Mission & History


Fishtrap’s mission statement formulated many years ago and re-affirmed frequently is “Fishtrap promotes clear thinking and good writing in and about the West.” Sometimes this mission is abbreviated as “Writing and the West.”


Vision & Values

We are dedicated to the premise that cultivating creativity and clear thinking is key to fulfilling human potential and crucial for the health of both the individual and society as a whole. Further, we value a connection to where we find ourselves- the American West and, in particular the rural West. We value the West as a wellspring of creativity — one that is frequently undervalued, misunderstood, misinterpreted. Fishtrap holds that it is particularly important to promote writing that is rooted in the unique history, cadence and flavor of our environment. It is important to give those of us who live in this region a voice. Without the ability to tell our own stories, we are left only with the stories others tell. To that end, Fishtrap offers programs that reconnect people to their best selves, their individual voices, and the voices of other writers, thinkers and visionaries.

We respect and honor the original and long-time inhabitants of this place. We put egalitarianism and social justice at the center of the Fishtrap world. Honoring the past while embracing contemporary issues, our organization provides a forum for stimulating give and take at our public events. We do all of this with a warmth that is particular to Fishtrap. Many people tell us that Fishtrap events are among the warmest, most engaging and energizing events they’ve ever attended.


Fishtrap was founded in 1988 after Wallowa County bookstore owner Rich Wandschneider attended a conference for Oregon writers in Portland. Rich told conference organizer Kim Stafford that it wasn’t a conference of Oregon writers, but of “I-5 writers.” Kim replied, “You’re right. Why don’t you host the next one in Wallowa County?” Working with Stafford and  Alvin Josephy, the famous journalist and historian of the American West, as well as the local Wallowa Valley Arts Council, Wandschneider organized a gathering of writers at Wallowa Lake to discuss “West Coast Writers and East Coast Publishers” in July 1988.  So began a tradition.  Readers, writers, journalists, historians, publishers, local lovers of the arts, and people fascinated by and concerned with the American West from all over the world have gathered together at Wallowa Lake every summer since then.

Fishtrap is now deeply rooted in Wallowa County, the historic home of the Nez Perce edging on the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a short drive from the blue-dark waters of Wallowa Lake, within the reaches  of both Hell’s Canyon and the twisting Snake River. Our name is a play on the Nez Perce word ‘wallowa,’ meaning the anchor on each end of traditional fishing weirs—fish traps.  Where we are is a part of who we are.  For us, the name symbolizes our roots in the local area. It also offers a wonderful echo of the a famous performing arts center, Wolf Trap, based on the East coast.  Over time, the Fishtrap name has come to symbolize the essential purpose of the organization: just as a fish trap catches food to feed our body, the organization, Fishtrap, helps us capture that which nourishes our creative life.

Fishtrap  became a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation in August of 1992.  The organization has a very active Governing Board of Directors, as well as 17 official Advisors made up of writers, publishers, and literary activists from all over the country. In the mid 90s the staff, Governing Board, and Advisors created our mission statement: To promote clear thinking and good writing in and about the West.

Fishtrap conducted its first capital campaign in 2001 to purchase the Enterprise home of the famous Wallowa County newspaper editor, Gwen Coffin, and his wife Gladys. The Coffin House now serves as Fishtrap’s headquarters.

Rich Wandschneider served as Fishtrap’s Executive Director for 20 years, growing the organization to discuss issues facing the west as well as a variety of creative writing workshops and retreats. Rich now is the Director of the Josephy Library of Western History and Culture at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture. Rick Bombaci became Executive Director in 2008 followed by Interim Director Barbara Dills in 2010. Ann Whitfield Powers fill the Executive Director post from 2011 through 2014. Mike Midlo filled in as Fishtrap’s Interim Director during 2015 until our current Executive Director, Shannon McNerney took the post in October of 2015.

Summer Fishtrap
Western Writers/Eastern Publishing
Presenters: Jim Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Julian Bach, Craig Lesley, Naomi Bliven, Kim Stafford, Jim Hepworth, George Venn, Marc Jaffe, James Welch, Alvin Josephy, Lois Welch, Charles Deemer, William Kittredge, Naomi Nye, Peter Sears, Terry Tempest Williams

Summer Fishtrap
– Sense of Place/Landscape as Character
Presenters: Mary Evans, Ursula Hegi, Jim Hepworth, David Long, Marc Jaffe, Alvin Josephy, Craig Lesley, Herb Mitgang, Kim Stafford, Jonathan Nicholas, James Welch, William Stafford, Lois Welch, Sue Armitage, Charles Deemer

Summer Fishtrap
Presenters: Annick Smith, Bill Kittredge, George Venn, David Milholland, Kim Stafford, Terry Tempest. Williams, Liz Woody, David Axelrod, Ursula LeGuin, Lawson Inada, Ursula Hegi, Jonathan Nicholas, Molly Gloss, John Rember, Robert Johnson, Alvin Josephy, Sue Armitage, David Memmot, Laurie Mercier, Sandy Gullikson

Summer FishtrapWriting and History
Presenters: Sue Armitage, Primus St. John, Ursula LeGuin, Shon Applegate, John Rember, Charles LeGuin, Rosalie Sorrels, Patricia Limerick, Jim Heynen, Erasmo Gamboa, Jim Hepworth, Alvin Josephy, Craig Lesley, Thomas King, Teresa Jordan, Ann Close, Sandy Gullikson, Gary Fisketjon, Jodi Varon, Lawrence Johnson Fishtrap Fellows: Ellen Bishop, Kari Sharp Hill, Phil Mahaffey, Robert Stubblefield, Michael Buck

First Winter FishtrapWriting About the Natural World
Presenters: Kim Stafford, Terry Tempest Williams, Charles Wilkinson Summer

Summer Fishtrap Language, Politics & Place
Presenters: Valerie Miner, Primus St. John, Alan Siporin, Sallie Tisdale, Kim Stafford, Anne Taylor Fleming, Ed Marston, Rosalie Sorrels, Marc Jaffe, Daniel Kemmis, Jim Hepworth, Jack Ohman, Alvin Josephy, Alex Kuo, Cha Taub Fishtrap Fellows: Barbara Dills, Eva Hunter, Vivian McInerny, Kathleen Tyau, Teri Zipf

Winter Fishtrap
At the Corner: Writing about Culture and Agriculture
Presenters: Hal Con & Teresa Jordan, Ed & Betsy Marston

Summer FishtrapImagining a Future: Community in the New West
Presenters: Sherman Alexie, Tim Egan, Ben Saenz, Linda Hogan, Bruce Forster, Jim Heynen, Marc Jaffe, David J. Duncan, Mary Clearman Blew, J.T. Stewart
Fishtrap Fellows: William Johnson, Bill Joseph, David Koehn, Laura Lee Newman, Lola Ready

Winter Fishtrap
Recreation and the West: Writing About the New Western Economy
Presenters: John Rember, Jee Thomas, Emily Swanson, Angus Theurmer, Jr.

Summer FishtrapThe Restless West: WWII & After
Presenters: Ivan Doig, Valerie Miner, Kim Stafford, Alvin Josephy, Richard Garcia, Harold Johnson, Gary Holthaus, Gino Sky, Bruce Forster, Jee Houston, Sandra Scofield, Richard White, Vivian Mc Inerny
Fishtrap Fellows: Bette Husted, Brenda Jaeger, Kate Joost, Evelyn Sharenov, Kelly Sievers

Winter Fishtrap
Presenters: Richard M. Brown, Mikal Gilmore, Patricia McConnel, Daniel Santos

Summer FishtrapOrphaned in Eden: The Search for Family in the West
Presenters: Ben Saenz, Stephanie Coontz, Noami Nye, Alvin Josephy, Craig Lesley, Judith Barrington, Hal Con, Teresa Jordan, George Venn, Lizzie Grossman, Marc Jaffe
Fishtrap Fellows: Molly Cook, Leigh Hancock, Cathy Jontos-Putnam, Linda Leslie, Colleen Birch Maile

Winter Fishtrap
Presenters: Stephen J. Pyne, Clay Morgan, Sid Goodloe

Summer FishtrapEros and Nature
Presenters: Bob Pyle, Gary Nabhan, Jim Hepworth, Greg Keeler, Sandi Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, Liz Grossman, Kathleen Tyau, Patti Rogers, Gary Holthaus
Fishtrap Fellows: Charles Goodrich, David Halpern, David Reimer, Rachel Hoffman, Leslie Ovard

Winter Fishtrap
Presenters: John Daniel, Linda Hasselstrom, Linda Hogan, Brenda Peterson

Summer FishtrapCircling Back
Presenters: Gloria Bird, Carla Higheagle, Elise Paschen, Alvin Josephy, Mark Trahant, Angel McFarland, Kim Stafford, Horace Axtell, Sandy Osawa, Janet Campbell Hale, Marc Jaffe, Ann McCormack
Fishtrap Fellows: Toni Kennedy, Pam Steele, Eric Ottem, Ellie Mathews, Lisa Norris

Winter Fishtrap
Presenters: Ken Casavant, Kathleen Dean Moore, George Sibley

Summer FishtrapWork
Presenters: Clem Starck, Linda Hussa, Luis Urrea, Valerie Miner, Ellen Ullman, Maynard Lavadour, Dorriane Laux, Stephanie Coontz, Alvin Josephy
Fishtrap Fellows: Maurine Barnett, Scott Sadil, Ellen Waterston, Geri Digiorno, Pat Cason

Winter Fishtrap
Growing Up
Presenters: Jim Heynen, Joa Rose, Mike Males

Summer FishtrapBorders
Presenters: Marv Ross, Primus St. John, Craig Lesley, Diane Higgins, Sue Armitage, Diana Abu-Jaber, Richard Garcia, Maryilyn Bowering
Fishtrap Fellows: John Sangster, Vicente Guzman-Orozco, Jennifer Kocher, Suze Burns, Eileen Thiel

Winter Fishtrap
Living and Writing On the Edge
Presenters: Jon Turk, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Mike Tidwell

Summer Fishtrap West of Where
Presenters: Craig Carothers, Molly Gloss, Beth Hadas, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Stafford, Ursula K LeGuin, Jarold Ramsey, Luis Alberto Urrea
Fishtrap Fellows: Mary Tanguay Webb, Burky Achilles, Ann Nelson, Geronimo Tagatac, Kamala Bremer

Winter Fishtrap
Presenters: Karen Karbo, James R. Spencer, Tim Sandlin

Summer FishtrapThe Legacy of Vietnam
Presenters:Pauline Laurent, Xuan Ngoc Nguyen , David Schmitz , Geronimo Tagatac, Laurie Lewis, Andrew X. Pham, Alfredo Vea, Yusef Komunyakaa , Michael Wiegers
Fishtrap Fellows: Kurt Caswell, M.E. Hope, Marily Johnston, Steven Krolak, Ann Selby

Winter Fishtrap
Downwind, Downriver
Presenters: John Findlay, Teri Hein, Jaime A. Pinkham

Summer Fishtrap Writing in Troubled Times
Presenters: Diana Abu-Jaber, Annie Callan, Debra Magpie Earling, Pramila Jayapal, William Kittredge, Annick Smith, Otis Taylor
Fishtrap Fellows: Patsy Kullberg, Marj Casswell, Dean Metcalf, Merna Ann Hect, David Drury

Winter FishtrapEating Locally, Thinking Globally
Presenters: Leif Christoffersen, Greg Higgins, Gary Paul Nabhan & Diane Josephy Peavy

Summer FishtrapLonging and Belonging in the West
Presenters: Horace Axtell, Nyewusi Askari, Kathleen Alcalá, Howard Berkes, Jack Ohman, John Rember, Peter Sears, Geronimo Tagatac, Kate Power & Steve Einhorn
Fishtrap Fellows:Kristen Wares, John Moreland, Doug Miller, Jennifer Glick, Wayne Harrison

Winter Fishtrap
Foregiveness and the Unforgivable
Presenters: Kim Stafford, David Kinzie, Asfar Hossain, Migael Scherer Summer

Summer FishtrapDiscovery
Presenters: John Daniel, Debra Magpie Earling, Charles Goodrich, Kathleen Dean Moore, John Rember, Luis Urrea, Rosalie Sorrels, Frank X Walker, Jack Shoemaker
Fishtrap Fellows: Abigail Keller, Coy King, Eden Kruger, Dick Cass, and Joe Wilkins

Winter Fishtrap
The Tender Age: Remembering Childhood and Nurturing Children
Presenters: Brian Doyle, Tina Kotek , Craig Lesley, Carina Miller & Ellen Waterston

Summer Fishtrap Roots
Presenters: John Daniel, Albert Andrews Redstar, Pete Fromm, Valerie Miner, Kathleen Dean Moore, Heidi Muller, Jane Vandenburgh, Frank X Walker, Jack Shoemaker
Fishtrap Fellows: Kelly Magee, Michael Schiavone, Jeff Stautz; Michael FitzGerald, Deborah Bernhardt

Winter Fishtrap
New Wealth in the Old West
Presenters: Donald Snow, Laura Pritchett, Nils Christoffersen, Sara Michael

Summer FishtrapBecoming Native to Place
Presenters: Aimee Phan, Judith Barrington, Don Snow, Luis Alberto Urrea, Susan Power, Kate Power & Steve Einhorn, Pramila Jayapal, Jim Hepworth, Debra Magpie Earling
Fishtrap Fellows: Kristine Anderson, Tom Boswell, Robert Drummond, Eric Shaffer, Gail Wells

Winter FishtrapCrossing The Great Divides: Civil Conversation in the West
Presenters: Howard Berkes, Bill Bishop, David Romtvedt

Summer FishtrapThe River Still Flows
Presenters: Molly Gloss, Kim Stafford, Peter Sears, Jane Vandenburgh, Lisa Aschmann, John Rember, Robert Pyle, Jack Shoemaker, Maynard White Owl Lavadour
Fishtrap Fellows: Wendy Call, Henrietta Goodman, Natalie Serber

Winter Fishtrap Living Right: Empathy, Charity and Responsibility
Debra Dean, Michael Rohd, Sisters of the Road

Summer FishtrapSpeaking Truth
Presenters: Roberta lavadour, Amy Klauke Minato, Robin Cody, Brenda Miller, Peter Chilson, Luis Alberto Urrea, Marv Ross, Jane Vandenburgh, Anita Helle, Peter Sears, Paul Petersen
Fellows: Judith Groudine Finkel, Lorraine Healy, Beverly Akerman, Anna Ross, Jennifer D. Munro

Winter Fishtrap
Re-Imagining the Wild
Kathleen Dean Moore, Roderick Nash, Jack Turner

Summer FishtrapUsual and Accustomed Places
Presenters: Jack Shoemaker, Kim Stafford (Outpost), Ed Skoog, Linda Waterfall, Roberta Lavadour, Debra Gwartney, Robert Stubblefield, Kirsten Rian
Fellows: Rebecca Yarrow, Jonathan Harnum, Kelly Luce, Jay Schroder, Ceiridwen Terrill

Winter Fishtrap
Learning from Women
Ursula K. LeGuin, Molly Gloss, Tony Vogt

Summer FishtrapMatter & Spirit
Presenters: John Daniel, Brian Doyle, Karen Fisher, Charles Goodrich (Outpost), Ehud Havazelet, Holly Hughes, Jack Loeffler, Dian Million, Amy Minato, Robert Michael Pyle, Kirsten Rian, Beth Russell, Cosy Sheridan, Jack Shoemaker, Gary Snyder, Jane Vandenburgh
Fellows: Christine Colasurdo, Dave Jarecki, Christina Robertson, Rob Williams, William W. Wright.

Winter FishtrapGetting Small
Winona LaDuke, Charles Goodrich, Tammy Strobel, Kate Power & Steve Einhorn

Summer FishtrapMigrations & Passages
Presenters: Gary Furguson, Joe Mulcahy, Rose Parry, Henry Hughes, Beth Taylor, Debra Earling, Allison Hedge Coke, Wayne Harrison, Kirsten Rian, Beth Russell, Robert Michael Pyle (Outpost), Karen Fisher, Jane Vandenburgh, Pico Iyer, Eva Castellanoz, Pramila Jayapal, David Laskin, Myrlin James Gonzales Hepworth, Larry Colton, Ellen Waterston
Fellows: Drew Myron, Patricia Bailey, Angela Penaredondo, Nicole Cullen, Luke Johnson

Summer Fishtrap
Catch & Release: What we hold on to, what we let go, and the one that got away
Presenters: Luis Alberto Urrea, Luci Tapahonso, Jamie Ford, Marjorie Sandor, Hal Cannon, Teresa Jordan, Myrlin Hepworth, Kirsten Rian, Jane Vandenburgh, Kim Stafford, Karen Fisher, David James Duncan, Jack Shoemaker, Whitney Ferre’, Henry Hughes, Sarah Gilman, Ellen Waterston (Outpost)
Fellows: Kim Gratz, Irene Skyriver, John Walker

Summer FishtrapBreaking Trail: Off the Beaten Path
Presenters: Cheryl Strayed,  Holly Hughes, Annick Smith, Judy Blunt, William Kittredge, Minton Sparks, Tarn Wilson, Myrlin Hepworth, Jane Vandenburgh, Kim Stafford, Anne Sibley, Don Snow, Jennifer Sahn, Scott Russell Sanders (Outpost)
Fellows: Jose Alcantara, Rachel Khong, Nathan Slinker, Kelly Wallace

Summer FishtrapWhat the River Says
Presenters: Naomi Shihab Nye, Kim Barnes, John Daniel, Diane Daggett, Gary Ferguson, Teresa Jordan, Al Josephy, Perrin Kerns, Brenda Miller, Amy Minato, Anis Mojgani, Marv Ross, Kim Stafford, Adam Sowards, Luis Alberto Urrea
Fellows: Chelsea Jennings, Alex Carr Johnson, Eliot Treichel

Summer FishtrapHidden from History: Stories We Haven’t Heard, Stories We Haven’t Told
Presenters: Timothy Egan, Katie Basile, Sherwin Bitsui, Karen Fisher, Allison Hedge Coke, Myrlin Hepworth, Perrin Kerns, Tom Kizzia, Page Lambert, Craig Lesley, Robert Michael Pyle, Kim Stafford, Shelley Toon Lindberg, Jane Vandenburgh, Erika Wurth
Fellows: Jayme Ringleb, Jennifer Springsteen, Naomi Telushkin