BY sage Sauerbrey
The tradition of bringing incredible writers to Sierra Nevada College continued on Nov. 7-8, with a visit from Kevin Fedarko for the latest Writers in the Woods event. Fedarko worked as a staff writer for Time Magazine from 1991-1997, senior editor for Outside Magazine, and his first and latest book, “The Emerald Mile”, won the National Outdoor Book Award.
Fedarko was not on track to become an award winning author after college, but a bilingual degree threw him into the world of journalism.
“I sort of stumbled into the field backwards,” said Fedarko. “I did my graduate degree in Russian History at Oxford and when I came back to the states I was hired as a fact checker for Time Magazine because they thought I spoke Russian and were led to believe I was more fluent than I actually was. Over the next seven years I gradually worked my way up to staff writer and eventually to correspondent.”
When Fedarko was offered a promotion to become foreign correspondent but he turned it down for a job at “a little magazine in Santa Fe” called Outside Magazine.
“I packed up, left New York and drove west,” Fedarko said. “I was the senior editor there and it was my job to commission writers and send them off to really exotic and amazing parts of the world, and I was overcome by an incurable sense of jealousy. I didn’t want to be sending people off and then cleaning up their prose for them when they got back, I wanted to be one of the people that was dispatched.”
After five years Fedarko quit his job at Outside Magazine to become a freelance writer.
“I enjoyed everything except the poverty,” Fedarko said. “There are very few ways to make less money than you can as a freelance magazine writer. Well, one of them is to become an unpaid baggage mover in the Grand Canyon so I managed to find both of them.”
Fedarko lives what he writes. For about five seasons he rowed a gear boat down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for a company called O.A.R.S, which happens to be the ancestor of the outfit the majority of his book is about.
According to Fedarko, “The Emerald Mile” is essentially a long winded love letter to the Grand Canyon and the dories that brave its waters, as well as an exciting narrative of the fastest speed run through the canyon and the Glen Canyon Dam spillway crisis of 1983. Fedarko does not hide his fixation with dories, the craft that carried Kenton Grua, Rudi Petchek, and Steve Reynolds down the Grand Canyon in less than 37 hours.
“There’s a swan-like grace to those boats that even someone who doesn’t understand boats and doesn’t understand whitewater can apprehend, and appreciate the grace and sinuosity and beauty in the simplicity of the boats,” Fedarko said.
The speed run, the proclaimed focus of the book, actually inhabits a very small portion of the narrative itself. While Fedarko was writing he stumbled upon a host of other tales which all came together to make the epic run possible. One of these was the spillway crisis of 1983, when enough water was released from the Glen Canyon dam to increase the speed of the Colorado river exponentially.
“It almost became so big that it threatened to take over the narrative of the book, because it was so fascinating,” Fedarko said. “As all river guides do down there, I had been encouraged to view the dam as a monstrous act of evil and the men who built it as villains. The problem with non-fiction is that at some point during the course of your work, you actually have to go and talk to the people you are preparing to villainize. I came away from those interviews kind of shocked and messed up because my assumptions had been overturned. I still don’t necessarily agree with the dam, but those engineers are men of integrity who did their job very well.”
“The Emerald Mile” turned out to not only be a story of three boatmen racing against time and the river, but also a team of engineers racing the very same foes. It also represents two other aspects of the american identity, Fedarko said.
“The story of the spillway crisis of 1983, that was the greatest challenge of their lives; stopping that runaway river and repairing the integrity of one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the West. So for me I neither view the dam as benign, nor evil. I view it as an essential part of the story the Grand Canyon contains. It represents two different aspects of how we view nature: our desire and our need to control it, and the emphatic and passionate desire to celebrate and immerse ourselves in it,” Fedarko said.
In Gayle Brandeis’ classroom, the students read aloud stories from their lives that they have just put onto paper. Brandeis smiles warmly and adds supportive commentary after every piece. Writing has been at the center of her life since she discovered poetry at four years old.
“I was always writing as a kid, just poems and stories. I put together a little neighborhood newspaper. I was a shy girl, but I would go door to door and interview my neighbors,” Brandeis said.
A visiting professor at SNC this year, Brandeis is from Riverside, California, where she has held the title of local literary laureate for the past two years. With three published novels and a collection of poems, she has established a name for herself in the literary community.
Brandeis fondly remembers being invited to teach at the school by English Department Chair June Saraceno last spring. “It was just such a beautiful, generous, unexpected offer. I have had fantasies about living in the mountains for the last two years,” she said.
Brandeis and her family relocated to the Lake Tahoe area last month, and she says they are enjoying the small town atmosphere and beautiful locale. Although she has lived in California since the 1990’s, Brandeis was born just north of Chicago in the suburb of Evanston. She spent much of her childhood writing, and at 18-years-old she was selected to be one of six writers whose work was placed into a time capsule at New York’s centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty.
“It was an essay on the meaning of liberty, and I wrote it about how our imaginations are what makes us free. Even if we are in jail, our imaginations can go anywhere,” Brandeis said.
Brandeis now has three published novels and a collection of poems in print. Recently she has also experimented with electronic publishing.
“Being published by a traditional publisher is great, but traditional publishers aren’t doing so well,” she said. “ There are so many options available to writers now in terms of bringing our work out into the world. It’s become much more democratic and accessible.”
BY Natalie Clark Postles
Katie Zanto, mother, wife and the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Sierra Nevada College joined the faculty in the winter of 2004, and is currently at the end of her 10th year here at SNC. Zanto, while currently the chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, was originally hired to teach a few freshman English composition classes.
According to Zanto, as each semester progresses more opportunities open up for her at the school. Before she taught at SNC she taught English at multiple schools, including both middle and high schools. Zanto also worked as a guide and outdoor facilitator through Outward Bound for more than 10 years.
“You literally watch the students change from no confidence, not knowing how to make a decision and awkward, to so ready and confident to apply their new selves to the world.” Zanto says referring to time working with Outward Bound. Zanto says teaching in an academic setting was not her initial intention. While working for Outward Bound she initially saw herself as a guide or an outdoor facilitator and not a teacher, but it was her time working there that made her into one.
Zanto reflects that her real passion was to “integrate the power of outdoor education with literacy instruction”. She wanted to integrate the teaching of reading, writing and speaking with second language learners that were struggling with the power of outdoor education.
To do so, she went back to graduate school at Stanford, researched her interest of starting a nonprofit directed towards teaching underserved youth by integrating in-class education and the outdoors, and found out if anyone was facilitating the same sort of program.
BY RICK CONWAY
Sierra Nevada College was honored to host renowned musician, Terry Allen on campus Friday. Oct. 17th. Allen, an accomplished, musician, artist, sculptor, and writer, treated students to his own brand of alternative country, or “outlaw country” music, a genre, which he arguably played a role in creating. The event was a special treat for students and members of the community, who filled the room to the back doors.
“It’s ironic they call this Writers In The Woods,” said the Lubbock, Texas native, as he arranged himself in front of the piano. “Where I grew up there was only one tree…and it had a sign on it that said “tree”…People would come from all around to look at it.”
“I’m going to start with a song called Advice to Children,” Allen said. He tapped his foot and sang loudly. “It’s better to be mediocre…Don’t do the best you can, they’ll just screw you over.”
Allen played and read passages from his book, “Dugout.” Allens songwriting often draws from events in in his past. “His songs tell stories,” said, SNC Senior Bryan Wilkins, who summarized the lyrics as being very “relatable.” The performance was peppered with jokes and stories that inspired his songs.
“I’m from Texas,” Allen said. “where sex is hideous, disgusting and evil…so you save it for the one you love.” Allen, who now resides in New Mexico, set off for California at the tender age of 17 to study art and music, earning a bachelor’s in fine arts from the Chouinard Art Institute, in Los Angeles.
BY danny kern
Ann Marie Brown, Sierra Nevada College professor and accomplished writer, will be the focus of the next Wednesday Reading, hosted on Oct. 15, in the Prim Library.
Each semester of the 2014/2015 school year, there are two Wednesday evenings set aside for an SNC faculty member to read his or her published work in the Prim Library. These readings began two years ago when SNC librarian Betts Markle began selecting faculty members to share their work with the students and faculty on campus.
“It started off with a couple of the newer full time faculty that we have,” Markle said.
The Wednesday readings are a great opportunity for students and other faculty to learn about the featured reader’s lives outside of the school.
“Particularly students who are new here and even faculty and staff, don’t always know what people’s backgrounds are or what their area of expertise is. They may be teaching in one area, but there may be a lot more going on in their lives,” Markle said.
Brown is without a doubt one professor that has much more going on in her life outside of SNC. She has more than a dozen travel guidebooks in print, mainly focused on outdoor travel and recreation in the West.
“I’ve written books on Yosemite, Tahoe, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and the Southwest deserts. I’ve also written some oddball titles that are no longer in print, like guidebooks to Fiji and the Hawaiian islands,” Brown said.
This is one of the main reasons why Markle selected Brown to do one of the readings.
“She’s written a lot of hiking and travel books, so people in this area might have already seen some of her books, might even own them, might have used them, and not even realized that she is the author,” Markle said.
Brown enjoys many different kinds of writing. Her journalism background combined with her passion for creative nonfiction and the outdoors allows her to produce informative stories that can take readers on the journeys she’s experienced.
“I write a lot of travel and adventure stories that fall under the category of creative nonfiction. I love writing travel pieces that let me stretch my creative muscles. But I’m obsessed with getting my facts right, too,” Brown said.
Brown has a strong love for nature and literature, and is able to use the outdoors to find herself while expressing these discoveries through her work.
“I’m happiest when I’m outside, sauntering along a trail, totally absorbed in my surroundings. That’s when I know exactly who I am,” Brown said.
I’d like to address my concerns regarding the building of a presidential residence on campus. I, along with many other students whom I’ve spoken to on this subject, have grave concerns regarding the impact of this project. These include the environmental impact on the proposed building site, the image of our college that such an endeavor will alter, the economic concerns regarding the use of donor funds, and the hypocritical nature of such a project as it goes against the core values of this school.
The project’s “focus on marketing and branding” [sic] has the potential to be a detriment to the students. This focus detracts from providing a better environment for the students, faculty, and staff to live, work, learn, and play. Rather than presenting an image of affluence and prestige, the energies spent on “marketing and branding” should involve creating actual affluence and prestige. There are several ways in which this generous donation can be used that do not involve a fancier place for faculty and Lakeshore Blvd. residents to party – “a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.”
A couple examples for better use of donor funds may include:
– Increasing budgets across all departments would help to provide for a better education for the students that are already here. This could take the form of better equipment and infrastructure, and/or more campus events (i.e. film festivals, Writers in the Woods candidates, etc).
– Increasing faculty salaries and creating more full time/tenured faculty positions. This would increase the level of educational expertise this school can provide, which in turn would improve this school’s image in the academic community.
The Third Wednesday Readings taking place in the Prim Library are a way for faculty and guest speakers to informally interact with the students at Sierra Nevada College. On Wednesday Sept. 17, Thomas Wade Brown, instructor of Humanities and Social Sciences at SNC, led a presentation in the back of the library that attracted 25 people as he discussed “Delay Discounting”, or different forms of behavioral psychology. Brown’s presentation marked the first of two that will take place this semester as a part of the series.
The crowd of over 20 people consisted of faculty members, SNC students and even some high school students from Incline High.
“The turnout was incredible. I think at one point the head count got to 25 people, which was really unexpected. It was touching to see so many of my students and colleagues come out and show support,” said Brown.
During the one hour presentation Brown was enthusiastic about the psychological concepts he discussed.
“It is gorgeous!” Brown said, after switching through different graphs being presented on the projector.
“I am not a psychology major but the way Wade explained the different studies made me want to learn more about them,” Senior Rebecca Roberts said. “He has a good sense of humor that makes psychology more appealing.”
Brown finished his presentation by opening the floor to questions from the audience. It was an opportunity for the crowd to learn more about the topics he had discussed during the presentation.
You enter and hear nothing but silence.In this dimly lit space, students gather and study. It’s a calming atmosphere of tranquility.Here and there among the library’s stacks, students grab books.
Often they’re greeted by SNC librarian Betts Markle. It’s a name that rings in everyone’s ear, from students to faculty members.
“I come from a long line of Elizabeths,” Markle said. “There has been Elizabeth, Beth, Betty, and Betsey. My parents didn’t want another Betsey, so they named me Betts.”
She never liked being called Betsey anyway as it was the name of an old childhood doll.
Markle has been working in libraries for more than 30 years. She is also a professor at SNC, teaching business and marketing classes this semester. She is also a writing instructor for graduate students, but she has never been interested in teaching English. “I don’t like teaching literature too much, but I could,” said Markle.
The collection of poems in “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah,” embody the mid-century great migration of African American families northward. Her bold words speak of a young woman’s confessional renderings and personal complexities, defined in the voice of Motown melodies.
“It started to be a book about Motown; I loved Motown music,” said Smith. “After asking myself why I loved Motown so much, I realized it wasn’t so much a book about Motown as it was about my parents.”
During the mid 1900s, Smith’s parents were among the 6 million African Americans that left the rural South and migrated to the urban Northeast.
The collective culture of poems paints a picture of the hardships her and her family experienced in the new urban environment.