Come to Minnesota to Write This Summer

categories: Cocktail Hour

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bemidji-1Cold and miserable? Try thinking ahead to summer. Better yet think ahead to the week of summer solstice in beautiful northern Minnesota. Now add writing to the mix…..


Boy I should have gone into advertising and bagged this book-writing thing. Anyway, the above is my attempt to seduce you into signing up for my “Writing from Place” workshop at the Minnesota Northwoods Writing Conference starting this June 20th and running through Friday June 26th.


Here’s a description of my class:

Creative Nonfiction ~ David Gessner


This is a workshop in creative nonfiction with a special emphasis on writing about place. We will explore the role that writing about places—sometimes natural places, sometimes not—can play in writing personal essays and memoir. For nonfiction writers who are stuck for a subject, place often unlocks other topics and deeper concerns. For some writers turning their minds to a specific place they care for—a home, a patch of woods, a beach—can prove a reliable muse. At the same time, writing about deeply knowing a place can make us feel a little mystical, even silly. As the great Alaskan writer John Haines said: “To express a place in art we need to take certain risks . . . we need intimacy of a sort that demands a certain daring and risk: a surrender, an abandonment.” Or as Barry Lopez puts it, we need to “become vulnerable to a place.” We’ll attempt this in our work and our reading.



David Gessner is the author of nine books, including the forthcoming All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West, Return of the Osprey, Sick of Nature, My Green Manifesto, and The Tarball Chronicles, which won the 2012 Reed Award for Best Book on the Southern Environment and the Association for Study of Literature and the Environment’s award for best book of creative writing in 2011 and 2012. He has published essays in many magazines, including Outside magazine and the New York Times Magazine, and has won the John Burroughs Award for Best Nature Essay, a Pushcart Prize, and inclusion in Best American Nonrequired Reading.  He recently appeared on MSNBC’s The Cycle to offer his take on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Gessner taught Environmental Writing as a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard, and is currently a Professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he founded the award-winning literary journal of place, Ecotone.

He also puts a lot of energy into blogging for Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, a website he created with the writer Bill Roorbach. He still dreams of winning the national championship in ultimate Frisbee, but knows it will never happen.


And here’s the schedule:



Minnesota Northwoods Writers’ Conference Schedule 2015

Saturday, June 20
12:00 PM – 5:00 PM Registration & Informal Reception
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM Opening Dinner*
7:30 PM Reading Series, Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 Sunday, June 21
8:00 AM – 8:50 AM Sunday Breakfast*
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM Craft Talk by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
10:10 AM – 12:45 PM Workshops
1:15 PM – 3:15 PM Pontoon outings on Lake Bemidji and BBQ
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Consultations
7:30 PM Reading Series, David Gessner 

Monday, June 22
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM Craft Talk by Matt de la Peña
10:10 AM – 12:45 PM Workshops
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Craft Talk by Mark Doty, Fiskum Distinguished Visiting Writer
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Consultations
7:30 PM Reading Series, Mark Doty, Fiskum Distinguished Visiting Writer 

Tuesday, June 23
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM Craft Talk by Tayari Jones
10:10 AM – 12:45 PM Workshops
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Editor’s Talk
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Participant Reading HS 112
7:30 PM Reading Series, Matt de la Peña

Wednesday, June 24
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM Craft Talk by Joni Tevis
10:10 AM – 12:45 PM Workshops
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Consultations
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Participant Reading HS 112
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Lakeside Picnic*
7:30 PM Reading Series, Tayari Jones   

Thursday, June 25
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM Craft Talk by David Gessner
10:10 AM – 12:45 PM Workshops
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM Consultations
7:30 PM Reading Series, Joni Tevis 

Friday, June 26
8:30 AM Closing Breakfast*
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Faculty Publishing Panel Talk
12:00 Noon Check-out










  1. George de Gramont writes:

    Rumour has it that Ted Morgan will attend course!