Talking with Rich Wandschneider (page 2)
Talking with Rich Wandschneider
page 1, page 2
  Who are some of the writers that have been to Fishtrap?

Over 150 writers have now read and taught at Fishtrap events. Ivan Doig and Sherman Alexie, Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Nabhan, Naomi Shihab Nye, David James Duncan, Pattiann Rogers, Ursula Hegi, and Yusef Komunyakaa have all been here. And so have “new” writers Kathleen Tyau and Andrew Pham and Aflredo Vea; agents Mary Evans and Gary Fisketjon; historians Richard White and Stephanie Koontz; and journalists Tim Egan and Ann Taylor Fleming.
  In what ways do you think Fishtrap is special?
  What marks Fishtrap as unique is that all kinds of writing are considered. Poets meet historians meet journalists meet song-writers. We don’t “jury” people into our workshops, and we don’t talk much about “how to get my novel published.” We encourage new writers — last year Vietnam Vet Geronimo Tagatac, who has published only a handful of stories and no books, but to whom we had awarded a Fellowship the previous year, taught a workshop alongside Yusef, and he did a marvelous job.
     Finally, we are not on a college campus or in a hotel room. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country — at the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and a stone’s throw from Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Fishtrap attendees constantly tell us that what makes the experience here different is the contact with this Western place and the people who live and work here.
What did you do before you started Fishtrap?
  College, Peace Corps, Pentagon March, Poor People’s Campaign, Oregon State University Extension Service, bookstore, Pika Press (small publishing company), Little League and Babe Ruth baseball and kids’ soccer coach, local school board, all of the above and more.
  Is your interest the writers or the community in Oregon?
  Writers and community are totally interwoven. Maybe especially in Oregon. The issues we deal with — environment, agriculture, forestry, salmon, Indian affairs, violence, sustainability, social justice, downwinders . . . — on a daily basis are what we think about and write about. Even “science fiction” and “fantasy” writer Ursula LeGuin, probably Oregon’s best known writer in any national or international sense, writes about environmental issues and issues of gender and class.
    Our writers are wed to the themes of history and geography.  I sometimes think that it’s because white history in the American Northwest is so new — the last Indian War (the Nez Perce War) started right here in Wallowa County in 1877 (I literally shook the hand that shook the hand of Chief Joseph), and so much of what draws people to the Northwest to work and live is the mountains and rivers and forests and soil. We can’t stretch to New England or Mississippi lengths for family history, or duplicate the ethnic mixes of New York or Chicago, but we have big sky, Indian ghosts, and utopia hunters as recent as the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to inform our stories. Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, a symbol of the importance of writing and writers in the region and surely one of the finest bookstores in the land, employs writers and scholars aplenty. Powell’s was recently unionized. That’s community issues meeting the printed word.
  What about your own writing? What have you published?
  I’ve tried to write about Turkey from time to time over the years, but have always put it aside and gone back to a day job. The bookstore brought day job a little closer to writing.
     About 18 years ago I started writing a column for the local newspaper. It’s called “Main Street,” and I shoot my face off about politics, the characters and events of my 31 years of living here, and once in a while a story from those Peace Corps days. In these writing years — I was past 40 when I began the column and began writing seriously — I’ve had a couple of pieces of fiction published, but mostly essays. They’ve appeared in High Country News, Northern Lights, Adoption Magazine, The Oregonian, and other small regional publications.
     Now that Fishtrap has reached some kind of solid citizen status, and with the inspiration of that 40th Peace Corps Celebration, I’m turning to the old Turkey stories. But this time my idea is to write them for a Turkish audience. Maybe some younger Turks and some city Turks would enjoy tales of rubes on the frontier in their country a generation ago, when there were people who remembered coming in as refugees from Bulgaria, when Kurdish radio blared in from Iraq and Syria, when a John Kennedy half dollar generated conversation about assassination politics and sympathy for all Americans, when there was a heartfelt welcome to a couple of naive young Americans who had come to share their lives.
 Photos of the area by Tim Turner (Senegal 1977–80)
For more information about Fishtrap, contact Rich at:

    40 Grand Street
    PO Box 38
    Enterprise, OR 97828

    fax/ (541)426–9075

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