Postcard from Wildbranch: Day One

A retired biology professor. A backcountry ranger. Several teachers. Two lawyers and a health care professional. Any number of scientists and people working in the sciences. A psychologist. A working journalist. A photographer. At least three people who have published books, and well as those who have never had any of their work published. Several younger people just out of college, and several not-as-young ones in the throes of career change.

For twenty-five years the Wildbranch Writing Workshop has taken place in the spruce woodlands of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom; Orion has sponsored it for the last dozen years or so. The workshop attracts all sorts of people, who come for many different reasons. Some are attempting to make the quantum leap into becoming full-time writers. Some, as one participant put it during the introductory session last night, are trying to figure out “what writing looks like in the real world.” Some are working to deepen their relationship with the world. Some come with specific writing projects they are trying to finish. But the thirty-two participants here for this year’s workshop all have one thing in common: they are all striving to become better advocates for the environment, through becoming better writers.

For the next five days participants will write, work with the faculty, meet with Orion editors, write some more, attend panels on writing and publishing, and write some more. In between, when they aren’t writing, they will birdwatch, canoe, eat food grown here on the Sterling College farm, hike the local roads and trails, and rest. And then they will write some more.

This week the Wildbranch faculty—David Gessner, Ginger Strand, and Chris Cokinos—will be making posts to this blog to pass along their thoughts about what it means to be a writer. If you’re a writer and have a question for one of them, send it along to {encode=”” title=””}. On Friday we’ll post as many of them as we can, along with David, Ginger, and Chris’s responses.

H. Emerson Blake is Editor-in-Chief of Orion.


  1. Glad to read these updates, Chip. Wildbranch was a truly formative experience for me, in my nonfiction writing development, and something I’d love to do again some time. Looking forward to these updates this week.

  2. Reading this post just inspired me to make up the word “birdlisten” ; it is such a visceral experience compared to birdwatching. I can deepen my relationship with nature and share that experience with others by writing. Cool!

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