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The Southwest Festival of the Written word is sponsoring a session at the 2020 Gila River Festival, the Nature and Environmental Writing Lab with Sharman Apt Russell, taking place Saturday, September 19, 2:15-3:45 p.m. This, and all Gila River Festival presentations, will be online. Find registration details at

Sharman describes the workshop:

We want to write about wildfires and drought and climate change. We want to write about cottonwood trees and the Gila River and tiger swallowtails. We want to write about refugees and factory farms. We want to write about a changing world and how to change the world. We want to celebrate. We want to mourn. We want to encourage. We want to incite.

In writing about the world, there’s a lot to learn about strategy and technique—how to do research, how to weave that research into lyrical prose, how to inform your audience, how to energize your audience.

But first…all this begins with your relationship to your subject. It begins with you and a fire, you and a butterfly, you and a factory farm. This writing lab will engage you with your chosen subject in a way that I hope illumines your relationship and generates language that is honest, compelling, and fruitful.

For this hour and a half, bring an environmental or social topic you are writing about or interested in writing about. Maybe you want some aspect of global warming to be background to your novel or poem. Maybe you are working on an essay about urban wildlife or consumerism.

If you don’t have any topic in mind, this exercise can be done very well with any natural object…a flower, a seed, a mouse, a hamburger. Bring that flower or mouse or hamburger. Put it on your desk and join me online. Be prepared to get personal.

Sharman Apt Russell will also give a talk called “Humor, Resilience, and Global Warming” on Friday, September 18, at 1 p.m.

Sharman lives in the magical realism of southwestern New Mexico. She is the author of a dozen books translated into nine languages. Her Diary of a Citizen Scientist (Oregon State University Press, 2014) won the John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing. Her Within Our Grasp: The Revolution to End Childhood Malnutrition (Pantheon Books, 2021) combines her interest in the environment and in hunger. Recent fiction includes the award-winning Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016), an eco-sci-fi set in a Paleo-terrific future, and her YA Teresa of the New World (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), a story of plagues and the dreamscape of the sixteenth-century American Southwest.

16th Gila River Festival online, September 18 and 19, 2020

The Gila River Festival 2020 will explore how we cultivate resilience in our communities and ecological systems as we address the crises of climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and systemic racism. What lessons have we learned from the pandemic that can inform our response to the climate emergency? How can we create a more just and equitable society and emerge stronger and better from these existential challenges? How do we create a secure water future for everyone in southwest New Mexico?

There will be 40+ simultaneous online presentations, virtual field trips, workshops, music, poetry, and trainings. Recordings will be available to registrants for 30 days afterwards

Register at, cost $25. View the full program at

Highlights: *Senator Tom Udall: “Thirty By Thirty Resolution to Save Nature,” an initiative to save 30% of the land and water in the US by 2030.

*Ethnobotanist, writer, and agroecologist Gary Paul Nabhan on “Restoring Land Health and Community Health in the Borderlands through a ‘Slow Agriculture.’”

*Justice and Equity track including activist/actress Casey Camp-Horinek discussing resilience in Indigenous communities and her Ponca Nation’s Rights of Nature statute. Writer/poet Camille Dungy on social, racial, and environmental justice.

*Community Resilience track: Stacey Cox on individual and community resilience. Sharman Apt Russell on the importance of humor in getting through tough times.

*Ecological Resilience track describing NM’s vulnerability to climate change and how we can build community and ecological resilience to adapt to these changes.

*Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Saturday September 19, includes 15 films.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

Enriching Life Through Learning in Community

We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University is a traditional academic press that welcomes agented and unagented submissions in the following genres: literary fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, children’s books, historical fiction, and academic books. We are particularly interested in academic work and commercial work with a strong social message, including but not limited to works of history, reportage, biography, anthropology, culture, human rights, and the natural world. We will also consider selective works of national and global significance.