Creative Nonfiction Workshops, Panels and Events

To register for the full conference and enroll in a workshop or critical seminar, click on the button below. All keynote talks, panels, one-day workshops, readings and special events are included in general registration, as is attendance at the Poetry Symposium each afternoon. All three-day Workshops and three-day Critical Seminars require an additional fee of $250.


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Creative Nonfiction Panel #1: "Why Nature Writing?"

Saturday, July 23, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 229

Alissa Johnson, Moderator, with Kelsey Bennett, Broughton Coburn, and Kase Johnstun

Why write creative nonfiction about the natural world? There are as many answers as there are writers. Some write to understand and express our relationships with nature, others to understand themselves, others to explore the history of the planet and the politics that inevitably intertwine with nature, both wild and domesticated. This panel will touch on themes of why we're drawn to write about nature, how our personal perspectives shape what we write, the influence of larger cultural forces on the genre, and more.

To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below: 

Alissa Johnson, Moderator

Kelsey Bennett

Broughton Coburn

Kase Johnstun

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Creative Nonfiction One-Day Workshop #1: "Nature and Narrative." Instructor: Alissa Johnson

Thursday, July 21, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 204

Writing about the natural world serves many purposes: reflecting on its meaning, grappling with environmental challenges or capturing experiences in nature. Yet to keep readers engaged, nature writing needs to address a central question or follow a plot or storyline. In this workshop, we’ll look at the roll of narrative and its influence on the arc of your work about the natural world. We’ll also look at the use of detail and imagery to convey the feel of a place as if the reader is there. This creative nonfiction workshop includes lecture, writing exercises, and discussion.

Alissa Johnson
Alissa Johnson is an editor at the Crested Butte News and an award winning writer. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street JournalDirt Rag Magazine, Wilderness News, and Mountain Gazette among other publications. Her writing has won awards from FundsforWriters and the Colorado Press Association, and she holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University (WCSU). She is the founder of WritingStrides and has taught at WSCU and Western State Colorado University.



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Creative Nonfiction One-Day Workshop #2: "How To Tell Other People’s Stories (Well)." Instructor: Kase Johnstun.

Sunday, July 24, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 200

Telling other people’s stories is difficult. The interview process is difficult. Striking the right chord with the interviewee is difficult. Asking the right questions is difficult. And finding a storyline that encompasses all the necessary elements that create a factual narrative and an entertaining narrative that will someday entice a reader to continue reading is very difficult. This workshop, taught by a widely published long-form journalist and creative nonfiction author, will show writers how to move through an interview, take the necessary notes that go beyond what the interviewee is saying (body language, facial expressions, scenery, setting) and translate all those elements into a narrative that is both honest and entertaining. Participants should bring:

A recording device;

Pen and paper (no computers for note taking);

A story to share with a fellow student;

A laptop of pad of paper to write narratives.

Kase Johnstun
Kase Johnstun lives and writes in Ogden, Utah. He is the author of recently released Beyond the Grip Craniosynostosis (McFarland & Co), which has been featured in Pennsylvania Parenting Magazine, Portland Family Magazine, The Ogden Standard Examiner, and many other places, as well as having mentions in the Chicago Tribune and the Seattle Times. It was recently awarded the Gold Quill (First Place) in Creative Nonfiction by the League of Utah Writers for 2015. His work has been published widely by literary journals and trade magazines, including, but not limited to, Yahoo Parenting, Creative Nonfiction Magazine, and The Chronicle Review. He is the co-editor/author of Utah Reflections: Stories from the Wasatch Front (The History Press), which was name the Salt Lake Tribune’s book of the month for August 2014 and the League of Utah Writers Recommended Read in Nonfiction 2015 (Third Place). His essay collection Tortillas for Honkies was named a finalist for the 2013 Autumn House press Nonfiction Awards (most of the essays in the collection have found homes in places like The Watershed Review, Label Me Latino/a, Prime Number Literary Magazine, and Animal Literary Magazine). Most recently, he was the writer-in-residence at JIWAR international artist residency in Barcelona, Spain where he finished one novel and wrote most of another.

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All Three-Day Workshops and Critical Seminars meet Thursday, 7/21, Saturday, 7/23, and Sunday, 7/24, from 10:15 - 12:15, Taylor Hall 201. Cost: $250 in addition to registration. 

Creative Nonfiction Three-Day Critical Seminar: “Nature Writing in America.” Instructor: Kelsey L. Bennett

In “The American Scholar,” Emerson discusses the formative influences upon the American intellectual’s frame of mind. First in importance, he announces, is nature:

Every day, the sun; and, after sunset, Night and her stars.  Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows.  Every day, men and women, conversing—beholding and beholden.  The scholar is he of all men whom this spectacle most engages.  He must settle its value in his mind.  What is nature to him?

Emerson’s inclusion of people and ideas among the imagery of nature tellingly reflects earlier approaches, and continues to inform the ways in which writers have engaged the natural world after him.

In this seminar we will consider germinal nonfiction works from among the many who have asked the question “What is nature to me?” We will begin in the seventeenth century with Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble Knight, Jonathan Edwards, William Bartram, and Thomas Jefferson, then move forward to William Apess, Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Zitkala-Sa, John Muir, Isabella Bird and many more. All these writers raise questions about place, about spirituality, about conflict, and about community in relation to the land; many combine scientific curiosity with religious meditation in a variety of genres, including the captivity narrative, autobiography, essay, lecture, journal, and correspondence.

In our discussions we will consider in what ways the ideas and works of America’s first nature writers still inform nature writing in the recent past and present, by writers such as Everett Ruess, Rachel Carson, Vine Deloria, Austin, Dillard, Abbey, Leopold, Terry Tempest Williams, Cheryl Strayed, and others. Finally, we will ask how all these works inspire and inform our own endeavors as writers, critics, and educators. Participants will have the chance to present and discuss a response to the readings that may take the form of analysis, criticism, or ideas on ways to bring writing about the natural world to life in the classroom.

Kelsey L. Bennett
Kelsey L. Bennett is a writer, critic, educator, and recipient of a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant.  Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review, The New Criterion, Brontë Studies, The Colorado Review, Notes on Contemporary Literature, Gunnison Valley Journal, and elsewhere.  Her book of literary criticism, Principle & Propensity: Experience and Religion in the Nineteenth-Century British and American Bildungsroman, was published with the University of South Carolina Press in 2014.  She received her B.A. in Classics from St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver.  Currently she lives in Gunnison, Colorado, where she directs the Honors Program and teaches literature at Western State Colorado University.

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