About the Environmental Writing Institute

Founded in 1990, the Environmental Writing Institute (EWI) was one of the first writing conferences in the country to focus entirely on environmental and nature writing, issues, concerns, and approaches. 

Now in its 25th year, EWI is distinguished not only by longevity, but also by the consistent quality—in teaching and writing—of its workshop leaders, by the merit of its writing participants and its inspiring and beautiful setting in a writer's town: Missoula, Montana.

EWI participants each year (15 maximum) include both aspiring and accomplished writers--essayists, journalists, scientists, outdoor writers, natural historians, students, and teachers from around the country. Participants are published and unpublished writers whose concerns range widely and wildly from the preservation of biodiversity to the conservation of community, from the ecology of high mountains to the wildness in vacant urban lots. Some participants, familiar with other genres—from poetry to scientific writing—may be trying the personal, narrative, or natural history essay for the first time.

About half of the EWI participants each year are graduate environmental writing students from the U.M. Environmental Studies (EVST) Program. Over the years, many "outside" EWI participants have gone on to graduate study in the Environmental Writing Emphasis of the EVST Program.

EWI participants have also gone on to publish revisions of their EWI projects and/or other writings in national magazines and in book form. Only a few examples include Jordan Fisher Smith (Nature Noir), a two-time EWI alumni; David Strohmaier (Seasons of Fire; Drift Smoke); Eliza Murphy, whose EWI manuscript evolved into a cover and feature story for High Country News, and Drew Lanham (The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature).

Sponsored by the University of Montana Environmental Studies Program, EWI 2015 will be held in late Sept/early Oct (dates tba), at the University Center. The UM campus and downtown are only blocks apart via a beautiful riverside walk along the Clark Fork River. EWI participants will have most afternoons and evenings free.

EWI opens with a welcoming dinner Thursday evening. Friday through Sunday mornings are four-hour workshop classes led by 2018 EWI leader Robert Michael Pyle. Classes meet in the Alumni Board Room at the UMT University Center with a spacious mountain view and markets, shops, and lounges only down the hall. The workshop classes give participants the opportunity to receive thoughtful response and advice, to test their essays on an audience both sophisticated and encouraging, and to generate new work. Robert will also arrange brief individual conferences with the participants during the afternoons to discuss individual writings and the writing life. EWI ends Sunday with a farewell lunch.

EWI Setting