This October 17-19th, on the shores of Lake Morey, authors, editors, educators and nature enthusiasts will gather for a weekend conference focused on writing about the nature of our region, and the connections between people and place. This is the first year for the Northern Woodlands Writers’ Conference, which organizers hope to establish as an annual event. The weekend’s schedule includes intensive workshops and panel discussions, readings, a nature illustration class, and also “down time” opportunities: woods walks, syrup tasting, and brief talks on fun subjects such as coyote howls.
The event is organized by The Center for Northern Woodlands Education – the nonprofit that publishes Northern Woodlands magazine. It is hosted by the Aloha Foundation’s Hulbert Outdoor Center, and is sponsored by The Trust for Public Land. Speakers include a number of regionally and nationally known names, including keynote speaker John Elder and author Howard Frank Mosher, as well as up and coming writers, including Vermont naturalist Patti Smith, who will give a reading from her recently published book, The Beavers of Popple’s Pond – Sketches from the Life of an Honorary Rodent. Northern Woodlands editor Dave Mance III and the magazine’s co-founders, Virginia Barlow and Stephen Long, will also participate in the weekend.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of interest this first year,” says Jason Knowles, Director at Hulbert Outdoor Center. Approximately 50 people – twice the initial attendance goal – have already enrolled. These participants include working and beginning writers, but also teachers, readers, and others interested in nature topics.
Knowles says the conference is a product of the “mutual admiration society” between Hulbert and Northern Woodlands – taking advantage of the groups’ respective specializations in outdoor programming and communications. The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, was likewise an obvious fit, given that nonprofit’s leading role in protecting important forest land throughout northern New England, including the Brushwood Community Forest. Brushwood, one of the most significant undeveloped blocks of forest in the Upper Connecticut Valley corridor, provides important ecological and economic benefits to the surrounding communities. It contributes to the serene views and recreational opportunities surrounding Hulbert’s lakeside campus.
Elise Tillinghast, publisher of Northern Woodlands, emphasizes Hulbert’s natural setting, and the conference’s “personal scale,” as key attractions. “We’re keeping this event informal enough to allow meaningful interactions between enrolled participants and speakers,” she says. Describing the weekend as a “rolling party with a nature theme,” she says she’s looking forward to, “the conversations around the fire, as much as the formal discussions.”
“This is an opportunity to meet an amazing group of writers and other creative folks, and to explore the writing process,” she said. “The Northeast has a rich tradition of creative works connected to natural landscapes. We’ll celebrate that tradition. We’ll also roast s’mores.”
Enrollment information is accessible via the Hulbert Outdoor Center website, or by calling 802-333-3405. Student discounts, a Saturday day rate, and teacher professional development certificates are available.