Chatham News

Bridges to Other Worlds: Imagining Nature features Edward Abbey biographer, Jim Cahalan

By: Amanda Kennedy, Senior Public Relations Specialist
October 4, 2010

PITTSBURGH (October 4, 2010) … With a focus on the environment and sustainability, Chatham University’s nationally-recognized Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program will present Bridges to Other Worlds: Imagining Nature at Chatham’s Shadyside campus on Saturday, October 23 from 10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at the University’s Shadyside Campus. Guest speakers this year include Todd Davis (poet); Ian Marshall (scholar); Kate Miles (nonfiction); BK Loren (nonfiction); and Jim Cahalan (Edward Abbey biographer).

Bridges to Other Worlds will feature panel presentations, small group discussions and readings about the place-based writing and the influence of western Pennsylvania’s diverse environments on literature. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available by emailing or calling 412-661-1809.

Schedule of Events
10:00- 11:45 a.m.: Concurrent Sessions with small groups of students (various locations)

Mellon Board Room:
12:00- 1:30 p.m.: Lunch with Jim Cahalan. “Ed Abbey in Appalachian Western Pennsylvania and the Desert Southwest: Imagining a Life in the Natural World; or, How to Stir up Trouble and Inspire Millions”
2:00-3:30 p.m.: Keynote Panel-Imagining Nature with Jim Cahalan, Todd Davis, BK Loren, Ian Marshall, Kate Miles. Sheryl St. Germain, Moderator
3:45-5:15 p.m.: Reading-Todd Davis, BK Loren, Ian Marshall and Kate Miles
5:15-6:30 p.m.: Reception and Book Signing

Guest Authors
James M. Cahalan’s
 ‘My People’: Edward Abbey’s Appalachian Roots in Indiana County, Pennsylvania won the 1996 Solon J. Buck Award for Western Pennsylvanian History, as the best article of the year in Pittsburgh History, from the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. His biography Edward Abbey: A Life received the 2002 Thomas J. Lyon Award in Western American Literary and Cultural Studies, from the Western Literature Association. A professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he was awarded IUP’s 1990 Distinguished Faculty Award for Research.

Todd Davis, winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, teaches creative writing, environmental studies, and American literature at Penn State University’s Altoona College. He is the author of three books of poetry, The Least of These, Some Heave and Ripe. In addition to his creative work, Davis is the author or editor of six scholarly books, including Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade, or How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanismand Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory.

BK Loren’s fiction and nonfiction have garnered many national awards including the Mary Roberts-Rinehart National Nonfiction Fellowship, an Atlantic Arts Fellowship, and a Ucross Fellowship. Her first book, The Way of the River, was published to shining reviews. Her shorter works have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Orion Magazine, Parabola, Berkeley Fiction Review, Yoga International, and The Best American Spiritual Writing of 2004.

Ian Marshall, professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona, is a past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. Working in the field of “ecocriticism,” or literary scholarship informed by ecological awareness, he is the author of Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian TrailPeak Experiences: Walking Meditations on Literature, Nature, and Need and Walden by Haiku. He has also co-edited a collection of scholarly essays, Coming into Contact: Essays in Ecocritical Theory and Practice.

Kathryn Miles is an award-winning writer whose recent essays have appeared in Ecotone, Editor Unleashed, Connotations, Terrain, The Bioregional Imagination, PMLA, and Best American Essays. She is the author of Adventures With Ari and the long-running “Backcountry Bistro” column. Miles currently serves as director of the Environmental Writing program at Unity College, as editor of Hawk & Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability.

About the MFA in Creative Writing
Chatham’s MFA in Creative Writing allows students to focus on tracks in creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and writing for children, and encourages them to explore two tracks simultaneously. Students take innovative field seminars that include travel to such places as Costa Rica, Ecuador, India and Germany. In 2007 Poets & Writers named the MFA one of “Nine Distinctive Programs” and The Atlantic Monthly named it one of five Innovative/Unique Programs in the country in its “Best of the Best” graduate program listings, while in 2009 The Writer named it one of ten programs that offer a specialty focus. Chatham University also offers an undergraduate BFA in Creative Writing, an online Master of Professional Writing, and a low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. For more information visit

About Chatham University 
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Every Chatham student – women in Chatham’s historic women’s residential college, and men and women in Chatham’s graduate programs – receives a highly individualized, experiential educational experience that is informed by Chatham’s strong institutional commitment to globalism, the environment and citizen leadership. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with Chatham Eastside and the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Farm Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information call 800-837-1290 or visit