Permit me to take a bit of virtual space to talk about Wilderness Interface Zone and its doings. I think it smart to revisit aspirations as well as mark recent changes and give notice of coming ones. When William Morris helped me set up the site, I thought I’d build it, as the “About” page says, “to develop, inspire, and promote literary nature and science writing in the Mormon writing community. WIZ’s intent is to open a frontier in Mormon arts, demonstrating in the process that it’s okay to write nature literature ….”
These were my earliest goals. I think WIZ has begun achieving some of them simply by staying alive for almost three and a half years. However, where I believe WIZ reaches highest expression is in its building an open venue for community members to celebrate or explore their relationship with nature, a relationship often sealed with the kiss of language. I might have begun WIZ, but readers have toted tons of necessaries to the literary barn raising, making it a unique, energetic, community-driven site. Because of the wide range of voices speaking at WIZ, I’ve come think of it as a potential haven for narrative and rhetorical diversity, which, as I say so often that people are probably growing weary of hearing it, I think of as kinds of biodiversity. In the interest of providing ground for heterogeneity, then, which in nature supports the overall health, beauty, and potentiality of a place, WIZ will never turn nature writing away because it doesn’t follow a hot trend in the genre or pitch its voice to match those of dominant artists telling stories about people, other creatures, and the planet. WIZ is an exploratory, let’s-see-where-this-takes-us site. It’s a many-voices-mixing-may-give-rise-to-new-ground site.
Lots of WIZ contributors brought poetry to the barn raising, and that has made the site a fun and lyrical space. The influx of poetry inspired my concept for WIZ’s Spring Poetry Runoff, which begins every year on or around the vernal equinox and runs ’til the poetry dries up. In fact, readers brought so much poetry, and the Runoff proved such a magnet for excellent wordmanship, that I felt quite excited when Jonathon Penny turned up on WIZ’s doorstep with an eye-catching display of poetic brio. The verse he submitted to WIZ showed flair and adeptness I was looking for in the potential poetry editor I sorely needed to help manage the growth of the site. His qualities included obvious editing skill, familiarity with literary tradition, and an interest in nature writing. So this is the official announcement, long overdue but all the more relevant: Dr. Jonathon Penny accepted my invitation to become WIZ’s poetry editor, and so he shall be known as long as he finds it a suitable arrangement. Jonathon brings a craftsman’s eye and turn-on-a-dime energy to WIZ, and I feel very lucky to have him helping me build WIZ better. Henceforth, poets seeking publication at WIZ should direct submissions and queries to Jonathon at WIZpoetryeditor@motleyvision.org.
WIZ has always hoped to open up possibilities for its contributing writers. I teach basic English composition and provide tutoring at a remote branch of Utah State University. The student body of this campus and at its distance learning sites amounts to about 50% Native American, with my classes sometimes running around 80%. Many of these students come from the most hardscrabble sections of the Navajo Nation. When I talk to these kids about language, I tell them, “The highest purpose for learning to write is to open up possibilities, for you, as the writer, and also for your readers.” I foster that same ecology of literacy in the WIZ setting. So beside providing place for the light-bulb moments that spark when good words stir our thinking and shift how we see the world, WIZ encourages its contributors to promote themselves and otherwise take advantage of WIZ’s visibility, modest though it be, to “get out there”. Over the past two years, journals such as Dialogue, Sunstone, Victorian Violet Press, and other literary projects on the prowl for good nature writing have treated WIZ as a resource. I think Fire in the Pasture’s editor Tyler Chadwick made some use of WIZ to find prospects for his wonderful anthology. The Provo Orem Word has come to WIZ seeking nature-oriented prose (which I wish we had more of so that I could recommend it). The site can do more to increase visibility for its authors, and that is one of our top priorities for the year’s remainders. WIZ’s Facebook page, under construction but functional now, is one of the ways we’re working to provide WIZ writers greater visibility. Go have a look and “like” us.
Finally, before the autumn leaves fly, WIZ will undergo another permutation. We’re keeping mum about it for time being, but I will say that this change fulfills a dream I’ve had for the site from Day One. As far as WIZ being a public site with contributors occupying most of its pages, with some words here and there from Jonathon and from me, nothing will change. Our come hither call for submissions shall continue to sound on the same note. The change we’re preparing to implement will highlight ideas about nature writing and writing in general that I’ve been building toward for a long time, but these ideas won’t affect publications. So if you produce nature-themed criticism and theory; interviews; original writing, including excerpts, creative nonfiction, poetry, hybrid literary forms, and fiction; odds and ends such as field notes; and news and commentary on events related to nature writing, bring it.
Stay tuned, watch what happens, and yes, yes, yes–by all means continue submitting your nature-themed poetry and prose (as well as mp3s, videos, etc.) that show us something about your relationship with places off your pavement (or growing in its joints), or maybe that even lie off your map. Show us where your chip and seal fragments into tangles of cracks, rocks, sand, woods, and weeds. And don’t forget people. If you’re like me, trails through the backrocks inevitably lead to junctures with wayfaring folk as well as other critters. People are part of the picture, too. The “out there,” be it the human environment or the extra-human environment, needs us, and we, it.
Interested in coming with us as we embark on a new chapter?
Let’s go then.
Also, if you have suggestions for the site, please feel free to offer them in the comments section.