The upcoming Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference is part of the oldest writers’ conference in America – an annual event envisioned by Robert Frost that has attended such literary greats as Sinclair Lewis, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright and John Irving.
As a geographer by training, Missouri Southern’s Dr. John Davenport says he may be “a little bit of an oddball in the group,” but his application to attend the prestigious conference was recently accepted.
Set for June 1-7 on the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vt., the weeklong conference will include workshops, classes, lectures, readings and discussions. It is open to “writers of poetry, nonfiction and fiction whose work engages with or advocates for nature and the environment,” according to the conference website, as well as “environmental professionals, journalists and teachers wanting to strengthen and explore their writing in a literary context.”
“I’ve always had an interest in environmental topics,” says Davenport, an assistant professor of geography. “And my background in geography has helped to equip me to write about the things I write about.”
Davenport’s most recent work is featured in the Spring 2018 issue of “Great Plains Quarterly.” The article is entitled “Making the Buffalo Commons New Again: Rangeland Restoration and Bison Reintroduction in the Montana Highline,” and was drawn from his time living and working in Montana.
He submitted the piece for the Bread Loaf conference application, along with “The Complex Nature of Field Work: Goethe and Mondrian’s Phenomenology in Practice.” Davenport says that a portion of that work came from his dissertation, which he recently updated.
“It’s basically nature-based writing about their ideas and work,” he says.
A German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Geothe was known for his novels and poetry but also his interest in natural science. Piet Mondrian was a Dutch landscape painter who later became known for his abstract, nature-based work.
“The conference has a lengthy application process,” says Davenport. “I had to submit an application letter and a writing sample, and then had to follow up with the manuscript from another work. My entry was in environmental non-fiction.”
Davenport says he is excited to attend the event and looks forward to the opportunity to hear and learn from other writers with an interest in environmental topics.
“The conference is not so much about workshops as it is readings,” he says. “There will be presentations by faculty members from other institutions around the country and the world.”