2016 Workshop Archive

FULL 2016 Program (PDF): StoryCatcher16Program

IMAGES FROM THE 2016 WORKSHOP: 2016 Story Catcher Tweets

“Writing Wild”  Story Catcher Writing Retreat & Workshop

Thursday June 9th – Sunday June 12th 2016  Set in the beautiful Pine Ridge Region of Northwest Nebraska, we gathered to explore the untamed terrains of our lives: in nature and the outdoors, in our relationships with one another, in our place and purpose in the world.

Larissa Hastings (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)

The first two days featured a RETREAT for advanced writers, set at historic Fort Robinson State Park. Events took place in the historic buildings and scenic spots around the park, and participants lodged in the 1890 Brick Officer Quarters. Renowned writers led morning sessions focused on crafting and improving our writing, followed by afternoon sessions designed to give participants a chance to create new work and receive feedback on that work during the retreat.

On Saturday we met on the campus of Chadron State College for the General Workshop where we enjoyed a mix of hands-on workshops, critical feedback and inspiring instruction from acclaimed authors. We wrapped it all up on Sunday with a festival celebrating the work of everyone involved in the workshop, from published authors to beginners.

Workshop Faculty

2016 Fiction Writer in Residence: Kim Barnesbarnes

Kim Barnes is the author of In the Kingdom of Men, named a best book of 2012 by San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, and The Oregonian, and long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, A Country Called Home, winner of the 2009 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction, was named a best book of 2008 by The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, and The Oregonian. She is a recipient of the PEN/Jerard Award in nonfiction for her first memoir, In the Wilderness, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The New York Times, WSJ online, The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Fourth Genre, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, and the Pushcart Anthology. She is a professor of English in the MFA program at the University of Idaho.

In her most recent novel, In the Kingdom of Men, Barnes introduces us to Gin Mitchell who believes a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin soon moves with Mason to Saudi Arabia where he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back—even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin’s life becomes the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin’s world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.

“[In the Kingdom of Men] is something more than a novel about an [Oklahoman] who causes trouble in a foreign land. It’s that, and a feminist bildungsroman.” —The New York Times Book Review

“If you want to understand, right in your gut, the history of the American relationship with Saudi Arabia; if you want a magical, layered story of west-inside-east, culture layered over culture, and the slow—still ongoing—revolution of gender and race oppression, In the Kingdom of Men is your book. It’s Mad Men meets The Sheltering Sky, a Revolutionary Road for the oil-addicted. It’s also an utter pleasure to read.” —Anthony Doerr, author of Memory Wall

“Unfurled like a rich carpet, rolling out over a vast space before it gently settles and fills every corner. Barnes . . . gets more motion and feeling into a deceptively plain paragraph than many novelists can cram into a chapter. . . . The women who populate [A Country Called Home] are all heroic in their various ways, a wonderful juxtaposition alongside this man’s world built by oil money.” —The Seattle Times

wrigley2016 Poet in Residence: Robert Wrigley

 Robert Wrigley was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. The first in his family to graduate from college, and the first male for generations to escape work in a coal mine, Wrigley earned his MFA from the University of Montana, where he studied with Madeline DeFreesJohn Haines, and Richard Hugo.

Wrigley’s poetry examines the influences of the physical world on our daily lives. He holds that “poetry can have a redemptive function. It can look at the chaos you see and make a kind of sense of the smallest part of it.” His poems are concerned with rural Western landscapes and humankind’s place within the natural world, and he aims to “tell all the truth, but make it sing.”

His collections of poetry include Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (2006); Lives of the Animals (2003), winner of the Poets Prize; Reign of Snakes (1999), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. Wrigley has also won the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, Poetry magazine’s Frederick Bock Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Celia B. Wagner Award, Poetry Northwest’s Theodore Roethke Award, and five Pushcart Prizes.

Wrigley has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. His poems have been widely anthologized, twice included in Best American Poetry, and featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.

Wrigley has taught at Lewis-Clark State College, Warren Wilson College, the University of Oregon, the University of Montana, Warren College, and the University of Idaho.

“Wrigley is a truly good poet . . . . His poems always have that most essential quality of seeming as they were written by a human who lives and feels his world and not, like too many poems, by a brain on a pedestal in some bare, unbelievably clean room.”—Christian Wiman, former editor of Poetry

 “Listen to the play of sense in [his] lines. The human presence in them owes much to Wrigley’s own remembered experience, but even more to his consciousness of language and his discernment in marshaling it. His poetry faces up to the primal challenge of the original human setting: a wild world that brings all the poet’s memory, instincts, imagination, and sensuous resources into play in the language he uses.”—Peter Davison, The Boston Globe

wilkins2016 Nonfiction Writer in Residence: Joe Wilkins

 Born and raised in eastern Montana, Joe Wilkins is the author of the memoir The Mountain and the Fathers. He is also the author of the poetry collections Killing the Murnion Dogs (2011), a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award, and Notes from the Journey Westward (2012), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award. His third full-length collection, When We Were Birds, part of the Millers Williams Poetry Prize Series, edited by Billy Collins, is forthcoming from the University of Arkansas Press in the spring of 2016. His essays, poems, and stories have appeared in many magazines and journals, including The Georgia Review, The Southern ReviewThe Missouri ReviewHarvard ReviewOrionThe SunThe Utne Reader, and Slate.

A National Magazine Award finalist, PEN Center USA Award finalist, and Pushcart Prize Winner, Wilkins is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue Mountain Center, which goes to “a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice.” Of Wilkins’s work, the Indiana Review writes, “The most striking component of it is its awareness of ‘the whole world.’ What is ordinary becomes transcendent. In places derelict and seemingly unexceptional, Wilkins compels us to recognize what is worth salvage, worth praise.”

In The Mountain and the Fathers, Wilkins explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought afflicted Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike. Wilkins was born into this world, raised by a young mother and elderly grandfather following the untimely death of his father. That early loss stretches out across the Big Dry, and Wilkins uses his own story and those of the young boys and men growing up around him to examine the violence, confusion, and rural poverty found in this distinctly American landscape.

After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in computer engineering, he spent two years teaching ninth grade pre-algebra in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America. He then went on to earn his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho. Wilkins now lives with his wife, son, and daughter in western Oregon, where he teaches writing at Linfield College.

 Notes from the Journey Westward is visionary. It is admirably consistent and meditative, relentlessly honest in its rejection of any romantic version of the West, and reverent before stars and morning, before the earth and the people who have survived on it. Joe Wilkins honors them by telling their stories.—Tami Haaland, The Billings Gazette

obrienSpecial Guest: Dan O’Brien

Described by the New York Times “as a writer with a keen and poetic eye,”  Dan O’Brien is one of the most powerful literary voices on the Plains, author of numerous novels and memoirs, including Buffalo for the Broken Heart and The Contract Surgeon, winners of the Western Heritage Award for best nonfiction in 2001 and for best fiction in 1999, respectively. Buffalo for the Broken Heart, which explores the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo, was chosen as One Book South Dakota in 2009. Dan’s latest non-fiction book, Wild Idea – Buffalo & Family in a Difficult Land is its sequel. O’Brien’s latest novel, Stolen Horses, has won wide praise and was featured in an NPR review by noted book critic Alan Cheuse. His other novels include The Indian Agent, The Spirit of the Hills, In the Center of the Nation, and Brendan Prairie.

O’Brien has been a wildlife biologist and rancher for more than thirty years. He is also one of the most celebrated falconers in America today and was a prime mover in the restoration of peregrine falcons in the Rocky Mountains in the 1970s and 80s. O’Brien’s memoirs on falconry include, The Rites of Autumn and Equinox, which are intimate and revealing explorations of his life-long search for wildness on the Plains. He is a two-time winner of the National Endowment for the Arts individual artist’s grant and a 2001 recipient of the Bush Creative Arts Fellowship.

In addition to writing, O’Brien divides his time among the company he founded, Wild Idea Buffalo, teaching ecology and writing, running the Sustainable Harvest Alliance and serving on the Black Hills branch of The Nature Conservancy. He is the owner of the Cheyenne River Ranch just west of the Badlands National Park and North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where he lives and shares his life on the ranch with his wife Jill, and their old friend Erney Hersman. You can find out more by visiting his website: http://wildideabuffalo.com/about-us/dan/


L. Cal Hiktzrot: Mari Sandoz Emerging Writer: Poetry

L. Cal Hitzrot is a poet and boarding school teacher from Concord, MA, where he lives with his wife, sons, and an irrepressibly good-natured golden-doodle named Sunnny. A native New Englander, Cal is looking forward to his visit to northwestern Nebraska.


Carey Denman: Mari Sandoz Emerging Writer: Prose

A naturalist at heart, Carey Denman grew up in South Dakota’s Black Hills, where she learned to nock an arrow, hook a fish, and forage for wood sorrel. Living just miles from the secret and wild places of her childhood, she now shares her passion for the outdoors with her own children.

She’s been candidly writing about her parenting adventures since 2012 as a weekly columnist for the Rapid City Journal. When she isn’t celebrating—or lamenting—the rites of parenthood, she’s writing for the Herbal Academy, an online and in-person school for burgeoning herbalists.

Carey holds an M.A. in Rhetoric and has taught writing and literature courses at a number of universities. In her spare time, she leads wild crafting workshops and tends her sprawling garden. She and her husband live on a small acreage near Hill City, South Dakota with their four children.


Story Catcher Festival Featured Writer: Alan Wilkinson

 A resident of Durham, England, Alan Wilkinson has made a living as a writer since the early 1990s. His main literary and historical interests lie in the American West, and he has completed twenty major road trips there in the last thirty years, crossing the region from north to south and east to west a dozen times. He has lived in New Mexico, where he studied writing under Rudy Anaya, and on a cattle-ranch in Nebraska. The Red House On The Niobrara (2014) came out of the experience; his 5000-mile road-trip from Mexico to Canada and back gave him the material for Toad’s Road-Kill Café (2012).

 Alan has a varied writing portfolio, and can testify to the life of a working writer. He started out producing articles, features and reviews for national newspapers, trade magazines and literary quarterlies, then progressed to books. He’s published around twenty, all of them historical or factual. Success in co-authoring and ghost writing assignments has given Alan the freedom to write for his own pleasure during half of each year–to pursue his interests in the American West (and various aspects of the great outdoors) and to maintain his blog (walkinonnails.blogspot.com).

He’s written for TV and radio (factual and drama), and has also been a Writer in Residence in Jack Kerouac’s old house, spent six months as a Wingate Scholar on a Nebraska cattle ranch, and supplemented his income as a reader of non-fiction for Britain’s foremost literary consultancy, TLC. In January 2015 he completed a 3-month residency in Taos, New Mexico, courtesy of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. A frequent visitor to the Sandhills and Pine Ridge region of the Story Catcher workshop, you can check out his latest adventures and publications at alan-wilkinson.com