Writing on the River: Riversong

July 15-20, 2018 with Nancy Cook, Gretchen Legler, and Ruth Hill


The Wrangell Mountains Center is pleased to partner with McCarthy River Tours & Outfitters to host a six-day, five-night adventure in the fabulous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Together we will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to nine student writers/ songwriters.

Participants Can Expect:

  • Craft talks
  • Structured field writing exercises
  • Campfire song circles
  • Ample opportunities to explore and enjoy the surrounding wilderness
  • Public performance from workshop staff and the opportunity for students to share written and musical work at a final participant performance
  • Feedback from groups and one-on-one conversations with instructors/practice in the arts of improvement
  • An intimate community of caring and purpose/ the pleasures of shared meals and shared commitment

 Nancy Cook

Nancy Cook

Nancy Cook, Workshop Director, has led field programs for the Wrangell Mountains Center since 1991. A former fisheries biologist and National Park Service interpretive ranger, she received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her poems and prose appear in the Riverteeth Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Mountain Gazette, Hipfish, Xtra Tuff, Ice Box, and the Seal Press anthology Going Alone: Women's Adventures in the Wild. She has taught writing at Prince William Sound Community College, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and currently serves on the full time faculty at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon, home of the annual Fisher Poets Gathering. The mother of one daughter, she continues to spend summers at her cabin in an aspen grove near McCarthy.

 Gretchen Legler

Gretchen Legler

Gretchen Legler was the instructor for the very first Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop, and we are delighted to have her back again for Riversong! She is the author of two books of nature writing, All The Powerful Things: A Sportswoman’s Notebook, and On The Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station Antarctica. Her nature essays, which have won two Pushcart Prizes, have also appeared in many journals, magazines and anthologies, including Brevity, the Georgia Review, Orion Magazine, and Sisters of the Earth: Women’s Poetry and Prose About Nature. Her curiosity about the wonders of the natural world has taken her far and wide, including to the Kingdom of Bhutan where she spent a year as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow, and to Antarctica as part of the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Program. She has been teaching creative writing for more than 30 years in MFA and undergraduate programs and community workshops in Alaska, Maine, and elsewhere. Gretchen is currently on leave from her faculty position at the University of Maine Farmington, pursuing a Master’s degree at Harvard Divinity School where her interests focus on exploring human connections to the sacred in the natural world. You can find out more about Gretchen at gretchenlegler.com

 Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill

Folksinger / songwriter Ruth Hill is a musical storyteller inspired by the gritty joy of growing up in a large, working-class New England family. Her wandering spirit has taken her from Antarctica to Alaska with warmer stops in between. She writes songs about real people, real events and her reflections on the sweetness and sorrow of the world around her. Ruth has studied songwriting with Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), Mary Gauthier, Catie Curtis, Kate Cambell, Jonatha Brooke, Jud Caswell, and Grammy award-winning songwriters Don Henry and Gretchen Peters. She was the winner of the Maine Songwriter’s Association 2016 annual song contest. Ruth has produced two CD’s -- The River Beneath Me (2011) and Reunion of Broken Parts (2017), which was ranked  # 8 in the January 2018 Folk DJ charts.  She’s currently playing out in the Boston folk scene and writing songs for her next CD. You can find out more about Ruth and her music at ruthhillmusic.com.

Photos by Nancy Cook (left and middle) and Nathaniel Wilder (right)

Location and Venue:

This course will begin with two nights at the Wrangell Mountains Center (WMC). The WMC is a private nonprofit institute whose mission is connecting people with wildlands through art, science and education in the Wrangell Mountains. The WMC's headquarters in the Old Hardware Store are located McCarthy, Alaska, in the heart of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. From there students will travel deeper in the wilderness and raft down the Kennicott, Nizina, and Chitina Rivers to pull out in the town of Chitina, Alaska. This is a unique opportunity to experience and explore the largest national park in the U.S. Over 23% larger than Switzerland, Wrangell-St. Elias is world renowned for its wild landscapes, high peaks, massive glaciers and rivers, healthy ecosystems, and dramatic scenery as well as its unique cultural history.

McCarthy is approximately a seven hour drive from either Anchorage or Fairbanks (plus time for sightseeing, et cetera). It is possible to fly or arrange shuttles from Anchorage to McCarthy, and occasionally we can help arrange carpools for students, though we make no promises.

The Wrangell Mountains Center is pleased to contract with the locally experienced guiding company McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters to offer a safe, reasonably priced river adventure which includes all meals, safety equipment and dry suits for a maximum of nine student writers. Participants will need to bring their own tents, sleeping gear, and quality rain gear (just in case). A detailed packing list will be provided upon registration.

 Heading out for a walk from the Old Hardware Store

Heading out for a walk from the Old Hardware Store

Schedule:  Participants should plan to arrive in McCarthy in time to get settled in (at the lodge, at the campground, etc) in time for a 6:00 pm kickoff dinner on July 15th. The workshop ends mid-day July 20th after getting off the river. 

Optional morning writing circles will be offered daily before breakfast and all meals will be taken together. A more detailed schedule will be provided with a welcome packet upon registration.

Cost: $945/person if you pay by June 1st. $995/person after June 1st. Current WMC Members receive a 5% discount (not applicable to the early bird price). The workshop price includes all meals, optional camping while in McCarthy, complete rafting services, and a shuttle from Chitina back to McCarthy. A deposit of $200 is due with registration. All fees paid, minus your deposit, will be refundable until June 1st; your deposit will be refunded only if we are able to fill your slot. The balance of fees is due 30 days before the workshop start date.

Register To apply for this workshop, complete the attached form.  Since space is limited, we are offering rolling admissions to assure a good mix of writers and musicians who share a passion for wilderness and creative collaboration. No wilderness nor musical experience is necessary, but applicants should embrace the potential discomforts of outdoor adventure and welcome the creative cross-pollination approach which serves as a foundation for this experimental workshop. If you prefer to register by phone or on paper please call Nate Anderson at 907-554-4464 or send us a message here.