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Culture and Writing Intertwine

June 16, 2003

Do we shape culture through our writing, or does culture determine our words? The reality is somewhere in between, says Joanne Mulcahy, a visiting assistant professor at the Northwest Writing Institute and founder of Lewis & Clark’s first Writing Culture Summer Institute, which was held June 24 through June 29.

Writing Culture is a forum for participants seeking to understand how creative and nonfiction writing can be used as a path to understanding culture and cross-cultural exchange at all levels.

“We wanted to create a space that allows writers to come together to explore the exciting terrain where writing and culture intersect. It’s an ongoing negotiation that all writers must face,” says Mulcahy, who is a trained anthropologist and folklorist as well as a writer.

The institute was facilitated by some of the most distinctive voices in the field: Ted Conover, whose account of his year as a corrections officer, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Nathalie Handal, a poet and the editor of The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology; Kirin Narayan, a professor of anthropology and languages and cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin and the author of two novels; and poet and nonfiction writer Luis Alberto Urrea, whose bookNobody’s Son, a memoir of his flight from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States, won the 1999 American Book Award.

For more information about the institute, contact Joanne Mulcahy at


—by Gwenn Stover

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