Wrangell Mountain Writing Workshop presents True Story with Tom Kizzia, Frank Soos, and Nancy Cook: July 22-28, 2014
Tom Kizzia's stunning, disturbing, but true story of the Pilgrim family's trials in the Wrangell Mountains reminds readers that truth is often more fantastic than fiction. And truth (especially in a small town) is also a challenging terrain for writers to navigate. During this five day workshop, writers will explore the craft of creative nonfiction: drafting compelling narratives that tell true stories. How can writers craft a meaningful, readable page-turner while working in the confines of the frequently controversial truth of “what actually happened”? With seasoned professor of writing Frank Soos, we’ll discuss and practice how to best use essential literary elements such as detailed description, dialogue, exposition, and structure to craft compelling nonfiction memoir, reportage, or personal essays. Drawing upon Tom Kizzia's lifelong experiences as journalist, we'll also explore ways to expand essays through meaningful research including interviews, immersion, and other methods. Finally we'll discuss and practice revision, that often magical process which takes a given anecdote and transforms it into breathtaking essay or story. Different than many listening-based conferences, participants should plan to write actively and receive personal feedback on their work from instructors, and writers are encouraged to bring ideas/starts for writing projects they want to engage with during the week.
During this residential workshop writers can expect:
- Craft talks which explore the methods of creative nonfiction
- Seminars on assigned readings that offer useful writerly models
- Writing prompts and experiences/exploration of the sources of inspiration
- Hikes along wild river bars, thru curious historical settlements, nearby a massive valley glacier
- Public reading from workshop staff and the opportunity for students to share written work at a public Community Word Jam event
- A deadline to draft an original short work for sharing at a final participant reading
- 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
Tom Kizzia's Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness in the Alaska Frontier (Crown 2013) spent time on the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's and New York Time Bestseller's List for 2013. During and prior to his journalistic efforts that resulted in this booklength feat of reportage, Tom traveled widely in rural Alaska as a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, CNN, NPR's All Things Considered. A former Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and a graduate of Hampshire College, Tom's first book, The Wake of the Unseen Object, was named one of the best all-time nonfiction books about Alaska by the state historical society. Tom lives in Homer, Alaska and also owns property and a cabin near McCarthy.
Frank Soos 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.
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.
Location and Venue:
This course is a Wrangell Mountains Center (WMC) is a private nonprofit institute which fosters understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of wildlands and mountain culture in Alaska through scientific and artistic inquiry in the Wrangell Mountains. The course is based at the WMC's headquarters in the Old Hardware Store in McCarthy, Alaska, set in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, 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 occassionally we can help arrange carpools for students, though we make no promises.
McCarthy and neighboring Kennecott, a national historic landmark, are situated within the Kennicott Valley (note the different spellings between the natural features and historical features.) McCarthy and Kennecott serve locals and travelers alike as a gateway to world-class backcountry opportunities and amazing frontcountry hikes and walks (including access to the Root Glacier); the Kennicott Valley also provides a window into some of the most unique chapters in Alaska's history and an authentic, lively contemporary community.
The course will take full advantage of the field from its base at the WMC's headquarters, the Old Hardware Store. Built in 1908 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hardware Store serves as a cozy, atmospheric place to journal, sketch, and share, and is located just a half mile from the toe of the Kennicott Glacier.
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 with breakfast on July 28th. Optional morning writing circles will be offered daily before breakfast and all meals will be taken together. Detailed schedules will be provided with a welcome packet upon registration.
Meals & Accommodations:
All meals will be provided and shared communally. Every effort will be made to accommodate dietary needs and restrictions with advance notice. Primitive camping isavailable at no cost to workshop participants. The private site is located just a short walk away from the Old Hardware Store (WMC headquarters). Those who camp are welcome to store gear and food, borrow bear barrels, and use our rustic shower and other facilities at the Hardware Store. WMC staff will direct you to the campsite and orient you there upon your arrival.
Other lodging options within McCarthy include the full serviceMcCarthy Lodge and Lancaster's Backpacker Hotel, located just down the street. The Kennicott River Lodge and Hostel is another great option outside of town; it's a short bicycle ride or twenty minute walk each way. If you bring a vehicle with you, Currant Ridge Cabins is located on the McCarthy Road about three miles from the road's end; it's about a half mile walk between the parking area there and the Old Hardware Store. Free shuttles run between the river and McCarthy on a rotation with limited hours. If you bring a camper in or would otherwise like to camp out with your vehicle, there are two commercial campgrounds near the end of the McCarthy Road that will accomodate you without advance reservations.
Cost: $495/person if you register by May 1, 2014; $525/person after May 1st. Current WMC Members receive a 10% discount (not applicable to the early bird discount). The workshop price includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and optional camping and food storage facilities.