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The theme of this year's Sitka Symposium is "Radical Imagining." It's an appropriate message for the symposium, which returns after a five-year absence.
Sitka Symposium returns this week after five years 071614 AE 2 Capital City Weekly The theme of this year's Sitka Symposium is "Radical Imagining." It's an appropriate message for the symposium, which returns after a five-year absence.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Story last updated at 7/16/2014 - 4:12 pm

Sitka Symposium returns this week after five years

The theme of this year's Sitka Symposium is "Radical Imagining." It's an appropriate message for the symposium, which returns after a five-year absence.

Since 1984, the symposium has earned a reputation as one of the best literary programs in Alaska. It has attracted internationally renowned authors, advocates and agitators to Baranof Island to discuss their ideas and missions.

Back in 2009, however, Carolyn Servid was getting tired. She was one of the founding members of the Island Institute, the group that puts on the Symposium, and she was out of energy after 25 years of work.

That year's symposium was the last, and she and the Institute focused on other efforts.

Enter Peter Bradley, who was born in Texas three years after the symposium was founded. He came to Sitka in 2012 and moved to the island permanently last year. He's now the Institute's associate director and is scheduled to soon take over from Servid.

"The symposium isn't a writers' conference," Bradley said. "The Symposium has always been a gathering that works at the intersection of story and place and community. It brings in a few notable people who we refer to as our faculty ... but the week's conversations often center around the ideas of the community."

Servid said the idea behind the symposium isn't to be a by-the-book writers' workshop - that has been done by spinoffs like the Northwords Writers Symposium in Skagway. Instead, "I don't think people leave with a synopsis of what was said so much as they leave with a new energy and connections," she said.

The idea is to connect with others, see what they're doing, possibly gain inspiration, and leave Sitka with fresh ideas and energy to tackle your own problems.

To that end, the symposium has a schedule of five days of events that start July 20 with talks by guest instructors Alan Weisman, Luis Urrea and Winona LaDuke.

From Monday through Friday, attendees eat meals and attend lectures together, then take to the forest on guided and unguided hikes through Sitka's forests.

This is the 30th birthday of the Symposium, and Bradley said after a five-year hiatus, he's looking to forward to his first symposium - then getting ready to plan the next one.

Symposium faculty:

• Alan Weisman, journalist and author of "The World Without Us," among many other books.

• Luis Alberto Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame. He has written 13 books and won numerous awards for poetry, fiction and essays.

• Molly Sturges, a composer, performer and artistic director. She is the cofounder of Littleglobe, a New Mexico-based nonprofit.

• Winona LaDuke, an American Indian advocate and author who formerly served on the board of Greenpeace USA and was named one of Time Magazine's 50 most promising leaders under 40 years old.


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