CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Museum of the Cherokee Indian (MCI) has announced the Confluence: An Indigenous Writers’ Workshop, an opportunity offered to citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians throughout 2023. Created in partnership with Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), author of the award-winning novel Even As We Breathe and MCI board member, the series of workshops offers Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) citizens access to high-quality writing instruction from the world’s top Indigenous writers at no cost.
The series, made possible through the generous support of North Carolina Arts Council and Fire Mountain Trails, will host four visiting writers with expertise in four different genres. Following three days of close instruction, creative exercises, and group discussion, the visiting writers will provide an evening public reading for the greater community to enjoy. Workshops are open to high school students and adults, recognizing that younger generations need to see role models in their own community in order to extend the continuum.
Clapsaddle—whose 2020 debut novel became the first and only novel to-date published by an enrolled citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—is passionate about bringing more opportunities for writers to the Qualla Boundary. “For a tribe that has had a written language since it was formally adopted in 1825, this dearth of publications is startling,” the author says. “Having lived here my whole life, I am well aware that the talent pool of EBCI writers is deep. The Qualla Boundary can often feel isolated. Many of our citizens do not see a path toward pursuing writing, regardless of whether or not they are interested in publishing. Workshop opportunities are typically over an hour’s drive away and often cost-prohibitive. I strongly believe that the best way I can express my gratitude for being able to professionally pursue my love of writing is to help provide some of the same writing enrichment opportunities I have been given to this community which has given me so much support.”
Just as the Qualla Boundary’s mountain streams meet and strengthen, Saunooke and Museum staff hope that the workshops will be a confluence of ideas and inspiration for all writers involved. The first workshop in the series, held May 26-28 and led by Kelli Jo Ford (Cherokee Nation), focuses on the craft of literary fiction. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Award at Bread Loaf, a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and a Dobie Paisano Fellowship, Ford’s fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Missouri Review, and the anthology Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, among other places.
From June 16-18, Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee Nation) will help writers find their voice in the genre of fiction. A PhD student at the University of Arkansas, her book Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story was named a Best Book of 2020 by both NPR and American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Over July 14-16, writers will focus on poetry under the guidance of Mary Leauna Christensen (EBCI). A PhD candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi, Christensen is Managing Editor of The Swamp literary magazine. Her work can be found in Cream City Review, the Laurel Review, Southern Humanities Review, Denver Quarterly, and the Gettysburg Review, among others. She was named a 2022 Indigenous Nations Poets fellow for the inaugural In-Na-Po retreat and was selected as a returning fellow for 2023.
November 17-19’s workshop in journalism marks a return to MCI for Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation). The award-winning journalist—who presented her lecture “We Are Still Here: Fighting Indigenous Erasure in the Media” at MCI for Western Carolina University’s 2022 James A. Cooper Memorial Lecture in Cherokee Studies—is also the writer and host of the podcast This Land. Her writing on Native representation, federal Indian law, and tribal sovereignty has been featured in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, The Guardian, USA Today, Indian Country Today, and more. Rebecca Nagle is the recipient of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize, Women’s Media Center’s Exceptional Journalism Award, a Peabody Nominee, and numerous awards from the Native American Journalist Association.
Clapsaddle hopes that EBCI writers will leave these workshops inspired and better equipped to pursue their own creative writing, whether it be for personal growth or to seek publication opportunities. “This series aims to be a reminder to our community that indigenous literature is rich, abundant, and deserves the attention of a world stage,” she says.
To learn more about programming and community learning initiatives at MCI, please visit mci.org/learn/programming.
- Museum of the Cherokee Indian release