Carolyn Servid: The Sitka Symposium is Back Among Alaska’s Summer Literary Events

The Island Institute’s
Sitka Symposium, held each summer from 1984 to 2009, became one of the most
unique literary programs in Alaska and earned acclaim nationwide. After a
five-year hiatus, the Institute is reviving the program and will host the 2014
Sitka Symposium from July 20-26 on the Sheldon Jackson Campus in
Sitka, marking the 30th anniversary of the first Symposium.
The Symposium earned its reputation on the ways
that it differs from other literary gatherings. With its theme-based approach
and interdisciplinary faculty, it aims to engage writers with contemporary social,
cultural, and environmental issues, and to consider the writer’s role in
effecting social change. And because our themes are of broad interest, writers
who attend will engage with people of other backgrounds and professions who
also come to the Symposium for its challenging ideas and transformative
This year’s theme, “Radical Imagining:
Changing the Story With Stories of Change” will explore dominant
narratives of our culture in relation to the challenges of our time, and
consider empowering stories of transformative change initiated by people in
communities large and small. Leading the Symposium will be
, Anishinaabekwe author, activist, mother, and Green
Party vice-presidential running mate to Ralph Nader;
Luis Alberto Urrea, critically acclaimed author of thirteen books
of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, American Book Award winner and Pulitzer
Prize finalist;
Alan Weisman, best-selling
author of The World Without Us and winner of the 2014 Los
Angeles Times
Book Award for his latest book, Countdown; and
Molly Sturges, co-founder
and Artistic Director of Santa Fe’s renowned Littleglobe, an artist/activist
collective, and founder of the national project COAL, a musical fable and catalyst for climate engagement.
At its core this year’s
Symposium will be akin to the successful and beloved program that ran for
twenty-five years, but will also include new elements. Daily faculty talks on
our theme, spirited discussions, evening faculty readings, and open mic
readings by participants remain strongholds of the daily schedule. This year,
faculty will also teach workshops, and participants will have opportunities to
learn about inspiring local change initiatives including the Sitka
Conservation Society’s Fish To Schools Program, the community powered effort to
revitalize the Sheldon Jackson Campus, and the Sitka Health Summit. Other
evening activities will include a film night, a community potluck to
showcase local hidden talents, and an evening dinner
The Symposium returns
to its original home on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, which, as part of its extraordinary
renaissance, will be hosting other events concurrent with the Symposium. Come a
day or two early and you can take in a concert by renowned jazz vocalist Dee
Daniels July 19 and the third annual Sitka TEDx event (which will include
Symposium faculty) July 20. Stay over July 26 and you can take in this year’s Sitka
Fine Arts Camp sure-to-be-remarkable musical theater performance.

With participants as diverse as the faculty and
a limited enrollment of 60 that allows for true engagement in our discussions,
the 2014 Symposium is sure to be a mind-expanding experience. The extraordinary
natural backdrop of Sitka will only compound that. You can get further
information and register for the Symposium at

2 thoughts on “Carolyn Servid: The Sitka Symposium is Back Among Alaska’s Summer Literary Events”

  1. I strongly recommend this. I had the opportunity to attend several times in the past, and the experience very much influenced my life and writing. What a line-up of guests this year! I would definitely be there except that the dates conflict with our MFA residency in Anchorage. Summer's too short!

  2. debbie moderow

    Wonderful Carolyn, that this is happening once again! I too spent a fine time at a past symposium….I highly recommend spending a few days in this extraordinary place with talented people open to grand notions.

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