DEAR AMERICA: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy

This collection began with my Letter to America published in just after to cataclysmic 2016 election. I wrote: “Think of the great spirit of inventiveness the Earth calls forth after each major disturbance it suffers. Be artful, inventive, and just, my friends, but do not be silent.” Hundreds answered the call in terrain, driven by outrage, heartbreak, and determination. Many of those works are now collected in this volume edited by Simmons Buntin, Elizabeth Dodd, and Derek Sheffield from Trinity University Press. Visit for multimedia and other resources to support the reading, discussion, and teaching of the book.

Grand Manan Field Studies & Field Studies Southwest 2017: New Arrivals

The University of Arizona Creative Writing Program is pleased to announce the third year of its Field Studies in Writing Program on Grand Manan Island in the Canadian Maritimes, made possible with support from the Agnese Nelms Haury Program Environment and Social Justice and under the leadership of Alison Hawthorne Deming, Haury Chair and Regents’ Professor. This initiative is intended to explore how the literary arts can create humane responses to climate change, environmental, social justice and border issues. The program has launched a companion project Field Studies Southwest this summer in southern Arizona. We will include posts for that project here as well, so stay tuned for portraits of two “border” regions.

 Three MFA Creative Writing candidates will participate in each project, spending two weeks in residence to work on research and writing based on site visits, field trips, archival research, oral histories and interviews. The goal is to spur documentary arts project and community collaborations bringing to light new place-based stories.

GRAND MANAN, New Brunswick, Canada

Grand Manan with its 200-year history in traditional fisheries is in a period of radical cultural shift due to the decline of fish in the North Atlantic. This working island with 2500 year-round residents is Deming’s summer home, where she has been a part-year resident since childhood. The viability and sustainability of the local culture is deeply tied to the sustainability of marine life. In recent years the island has enjoyed a bountiful lobster harvest, as the crustaceans move north with warming ocean waters. 


Katie Gougelet is an MFA candidate in Creative Nonfiction Writing. She writes about environmental change, contamination, health, and justice. She is currently working on a project to understand the United States’ transition away from coal power, and what this transition means for the long-term health of communities that used to provide this resource to the rest of the country.

Claire McLane is an MFA candidate in poetry, born and raised in Tucson, AZ. The natural world of the Sonoran Desert and the Sky Island region play a critical role in her creative process. Claire’s poems are interested in the unseen structures of self/body, environment, family, economy, memory, and grief. Claire has a five-year-old son whose presence is strong in her writing, as is her experience of motherhood. Claire has been interested in black and white photography since she was a child, and has logged many hours in the darkroom, but hasn’t dived fully into the digital world yet, and would like to explore combining photography with her writing.

Josh Riedel is a fiction writer from Oregon. Before enrolling in the MFA program at the University of Arizona, he worked for eight years in the technology industry, at Facebook and Instagram. He writes about how technology (re)shapes the world around us. He serves as a digital editor for Fairy Tale Review and reads for Sonora Review. He’s taught English in Vietnam and at the University of Arizona and has also operated two Ferris wheels.


Joshua Riedel, Claire McLane and Katie Gougelet arriving on Grand Manan V on July 5



Introducing the island to newcomers is always a pleasure. From Swallowtail Lighthouse to Southwest Head, beauty abounds. At this time of year when the lobster fishing as just ended (except for the Grey Zone) for the season, I especially enjoy seeing work begin constructing herring weirs. In North Head near the fishermen’s wharf, stacks of timbers have arrived, sharpened to a pencil point, that will become weir stakes. The stakes are up to 70 feet long, some a bit longer. They are sugar gum and oak, some spliced with metal collars to attain the needed length for driving them into the ocean floor to anchor the twine.

Weir stakes ready to go

Birch top poles


Herring weirs are a commercial

scale adaptation of the traditional brush weirs built

along the Atlantic seaboard

by Native Americans. They work well at capturing herring

that come close to shore to feed. And they are a beauty

to behold.




The Intruder is a weir built below Swallowtail Lighthouse.

This one is not yet up for 2017, but rumor has it that it will be soon.

Intruder, 2010

We also spent 45 minutes of hard labor helping Friends of Grand Manan Trails lay down asphalt shingles along the boardwalk at the Anchorage Park. With about 20 able workers, a job we thought would take 3 hours was speedily accomplished The boardwalk has been perilously slick in wet weather, so this will make it safe for all such occasions. And it turns out our writers are quite capable with a hammer.


And the job site was certainly no hardship.

Checking out the spreading ground where fresh-picked Dark Harbour dulse is drying in the sun.

Later today we will have a guest post from Raquel Gutierrez who is participating in this summer’s Field Studies Southwest! Much more to come.