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Barry Lopez Honored by Sun Valley Writers Conference
Jenny Emery Davidson had the opportunity to hold a conversation with Barry Lopez at Ketchum’s Community Library in July 2019, thanks to the Sun Valley Writers Conference.
Sunday, December 27, 2020


The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference has awarded its inaugural Writer in the World to Barry Lopez, the American author, essayist, and fiction writer, in recognition of his singular voice in the landscape of English literature.

Lopez is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its humanitarian and environmental focus.

The $20,000 Writer in the World Prize, established and funded anonymously by the board members of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, acknowledges a writer whose work expresses a rare combination of literary talent and moral imagination, helping us to better understand the world and our place in it.

“On every level, Barry Lopez is the ideal recipient for our first Writer in the World Prize,” said Robin Eidsmo, SVWC Executive Director. “A writer full of curiosity and compassion, he has gifted us with words of optimism and of alarm about our planet and our need to protect it and each other.”

For the past half-century, Lopez has traveled the globe from the  Arctic to Antarctica, Oregon to Kenya,  bringing back stories etched in luminous prose that explore our profound connections to the diverse, fragile planet we inhabit.

He is the author of the now-classic Arctic Dreams, winner of the National Book Award, and Of Wolves and Men, a National Book Award finalist. The New York Times called his most recent book, Horizon  “beautiful and brutal, uplifting and bleak, a story of the universal human condition set in some of the most distinctive places on earth.”

Lopez himself writes, “The role of the artist, in part, is to develop the conversations, the stories, the drawings, the films, the music—the expressions of awe and wonder and mystery—that remind us, especially in our worst times, of what is still possible, of what we haven’t yet imagined. And it is by looking to one another, by attending to the responsibilities of maintaining good relations in whatever we do, that communities turn a gathering darkness into light.”

The Writer in the World Prize will be officially presented to Lopez at the 2021 Sun Valley Writers’ Conference in July at the Sun Valley Resort.

Over its 27 years, the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference has become one of the most unique literary festivals. For four days every July, some of the country’s—and the world’s—finest writers and thinkers gather at Sun Valley Resort to talk about their work and the world and to mingle with a large, engaged audience of more than 1,000.

Among its alumni are novelists Ian McEwan and Alice McDermott, Tommy Orange and David Grossman, biographers Andrew Morton and A. Scott Berg, poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Kay Ryan, and nonfiction writers including Bryan Stevenson, Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. The event’s past presenters have included 50 Pulitzer Prize winners, 22 National Book Award winners, and six winners of the elite Mann Booker Prize given in Great Britain.

Editor's Note: Sadly, Barry Lopez died on Christmas Day in Eugene, Ore., after a years-long struggle with prostate cancer. His death followed the devastation of the September 2020 Holiday Farm fire, which badly damaged his home and a building that stored his original manuscripts, personal letters, photos and a typewriter used to write his books.



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