Category: Siskiyou Prize

Environmentalism and fishing: Strange bedfellows

By John Yunker,

I’m struck by the number of books that equate fishing (particularly fly fishing) with “being one with the environment.”

Personally, I find this idea to be a total crock.

Yes, I’ve fished.  And fishing was a great excuse to get out into nature.

But I vividly remember as a child when I caught a rock bass and was then expected to cut it up for dinner. I wanted to put that fish back in the water. But that wasn’t how it worked.

You fish. You catch the fish. You eat the fish.

And because I so hated killing that rock bass, that became the last time I did fish.

I understand the whole “man vs. fish” dynamic. It is exciting on some level.

But it’s not exactly a fair fight. And it’s not environmental.

If you needed fish to survive, then it makes sense.

But if you use fishing as your excuse to leave home to go out into the great outdoors, perhaps you should pack some food instead. Go for a hike. Go birdwatching. Or just stand at the shore and identify the fish that swim past.

Why do human activities so often get benchmarked against what we take from nature?

Is nature a theme park? Or is nature something else? Something better?

If you’re a writer and you want to write about fishing, perhaps you can consider some of these issues? As a press, we want to see writing that pushes the envelope on what environmental should be and can be. That’s a major reason why we founded The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature.

Announcing the 2014 Siskiyou Prize winner and finalists!

By Midge Raymond,

We are delighted to announce that New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler has chosen Mary Heather Noble’s memoir PLUMES: ON CONTAMINATION OF HOME AND HABITAT as the winner of the 2014 Siskiyou Prize.

We are also delighted to announce the prize finalists: Amy Hassinger for her novel AFTER THE DAM and Julie Christine Johnson for her novel THE CROWS OF BEARA.

Of PLUMES, judge Karen Joy Fowler writes: “I was impressed from the first page with both the beautiful writing and careful intelligence of PLUMES. This book takes on one of our most troubling issues, the increasing toxicity of our polluted world, to create a narrative that is both personal and universal. PLUMES neither minimizes the complexities of these issues nor overstates its conclusions, but leaves the reader with much to think about. An exceptional book.”


About the winner: Mary Heather Noble is an environmental scientist and writer whose work is inspired by environmental health issues, the natural world, family, and place. Her essays have been honored with first prize in Creative Nonfiction’s The Human Face of Sustainability Contest, and second prize in the 2012 Literal Latté Essay Awards. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in About Place Journal, Fourth Genre, High Desert Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Minerva Rising, Pithead Chapel, and Utne Reader.

Noble is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program with the University of Southern Maine. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from The Ohio State University, and a master’s degree in environmental science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She spent six years working in the technical environmental sector before leaving the field to pursue creative writing. Noble currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.

We hope you join us in celebrating the environmentally themed work of these fine writers!

We’d also like to extend a very special thanks to all of the writers who entered the contest … your support makes this prize possible.

Please stay tuned for updates on next year’s Siskiyou Prize, which is open to unpublished, full-length prose manuscripts, including novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essay collections. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,000, a residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication by Ashland Creek Press. For more information, visit the Siskiyou Prize website.