The 2015 Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers offered twelve different workshops, including adult, youth, nature writing, digital story telling, and a special Yearlong Workshop.
Here are the faculty and the workshops they taught, listed alphabetically.
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Sherwin Bitsui is the author of Flood Song and Shapeshift. He is a Diné (Navajo) of the Bįį’bítóó’nii’ Tódi’chii’nii clan, born to the Tlizilłani’ clan. He is from White Cone, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. His honors include the 2011 Lan Literary Fellowship, a Native Arts & Culture Foundation Fellowship for Literature, a PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award and a Whiting Writers Award.
Shifting Modalities: Poetry as Transformation
Diné (Navajo) dynamism: where action and movement give force and meaning to form, structure, archetype, and bring about conceptual naming in the resulting Navajo language. A poem or song may bring transformation to place and being. In this workshop we will examine various texts regarding this notion of dynamic activity, in the Navajo universe and beyond, and attempt to create a body of work that can operate with transformative and figurative agency.
Allison Hedge Coke
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke has written and edited fifteen volumes of poetry including Streaming, Dog Road Woman, Effigies, Blood Run, Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, To Topos: Ahani, as well as a play (Icicles) and a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer. She is the recipient of an American Book Award, a King *Chavez* Parks Award, a Mayor’s Award, and fellowships from the Lan Foundation, Weymouth Center, Center for the Great Plains, and the MacDowell Colony. She is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai’I, Manoa, and at work on an historic climate change film, as well as new prose, poetry, and sound art with the trio Rd Klā.
Writing as Freedom
Coming together as creative community, we will take inspiration from our surroundings, our memories, and our daily lives. In our workshop, we will practice the art of close witnessing—and consider the barriers that typically restrict our ability to produce significant work. We will investigate our own poetics with dedication to our environment(s), culture(s), gender(s), history(ies), and lives as literary activists, students, mentors, and doers. We’ll work with the place and space to create new work, but also find time to simply be. Along with words, our humanity has a place here to cultivate new range. Come empty or full, but be open to what you might reach.
More on Allison Hedge Coke
Craig Lesley is the author of 4 novels and a memoir, along with numerous other works. He has received three Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel, and an Oregon Book Award. He has been the recipient of several national fellowships and holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Whitman College. He is on faculty of the MFA program at Pacific University and lives with his wife and two daughters in Portland, Oregon. Both Storm Riders and The Sky Fisherman were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Eccentrics and Leftouts
This fiction workshop will study the craft of writing short stories and novels, emphasizing characterization, conflict, setting, and plot. Consider those eccentric relatives and friends who haven’t been written about–yet. Or perhaps you’re keeping their stories on the bottom shelf. Maybe they deserve a shot. Working people often get left out of writing. What happens when the mill shuts down, the restaurant closes, the ranch bottoms out? Those stories deserve telling too.
We’ll consider “what ifs” in stories.
What if a young woman whose occupation involves funerals passes out each time she sees a corpse?
What if a young guide must rely on an older guide who has drowned three people?
We will discover the answers to these conflicts and juggle other possibilities.
When asked what helps me be a fiction writer, I always say, “having many colorful relatives.” And I’ve “borrowed” more than a few for my books. But maybe you’re the eccentric, and that’s a story too.
Perrin Kerns and Kim Stafford
Perrin Kerns teaches digital storytelling at Marylhurst University, and Kim Stafford teaches digital storytelling at Lewis & Clark College. Perrin’s film “Between Sasquatch and Superman: Living with Downs Syndrome” won the Director’s Choice Award at the San Francisco Shorts Film Festival, 2012, and has been featured on OPB. Kim Stafford has a number of digital stories on YouTube and Vimeo.
Telling Our Stories with Word, Image, Tune
A digital story joins the arts of storytelling and filmmaking. In this workshop, students will compose and record a short script to combine with original images and sounds to create a three to five minute movie. If time allows, students might create an optional second haiku-film based on a brief text. By the end of the week, each student will screen one of their digital stories. The additional fee of $35 associated with this workshop supports two additional sessions on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons with both instructors. Note: This workshop is Mac-based. Participants will need to bring a Mac laptop loaded with iMovie 11, iPhoto, and GarageBand—but no previous experience with these programs is required (If access to a Mac will be an obstacle to your participation, please contact Fishtrap).
Digital Storytelling includes two afternoon sessions in addition to the regular morning workshop schedule.
Tom Kizzia’s book, Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, appeared on several best-of-the-year lists, including Amazon’s Top Ten Books of 2013. Reviewers called the book “extraordinary”, “spellbinding” and “gripping”. His first book, The Wake of the Unseen Object: Travels through Alaska’s Native Landscapes, was named one of the best all-time non-fiction books about Alaska by the state historical society. As a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Kizzia traveled extensively in rural Alaska and wrote about land conservation, Alaska Native land claims, tribal sovereignty, and preservation of subsistence hunting and fishing traditions. A graduate of Hampshire College and a former Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, Kizzia has built two cabins in the woods and lives in Homer, Alaska.
On the Margin: Between Journalism and Memoir
Bring an idea for an untold story—about a place or a people, local history, something personal, or some intriguing combination of these. We’ll talk about the obstacles that have stood in the way of uncovering the tale and work together to give it shape. As non-fiction writers, we’ll examine the obligations of telling true stories and the difficulty of operating on the margin between journalism and memoir. We’ll discuss the challenges of writing about other cultures—those faced by Alvin Josephy and by modern journalists in bush Alaska writing about Native American cultures—and the related question of how any writer navigates the insider/outsider labyrinth to become native to the landscape of a story. Our workshop will emphasize practical techniques, including alternative beginnings and chronologies, narrator construction, deployment of reported detail, and the use of gaps and pacing to create page-turning unease.
Page writes a lot about animals. Once, while reading her essay “Porcupine Dusk” at Devils Tower’s outdoor amphitheater, a wild porcupine perched on a ponderosa limb hanging over her head and listened with rapt attention before climbing down. While reading Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” a flock of wild geese flew overhead. When reading “Turkey Tracks” on a river trip, a wild turkey flew up and out of the willows, almost snagging her hair. She’s known to dissect mountain lion scat and hunt for elk velvet. Her award-winning poetry, essays, and stories can be found inside sculptures at the Denver Art Museum, online at Huffington Post, inside the pages of The Writer, and in dozens of anthologies about the West. When not writing from her mountain home in Colorado, she works with organizations such as True Nature Journeys, The Grand Canyon Field Institute, and The Aspen Writers’ Foundation.
Deep Mapping the Narrative of Our Lives
The secrets of a village can be read in the tombstones. Entire cultures keep secrets. Midwives sometimes bury the truth. Mothers keep secrets, and fathers, and the nice teacher from third grade. Even the dog doesn’t tell where he buries his bones. We all have secrets, and hidden treasures—bones that give structure to our life story, waiting to be fleshed out, imbued with heart. But where to start? The truth usually starts with questions, and to unearth anything profoundly serious, or funny, it helps to ground these questions in our personal geography—the place where we stand rooted to the earth, where human experience intersects with the divine, where irony rides the shirttails of this oh so serious look at self. During this narrative nonfiction workshop, we’ll look back to see what tracks we’ve left behind, and sniff out the trail of our personal legends.
Jane Vandenburgh is a fifth-generation Californian whose forebearers walked the Oregon Trail. It is in the family plot at the Odd Fellows cemetery in The Dalles that her brother is buried, as well as both her parents, her maternal grandparents, and greats and great greats back to 1854. Her two novels, Failure to Zigzag and The Physics of Sunset, both concern themselves with what it is to be a Westerner at odds in a culture that has traditionally located its intellectual centers in the East. Her two memoirs, A Pocket History of Sex in the 20th Century and The Wrong Dog Dream, examine themes of loss, dislocation, and the difficulties those in the West, particularly women, have had in finding authentic voices. Her book on the craft of writing long-form narrative, Architecture of the Novel, is indebted to her experience teaching the yearlong workshop at Fishtrap in 2008.
Breaking & Entering: Finding Your Story’s Truest Voice
Why, when we know our own stories so well, is it hard to write them down? It may be that we’re having trouble allowing this story of ours to find its true voice. The fact is our stories do not belong to you or me but to their storytellers—personas more ingenious, funny, engaging, informative, and convincing than we are. Storytellers are interested in a messier reality. You, the storyteller, will push in the direction of risk, revelation, surprise. Narrative truth is, by its very nature, complex, subversive, contrarian, insurrectionist, corrective of the historical record. It wants to speak out of turn, say the unpopular thing. Narrative truth has nothing to do with the propaganda of success we find on Facebook or in Christmas cards. This workshop works with these fundamentals of truth and telling, person and perspective, narrator vs. noticer—basic, complicated, and worthy of our best attention.
Erika T. Wurth writes both fiction and poetry, including the novel Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and the poetry collection Indian Trains. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, such as Boulevard, Drunken Boat, and Southern California Review. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.
Leading with Character
Folks often have a great idea for a story, but they can’t finish it, because stories are led by character, and if you aren’t able to see your characters as people—with all their complexity, damage, and joy—you can’t tell their stories. As a writer, you need to be able to combine people that you know, envision them in new situations, and think about what they really want—no matter how dark that want might be. In this workshop, you will ask yourself what your characters, your people, would do if the things they want, and the things they fear, were to happen. And then you will begin to take them down those paths.
Fishtrap is pleased to offer two workshops for youth, one for ages 10-14, another for ages 14-17. All youth who attend Summer Fishtrap must have an adult chaperone who will be responsible for them outside of workshop hours. For questions about the chaperone requirement please contact Mike Midlo.
Myrlin Hepworth is a poet, emcee, and teaching artist who writes and performs across the United States. In 2009 the Arizona Commission on the Arts selected him for its roster of Teaching Artists. In 2010 he became the first undergraduate teaching artist for the Young Writers Program at Arizona State University, where he received his degree in 2011. He co-founded and coached the Phoenix youth team to consecutive appearances at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam. In 2011 Myrlin released his first poetry collection, From the Rooftops, and in 2013 released his first hip-hop mix-tape, The Funky Autopsy.
Writing Hip-Hop Theater
(Youth Workshop Ages 14-17)
This workshop will focus on writing and performance elements of hip-hop theater. Students will spend early stages of the workshop writing pieces that focus on identity. After studying a variety of poetics and articles that speak to social issues, students will be challenged to use their creative voices to address these materials. Finally, using elements of music, theatre, and spoken word, the group will perform a collaborative piece at the end of the week.
Katie Basile and Shelley Toon Lindberg
Katie Basile is a photographer and media artist from Southwest Alaska who specializes in documentary work and personal narrative. She teaches photography, digital storytelling, and filmmaking to youth and adults. Her aim as a teaching artist is to facilitate an experience where people can share stories through self-reflection, creativity and technology. Katie has a BA in Photojournalism from the University of Montana and a Facilitator’s Certification from the Center for Digital Storytelling. She is currently based in Oregon and commutes home often to explore media arts and storytelling with rural Alaskan youth.
Shelley Toon Lindberg is a visual artist and educator based in Hood River, Oregon where she serves as the Executive Director of Arts in Education of the Gorge. She specializes in arts integration and community arts. Her collaborative public works appear in schools, hospitals, and private businesses throughout the United States. She loves working with students of all ages to explore interdisciplinary connections, environmental awareness, and intercultural understanding. Shelley studied fine art and education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Marylhurst University, and Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Digital Storytelling: Exploring Personal Narrative Through Media Arts (Youth Workshop Ages 10-14)
Kids of all ages can experience the ancient art of storytelling through the modern computer-based medium of digital storytelling. In this workshop, students will write their own personal narratives, and use them as scripts for the short movies they produce. Once the scripts are complete, students can try their hands at voiceover, storyboarding, and stop-motion animation to bring their words and art to life. Toward the end of the week, a group film screening will celebrate these stories.
No experience is necessary, and Fishtrap Storylab will provide all equipment.
Robert Michael Pyle
Robert Michael Pyle writes essay, poetry, and fiction from an historic Swedish farmstead, eight miles up a tributary of the Lower Columbia River. His eighteen books have received the John Burroughs Medal (Wintergreen), the National Outdoor Book Award (Sky Time in Gray’s River), a Guggenheim Fellowship (Where Bigfoot Walks), three Washington Book awards, and a PNBA book Award. His most recent titles are The Tangled Bank: Writings from Orion; new editions of Chasing Monarchs and Mariposa Road; and his latest, Evolution of the Genus Iris: Poems. Pyle, who founded the Xerces Society, is a widely respected lepidopterist and author of several standard butterfly books including The Butterflies of Cascadia. A recent Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana, he has taught placed-based writing from Tasmania to Tajikistan, Fishtrap to Outpost, and was Werner Writing Resident at Billy Meadows in 2010.
Between Literature and Land: Writing From Within
There is nothing like becoming a prairie-dweller yourself to awaken your own writer’s response to grassland, nothing like living in the lap of the Wallowas and the Blues to heighten your sense of life in concert with mountains, waters, and words. As denizens here, we will explore the ecotone between literature and the land, and write from within that blend. Each morning we will make words in response to short invitations and the place itself, then share and respond to the results. Forenoons will see instruction and discussion of both techniques and concepts for strong place-based writing, in all forms: essay, fiction, and poetry. Afternoons are for individual writing, solitude, field forays, and tutorial consultation. Evenings, we’ll sing, read aloud, and on the last night, share our fully worked pieces.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Outpost.
Karen Fisher is the author of A Sudden Country, and the upcoming Heart of the Monster. A PEN/Faulkner finalist, Washington State Book Award winner, and NEA fellow, she works as a developmental editor and novel coach, and has taught for the University of Washington, the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, and Fishtrap. Her in-progress experiments include memoir, nonfiction, poetry, and things that don’t know what they are. She writes, teaches, and raises children and horses from her home on Lopez Island. This is her second Fishtrap yearlong intensive.
Illuminating Wonder: A Yearlong Workshop in Book-Length Narrative
True stories come from the hidden depths: their sources are what we’re afraid to say, don’t know how to say, or have never quite heard said. Great writers are brave writers, and great art finds its origin in wonder, and its answers from within. In this yearlong course we’ll bring our wonder to the many mysteries of writing a book-length story. From exploring the sources of our subjects in ourselves, to generating the fertile chaos from which great writing springs, to studying and experimenting with different ways to shape and revise, we’ll move together and as individuals from curiosity through necessary failures to the bit-by-bit joy of finding exactly the right words.
This class will help anyone working in book-length narrative, whether fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, play/screenplay, or some brave combination. Writers at any stage of conception, creation, or revision are welcome.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Yearlong Workshop.