Gathering Stones: Writing Poetry by the River

Dates: June 23-28, 2024
Instructor: Emilie Lygren
Fee: $500 + meals and accommodations fees
Term: Summer 2024

Course Description

This will be a supportive, generative workshop focused on writing poetry. To craft our poems we’ll look inward, pulling from our own memories and experiences, and turn our attention outward, drawing from our rich surroundings. Prompts will help us put words on the page. We will read and discuss the work of fantastic poets to inform our own writing, including Joy Harjo, Danusha Laméris, J. Drew Lanham, Ada Limón, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, and William Stafford (a partial list). We will spend time with inspiring organisms and landscape features such as cottonwoods, chipmunks, red fir trees, thrushes, rounded river stones, pine cones, and the north Yuba River (a partial list) to populate our writing with deep observations. Each day will include two writing sessions and ample free time for hiking, swimming, napping, adventuring, and relaxing.   

All levels of experience are welcome! If you’re new to poetry or have always wanted to try writing poetry but just haven’t gotten around with it, you’re especially welcome!

Students sitting on a dock, writing
Emilie Lygren

Instructor Bio

Emilie Lygren holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geology-Biology from Brown University and has worked extensively as an outdoor science educator and poet. Emilie developed dozens of publications focused on nature journaling, outdoor science education, and social-emotional learning through her work at the award-winning BEETLES Project at the Lawrence Hall of Science. She is also an award-winning poet with poems published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Her first collection of poems, What We Were Born For, was selected by the Young People’s Poet Laureate as the Poetry Foundation’s monthly book pick in February 2022. In her writing and teaching, Emilie calls on awareness and curiosity as tools to bring people into relationship with place, self, and community. A longtime member of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus community, poet and outdoor educator Emilie Lygren worked in the field campus kitchen from 2009-2012. Whenever Emilie wasn’t cooking, she attended as many classes as she could and made good on her goal to hike to every lake in the Lakes Basin. Contact her at

Course Details

Course Schedule

Sunday: Arrive between 2 and 5pm for check-in and setting up camp. Arrival dinner at 6 followed by introductions and evening writing. Monday-Thursday We will engage in writing sessions each morning and afternoon, at the field campus and at offsite locations depending on the interest of the group. Thursday evening, we will give a poetry reading for the field campus community. Friday: Morning writing session and closing; class will end by 11am.

Supplies List

-       A favorite poem to share by way of introduction

-       A hat with a brim 

-       Your preferred analog writing supplies:

-       journal, field notebook, and/or loose paper  

-       pencil and/or pen 

-       optional: laptop  

-       optional but recommended: portable camp chair for field writing excursions

Lodging and Camping Supplies

Camping gear if you are staying on campus:

  • tent and sleeping pad (unless you are staying in our tent with a cot provided)
  • warm sleeping bag
  • pillow, toiletries, and towel
  • flashlight and lantern
  • alarm clock

Field gear for everyone:

  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches
  • sense of humor

You might also want to bring:

  • camera
  • binoculars
  • hand lens
  • camp chair


The weather in the Sierra Nevada can vary greatly, even in a single day. Be prepared for chilly temperatures at night, even below freezing early in the summer. Rain is a possibility any time, whether forecast or not. Variable weather clothing that can be layered is best: long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater and jacket, t-shirt and shorts or skirt, sturdy shoes or hiking boots, sun hat, rain gear, and a warm hat or gloves for cold weather and/or night activities. And, if you come later in the season, bring your swimsuit for afternoon dips in the lakes!