Fishtrap brings literature to fore in the Wallowas

Fishtrap executive director Rich Wandschneider

Fishtrap, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that has brought the magic of the written word - as well as talking about ideas and literature - to the forefront of Wallowa County consciousness since it was founded in 1988.

That was the year it held its first Summer Gathering writers conference, an event that continues to attract some of the West's best writers to Wallowa Lake every year in an atmosphere that sometimes resembles a literary summer camp.

Fishtrap has grown and expanded through the years and now also sponsors writers-in-residence in the community and local schools, a Winter Fishtrap conference, for-credit Friday College classes, a spring lecture series, a radio storytelling program and frequent readings by authors.

Visitors are advised to check on-line for upcoming programs - there's usually some Fishtrap event on the horizon - at ( or check the weekly community calendar in the Chieftain when in Wallowa County.

This spring, Wallowa County became one of only 10 places in the whole nation - and the only rural location - chosen to participate in a pilot program called "The Big Read," sponsored by the National Endowment of Arts, thanks to an application by Fishtrap. For one month, the entire community was encouraged to read and discuss a single book - Ray Bradbury's futuristic "Fahrenheit 451" was chosen. Book clubs, classroom reading and writing assignment in the high schools, movies, lectures and panel discussions, all topped of with a literary bonfire, made The Big Read a whopping success under Fishtrap's coordination.

This summer Fishtrap will hold its 19th annual Summer Fishtrap Gathering, centered around the theme "Becoming Native" on the weekend of July 14-16, preceded by several days of writing workshops (July 10-14) by the conference presenters.

The keynote speaker to open the Gathering Friday night will be Debra Magpie Earling, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and a writing professor at the University of Montana. An award-winning author, her essay "What We See" appears in "Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes," the last book edited by the late historian Alvin Josephy, Jr. One of the guiding spirits of Fishtrap since its founding, Josephy died at the age of 90 last fall.

Workshop instructors and Gathering presenters include: Aimee Phan, author of "We Should Never Meet," winner of the Book Award in Prose from the Association for Asian American Studies; Luis Alberto Urrea, a 2005 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his nonfiction "The Devil's Highway;" and Judith Barrington, author of three books of poetry, including "Horses and the Human Soul," a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

Others are Pramila Jayapal, founder of Hate Free Zone Washington and author of "Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland"; Donald Snow, professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., who will base his class, "Writing on the Prairie: A Special Nature Writing Workshop," on Wallowa County's own Zumwalt Prairie; and Susan Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and an award-winning novelist and writer of short stories. Award-winning writer James R. Hepworth, who teaches at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, will teach a publishing workshop on July 12 and 13.

Pre-registration and for both the workshops and the Gathering is required; the Fishtrap events are often sold out.

For more information about registration and Fishtrap Inc., visit its Web page, stop by its Coffin House at 400 E. Grant St. in Enterprise or call executive director Rich Wandschneider at 541-426-3623.

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