I love creative retreats. It’s a time when I can escape from the nagging responsibilities of daily life and immerse myself in the creativity of some genre. In July I rejoined the Fishtrap experience, but this time instead of being in the remote grandeur of the Zumwalt Prairie like last summer, I attended the summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers for five days at the Wallowa Lake Lodge. Wallowa Lake is nestled at the foot of the rugged, snow-capped Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon, an eight hour drive frome my home in the Willamette Valley.
What is Fishtrap? Founded 35 years ago by forward-thinking writers Kim Stafford, Rich Wandschneider, and historian, Alvin Josephy this organization was created to provide support, connection, and education to West Coast writers
From their website “ Every July, readers, writers, journalists, historians, publishers, and lovers of the arts from all over the world gather at Wallowa Lake to write, to explore issues important to people of the West, and to make connections. The weeklong conference has provided hundreds of writers the opportunity to work with some of the best authors and teachers in the West including Ursula K. LeGuin, Luis Alberto Urrea, Bill Kittredge, Laura Pritchett, Anis Mojgani, Kathleen Dean Moore, and many, many others”.
Being in the budget category, I camped with others of the same ilk at Wallowa State Campground a 7-minute walk from the Lodge. The sparkling Wallowa River ran right by camp serenading us 24/7.
This 5-day conference did not disappoint. Every day we met with our classes from 9 AM-noon. I took an inspiring nonfiction workshop Called “Embracing the Chaos.” The fabulous Tim Hernandez, author of All They Will Call You was the instructor. Among the 12 other writers of varied backgrounds, there was a retired Navy Seal, a musician, anthropologist, rancher, artist, and musician. The afternoon offered craft talks and local field trips. Every evening had a program of readings by the instructors and from local community members of note. One night included a memorable presentation of luk’upsíimey / North Star Collective, a group of Nez Perce artists, writers, and Indigenous language activists.
Outside of the scheduled activities was the opportunity to connect with other writers over meals. My only complaint was introvert overload. There were just so many social and educational opportunities to be had that after two days I had to limit my activities to my morning class, meals with others, and then the evening presentations. I spent a portion of every afternoon exploring the local area, a kayak on the lake, a hike to a waterfall, and a tram ride to the top of Mt. Howard and napping.
I came away from the Fishtrap experience reinvigorated in my writing from my class and hearing the work of other writers. Lasting friendships were formed. My classmates are keeping in touch virtually and I have already connected in person with one of my camping buddies. My two friends that attended last year’s Fishtrap Outpost on the Zumwalt Prairie with me will be on the Outpost Snake River raft Trip down Hell’s Canyon. That will be a trip to remember.
Fishtrap – an excellent way to make writing a true adventure.
Some pages from my notebook…..