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Bracing winter in Beloit: a conversation with Scott Russell Sanders

February 18, 2014

 The weather has been on everyone’s minds, and Scott Russell Sanders is no exception. It’s not shocking, given that his work is so rooted in nature and the environment--one of the essays he’ll be reading at Friday’s annual Mackey reading, “Useless Beauty,” focuses on elements of beauty in nature--but you might be surprised that he doesn’t seem to mind the winter too much.

“There’s something very bracing about this winter,” he muses. “It’s been a pleasure to see this place in two very different seasons.”

This is Sanders’ second go-round as the Lois and Willard Mackey Chair in Creative Writing (his first stint was in the 2008 fall semester). He’s working with students in a writing workshop, visiting other professor’s classes, and giving a reading of his work on Friday (Feb. 21) at 8 p.m. in Moore Lounge of Pearsons Hall.

Sanders is the author of 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, including A Private History of Awe and A Conservationist Manifesto. The best of his essays from the past 30 years, plus nine new essays, are collected in Earth Works, published in 2012 by Indiana University Press.

While in Beloit, where, he says, he’s found the students to be “talented, disciplined, and engaged” and the campus community as a whole to be welcoming, he’s been working on the libretto for a children’s musical. That work will be produced in his home city of Bloomington, Ind., in the fall. That kind of collaboration--between artists in different mediums, like musicians and writers--will also be on display at Friday’s reading. Sanders has been writing short stories, just 500 or 600 words, inspired by the photographs of his friend Peter Forbes. He’ll offer a taste of some of that work (complete with visuals) at his reading, a preview of the book to come.

The Mackey Chair in Creative Writing was established in the late 1980s by the late Willard Mackey'47, in honor of his late wife.

Scott Russell Sanders