Writers invade Capitol Reef

Students take advantage of the wilderness and solitude to boost their writing creativity. Randyl Nielson/UVU Review

A group of hikers gathered at the top of a hill, then dispersed into the desert that surrounded them. Each carried a notebook and pen to a secluded spot to be alone for half an hour.

This was just one activity at the Sleeping Rainbow Writer’s Retreat held Sept. 15-19. Thanks to the university-owned Capitol Reef Field Station, the 25 or so students could take advantage of the seclusion of the desert landscape in order to work on their craft.

The daily schedule was designed to encourage a combination of wilderness enjoyment and writing opportunity.

Each morning, different groups of seven or eight were formed in various parts of the field station. The groups gathered around tables, each directed by a professor. The professors discussed several writing techniques.

In the afternoon, participants were allowed to hit the trails. For safety reasons, each hiker had to have a partner. They often formed larger groups of up to 15.

The late afternoons and evenings were dedicated to one-on-one sessions with professors and visiting speakers. On the final night, there was a performance by a local musician.

The field station was converted from the Sleeping Rainbow Guest Ranch into a research and education facility in the early 2000s.

According to the field station’s website, the facility is a joint effort to produce an ecologically beneficial building. The field station is a close collaboration between UVU and the National Park Service in creating a field station that is harmonious with its environment in its physical aesthetics, off-grid energy and water consumption and leave-no-trace operations.

This vision was later combined with the English department’s desire to create a program designed to inspire not only awe for natural wonder, but also some good writing. Linda Shelton, professor of English, hoped students would take advantage of the opportunity.

“I hoped first that students would fall in love with the land in Capitol Reef,” Shelton said. “Secondly, I hoped they would be inspired to write.”

This semester, the school combined with the English department at BYU to increase the number of students attending. The students didn’t appear to be rivals though, as everyone got along just fine.

“I thought there was a good feeling of unity. From my perspective, I wasn’t sure who was from BYU and who was from UVU, so maybe that’s a good thing,” Shelton said.

Scott Hatch, one of the professors in charge of the workshop, is working on setting up a similar trip for the spring semester, but no official plans have been announced.

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