being honored with the naming of one of the writers’ accommodations as the Dragonwagon/Zolotow Suite. While others pay homage to national names — Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes — another, currently in process, will be the Zeek Taylor Suite, honoring the Eureka Springs artist and author.

“The suites were getting pretty tired,” explains Hannon, who is just completing her first year at Dairy Hollow. “They were in desperate need of some updating. Peggy Kjelgaard, current WCDH Board president, had the original vision for a ‘Sponsor a Suite’ campaign to commemorate 20 years of hosting writers in 2020. We promoted the opportunity to the community and our alumni writers.

“Spring Garden was the first suite to be sponsored,” she goes on. “Peggy Kjelgaard and Teresa DeVito, a board member, stepped up to sponsor the transformation into the Maya Angelou Suite. Next, board member Charles Templeton sponsored the Peach Blossom to Langston Hughes Suite update. Another board member, Allyn Lord, sponsored the Muse 4 to Diana Rivers refresh. A Writers’ Colony alumna from Fayetteville, Linda Leavell, and her husband, Brooks Garner, sponsored Muse 3, which is now the Marianne Moore Suite.

“Muse 1 is in the process of becoming the Zeek Taylor Suite through the sponsorship of a group of supporters including Marcia Yearsley and KJ Zumwalt. And the Culinary Suite, the only one at a writers’ colony in the United States, is going to become the Dragonwagon/Zolotow Suite. The sponsors have been longtime supporters of the Writers’ Colony, many from the very beginning — Crow Johnson Evans, Dida Gazoli, Donna Jackson, Mary Springer and KJ Zumwalt.”

Dragonwagon could not be more pleased.

“My mother was not only a children’s book writer, but an editor at HarperCollins,” she explains. “Though she went inward as a writer, she went outward as an editor, nurturing ‘her’ writers professionally and personally.

“Publishing has changed since her era; few people go to the lengths of kindness and personal involvement that she did,” Dragonwagon adds. “But colonies, and certainly the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, DO nurture talent. In a different way, but genuinely.

“Charlotte was surprised but delighted when we transitioned the property from an inn to a 501(c)3c writers’ colony,” Dragonwagon remembers. “She gave quite a bit of money to it during the startup in 1998-2000. Too, back in the days when Dairy Hollow was an inn, she stayed with us once or twice a year, and the suite that is being named after the two of us was the one in which she most often resided.

“When I initially toured the suites, the first thing I noticed was the gorgeous, serene setting,” says Teresa Pelliccio DeVito, who co-sponsored the Maya Angelou Suite.
(Courtesy Photo)

“That this same suite became the culinary suite — because I, a co-founder, happened to be a cookbook writer, and was well aware that at the time no colony in the world offered a facility dedicated to and equipped for the use of culinary writers — is happy coincidence.”

Taylor says he couldn’t have been more surprised.

“This past New Year’s Day, I was invited to have coffee with KJ Zumwalt and Marcia Yearsley. When they told me they were sponsoring a Zeek Taylor Suite at the Writers’ Colony, I could not hold back tears. I was overwhelmed by the honor. Every day I keep asking, ‘How did I end up in such great company?’”

The Zeek Taylor Suite is a first for Teresa Pelliccio DeVito, the artist and designer charged with its renovation.

“The Zeek Taylor Suite is the fifth of eight suites that have been refreshed thus far,” she says. “This is the first suite on which I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with the author. Because of covid-19, Zeek and I spent a weekend at our computers shopping and brainstorming. It turns out we have similar tastes, and it was a breeze and an absolute joy to work with him.

“In past projects, I have worked with the suite sponsor,” she goes on. “Some have a very clear idea about design, style, etc., and others give me free rein. I really enjoy reading up on the authors and trying to capture their spirit, culture and what may have inspired them.”

“Teresa said I could have as much say as I wanted in choosing the décor,” Taylor says of his suite. “I did have paint samples with me on the first day, and we started planning the suite around some of my favorite colors. And no surprise to anyone that knows me, one of the colors was purple! The suite will also have personal touches from me that will include my framed art and a chest of drawers that I painted that depicts some of my better known art images. There are other items with a personal touch that will be in the suite such as a pillow that has an image from one of my paintings on it.

“I am primarily a fine art painter, and one who tries to create not only beauty in my work, but a sense of fun and wonder,” Taylor adds. “I hope that the Zeek Taylor Suite will envelope the occupant with that feeling, and perhaps he or she will be inspired by my creativity. I think creativity is contagious.”

“First and foremost, I wanted to name my suite for an Arkansas — and specifically an Arkansas Ozarks — writer, given my professional work in Arkansas Ozark history,” says Allyn Lord of the Diana Rivers Suite. “Second, I wanted to choose someone who isn’t necessarily mainstream, whom many folks may not know, and who writes in an alternative style (speculative fiction).”
(Courtesy Photo)

“As her literary executor, and in reading her books aloud lately [on Facebook Live], I rediscover her gifts to the world daily, perhaps going deeper than I could when she was alive and our mother-daughter relationship was paramount,” says Dragonwagon of Zolotow. “Now I meet her more as a colleague. I am deeply pleased to know that others, too, will meet ‘this quiet lady’ — to quote one of her own book titles.”

“It will be writers who document this pandemic for future generations,” says Hannon. “By providing uninterrupted residency time and fostering a nurturing environment that allows writers to focus on their work, the Writers’ Colony is making a lasting contribution to the literary arts. We provide community and support for writers as they make the long journey from the glimmer of an idea to proudly published work.”


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