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Debra Marquart, English, (515) 294-3173

Pat Miller, Lectures, (515) 294-9935

Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986

2nd annual 'Wildness, Wilderness and Creative Imagination' writing conference at Iowa State to be Feb. 20-22

AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa State University Creative Writing program will hold a free public symposium on "Wildness, Wilderness and the Creative Imagination" in the Memorial Union Monday though Wednesday, Feb. 20-22. All events are open to the public.

"The symposium will feature readings by visiting authors, a documentary film, and panel discussions," said Associate Professor of English Debra Marquart, symposium coordinator. "This year's topic is 'Restorying the Land: Transformation of Place through Memory, Narrative, and Imagination.'"

The symposium begins at 7 p.m. Feb. 20, in the Sun Room with a performance of Midwest bluegrass and folk music from the Midwest by "The Mike & Amy Finders Band." At 8 p.m., author Dan O'Brien will read from and discuss his book, "Buffalo for the Broken Heart." The book is a memoir on the history of bison on the northern plains and an account of the first two years following O'Brien's decision to convert his South Dakota ranch to raising bison. O'Brien has been a teacher and a wildlife biologist. He is also the author of "Equinox: Life, Love and Birds of Prey" and the novels "The Indian Agent," "Brendan Prairie," and "The Contract Surgeon."

Other events will include:

Tuesday, Feb. 21

  • 9 a.m., Oak Room -- "Mapping the Invisible Landscape." Panel members: Thomas Rice, department chair and associate professor of art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Mich.; Patrick Schnable, associate director of Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute and professor of agronomy and genetics, development and cell biology; Maya Socolovsky, assistant professor of English; and Marquart, moderator. A writer, artist, literary critic and geneticist will discuss their methodologies of discovery.
  • 10:45 a.m., Oak Room -- "Matters of Life and Death: 'Harvesting' Animals." Panel members: Ron Andrews, state furbearer biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Stacey Brown, produce manager for Wheatsfield Grocery Store, Ames; Joe Cordray, professor of animal science, ISU Meat Lab; Dan O'Brien, novelist/memoirist and buffalo rancher; and Stephen Pett, associate professor of English, moderator. The panel will explore the ways in which Americans have killed and kill animals and the consequences for the environment and for society.
  • 1:30 p.m., Oak Room -- "Wilderness and Planted Fields: Finding a Place for Human Beings in Agricultural and Environmental Consciousness." Panel members: Fred Kirschenmann, ISU Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture Distinguished Fellow; A. Whitney Sanford, associate professor of religious studies; and Clark Wolf, director of ISU's bioethics program and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, moderator. The panel will discuss the idea that wilderness and wildness play in philosophy, story telling and religious convictions. It also will consider the place that human beings occupy in ideals of environmental preservation.
  • 3 p.m., Sun Room -- "Fiction Reading by Visiting Creative Writing Professor Jon Billman, 'When We Were Wolves.'"
  • 3:45 p.m., Sun Room -- "Nokomis -- Voices of Anishinabe Grandmothers." Author/filmmaker Sarah Penman discusses her Emmy-nominated documentary. For the film, Penman collected the narratives from three Ojibwe women from Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Following a viewing of the film, Penman will discuss her process and other projects, including her recent book of oral narratives, "Honor the Grandmothers: Dakota and Lakota Women Tell Their Stories."
  • 7 p.m., Sun Room -- "The Bone People," musical performance of jazz-poetry, rhythm and blues.
  • 8 p.m., Sun Room -- "Dog Road Woman." Reading and lecture by author Allison Hedge Coke. Coke has written two poetry collections, "Off-Season City Pipe" and "Dog Road Woman" (winner of he 1998 American Book Award). Coke also is an assistant professor of English at Northern Michigan University, Marquette.

Wednesday, Feb. 22

  • 9 a.m., Oak Room -- "Tribute to Aldo Leopold." A celebration of the life and work of the man ISU's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is named after. Presenters are Sara Gregg, assistant professor of history; James Pritchard, adjunct assistant professor of landscape architecture; and Thomas Dean from the Center for Place Studies at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
  • 10:30 a.m., Oak Room -- "The Elements and Imagination." Panel members: Lee Honeycutt, associate professor of English; A. Whitney Sanford, associate professor of religious studies; Scott Stevens, a meteorologist with NBC affiliate KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho; and visiting professor Jon Billman, moderator. The panel will discuss topics such as elemental energy, ethics and even weaponry.
  • 1 p.m., Oak Room -- "Domestication and Eco-Catastrophe." Panel members: Marc Edward, Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Lonnie Gamble, co-founder of Abundance Ecovillage, Fairfield; Richard Manning, a newspaper editor and investigative journalist in Montana and Southern Idaho and author of books on environmental issues; and Roger Gipple, Agrestal founder, moderator. The panel will discuss the domestication on our landscape and ourselves.
  • 2:30 p.m., Oak Room -- "Truth and the Strangeness of Fiction: How a Memory Becomes a Narrative." Panel members: Alicia Hernandez; Jenny Maddox; Julia Sweet; and Matthew Abbott, all graduate students in English. This panel of ISU creative writing graduate students will discuss their wild side by exploring how these terms appear in their work and creative process.
  • 4 p.m., Oak Room -- "Feral Zones in Urban Landscapes." Panel members: Mira Engler, associate professor of landscape architecture; Daniel Krier, assistant professor of sociology; James Pease, assistant professor of natural resource ecology and management; and David Zimmerman, assistant professor of English, moderator. The panel will explore the notion of wildness in the urban landscape: what it is, what it means and what it is becoming.
  • 7 p.m., Sun Room -- Musical performance, wind synthesizer and guitar, "World Port."
  • 8 p.m., Sun Room -- "Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization." Reading and lecture by journalist and author Richard Manning.

For more information on the symposium, visit

The symposium is sponsored by Iowa State's Creative Writing program, The Writer's Bloc, the Agrestal Fund, the Committee on Lectures (funded by the Government of the Student Body) and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Quick look

The Creative Writing program will hold a free public symposium on "Wildness, Wilderness and the Creative Imagination" in the Memorial Union Monday to Wednesday, Feb. 20 - 22.