Glen Brook: a brief history

Adapted from John Tallmadge’s talk at the 2008 Glen Brook gathering
Rowland Russell,
Whole Terrain Managing Director
Sydney Plum, Glen Brook participant

Camp Glen Brook

Camp Glen Brook

In the early 1980s, Orion Magazine was emerging and nature writers were pleased to have an excellent place to publish their work, but they were still feeling somewhat isolated as a community. In 1986, writers John Elder and Bob Finch suggested the idea of a retreat at which writers published in Orion would gather. Parker Huber facilitated the meeting, which took place at Camp Glen Brook in Marlborough, NH. Under Parker’s skilled and supportive guidance, the Glen Brook retreat became an every other year institution for nature writers around the county.

In the early ’90s, Parker published the first volume of Writing Nature, featuring short essays, poems, photos, correspondence, and book reviews by members of the extended Glen Brook community. In the mid-’90s, seeking a less travel intensive way to bring together western writers, Glen Brook West was organized in Crestone, Colorado by Parker and writer Ann Zwinger and took place in alternating years. In 2006, another gathering of writers led by Charles Goodrich and Kathleen Dean Moore began at Oregon’s Andrews Experimental Forest. In concert with the Glen Brook, Crestone, and Blue River communities, the 2009 and 2010 volumes of Writing Nature were published online by the Rocky Mountain Land Library.

From the beginning, there has been a catalytic quality about Glen Brook that has influenced the emergence of American nature writing. Before there was ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, founded in 1992) and before Orion’s Forgotten Language Tours in the ’90s, Glen Brook was the meeting point for writers and artists whose creative work centered on the environment. Glen Brook fosters a spirit of affirmation that is quite rare: a community of nurturing.  John Tallmadge speculated that someday, future scholars will be studying the impact of Glen Brook on the field of nature writing.

Crestone 2009

Rowland Russell and other participants at Crestone gathering in 2009

In 2006, long time Glen Brook attendee (and frequent Whole Terrain contributor) Fred Taylor and Whole Terrain Managing Director Rowland Russell took over facilitation of the retreat, which continues to meet annually. Fred Taylor has emphasized this strong sense of community among nature writers and believes the experience of Glen Brook is partly responsible for this tradition. The community of Glen Brook is larger than the people who attend each year; as Russell says, “We are a tribe.”

Whole Terrain has become an important part of the development and evolution of the Glen Brook tradition. Starting with this brief history of Glen Brook and its extended community, we will periodically feature work of and about members of the community, many of whom have contributed to Whole Terrain over the years.

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