11th Annual Thunder Arm Writing Retreat: Rick, Kathleen, Jim and Holly in the North Cascades

writers in the woods
North Cascades Institute is very fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated instructors leading a wide variety of classes, field excursions and retreats at the Learning Center and across Washington State this summer. Our goal is to help people of all ages experience and enjoy the mountains, rivers, forests and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest — so all will care for and protect this special place. We rely on the dynamic skills of the Pacific Northwest’s most knowledgeable teachers to help us foster these connections between people and place.

Rick and his dog Auna

We’re excited to have celebrated author Rick Bass joining us for the first time ever at the Learning Center July 30 – August 2 for the Eleventh Annual Thunder Arm Writing Retreat. Having written so many amazing books — staff favorites include Colter, Where the Sea Used to Be, The Hermit’s Story, The Lost Grizzlies and The Book of the Yaak — it is wonderful to have him coming from northwestern Montana to Diablo Lake to share his prodigal skills and insights over four days in the peak of summer. We’re especially intrigued to have him introduce us to his brand-new publication The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana.

Kathleen enjoying the sunshine on Diablo Lake in 2006

Rick will be joined at the Writing Retreat by another out-of-town guest, Kathleen Dean Moore, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and University Writer Laureate at Oregon State University in Corvalis. Best known for her books about cultural and spiritual connections to wet, wild places — Riverwalking, Holdfast, and The Pine Island Paradox, Kathleen has recently co-edited three books involving fierce love for land: They are How It Is: The Native American Philosophy of V.F. Cordova, Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge and In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens. Kathleen writes for Orion, Discover, Audubon and Northwest Review, serves on the board of directors for the Orion Society and the Island Institute and is co-founder and director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. Whew! We’re lucky that, considering all of her activities, Kathleen has made time to teach at the Learning Center this summer.

Joining Rick and Kathleen are local all-star writers to represent our Fourth Corner: Jim Bertolino and Holly Hughes. Jim has taught creative writing for over 30 years, 12 of those at Western Washington University, and was a Writer-in-Residence at Willamette University. His poetry is published in countless journals, and he’ll be sharing words from his latest publication, Finding Water, Holding Stone. Holly’s essays and poems are found in a wide array of anthologies — Working the Woods, Working the Sea, Come Together: Imagine Peace, Steady As She Goes: Women’s Adventures at Sea and The Poet’s Guide to the Birds — and she teaches writing at Edmonds Community College, where she co-directs the Convergence Writers Series and is the co-coordinator for the Sustainability Initiative. (We asked Holly to join the Writing Retreat team after witnessing her inspiring teaching skills in last year’s “Sit Walk Write: Nature and the Practice of Presence” workshop at the Learning Center!)
The Thunder Arm Writing Retreat has a long history of providing students with instruction from some of the most talented writers in America — Ann ans Susan Zwinger, William Kittredge, Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Michael Pyle, Richard Nelson, Bill Dietrich, Tim McNulty, Annick Smith and Scott Russell Sanders to name a few. This year is one of our best line-ups yet and, whether you are a seasoned scribe looking for new inspiration or an amateur scribbler wanting top-notch instruction, we hope you’ll join us July 30 – August 2 at the Learning Center!
(By the way, we’re co-hosting a public reading In Bellingham with all four writers on July 29. Details at www.ncascades.org/events.)

Top photo and Kathleen Dean Moore at the Learning Center by Christian Martin.


  1. Miss Lettie A. Davis

    Hi. I have one english teacher in life, one teacher of Shakespere, 2 teachers of english. Mr. Bertilino is my english teacher…freshman english. University of Cincinnati, Ohio. One to forgive, forget, and meet again. Are you him? Are you him? Are you him? Love is forever once met. There is nothing that I can do but there is nothing that hatred, war, famine, immigrants…anyone can do about that. Oh, How I appreciate a nice teacher. Oh, how I love my Robin Williams in my life. LAD 2011 (from 1977 – 1980)

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