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Writing the Loess Hills: Letting Landscape Guide the Pen
Writing the Loess Hills: Letting Landscape Guide the Pen

Instructor: Kelly Madigan

Genre: Creative Writing

Level: Intro to Advanced

Dates: Tuesdays, January 17, 24, 31, February 7, 14, 2023

Time: 6:30 to 8 pm CENTRAL TIME

Format: Zoom

Limit: 12 participants


The Loess Hills comprise a unique landform running primarily along the western edge of Iowa but also reaching into South Dakota, Missouri, and Nebraska. The wind-deposited steep slopes of loess are globally unique, with only one other matching site in the world. Its unique topography provides protection for hidden pockets of wildness, including some of the last remaining remnant prairie in the state. An important corridor for migration, and a repository of endangered and threatened species, its ecological significance cannot be overstated. Like most places, it also has a human story, a history of habitation, cities and towns, railroads that came and went, and visionaries of all kinds. From the Black Angel statue in a cemetery in Council Bluffs, to the ancient remains uncovered near Turin, to the story of a ranging mountain lion sporting a radio collar from Nebraska, or the history of agriculture in the valleys between the ridge lines, the older story of bison and elk, or the even older story of the Ice Age, the hills are alive with stories.

Using a variety of examples, prompts and exercises, we will explore the hills creatively, crafting poems, stories and short memoir that reflect the unusual terrain and the experiences held there. We will use the hills as a metaphor to pursue our own internal stories, as well. Whether you already have a connection to the Loess Hills, or your interest is sparked and you’d like to learn more, you will leave this workshop with a renewed appreciation for their fragility and majesty, and multiple new drafts of creative work.

Participants will be invited (but not required) to share a sample of their completed work at a Loess Hills Writers event.

Reduced fee option available if needed. Contact Larksong Writers Place here. 

This workshop is brought to you by The LoHi Trail, a network of people coming together to explore a sustainable, long distance walking route through the Loess Hills, combined with ideas and enthusiasm for preservation of the steep slopes and fragile ecosystem. We recognize that there is also a trail of stories.

Kelly Madigan is the author of a collection of poetry, The Edge of Known Things (SFASU Press) and a how-to book titled Getting Sober: A Practical Guide to Making it Through the First 30 Days (McGraw-Hill). She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing, and the Distinguished Artist Award in Literature from the Nebraska Arts Council. Kelly’s poetry, creative nonfiction and editorial writing has appeared in anthologies, newspapers, websites, and literary journals such as, Prairie Schooner, CNN, Omaha World Herald, The Ecopoetry Anthology, A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, Crazyhorse, The Massachusetts Review, Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry, and Best New Poets 2007. 


Larksong Writers on Kelly Madigan's previous workshops: 

"Working with Kelly revived me as a writer. She holds space with honesty and compassion, and she guides writing and discussion with thought-provoking insight. As someone seasoned in writing workshops, I can say with certainty Kelly's are among the best being offered!"

"Kelly Madigan brings a genuine sense of joy to her writers workshops.  She is a distinguished poet and author, and her experience and her ear for language are important, to be sure.  But her greatest asset is in “team building.” The members of the workshop were genuinely excited over one another’s progress. No “writer’s block” when Kelly makes it all so damn much fun!"

"Kelly’s workshop series encouraged me to creatively ponder my relationship with the Loess Hills in completely new ways and also with profound, new depth and understanding, even as someone who was born and raised in the area. Her lesson connecting the ecological concepts of cores, transitions, and corridors with human psychology and personal identity was excitingly innovative and, in my opinion, pedagogically genius—it particularly resonated with me, as a conservationist, as a creative writer, and as someone healing from cumulative trauma. Kelly hosted such a thoughtful, engaging virtual space for all us writers to thrive in and find deeper connection, not only with the Hills, but also with ourselves and each other through our shared love of the Hills. I would definitely participate in this workshop again and recommend it widely."


Larksong is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are committed to supporting both the writers who come to us for instruction and the writers who come to us to teach. We keep our class fees low, offer free programming, and pay our instructors. Please consider supporting our mission by making a tax-deductible donation.