Eastern Oregon University Home > Writing MFA > New Nature Writing Con

New Nature Writing Con

July 19-20, 2024

(with pre-con events on July 15 & 17)

All readings and conversations are FREE and open to the public

Please note a schedule change for Saturday, July 20:

The first reading/convo will begin at 11:10 am

(with classes before at 8 am and 10 am)

and the evening events also will take place in Zabel Hall.

Registration (now live!) for the conference’s classes is $85

Also four pre-con classes for $20 each

Class descriptions/schedule can be found here

The New Nature Writing Con is a project of EOU’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and its special concentration in Landscape, Ecology, and Community. The conference seeks to highlight books and authors that are pushing the boundaries of eco-writing, broadly construed, in the Northwest and beyond, and to help reclaim or reinvent “nature writing” by turning from traditional homestead or a-walk-in-the-woods narratives to stories and explorations that are more inclusive, more experimental and interdisciplinary, more forward-thinking. The annual conference will consists of two days of readings, conversations, and workshops, bringing together EOU MFA faculty and visiting writers in Northeastern Oregon and connecting readers and writers especially along the I-84 corridor. It will segue into a monthly virtual New Nature Writing Series during the academic year to continue the conversation. Both line ups will regularly feature winners of the Oregon Book Awards, the Washington State Book Awards, and the Pacific Northwest Book Awards, as well as authors touring new or recent books. Most featured authors will be in conversation with EOU MFA faculty after their readings.

We give thanks to our partners and sponsors. In 2022, the Union County Chamber of Commerce provided a helpful seed grant for the initial La Grande Lit Week, which has now morphed into the New Nature Writing Conference to align with EOU and MFA program’s place-based emphasis. Other local partners past and present include Fishtrap, JaxDog Café and Books, Liberty Theatre Cafe, Side A Brewery, Cook Memorial Library, La Grande Parks and Recreation, hq, The Local, Elgin Opera House, and Art Center East. EOU’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and its staff provide critical help. And of course a special thanks to our students and faculty who are our biggest supporters.

We also humbly acknowledge the original inhabitants of the land that La Grande and EOU are upon: the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nez Perce people. We celebrate their traditions, languages, and stories. We acknowledge their continuing connection to this land, water, and community and pay our respects to these original stewards of northeastern Oregon.

All readings and conversations are FREE and open to the public. Registration is required for the conference’s classes for $85 (includes five class sessions on July 19-20). Other “pre-con” classes will be offered earlier in week by MFA faculty on special topics for a separate fee of $20 per class. All classes will be held on the EOU campus; the schedule of classes and their descriptions can be found here. Questions may be directed to EOU MFA director Nick Neely, nneely@eou.edu.

The Inaugural New Nature Writing Con Schedule

July 12-August 31

“Arboreality: A Broadside Exhibit,” curated by EOU MFA director Nick Neely, is on display in La Grande at Art Center East (ACE) in the Orlaske Gallery and will serve as a casual theme to this first New Nature Writing Con. The show features several dozen letterpress broadsides that combine visual art and poetry to celebrate and explore trees and forests. Included is work from some of our greatest national and Northwest contemporary poets, including Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ross Gay, Michael McClure, Jane Hirshfield, Forrest Gander, Raymond Carver, Carolyn Kizer, John Daniel, Juan Felipe Herrera, and others. Interspersed among the broadsides are recommended classic and recent books about trees to leaf through. Free and open to the public. ACE is open Wednesday through Friday 12-5 pm, and Saturday 10 am-2 pm.

Monday, July 15

7 pm, Side A Brewery patio, 1219 Washington Ave

An EOU MFA faculty reading featuring Claire Boyles, Molly Reid, and Christopher Kondrich. FREE and open to the public.

Wednesday, July 17

7 pm, hq, 112 Depot Street

MFA faculty member Joe Wilkins launches his second novel The Entire Sky. His first novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, was the winner of a High Plains Book Award and a finalist for the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction. He’ll be in conversation with MFA faculty member Eliot Treichel, whose book A Series of Small Maneuvers was the winner of a Reader’s Choice Oregon Book Award. Music by Margo Cilker to follow at 8 pm. FREE and open to the public.

Friday, July 19

1:15-2:15 pm, Zabel Hall (EOU campus)

Classes: “Writing the Climate Crisis” with Christopher Kondrich (Zabel 106) & “Layers of Landscape: Harnessing the Power of Place” with Joe Wilkins (Zabel 107). Registration required

2:20-3:20 pm, Zabel Hall (EOU campus)

Classes: “Practical Tips for Writing Multiple Points of View” with Ash Davidson (Zabel 106) & “‘No Ideas But in Things’: Writing the Physical World” with Jaclyn Moyer (Zabel 107). Registration required

3:30-4:30 pm, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall)

Ash Davidson is the author of the national bestseller Damnation Spring, a novel about a logging community in Northern California and winner of the Reading the West Award for Debut Fiction. She’ll be in conversation with MFA faculty member Megan Kruse, author of the novel Call Me Home. FREE and open to the public

6:30-7:30 pm, Art Center East

Biologist-writer David George Haskell will read at the opening of “Arboreality: A Broadside Exhibit” from his poetic book The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, winner of the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing. Haskell’s most recent book, Sounds Wild and Broken, was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize, as was his first book, The Forest Unseen. He’ll be in conversation with MFA director Nick Neely, whose most recent book, Alta California, finishes below a redwood tree. The “Arboreality” opening runs from 6-8 pm at Art Center East with the reading during the middle hour. FREE and open to the public.

8:15-9 pm, Location TBA

EOU MFA alumni reading, featuring new work from program alums. FREE and open to the public

Saturday, July 20

8 am, around campus (meet at the circle through EOU’s main gate, 1 University Blvd)

A class for early birds: “Spark Birds and Migratory Legends” with Laura Da’. Registration required

10-11 am, Zabel Hall (EOU campus)

Classes: “Writing About Sound, Writing With Sound” with David George Haskell (Zabel 106) & “Chimeric Writing, Lichen Architectures: Writing about that which resists language” with Callum Angus (Zabel 107). Registration required

11:10-12:10 am, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall)

Jaclyn Moyer is the author of the memoir On Gold Hill: A Personal History of Wheat, Farming, and Family from Punjab to California, and her nonfiction has appeared in The Atlantic, High Country News, Orion, and elsewhere. She’ll be in conversation with MFA faculty member Claire Boyles, whose first book is Site Fidelity: Stories. FREE and open to the public

12:10-1 pm, Stenard Garden (courtyard behind Ackerman Hall)

Light conference luncheon. Registration required

1-2 pm, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall)

An arboreal (and adjacent) reading and Q & A featuring poets Paul Hlava Ceballos and MFA faculty member Allison Cobb. Ceballos is the author of banana [ ], winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award, among other honors. Cobb is the author of Green-wood and most recently Plastic: An Autobiography, winner of an Oregon Book in creative nonfiction. FREE and open to the public

2:15-3:15 pm, Zabel Hall (EOU campus)

Classes: “Centering Nature: Poetry in the Persona of the Non-Human” with Paul Hlava Ceballos (Zabel 106) & “Writing the Animal—Both Self and Other” with Erica Berry (Zabel 107). Registration required

3:30-5 pm, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall)

EOU MFA graduation reading and ceremony featuring Charley Agron, Janel Crouch, Bastion Hemming, Russell James, Christina O’Bryan, and Alexis Reid. A light reception to follow. FREE and open to the public.

7 pm, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall) hq, 112 Depot Street

Erica Berry’s nonfiction debut, Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear, won the Oregon Book Award for creative nonfiction and was shortlisted for a Pacific Northwest Book Award. It features a wolf pack in the Wallowa Mountains. She’ll be in conversation with an MFA faculty member Molly Reid, author of The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary. FREE and open to the public.

8:15 pm, Lewis Auditorium (Zabel Hall) hq, 112 Depot Street

Callum Angus, a trans writer and editor, is the author of the story collection A Natural History of Transition, which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in Transgender Fiction, the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, and an Oregon Book Award/Ken Kesey Award in Fiction. He’ll be in conversation with MFA faculty member Melissa Matthewson, whose book Tracing the Desire Line: A Memoir in Essays, was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. FREE and open to the public.