The Mutineer is an about-monthly digest designed to bring together and energize the writing community at Eastern Oregon University and beyond. It highlights regional and national events, opportunities (jobs, residencies, calls for submission), and more. It is a project of the EOU English/Writing program and the EOU MFA in Creative Writing.

To submit news, accomplishments, articles, and other items of interest to our community (or to update your email address), please send a note to The deadline for the next digest is March 23.


We're excited to share that we're searching for an Assistant Professor in English/Writing with an emphasis in fiction. First review date is 3/15. We're looking for a creative writer who doesn’t mind mountains and views. See the full position description for more details.

ARS POETICA: Join us Thursday at 6 pm PT online or at the EOU Library for an evening with Adrian Shirk

Adrian Shirk’s latest book is Heaven is a Place on Earth: Searching for an American Utopia (Counterpoint 2022): “Told in a series of essays that balance memoir with fieldwork, Heaven Is a Place on Earth is an idiosyncratic study of American utopian experiments—from the Shakers to the radical faerie communes of Short Mountain to the Bronx rebuilding movement—through the lens of one woman’s quest to create a more communal life in a time of unending economic and social precarity.” Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a sprawling synthesis of memoir and social history" and "a rigorous, personalized argument for the continued relevance of an old idea.” Shirk is also the author of And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Stories from the Byways of American Women and Religion, named an NPR Best Book of 2017. Raised in Portland, Oregon, she now lives at the Mutual Aid Society in the Catskill Mountains and teaches in Pratt Institute’s BFA creative writing program. She is a frequent contributor to Catapult, and her essays have appeared in The Atlantic and Atlas Obscura, among other publications. Shirk will be in conversation with Nick Neely, Assistant Professor of English/Writing. Her visit is a featured event for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences inaugural theme, “utopia,” and is also supported by the Carl and Sandra Ellston Ars Poetica Fund. For a full press release, see here. For the livestream link, click here.

THREE QUESTIONS for Adrian Shirk

Interview by Nick Neely

On page one of Heaven Is a Place on Earth, you write that "utopia is, or can be, any gesture that points to a better future." Can you elaborate on that briefly? Because I think we tend to see "utopias" as pie-in-the-sky narratives, or projects like communes.

If I think of utopia as only a very specific kind of place (a dysfunctional commune, a wacky historical movement) or only the stuff of fiction (the world of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed), it might be interesting to me, sure, but those two poles also feel kind of meaningless: communes fall apart, innovative weirdos become artifacts in a library, fictions get used as foils or strawmen to settle some nasty political argument, etc. But when I began to perceive utopia not as a place but as a process it suddenly became so much more urgent and exciting. And that sentence you flagged, on page one, is from maybe the first voice that really illuminated for me that the process is the point: Cruising Utopia by Jose Esteban Munoz, the late-great queer theory and cultural studies scholar, who -- in that book -- is working out a spectacular re-thinking of utopianism via the experiences and literature of 20th century queer people. Munoz is basically like: queer people have always had to both live in the crappy present while also, simultaneously, living in a glorious future (I love his term the "now-future,"). And I think that's true for any marginalized group of people. So this really formed the basis of my perspective for the rest of the book, or at least it was the place my perspective developed from: utopia is a process; it is the process of living fully in the present, while actively ushering in the more-beautiful future; the future is never something we arrive at, but are only ever gesturing towards; the gestures are a creative force; the gestures are expressed in the creation of anything that the reigning imperial paradigm was supposed to make impossible, but which figured out how to exist anyway: The Stonewall riots, the liberation movements they gave shape to; the pacifism and anti-wealth accumulation of the Shakers; the total rebuilding of the South Bronx by its own residents; and yes, of course, Ursula Le Guin's novels; and sure, yes, communes, too.

You write about how this book coalesced from short essays and fragments, or "utopia notes," that you began keeping almost spontaneously. What are your quick thoughts on the merits of just following your nose as a writer and letting a project build haphazardly/organically?

My thoughts are to do it always, or as often as you are able to get out of its way. Art projects are alive, I think; yes, I believe that they are living things. They are organic. They benefit from our structure and collaboration, but they also benefit from our quiet presence and respect. They make mischief. They build just as much as we build, I think, and they do so in whatever way they want to, despite our specific conscious wishes. This may sound kooky, but it's what I've been learning along the way. Maybe I will think differently down the road. But right now I think that my projects have always been served by my willingness to just accept them as these fundamentally haphazard, organic things which need, yes, time, order, style, revision, but primarily my nose, and to just follow it. I will say, something that helps me to "follow my nose" as a writer is that I tend to make books about things that I have really pressing questions about, and specifically questions that bear on my life in real-time, like, right now: there's actually something I need to solve or push forward, even just personally. I can trust the "haphazard" more when the writing project itself matters so thoroughly to my actual life that at times I can just think, "Well, even if this ends up being illegible or boring, it was at least something I was going to spend time thinking about anyway."

To what extent is a college or university a kind of utopia? Should we see it that way?

Ooof. Well, eating my words above, I guess I'd have to ask myself: to what extent is a college or university invested in process, or embodying a process of living in the "now-future"? Are there specific colleges that have taken up this mantle, presently or historically? If so, then such a college cannot last for very long. If it does, then it becomes an institution, in which power and money and real estate accumulates, in which labor is extracted from an ever-expanding part-time faculty workforce and astronomical debt is assumed by teenagers, the interest of which is scraped by the federal government to swell US military budgets. This sounds cynical. It is cynical. I guess I find the present state of US higher education extremely dystopian as a structure, and in the throes of a major moral and spiritual crisis. I say this as someone who has spent my entire adult life learning and working within colleges. It has been my livelihood, my location, and the places where I have built worlds with peers, students, colleagues and friends. And it is a place where almost every day I see all of these people enacting "gestures that point to a better future": paradigm-shifting conversations, transformative research, intergalactic-inquiry, consciousness-shifting. The utopian capacities of college are always there, always living, because those things live no matter what kind of economic apparatus you build on top of it, but no, I don't think a college or university is a kind of utopia itself. So the kinds of things I'm thinking about as of late, which many others have thought about before me and many will after (not to mention all people who are thinking about this more rigorously than me right now), is how can we create more contexts for those utopian collective knowledge-making activities that tend to happen in higher-ed? Where have they already happened, and where are they already happening?


EOU MFA at AWP in Seattle

Our program is headed to the AWP Writers Conference in Seattle next week and will be posted up at Bookfair Booth 1240, representing our partner Fishtrap as well. In honor of Seattle’s legacy of big timber, our booth will feature a broadside exhibit featuring arboreal poems and a collaborative tree verse project–come add your words. Additionally there will be a raffle for signed books and rolling signings by faculty. Please stop by and stay awhile. Additionally, here’s a schedule of events featuring faculty:

3/9 (Thursday), 9-10:15 am: “Re-visioning History in Creative Nonfiction” featuring EOU Assistant Professor Nick Neely along with Ana Maria Spagna, Teow Lim Goh, and Kathleen Alcala. Location: Terrace Suite II, Summit Building, Seattle Convention Center, Level 4.

3/9, 12:10-1:25 pm: “Battle of the Textbooks,” featuring MFA faculty member Joe Wilkins along with Michael Kardos, Hadara Bar-Nadav, and Jennifer Pullen. They will discuss “why they decided to write / edit their textbook, the niche they hoped to fill, and the ways in which their textbook authorship has affected their own teaching and writing.” Location: Rooms 347-348, Summit Building, Seattle Convention Center, Level 3.

3/9, 3:20- 4:35 pm: “Queer Eye for the Natural World: Writing Our Bodies, Desire, and Nature.” MFA faculty member Melissa Matthewson moderates this panel with authors Marco Wilkinson, Kemi Alabi, Alicia Mountain, and Amie Whittemore. Location: Rooms 328-329, Summit Building, Seattle Convention Center, Level 3.


All times Pacific; all events online unless otherwise noted. Except on rare occasions, only free events or those with modest registration fees will be listed.

3/3, 4 pm: YMCA of Central New York presents a reading by poet Ama Codjoe, author of Bluest Nude and Blood of the Air. Codjoe has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council/New York Foundation of the Arts, and the Jerome Foundation. FREE. Details here.

3/16, 4 pm: Writers & Books presents Gabrielle Civil and the déjà vu: Black Dreams & Black Time: “Emerging from the intersection of pandemic and uprising, the déjà vu activates forms both new and ancestral, drawing movement, speech, and lyric essay into performance memoir. As Civil considers Haitian tourist paintings, dance rituals, race at the movies, black feminist legacies, and more, she reflects on her personal losses and desires, speculates on black time, and dreams into expansive black life.” FREE. Details here.

3/17, 7 pm (in person): La Grande’s Art Center East hosts Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani for a reading in conjunction with ACE’s 7th Annual Fiber Arts & Jewelry exhibit. FREE. Details here.

3/23, 7 pm: California Institute of Integral Studies presents “Indigenous Voices on Our Changing Earth: “Join author and journalist Dahr Jamail and ecologist and activist-scholar Melissa K. Nelson for a unique conversation exploring ideas from Indigenous voices at the center of conversations about the current climate crisis. In their conversation they discuss themes and perspectives from the book We Are the Middle of Forever, an anthology of native voices which was co-edited by Dahr and Stan Rushworth and features an essay by Melissa.” FREE (suggested donation $10). Details here.


By deadline. Mainly notable, niche, and themed opportunities are presented here. For a broader view of what’s out there, see Poets & Writers’s Contests, Grants, & Awards page, Submittable’s “Discover Opportunities,” and New Pages’s Big List of Contests.

3/1: Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowships: An academic year in residence with a stipend of at least $39,000 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison is given annually to at least five writers with an MFA or PhD in creative writing working on a first or second book of poetry or fiction. Submit 10 pages of poetry or one story or novel excerpt of up to 30 pages, a curriculum vitae, and contact information for two references. $50 entry.

3/1: HerStry call for submissions, “Women at Work”: “For better or worse, one of the defining factors in life is what we do for work. In April, we’re collecting work stories, whatever they mean to you. We want stories from stay-at-home moms, pastors and pastry chefs, corporate lawyers and cattle farmers. Take us deep into the world of your work. Why do you love it? Or do you wish for another life? What do you wish you’d done instead?” $3 entry.

3/15: James Jones Literary Society First Novel Fellowship: A prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. The first runner-up receives $3,000, second runner-up receives $2,000. Submit 50 pages of a novel-in-progress and a two-page synopsis. $33 entry.

3/15: Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a single poem. Juan Felipe Herrera will judge. Submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each. $10 entry.

3/15: Bellingham Review Literary Awards: Three prizes of $1,000 and publication are given annually: the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, and the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction. Submit up to three poems, three pieces of flash fiction or nonfiction of up to 1,500 words each, or a story or essay of up to 4,000 words. $15 entry.

3/17: Camas (U Montana) call for submissions: “For the Summer 2023 issue … we want to explore what it means to be ‘Unnatural.’ Ideas of ‘nature’ are often manmade. ‘Nature’ is pure, untouched, pristine, holy–perfect? Impossible? Who gets to decide what counts as natural? Help us rechart ‘unnatural’ territory. Send us your revolutions against nature.” $3 entry.

3/31: Cirque’s 2nd Competition in Poetry, "Poems about Place": Three $100 prizes, up to 20 additional poems will be published. Submit up to three poems. Must be a resident of the “Pacific Rim.” $25 entry.

4/1: North America Review’s Terry Tempest Williams Creative Nonfiction Prize: $1,000 and publication is given annually for a work of creative nonfiction. Ira Sukrungruang will judge. Submit an essay of 500 to 10,000 words. $23 entry (includes an issue of the journal).


Undergraduates, looking for a great English/Writing course for the Spring term? Try these offered by Associate Professor Sheri Rysdam:

WR 310 Women’s Rhetorics offers readings and discussions on important persuasive acts by women from ancient times to today. This course is not offered often, so sign up to take it!

WR 220 Methods of Tutoring is a course for students who want to be tutors for the EOU Writing Center (online or in person). Even if you don't plan to tutor, it is a great course for anyone going into education or any writing-related field.


Again, please send a note to to submit news, accomplishments, events, articles, book recs, and opportunities that will be of interest to our community.

The deadline for the next digest is March 23.

Looking east toward the Wallowas from La Grande