ASLE Conference Review : Day 4

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Heading out from a Victoria inlet for an afternoon of sea kayaking, an official ASLE field trip.

The fourth day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Another great day, which included:

  • First panel: “The Everyday Wild: Nonfiction from the Sky and Ground,” featuring Christopher Cokinos reading from his new book, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars, Jennifer Henderson on Machine in the Sky: A Biography of the Tornado, and John T. Price, on Backyard Nature: Children, Parents, and Insects. With the possible exception of the photography panel way back on the first day, this is the best panel so far. Great readings by all three.
  • Next panel: “Let There Be Night: The Value of Darkness, the Cost of Light Pollution,” facilitated by Paul Bogard, editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, and including four writers with essays in the dark night anthology: Gretchen T. Legler, Christina Robertson, Thomas Becknell, and John Tallmadge.
  • Sea kayaking ASLE field trip with two dozen other participants — Pacifica Paddling’s “Oak Bay Coastal Explorer” kayak excursion (see photos below), which was great fun. Pretty good wind and waves. We saw bald eagles and a mother seal with her pup, as well.
  • Evening plenary session: “Green Poetries from Canada: Place, Poetry, and Witness” featuring discussion and readings by Rita Wong and Jan Zwicky. Jan’s reading, particularly, just blew me away.
  • Drinks with Orion’s Chip Blake, Milkweed Editions’s Patrick Thomas, and Hawk & Handsaw’s Kathryn Miles (more on that below).

Environmental Note

The global warming may, at least for the rest of this week, be behind us up in Victoria. It’s pretty chilly up here this evening, and the day was mild (and downright nippy out on the water when kayaking). Still, people, don’t let up your guard on that whole global warming thing. My sources tell me it’s the real deal….

Best Event/Activity

This morning, this section was slated for the panel with Cokinos, Henderson, and Price. Then, following the kayaking excursion, it was reserved for that little adventure. I’m settling at this late hour, however, on my evening conversation with Chip, Kathryn, and Patrick. It’s not often I get to talk shop — not to mention share hilarious family stories — with good folks like these. Our small gathering over local brews at the UVic Student Union pub/grill was a delight and a privelage.

Worst Event/Activity

I have very sad news to share — news I learned yesterday but wasn’t prepared to share until today (and I do have permission). As many of you know, Christopher Cokinos founded and has served as the editor of the outstanding journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing for more than a decade now. Many of you also know that state university funding has been drastically cut nearly everywhere. Combine those two, and we learn that Utah State University will no longer be publishing Isotope.

Folks, Isotope is one of the three or four best environmental literary journals, and its closure is a huge blow not only to the good folks working on the journal at USU, but to environmental and science literature readers and writers everywhere. But what to do? We need to find a large endowment to sustain the journal, under Chris’s excellent editorial skills, and find it now. So ante up!

There is a possibility that Isotope will move to another university or other editing team, but unless it stays at USU, as far as I know Chris will no longer be the editor. That is sad, indeed.

Beer Note

Enjoyed a couple local brews at the pub tonight, but didn’t get their names. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the the local stuff, I realize, so brand/name may not be an issue.

Take Away

  • Creative nonfiction panels = good
  • Ocean kayak excursions = good
  • Late-night conversations with editing peers = good
  • Shutting down environmental lit mags = bad


I’m including only kayak photos in this entry. Here are the kayaks on the dark, pebbly beach before we loaded into them and pushed out.


I took along my new Canon PowerShot D10, which is waterproof to 33 feet, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the lens won’t get smudged with drops of saltwater from my sporadic paddling (or otherwise)….


Greg and Kathryn Miles threaten to capsize our kayak (no, not really; we all did a little bump-and-float along the way).


We saw three bald eagles, though I couldn’t get a good shot of any of them. Here’s one, but this could be a nautical turkey for all this picture reveals.


My paddling partner: Charlie.


And me.


All in all, a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. is the first online literary journal of place, publishing award-winning literature, art, editorials, and community case studies since 1998.