Since 2008, the coastal village of Point Reyes Station, California, has been home to one of northern California’s most exceptional literary festivals. Founded and presented by Point Reyes Books, the Geography of Hope Conference takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s description of wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” The 2015 gathering will feature a dozen or more of the country’s most admired writers who use poetry, fiction, or literary non-fiction to express a sense of urgency about environmental concerns and a fierce compassion for the well-being of the Earth. Registration opens December 1, 2014.
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WOMEN AND THE LAND: MAPPING A NEW GEOGRAPHY OF HOPE
Well-Being of the Earth Inspires Literary Gathering in West Marin
March 13, 14 & 15, 2015
Point Reyes Books and Black Mountain Circle announce the 2015 Geography of Hope Conference, “Mapping a New Geography of Hope: Women and the Land,” to take place on March 13, 14, and 15, 2015, in Point Reyes Station.
Authors Robin Wall Kimmerer and Kathleen Dean Moore will co-chair the gathering. A fierce compassion for the well-being of the Earth illuminates the writing of both women and helps deepen an understanding of the relationship between people and place. They will be joined by a dozen or more of the country’s most admired writers who also use language—whether poetry, fiction, or literary non-fiction—to express a sense of urgency about environmental concerns.
Since 2008, Point Reyes Books has sponsored one of northern California’s most exceptional literary gatherings. The biennial Geography of Hope Conference brings together leading writers and activists in the coastal village of Point Reyes Station for a three-day feast of readings, discussions, and activities to inspire and deepen an understanding of the relationships between people and place.
The conference takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s famous “Wilderness Letter” to Congress in support of the 1964 Wilderness Act. In it he described wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” Building on that, the 2015 gathering will be a conversation about how to map out a new geography of hope.
“To create this new perspective,” says GOH co-chair Kathleen Dean Moore, “will take every point of view and every imaginative power. So we are listening particularly for voices that might offer useful perspectives. That means we want to listen closely to women. We want to listen to people of color and to the poor. We want to listen to future generations. And we want to listen closely to other voices that offer new directions, new compass points, new trails across new terrain.”
The Geography of Hope Conference features panels and conversations held in a hay barn and in the West Marin elementary school gymnasium as well as art exhibits and installations at local galleries. Naturalist-led field trips to Point Reyes National Seashore let participants experience the land firsthand. Additional field trips go to privately owned farms and ranches in West Marin. Meals feature delicious food from Marin’s farms and ranches served family-style.
Updated information about participating writers and details of programming will be posted at ptreyesbooks.com as they become available. Tickets sales begin December 1, 2014.
About the Geography of Hope Since 2008, the coastal village of Point Reyes Station, California, has been home to one of northern California’s most exceptional literary festivals. Founded and presented by Point Reyes Books, Geography of Hope takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s famous description of wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” The 2015 gathering will feature a dozen or more of the country’s most admired writers who use poetry, fiction, or literary non-fiction to express a sense of urgency about environmental concerns and a fierce compassion for the well-being of the Earth.
About Black Mountain Circle Black Mountain Circle is a California nonprofit organization created by Point Reyes Books to explore the relationships between the arts, spirit, story, and place. The Circle serves as the fiscal sponsor of the bi-annual Geography of Hope Conference, the literary journal the West Marin Review, and an expanded set of programs hosted at the Point Reyes Presbyterian Church and elsewhere, including author events, retreats, films, book groups, and writing workshops for youths and adults.
Point Reyes Books presents the 2013 Geography of Hope Conference, “Igniting the Green Fire: Finding Hope in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic,” on March 15, 16, and 17, 2013, in Point Reyes Station. It is the first West Coast gathering of the world's foremost Aldo Leopold experts and the only opportunity to meet and hear from the creators and stars of Green Fire, the 2012 Emmy Award-winning film about Aldo Leopold's life and conservation legacy which will be screened at the conference.
In the tradition of past Geography of Hope conferences, the weekend features spirited conversations and presentations by prominent authors, naturalists, and conservation leaders, including: Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine; Aldo Leopold Foundation director Buddy Huffaker; former Natural Resources Conservation Service chief Paul Johnson; Center for Humans and Nature president Brooke Hecht; Leopold scholars Susan Flader and J. Baird Callicott; geologist and author Lauret Savoy; U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon; poet Robert Hass; author Gary Nabhan and “Planet Walker” John Francis; and Center for Whole Communities founder Peter Forbes (partial list).
They’ll examine Leopold’s legacy as a foundation for hope and for future conservation ideas and action in working landscapes, wilderness areas, forests, farms, and ranches. Naturalist-led field trips will allow participants to experience Leopold’s land ethic firsthand in Point Reyes National Seashore, and additional field trips will visit privately owned farms and ranches in West Marin to learn about the production of grass-fed beef and handcrafted goat cheese. Meals served during the weekend will feature food from Marin’s farms and ranches.
A conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast, Aldo Leopold is regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century. The author of Sand County Almanac, Leopold’s legacy continues to inform and inspire us in West Marin where his themes of community-based conservation and a land ethic are manifest in our preserved parklands and protected farmland.
About the Geography of Hope
Since 2008, the coastal village of Point Reyes Station, California, has been home to one of northern California’s most exceptional literary festivals. Founded and presented by Point Reyes Books, Geography of Hope takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s description of wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” The 2012–13 Geography of Hope events explore the overall theme of Practicing the Wild— not only with respect to the natural world, but also as an inextricable part of human character and culture.
The 2011 Geography of Hope Conference celebrates “Reflections on Water” with literary conversations, art, and field trips to farms, wetlands, and wilderness areas in the West Marin countryside. The Conference is co-chaired by award-winning poet Brenda Hillman and former United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass who bring a wealth of literary inspiration and personal magnetism to the event. It also features other established and emerging writers including Michael Ondaatje, William Least Heat-Moon, Tom Farber, Eddy L. Harris, Julia Whitty, Peter Gleick, Philip Fradkin, Alex Fradkin, Tim Palmer, Linda Spalding, Pamela Michael, Claire Peaslee, eco-poets Evelyn Reilly and Jonathan Skinner, and Heyday Books publisher Malcolm Margolin.
March 20-22, 2009
The Geography of Hope Conference is sponsored by the following organizations to benefit the Tomales Bay Library Association’s Writer in West Marin Program. For more information, please visit:
Marin Agricultural Land Trust
Marin Arts Council
Point Reyes Books
Tomales Bay Library Association
Toby's Feed Barn
Author and peach farmer David Mas Masumoto will chair the 2009 Geography of Hope: A Conference Celebrating Writing on Farming & Rural Life, in Point Reyes Station from March 20 to 22, 2009.
Listen to a rebroadcast of a conversation with Elisabeth Ptak, Rose Castillo Guilbault, and David Mas Masumoto about Point Reyes conference/art exhibits/walking tours March (courtesy of KWMR radio)
The first Geography of Hope conference, held in 2008, was one of the most exceptional literary events ever to take place in northern California. It was dedicated to Wallace Stegner , whose writings often reflected on the relationship between people and the land. Building on that theme, this year’s event will take as its focus writing on farming and the rural life featuring authors who are farmers, ranchers, and growers, people who—to paraphrase Barbara Kingsolver—have devoted their lives to the health of their habitat and food chain.
Conference chair David Mas Masumoto grows organic peaches and grapes on his family farm in Del Rey, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Author of Harvest Son, Epitaph for a Peach, and Four Seasons in Five Senses, the author has won numerous awards for his writing, which also has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. You can visit his website at www.masumoto.com.
Held in the heart of Marin County where the predominant land use is agriculture, the “Geography of Hope: Writing on Farming and the Rural Life” will explore the duality of inspiration and cultivation as expressed by some of the finest writers in the nation.
Joining Masumoto will be leaders in publishing, arts, culture, conservation, and literature, including Malcolm Margolin, Wendy Johnson, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Wes Jackson, Patricia Klindienst, Stanley Crawford, Rose Castillo Guilbault, Mildred Kalish, Greg Sarris and Warren Weber (partial list).
Field trips to nearby family farms and ranches will give conference attendees a chance to experience local agriculture, a tradition in western Marin County since the mid-19th century. Art installations, spirited panels and conversations, and delicious meals prepared with food from local farms and ranches will be hallmarks of the weekend as attendees gather in barns, gymnasiums, and community buildings, on farms and in parklands to explore the relationship between people and the land.
The phrase “geography of hope” ended Wallace Stegner’s famous 1961 Wilderness Letter and was a major factor in the passage of the landmark Wilderness Bill a few years later. The ideas in the letter also encompassed his wider concepts of the American West. Point Reyes Station, located adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore, is the commercial hub of an area where many land use concepts advocated by Stegner have taken root, including both wilderness protection and farmland preservation.
2009 Geography OF Hope Panelists
David Mas Masumoto (Honorary Chair) grows organic peaches and grapes on his family farm in Del Rey in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Author of Harvest Son, Epitaph for a Peach and Four Seasons in Five Senses, he has won numerous awards for his writing, which also has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. You can visit his website at: www.masumoto.com
Rose Castillo Guilbault is the author of Farmworker's Daughter:Growing Up Mexican in America. She was born in Sonora, Mexico, and grew up in the Salinas Valley of California. She is currently Vice President of Corporate Affairs at AAA of Northern California, Nevada, and Utah, and is Publisher of Via Magazine. She serves on the Board of Governors for the Commonwealth Club of California where she previously served as Chairperson.
Stanley Crawford farms and writes in Northern New Mexico. He is the author of five novels and three works of non-fiction, including A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm, and Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico. Active in the Santa Fe Farmers’ market for the past 20 years, he was instrumental in the creation of its new $4 million permanent facility.
Lisa Hamilton is a journalist who focuses on agriculture, particularly the stories of farmers and ranchers. As a writer and photographer she has traveled from sacred rice paddies in the Philippines to castration time on a Wyoming sheep ranch, and her work has been published in The Nation, Harper's, National Geographic Traveler, Orion, and Gastronomica. She is the author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness (Counterpoint, 2009).
Linda Hussa is the author of Sharing Fencelines (2002) which elaborates on issues facing rural communities and their desert landscape; Lige Langston: Sweet Iron (1999) and Diary of a Cowcamp Cook (1990). She is on the Board of Directors of the Western Folklife Center. Her most recent book, The Family Ranch offers readers a personal, inside view into the lives of six diverse ranching families and the land that shapes their days and nights. Photographer Madeleine Graham Blake provides engaging and often moving images that portray each family at work and at play.
Wes Jackson is the founder and current president of The Land Institute. Jackson is the author of several books, including New Roots for Agriculture and Becoming Native to This Place and is recognized as a leader in the international sustainable agriculture movement.
Wendy Johnson is one of the founders of the organic Farm and Garden Program at Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin County, California, where she lived with her family from 1975-2000. She is the author of the recently published Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World.
Mildred Kalish is a retired professor of English who grew up in Garrison, Iowa, and taught at several colleges, including the University of Iowa, Adelphi University, and Suffolk County Community College. She now lives with her husband in northern California. She is the author of Little Heathens – Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression.
Patricia Klindienst is the author of The Earth Knows my Name: Food, Culture, & Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. In her own description, this book is the first to "restore the cultural meaning of gardens created by ethnic Americans, including Native Americans, Gullah descendants of West African slaves, Hispanics whose ancestors came with the conquistadors, and immigrants from across Europe and Asia." She has taught at Yale, Wesleyan and Connecticut College.
Verlyn Klinkenborg is a writer for The New York Times. He is the author of "Making Hay" (1986), "The Last Fine Time" (1991) and "The Rural Life" (2003). His work has appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, National Geographic, The New Republic, Smithsonian, Audubon, GQ, Gourmet, Martha Stewart Living, Sports Afield and The New York Times Magazine. He has taught literature and creative writing at Fordham University, St. Olaf College, Bennington College and Harvard. He lives in rural New York.
Judith Larner Lowry has been the proprietor of Larner Seeds, specialists in California native plants and seeds, for the last thirty years. Her work involves wildland seed gathering, seed propagation and increase, designing homeowner restoration projects, and promoting native plants as food. She is the author of two books published by UC Press, Gardening with a Wild Heart (1999) and The Landscaping Ideas of Jays (2006). In 2005, she won the John Burrough Society Award for Best Published Nature Essay. She lives in Marin and Mendocino Couty with her husband.
Mike Madison is the author of Blithe Tomato, and Walking the Flatlands: The Rural Landscape of the Lower Sacremento Valley. He lives with his wife Diane in Winters, California, where they, grow olives, melons, apricots, citrus and flowers on thirty three acres on the Lower Putah Creek. They also operate Yolo Press, an olive oil processing mill serving Yoloa and Solano counties.
Malcolm Margolin founded Heyday Books in 1974. Heyday publishes books on California history, natural history, literature, travel and Native American life. Among the books that he has written are The East Bay Out: A Personal Guide to the East Bay Regional Parks, The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area.
Nikiko Masumoto holds a B.A. in Gender and Women’s studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the daughter of David Mas Masumoto and grew up on their 80-acre family farm in Del Rey in California’s Central Valley. She is committed to building a foundation for the next generation of farmers and runs Central Valley school youth leadership programs that focus on issues of self esteem, sexism, body image, racism and language barriers. Nikiko is also a Taiko Japanese drummer, writer and poet.
Greg Sarris is a college professor, author, screenwriter, and current Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He has published several books, including the widely anthologized collection of essays, Keeping Slug Woman Alive; A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts.
Warren Weber, owner of Star Route Farms, operates the oldest continuously certified organic farm in California. He began farming 5 acres in Bolinas in 1974 with a horse-drawn plow and a lot of "long-haired ambition". He's long since cut his hair and grown his acreage, and now produces some of the Bay Area's most sought after leafy greens, herbs, edible flowers, legumes and tender seasonal vegetables. Weber says that from the beginning "we have really been in business for the people who consume our products, rather than in business for the yield."
For three days during early March, the small coastal town of Pt. Reyes Station (Population 818) was the center of one of the most exceptional literary conferences ever held in northern California, Geography of Hope: Celebrating Wallace Stegner.
Sixteen writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry books; newspaper and magazine journalists; literary agents and attorneys, book critics, and academics from the West Coast, New York City, and Canada gathered in Pt. Reyes from March 7-9 to talk about Wallace Stegner and his concept of “the Geography of Hope.”
This phrase ended Stegner’s famous 1961 wilderness letter and was a major factor in the passage of the Wilderness Bill a few years later. The ideas in the letter also encompassed his wider concepts of the American West. Pt. Reyes Station, forty miles north of San Francisco and adjacent to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, is the commercial hub of western Marin County where many of the land use concepts advocated by Stegner have taken root.
Stegner was the West’s best known writer of fiction and nonfiction, conservation advocate, and teacher of such writers at Stanford’s Creative Writing Program as Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Robert Stone, Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey, and Scott Turow. He received countless awards and honors during his lifetime (1909-1993), including the Pulitzer Prize for Angle of Repose and the National Book Award for Spectator Bird.
To honor Stegner on his 99th birthday, celebrate the publication of three new books and one journal that reflect his spirit and concerns, and to initiate a ground-breaking new program in the schools, his son and daughter-in-law, Page and Lynn Stegner, were present at the conference. Both are accomplished writers. Other panelists included Barry Lopez, Merrill Joan Gerber, William Kittredge, Rebecca Solnit, Philip Fradkin, Annick Smith, David Rains Wallace, Mark Dowie, Harold Gilliam, and Sharon Butala, who lives on a ranch near the small prairie town in Saskatchewan where Stegner was raised.
Also present at the conference was Carl D. Brandt, whose literary agency represented Stegner interests since 1937, and Jonathan Kirsch, author, attorney and book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times. Melody Graulich is the editor of the journal of the Western American Literature Association and teaches Stegner’s books to students at Utah State University. The chair of the conference was Robert Hass, two-term U. S. Poet Laureate who has just won the National Book Award for his poetry. Hass was a student at Stanford when Stegner headed the writing program and they had frequent conversations.
Of this assemblage and the man they are honoring, California author and State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr said: “As a man of letters, Wallace Stegner excelled as a novelist, biographer, historian, and literary activist on behalf of environmental causes. And now, thanks to this conference, writers of comparable stature will be gathering to assess the legacy and lasting influence of a revered colleague in whose footsteps they are privileged to follow.”
The conference represented one of the most distinguished literary gatherings in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. Its panelists have received three National Book Awards, three National Book Critic Circle Awards, two Lannan Literary Awards, two John Burroughs Medals for Nature Writing, a Pulitzer Prize, three National Magazine Awards, a Pen/Faulker Award, a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, four Commonwealth Club of California writing awards, three Stegner Fellowships, the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement from the Los Angeles Times (the first was received by Wallace Stegner in 1980), and numerous other honors including two members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the co-producer for an Academy Award film based on a prize-winning book about the West.
Education was all-important to the man who grew up on a prairie homestead, whose parents did not finish the sixth grade, and who made the journey from the Saskatchewan frontier to Salt Lake City to the University of Iowa to Harvard University to Stanford University and the higher echelons of the intellectual elite in this country. All proceeds above costs for the conference will go toward establishing a unique writer-in-the-schools program in West Marin. While writers are in residence in many universities, creative writing is badly neglected in grade and high schools. It is the hope of conference organizers to rectify that situation locally and provide a national model for others to follow.
Conference sponsors include Tomales Bay Library Association, Wells Fargo Bank, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Point Reyes Books, Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Books, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and the Stanford Creative Writing Program.
BIOGRAPHIES OF PARTICIPANTS IN THE STEGNER CONFERENCE
CARL D. BRANDT: The firm of Brandt & Brandt, now Brandt & Hochman, is one of the oldest literary agencies in New York City and has represented Wallace Stegner and the Stegner Estate since 1937. First Bernice Baumgarten of the firm, a legendary agent who was married to the novelist James Gould Cozzens, then Carl’s father, mother, and lastly Carl represented Stegner.
SHARON BUTALA: This award-winning Canadian author, whose fifteen books center on life on the Saskatchewan prairie, has lived for the last thirty years on a ranch near Eastend, where Wallace Stegner spent his formative years. She and her husband Peter donated 13,100 acres of their ranch to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Butala was instrumental in preserving Stegner‘s Eastend home as a retreat for writers and artists.
JOHN DANIEL: A Stegner Fellow, lecturer at Stanford, and tenant of the Stegners in the mid-1980s, Daniel got to know the Stegners on a personal basis. He is the author of eight books of memoir, personal essays and poetry. Daniel’s most recent book is Rogue River Journal, for which he won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association award.
MARK DOWIE: The award-winning investigative journalist, former editor and publisher of Mother Jones magazine, and author of seven books, including Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century, teaches at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism and has been active in local environmental issues in West Marin.
PHILIP L. FRADKIN: The author of eleven books on the American West, including A River No More: The Colorado River and the West which Stegner praised as “looking illusion in the eye until it blinks,” Fradkin‘s biography Wallace Stegner and the American West will be published by Knopf in February.
MERRILL JOAN GERBER: The author of seven novels, one of which won the Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award, as well as five volumes of short stories and three books of nonfiction. Her most recent novel is The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn. Gerber has also contributed to numerous literary journals and teaches writing at the California Institute of Technology. She was a Stegner Fellow.
HAROLD GILLIAM: The former environmentalist columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle was a student of Stegner’s at Stanford University and followed him to Washington, D.C., where he also worked for Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall. He is the author of many books, among them Island in Time about the Point Reyes peninsula.
MELODY GRAULICH: A professor of English and American studies at Utah State University, Graulich is the editor of the journal Western American Literature. She teaches his books to students from the state where Stegner lived as a young man and has written a number of essays on his works. Graulich is currently editing a volume of letters of Mary Hallock Foote, on whose life and letters Stegner based Angle of Repose.
ROBERT HASS: A two-term poet laureate of the United States, twice winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and a MacArthur Award, Hass is a professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of numerous poetry books, editor of collections, and translator of the poetry of Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. Hass was acquainted with Stegner while a graduate student at Stanford in the creative writing program.
JONATHAN KIRSCH: The son of longtime Los Angeles Times book critic Robert Kirsch, who Stegner praised for his astute criticism, Kirsch is the author of ten nonfiction books and an attorney specializing in publishing law and intellectual property rights. He reviews books for the Times and for years specialized in reviewing books on the American West.
WILLIAM KITTREDGE: Raised on a ranch where he worked until the age of thirty-five, Kittredge was a Stegner Fellow and Regents Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Montana. After writing collections of essays, short stories, and a memoir he published his first novel The Willow Field in 2006 and was cited in the San Francisco Chronicle as being “one of the American West’s most respected fiction writers.”
BARRY LOPEZ: The essayist and author of works of fiction and nonfiction has written about the relationship between physical landscape and human culture in such books as Arctic Dreams, which won a National Book Award, and more recently on themes of resistance and reconciliation. Like Wallace Stegner and William Kittredge, he has taught at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
LYNN STEGNER: The daughter-in-law of Mary and Wallace Stegner has written four novels, the most recent being the critically-acclaimed Because a Fire Was in My Head. She edited and wrote the forward to Wallace Stegner: On Teaching and Writing Fiction. Stegner is the director of the Santa Fe Writer’s Workshop.
PAGE STEGNER: The only child of Mary and Wallace Stegner is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction and is the editor of a number of collections. His most recent book is The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner to be published this fall by Shoemaker & Hoard. He headed the creative writing program at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
DAVID RAINS WALLACE: The author of sixteen books, Wallace won the John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing for The Klamath Knot. His works include The Turquoise Dragon, The Quetzal and the Macaw, The Bonehunters' Revenge, and The Monkey's Bridge, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Stegner wrote the forward for The Wilder Shore.
ANNICK SMITH: Bridging the worlds of films and books, Smith was a founding board member of the Sundance Film Institute, co-producer of the Academy-winning film A River Runs Through It, executive producer of Heartland, the author of four books, and co-editor with her longtime companion William Kittredge of The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology. She lives on a ranch in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley.
REBECCA SOLNIT: The author of twelve books - among them A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Hope in the Dark and Storming the Gates of Paradise - Solnit won the prestigious Lannan Literary Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for River of Shadows in 2003. Along with Fradkin, she wrote the text for Mark Klett’s photography book After the Ruins: 1906 and 2006.