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Idaho Dark Skies Reserve will frame this unique writing retreat, hosted by The Hemingway Center

Boise State professor Edward "Mac" Test is an organizer of The Hemingway Center's Sawtooth Writing Retreat.
Boise State University, Mac Test, Nils Ribi, Central Idaho Dark Skies Reserve
Boise State professor Edward "Mac" Test is an organizer of The Hemingway Center's Sawtooth Writing Retreat.

Idaho has inspired some of history’s greatest writers. And an upcoming writing retreat in Central Idaho’s Dark Skies Reserve, featuring stargazing, hiking, fishing and face-time with bestselling authors, is bound to influence a new generation of creativity.

“During the day you have the beautiful view of the Sawtooths. But at night, oh my gosh, the stars come out and we've planned this accordingly for a new moon, which means there'll be no moon in the sky,” said Boise State professor and organizer Edward “Mac” Test. “So, the stars will even be more brilliant.”

Test visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk aboutthe retreat, sponsored by Boise State’s Hemingway Center, and the unique opportunity to work alongside award-winning authors Kim Cross and Paul Bogard.

Click here for more info on the retreat.

“You can go hiking during the day and reflect and find a place to write and attend some workshops on writing. And then at night, stargazing, bonfires, you know, the whole shebang."
Edward "Mac" Test

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, for generations, some of the best writers on the planet have been inspired by Idaho. Inspired in Idaho. This morning, we're going to talk about a new generation of writers. And before we get to read what they create, let's talk a little bit about inspiration. Can you imagine spending time with bestselling authors in a setting unlike any other, which is to say, Idaho Dark Sky Reserve? So let's talk about that. Here comes Mac Test:  poet, translator, author, professor at the School of the Arts at Boise State. Mac Test Good morning.

MAC TEST: Good morning, George. Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: Let's get right to it. I am more than a bit intrigued by this. A Sawtooth Writing Retreat in central Idaho, September 14th through the 17th. Paint a word picture for us.

TEST: Well, you're up near Galena Peak. It's about a three-hour drive here from Boise State. You're up at 7600ft at the central Idaho 4-H camp. Or what was the 4-Hh camp. And the view of the skies is amazing. We are within that international dark skies reserve. It is America's first international Dark skies reserve, I should say, and it stretches from Stanley down to Ketchum. During the day you have the beautiful view of the Sawtooths. But at night, oh my gosh, the stars come out and we've planned this accordingly for a new moon, which means there'll be no moon in the sky. So the stars will even be more brilliant. And collaboration with the physics department at Boise State, we're bringing out astronomers with telescopes. We'll have talks by biologists who particularly Jesse Barber, who studies night acoustics. And then there'll be a lot of writing reflection about what people see and experience.

PRENTICE: And world-class writers write to inspire. So tell us, we see Paul Bogard and Kim Cross. My goodness, Paul Bogard.

TEST: He is the author of a book called End of Night, which has quite a fan club. Given the name amongst the people who are interested in Dark Skies reserves. And the book discusses light pollution and how light pollution affects the night skies. We tend to think of that as, yeah, we can't see the stars as well here in Boise, and if you're in New York City, even less So he has an amazing fact in there that something like 90% of the children born today in the world will never see the galaxy. That's a sad fact, but light pollution has a lot of other effects, right? The night skies, the noises as well affect animals. Migrations get affected by light pollution as well. So that's Paul's end of things. Kim Cross comes to us as both a sort of a nature writer or a nonfiction writer. Her best known book is What Stands in the Storm, which was about an incredible tornado outbreak in 2011in the United States. So she talks about the climate and things like that. She does have a new book that's about crime fiction called In Light of All Darkness, that's just coming out Soon. So both of these writers are nonfiction writers, and they're going to help the students who come, which is all ages from adults to college students, to learn how to paint a scene of what you're seeing in the environment.

PRENTICE: And we want to make sure that our listeners know that applications are still being accepted until ….do I have this right? September 1st?

TEST: That's correct. September 1st. We had a recent extension of that. So yeah, you get online at the Hemingway Center at Boise State and you can find the applications there.

PRENTICE: So again, all comers, college students, educators, obviously writers at all levels.

Edward "Mac" Test
Boise State University
Edward "Mac" Test

TEST: Yeah, it's a great assortment ….already the applicants are coming through. We have people from Canada, we have people from Louisiana. We have plenty of people from the Idaho area and they range in ages from college students… I have a person from Canada is a graduate student who got funding from the University of British Columbia to come join us. And we have college students at Boise State coming and adults. So, some emerging writers, people who have been published and others who are just learning the trade. So, there's something for everybody.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about the Hemingway Center at Boise State. So extraordinary… because inside…. I think it may be the oldest building on campus. It's certainly the most beautiful, but from within springs, so much that is new, so much inspiration.

TEST: Yeah. You know, the Hemingway Center… we got that name from the family. It's the only Hemingway Center in the world. We got that name back in 1986. And there's an organ in this old building. And you're correct, George, It's one of the oldest buildings on campus. It's actually the second oldest. Built in 1942 with WPA funds. So the US government helped us build that building, and it's where graduations took place. It's where theater happened. It's where concerts happened. It's a beautiful, giant great hall there. And in 1953, the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation put in an organ, a pipe organ with 2851 pipes. We had a concert last March with Paul Jacobs from the Juilliard School Grammy Award winner. The only pipe organist actually to win the Grammys. And we have more concerts coming up. We have a fun concert on October 21st with an organist from Vienna, Austria, playing alongside a trombonist from Italy. It's going to be quite a show.

PRENTICE: And you've got readings there, you've got workshops and conversations on film and television. All media.

TEST:. We have Sam Hunter, Idaho's, you know, storied playwright who had that play. The Whale that he wrote was turned into a film. And some of your listeners may recognize both the film name, but then also Brendan Frazier, the lead actor, won the Oscar. Then we have readings, plenty of authors coming in. I suppose the highlight is Alice Notley. She's a writer who lives in Paris, but one of our great American poets. Keep an eye out. I will be putting out our fall calendar soon and we have more events in the spring as well.

PRENTICE: Through your good graces. I was lucky enough to chat with Alice Notley from Paris, and we're going to be sharing that with our listeners in the coming weeks. And my goodness, we she shared some poetry and she is as fiery as ever. And here comes the Sawtooth Writing Retreat again. This is September 14th through the 17th… applications in by September 1st.

TEST: And that's correct… at the Hemingway Center  on the Boise State website. Yep.

PRENTICE: Have a grand time in the dark sky. And with all that is good. And by the way, I'm picturing during the day possibly fishing or hiking spending or getting face time with world class authors and then stargazing.

TEST: You know, this event,,,, we have cabins out there, food is going to be catered. So, everybody just enjoys the nature. And you can go hiking during the day and reflect and find a place to write and attend some workshops on writing. And then at night,  stargazing, bonfires, you know, the whole shebang.

PRENTICE: And again, we'll put a link to that on our website as well. And through the Hemingway Center. He is Mac Test, professor at the School of the Arts at Boise State. Mac, thanks for giving me some time this morning.

TEST: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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