COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

7th Annual Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference

photo credits: Todd Balfour and Jason Lamb

The 7th annual Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference is a week-long writers’ conference, based on the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference model, that’s designed to hone the skills of people interested in producing literary writing about the environment and the natural world. The conference is cosponsored by the Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program and the Franklin Environmental Center.


Wednesday, June 10 – Tuesday, June 16, 2020.  The conference will take place at the Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont.


The conference will incorporate the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference model of small, focused workshops coupled with specialized classes centered on the craft of writing. Workshops will be limited to ten participants so that each manuscript will receive individual, focused attention and critique. All participants will also meet individually with their workshop leader to amplify and refine what was said in the workshop itself. Established editors, literary agents, and publishers will give presentations on placing work in magazines and navigating the environmental book publishing world.

To get a feel for what to expect during the session see this sample schedule from the 2019 conference. In addition to the lectures, workshops, classes, and readings listed, meetings with agents and editors take place in the afternoon, and faculty schedule an individual meeting with each contributor to take place during the week. The manuscript packet of student writing is made available to each workshop group in the weeks leading up to the session in order to allow time to read and prepare before arrival.

This week-long conference of workshops, classes, lectures, readings, and discussions is for all writers of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction whose work engages with or advocates for nature and the environment.
The conference is also intended for environmental professionals, journalists, and teachers wanting to strengthen and explore their writing in a literary context. For those who are interested in learning more about environmental and nature writing but who do not wish to workshop their writing, there is also an auditing option available.   


Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences create diverse and inclusive communities that give voice to writers of all ages and experience.  The conferences are not retreats where writers work in solitude, but instead places where writers of all backgrounds and at all stages of their careers—unpublished and published—come together to test their assumptions regarding literature and to seek advice about their progress as writers.  Built on a long history of gathering writers from all over the United States, and now from outside of the U.S. as well, to live and learn together during the intensive 7 days, Bread Loaf fosters communities where open-mindedness, respect, and appreciation are truly valued and where each person can thrive and benefit from their time on the mountain.


Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference will feature eight workshops with up to ten participants in each group. Faculty will include acclaimed nature and environmental writers including poets Dan Chiasson and Amber Flora Thomas; fiction writers Jennine Capó Crucet and Lauren Groff; and nonfiction writers Kazim Ali, Ted Genoways, J. Drew Lanham, and Emily Raboteau. In addition to their literary accomplishments, each faculty member has been specifically chosen for their skill at guiding developing writers.  


The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference is the oldest writers' conference in America. Since 1926 it has convened in mid-August at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College. Envisioned by Robert Frost, the Conference has featured eminent writers such as Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, Wallace Stegner, Eudora Welty, John Irving, Natasha Trethewey, Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez, Julia Alvarez, William Kittredge, Scott Russell Sanders, and Luis Alberto Urrea.  The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference has a long legacy of commitment to the environment, dating back to early naturalist Joseph Battell who created the original Bread Loaf site as a mountain retreat in 1866. 

Dating from 1965, the Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program is the oldest undergraduate environmental studies program in the United States and one of the College's largest majors. The Environmental Studies Program brings together a community of scholars and students engaged in the study of the human relationship to the environment. Students choose from foci across the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Ten core faculty members and forty affiliated faculty colleagues from 24 departments on campus together offer an interdisciplinary major and minor in which students learn to observe, explore, listen, analyze, question, discuss, and pursue answers through creative work, research, and problem-solving.

The mission of the Middlebury College Franklin Environmental Center is to shape a world in which humans, ecological communities, and economic systems can sustainably coexist. The Center nurtures partnerships that anticipate issues on campus and beyond, and addresses complex environmental challenges at local, regional, and global scales.


Applications to the conference will be accepted between November 1, 2019 and February 15, 2020 or until the spaces are filled. Acceptance is based on the strength and promise of the writing sample and on the Admissions Board's judgment that the applicant will benefit from the conference.

Acceptances will be made on a rolling basis and applicants will be notified whether they have been admitted approximately four to six weeks after they apply.


Thanks to support from the Katharine Bakeless Nason Endowment, the Michael Collier Endowment, and Middlebury College, the conference is making available a limited number of $500, $750, and $1,000 scholarships as well as at least three full scholarships. 


See the BL Environmental pages for more details: Faculty & Guests, Application & Acceptance, Lodging & Logistics, and Fees & Deadlines.


Bread Loaf Writers' Conferences
204 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802-443-5286
Fax: 802-443-2087