Featured speaker

Michael Branch


Mike Branch is a writer, humorist, environmentalist, father, and desert rat who lives with his wife and two young daughters in the western Great Basin Desert. His work includes nine published books, one of which is the Pulitzer Prize-nominated John Muir’s Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (Island Press). He has four recent books: Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness (Shambhala  / Roost Books, 2016), Rants from the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, a Drunken Mary Kay Lady, and Other Encounters with the Wild in the High Desert (Shambhala / Roost Books, 2017), ‘The Best Read Naturalist’: Nature Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (co-edited with Clinton Mohs, University of Virginia Press, 2017), and How to Cuss in Western (Shambhala  / Roost Books, 2018). Mike has published more than 200 essays, articles, and reviews, and has given more than 300 invited lectures, readings, and workshops. His creative nonfiction includes pieces that have received Honorable Mention for the Pushcart Prize and been recognized as Notable Essays in The Best American Essays (three times), The Best Creative Nonfiction, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Non-required Reading (a humor anthology). His essays have appeared in magazines including Utne Reader, Orion, Outside, Ecotone, Slate, Terrain.org, National Parks, Hawk and Handsaw, Places, Red Rock Review, and Whole Terrain, and have been included in numerous books, including Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark (Univ. Nevada Press), Trash Animals: The Cultural Perceptions, Biology, and Ecology of Animals in Conflict with Humans (Univ. Minnesota Press), Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together (MIT Press), Wonder and Other Survival Skills (Orion Readers book series), and Best Creative Nonfiction of the South, Volume I: Virginia (Texas Review Press). Mike’s essay series Rants from the Hill offers a comic view of life and parenting in the spectacular but rugged and remote environment of the high desert. The series consists of sixty-nine 2,000-word essays that were published monthly between July, 2010 and April, 2016 in High Country News online at http://www.hcn.org/. The Rants received more than 100,000 page views, have been widely reprinted, and have been taught in creative writing and/or environmental literature courses at colleges and universities around the country. Many of these short essays have also been professionally produced as podcasts that are available for free on iTunes. Mike, who is Professor of Literature and Environment and University Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, is co-founder and past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), served for sixteen years as the Book Review Editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and is a co-founder and series co-editor of the University of Virginia Press book series Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism. He is the recipient of Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Silver Pen Award, the Western Literature Association Frederick Manfred Award for Creative Writing, the Willa Pilla Award for Humor Writing, and his books have been finalists for the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment Creative Book Award, and the Mountain West Center Evans-Handcart Award. When he isn’t writing, Mike enjoys activist and stewardship work, native plant gardening, bucking stovewood, playing blues harmonica, sipping sour mash, cursing at baseball on the radio, and walking at least 1,000 miles each year in the hills and canyons surrounding his desert home.