Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop presents RiverSong
Check back for 2016 information and dates...
The Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop 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.
This year’s workshop will feature poet and essayist, Frank Soos, who is currently serving as Alaska’s writer laureate, joined by accomplished singer-songwriter Michelle McAfee, backcountry banjo-diva Robin Child, and workshop director Nancy Cook. 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 eight student writers/ songwriters.
Participants Can Expect:
- Structured field writing exercises
- 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 public Community Word Jam event
- 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
Frank Soos is the current Alaska Writer Laureate. He has published a book of essays, Bamboo Fly Rod Suite and two works of fiction: Early Yet, and Unified Field Theory, the 1997 winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. More recently Frank writerly efforts have been collaborative, working with his wife, visual artist Margo Klass, to publish Double Moon: Constructions and Conversations a collection of prose poems that respond to Klass's evocative box contructions. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alaska State Council on the arts, he is professor emeritus of English at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he taught for many years, mentoring countless Alaskan fiction and nonfiction writers. He continues to make his home in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Michelle McAfee has a diverse musical background that includes: being a staff songwriter for Warner-Chappell Music and Sony/Maypop Music Publishers in Los Angeles, CA and Nashville, TN; touring consistently as a performer; opening for or performing with The Indigo Girls, Jewel, G Love & Special Sauce; writing and performing music for Shelley Niro’s film “Kissed By Lightening”; co-creating the artist collective “One Soul” with Alaskan artist’s Melissa Mitchell, Spiff, Rik Nielsen which takes music and art into prisons; recording two albums Up In The Air (2010) which charted at 80/522 on the AMA radio Chart and Float (2013) which was released in 2014. Find out more at www.michellemcafee.com
Robin Child is always surrounded by music. She was raised in an instrument-toting family. Between the ages of four and eighteen, she participated in a chorus that toured her home-state Colorado, writing and performing original music. Robin continues to pursue her passion for banjo-playing and sharing music with people. She spent the past two years as an art and music teacher in Koyuk, AK, developing a program that integrates arts into the core curriculum. Robin enjoys being a part of a remote community and recognizes the important social connections that occur through music. She runs a community music night at the school each month and continues to write and record music from her yurt on the edge of the tundra.
A self-described accidental shaman and bardic fool, "who has howled with wolves, run from bears and cavorted with killer whales", activist, poet, songwriter David Grimes was born in the Ozarks and grew up near the Missouri River, "River of the Big Canoe". He currently claims a summer base in Cordova, Alaska while migrating Kodiak to California, from Alaska's Prince William Sound and the Copper River to Monterey Bay and the redwoods of Big Sur when the current moves him. A musician all his life, Grimes now has two albums along with published essays and poetry. Unconfirmed rumor claims he has floated floated the Copper River more times than any other living guide. Read more about David and explore his music at http://www.davidlynngrimes.com.
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.
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), a private nonprofit institute, which connects people to 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 eight 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.
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 22nd. The workshop ends mid-day July 27th after getting off the river. An optional shuttle back to McCarthy from Chitina is provided. We will also work to organize a charter flight or carpool to McCarthy on the 22nd so participants can leave directly from Chitina after the workshop.
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: $795/person if you pay by June 1, 2015. $825/person after June 1st. Current WMC Members receive a 10% 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 $100 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. Upon acceptance, a $100 deposit is required. If you prefer to register by phone or on paper please call Kristin Link at 907-554-4464 or send us a message here.