Eastern Oregon University > Academics > Eastern Oregon University Hosts First New Nature Writing Event with Top Authors and Hands-On Workshops

Eastern Oregon University Hosts First New Nature Writing Event with Top Authors and Hands-On Workshops

Eastern Oregon University Hosts First New Nature Writing Event with Top Authors and Hands-On Workshops

LA GRANDE, Ore. – The EOU Masters of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing is excited to announce its inaugural New Nature Writing Con on July 19-20, 2024. The conference will consist of two days of readings, conversations, and workshops on the EOU campus and in downtown La Grande, featuring six acclaimed visiting writers as well as the MFA program’s award-winning faculty members. All readings and conversations are free and open to the public, including a pre-conference book launch on July 17. Additionally, registered participants will have access their choice of up to five generative one-hour writing workshops with visiting writers. 

The New Nature Writing Con replaces the La Grande Lit Week, which was started in 2022 with the help of a Union County Chamber of Commerce grant. In alignment with the natural splendor of northeast Oregon and EOU’s designation as Oregon’s Rural University, as well as with the MFA program’s 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. The goal will be to help reclaim or reinvent the genre of “nature writing” by turning away from traditional homestead or walk-in-the-woods narratives to stories and explorations that are more inclusive, experimental, interdisciplinary, and forward-thinking. The conference will jumpstart a monthly virtual New Nature Writing Series that will continue the conversation throughout the academic year.

“The New Nature Writing Con and Series is a natural fit for EOU and its place-based emphasis, and it’s the natural evolution of the La Grande Lit Week,” said Nick Neely, EOU’s MFA director. “We’ll focus on books and authors that take a dynamic look at our many environments and the complex ways they influence our lives and identities.” 

The conference and the series 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. 

This first New Nature Writing Con is highlighted by an appearance by a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, the biologist-writer David George Haskell, who is making the trip from Tennessee to present his acclaimed book “The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors” on the evening of July 19. His reading will happen at Art Center East in the Orlaske Gallery amid the show “Arboreality,” curated by MFA director Nick Neely. The show consists of dozens of printed poems about trees and will serve as the inspiration for a loose theme for this initial conference.

Other arboreal writers include Ash Davidson, who on Friday, July 19 will present her bestselling debut novel “Damnation Springs,”  set in a logging community in Northern California; and poets Paul Hlava Ceballos and Allison Cobb, who will read from tree-related lyrical projects on Saturday. The visiting writer roster is rounded out by Jaclyn Moyers, whose first book is “On Gold Hill: A Personal History of Wheat, Farming, and Family, from Punjab to California”; trans writer Callum Angus, whose debut collection of stories is “A Natural History of Transition;” and Erica Berry, whose book “Wolfish,” winner of an Oregon Book Award, features a wolf pack in the Wallowa Mountains. The conference will start and finish at hq, an event venue located at 112 Depot St. in LaGrande with the launch of MFA faculty member Joe Wilkins’s second novel “The Entire Sky” on Wednesday, July 17, and Angus and Berry’s appearances on Saturday night. 

The full schedule for the conference and brief participant biographies can be found at https://www.eou.edu/mfa/newnature-writingcon. Registration will launch the week of July 1. All classes will be held on the EOU campus; the schedule of classes and their descriptions can be found here. Further questions may be directed to EOU MFA director Nick Neely, nneely@eou.edu.