Nancy Cook: Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop

As Linda put it so aptly in a recent post: conference season
is upon us!  And it’s amazing to witness
the growing numbers of varied and wonderful opportunities now available for
Alaskan writers—right here in the Northland. What makes the long trip to
McCarthy-Kennicott worth it for a writer? 
Well, for one, the fifteenth annual Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop
offers what the name promises:  a WORKshop.  Different than many listening based
conferences, writers at the Wrangell Mountains Center’s July 22-28 True
workshop can plan to get some serious writing accomplished.  Ask Sherry Simpson, Jennifer Brice, Natalie
Kusz or any number of Frank Soos’ former students; he’s a sweet southern
gentleman, but he’s also an athlete of a teacher, with high expectations and
forty years  experience helping writers
get the real story on the page.  And
Frank loves the Wrangells!  This will
actually be his third trip to McCarthy in a decade.  We’ve hosted him on the river.  We’ve hosted him cross-pollinating with book
artist Margo Klass and quilt artist Maria Shell, and now we’re pleased to host
him again: teamed up with Tom Kizzia.

Speaking of Kizzia, anyone who enjoyed the page-turning
thrill of Pilgrim’s Wilderness doesn’t want to miss this opportunity to
study the craft of nonfiction research right in the town where the Pilgrim  family fiasco went down. Most Alaskans know
that Tom is from Homer, but he’s also owned a cabin outside McCarthy for twenty
years. After years of research for Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of
Faith & Madness in the Last Frontier,
Tom will not only guide writers
through the intricacies of a journalist’s approach to booklength creative
nonfiction, but can also serve as history tour guide for those visiting
McCarthy—a  truly fascinating, funky
Alaskan hamlet—for the first or maybe the umpteenth time. 

The other beauty of writing in the Wrangells is the intimacy
of the small class intensive—sixteen participants max working this year with three
talented writing instructors.  As
workshop director, I tend to understate the role I, Nancy Cook, play in
teaching, but I am always fully available to the writers at this workshop.  As one of Frank’s former MFA students now
hardened by fifteen years of rural Alaskan living and ten years teaching at a
rural Oregon community college, I love working one-on-one to help writers draft
and revise new essays, poems, or stories. 
Moreover, as a former park ranger and wilderness educator in the area,
I’m also game to serve as tour guide to the area.  Most importantly, I make sure the coffee is
ready for optional morning “get your pen moving” writing circles which have
been so popular during the past fifteen summers of writing in the Wrangells.

About that coffee… in McCarthy, you don’t have to go to
Starbucks or Kaladi Bros to buy it!  At
the Wrangell Mountains Center’s Old Hardware Store facility, all meals, many of
them straight from the local garden, are included in the price of the
workshop.  And most, if not all
participants, camp for free, bunk-up for cheap, or live the life of McCarthy
Lodge luxury all within a short walk of our historic classrooms.  This means the opportunity to workSHOP
the teaching and student writers’ minds continues from dawn til midnight
dusk—and into the wee hours around the colorful local Golden Saloon. 

Finally, the Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop, located in
the heart of Alaska’s largest Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, promises a true
mountain writing adventure.  In addition
to traditional craft talks, faculty and participant readings, revision
workshops, and one-on-one conferences, we always save time for some adventures
in the field.  For avid hikers, this can
include quiet reverie at the melting edge (and even atop the melting ice) of
the nearby Kennicott Glacier.  For those
less game for hiking adventure, we include an afternoon in the easily
accessible Kennicott Historic Landmark where we will enjoy a picnic dinner and
public reading within the beautifully restored walls of the Historic Kennicott
Recreation Hall.  And even when we’re
back at our Old Hardware Store classroom, 
the lovely McCarthy Creek is just a few meters away, singing in the ear
as the fireweed blooms fuscia. Summer in the Wrangells is so very special!  

Yes, coming to McCarthy is a trip (six hours from Anchorage,
seven from Fairbanks), but there’s always the option to cut off the final two hours
by taking the gorgeous daily flight from Chitina.  In past years, we’ve also had lots of luck
connecting writers with other writer-ride-shares.  And there’s something about driving that
McCarthy Road that just shakes up the creative juices.  Getting to the Wrangells is a journey, but
comfort, community, and a true writing adventure certainly awaits at the end of
the road.  Sixteen participants max.  Read more, and register today at  Or feel free to email questions to ncook (at)  

Nancy Cook directs the Wrangell Mountains Writing
Workshop, now in its fifteenth summer.  
A former fisheries biologist, wilderness educatior, and National Park
Service interpretive ranger, she received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from
the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her poems and prose appear in the 
Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Mountain Gazette, Hipfish, Xtra Tuff, Ice
Box, and the Seal Press anthology Going Alone. She has
taught writing at Prince William Sound Community College, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, and currently serves on the full time faculty at Clatsop Community
College in Astoria, Oregon, home of the annual Fisher Poets Gathering. The
mother of one daughter, she continues to spend summers at her cabin in an aspen
grove near McCarthy. Feel free to contact her directly at  

1 thought on “Nancy Cook: Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop”

  1. This writing workshop is fantastic! I highly recommend joining Nancy, Tom, and Frank for a great writing experiment. I've attended many times–you will get work done, bond with other writers, and have a amazing time in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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