Sitka Symposium is back among Alaska's summer literary events

Participants in a previous Sitka Symposium walk through the woods in Sitka. Held each summer from 1984 to 2009, the symposium will be revived this year after a five-year hiatus. It will be held July 20-26 on the Sheldon Jackson Campus in Sitka, marking the 30th anniversary of the first Symposium.

The Island Institute will host the 2014 Sitka Symposium from July 20 through 26 on the Sheldon Jackson Campus in Sitka, marking the 30th anniversary of the first Symposium.


Held each summer from 1984 to 2009, the Sitka Symposium became one of the most unique literary programs in Alaska and earned acclaim nationwide. After a five-year hiatus, the Institute is reviving the program.

The Symposium earned its reputation on the ways that it differs from other literary gatherings. With its theme-based approach and interdisciplinary faculty, it aims to engage writers with contemporary social, cultural and environmental issues, and to consider the writer’s role in effecting social change. And because its themes are of broad interest, writers who attend will engage with people of other backgrounds and professions who also come to the Symposium.

This year’s theme, “Radical Imagining: Changing the Story With Stories of Change,” will explore dominant narratives of our culture in relation to the challenges of our time, and consider empowering stories of transformative change initiated by people in communities large and small. Leading the Symposium will be Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabekwe author, activist, mother and Green Party vice-presidential running mate to Ralph Nader; Luis Alberto Urrea, critically acclaimed author of 13 books of fiction, poetry and nonfiction, American Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist; Alan Weisman, best-selling author of “The World Without Us” and winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award for his latest book, “Countdown”; and Molly Sturges, co-founder and Artistic Director of Santa Fe’s renowned artist/activist collective Littleglobe, and founder of the national project COAL, a musical fable and catalyst for climate engagement.

At its core this year’s Symposium will be akin to the successful program that ran for 25 years, but will also include new elements. Daily faculty talks on the theme, discussions, evening faculty readings and open mic readings by participants remain strongholds of the daily schedule.

This year, faculty will also teach workshops, and participants will have opportunities to learn about inspiring local change initiatives including the Sitka Conservation Society’s Fish To Schools Program, the community powered effort to revitalize the Sheldon Jackson Campus and the Sitka Health Summit. Other evening activities will include a film night, a community potluck to showcase local hidden talents and an evening dinner cruise.

The Symposium returns to its original home on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, which, as part of its renaissance, will be hosting other events concurrent with the Symposium. Attend a day or two early and participants can attend a concert by renowned jazz vocalist Dee Daniels July 19 and the third annual Sitka TEDx event (which will include Symposium faculty) July 20.

Enrollment is limited to 60 participants.

For more information and to register, visit


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