Robert McDowell Chosen as New Executive Director of The Nature of Words


McDowell Brings Rich Background in Literary Arts, Development & Teaching to the Position

After an extensive nationwide search that attracted 69 applicants, Robert McDowell has been chosen to succeed founder Ellen Waterston as executive director of The Nature of Words (NOW). McDowell, currently living in Ashland, Oregon, will begin his new duties on May 14. Waterston will aid in the transition through June. McDowell will be officially introduced to the community on June 28 at NOW’s annual BOOKPLATE literary arts-themed auction and November festival guest author announcement.

McDowell was the co-founder and executive director for 22 years of Story Line Press. At Story Line, he selected, edited and guided into print 250 volumes of contemporary poetry, literary criticism, drama, fiction and creative non-fiction. He published the work of newcomers, writers in mid-career, five Pulitzer Prize recipients, six U.S. Poet Laureates and a Nobel laureate.

Stephen Archer, NOW board president, said, “Robert’s twenty-two year work in founding and running Story Line Press brings a depth of experience that will enrich and strengthen NOW’s mission to foster the literary arts in Central Oregon.”

McDowell stated, “I am grateful for the rare opportunity to succeed NOW’s terrific founder, Ellie Waterston, a poet and literary activist I’ve admired for decades, and to work with a board and staff of enthusiastic, deeply committed and creative individuals. Together, we are going to honor The Nature of Words’ past and present, and shepherd the organization into an expansive, exciting future.”

While leading Story Line Press, McDowell also raised millions of dollars to support literacy and literary arts through community outreach, most notably the Rural Readers Project, which brought serious contemporary writing and authors to underserved communities throughout the Northwest, northern California, Arkansas and upstate New York. He has directed two writers’ conferences, the Ohio River Writers Conference, and the Ashland Writers Conference.

McDowell has led workshops and retreats for beginners and experienced practitioners through poetry and journaling. He has also offered one-on-one editing and mentoring services and enjoys speaking to businesses and groups interested in improving performance and morale by listening, communication, writing and presentation skills.

In addition to his leadership and teaching experience, McDowell is the author of five books of poetry, including The World Next to This One, which will be published in Ireland by Salmon Publishing in the spring of 2013, and the bestselling Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2008). He is also the co-author of two volumes of literary theory, and the editor of three anthologies. His poems, stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of anthologies and periodicals, including Best American Poetry, Poetry, London Magazine, The New Criterion, Sewanee Review and The Hudson Review.

A graduate of the University of California Santa Cruz and Columbia University, McDowell was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, a Woolrich Fellow at Columbia and a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers Conference. He has led retreats and taught at locations including Bennington College’s low-residency M.F.A. Program, the University of Southern Indiana, UC Santa Cruz, Taos Writers Conference, Sewanee Writers Conference, Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, Killybegs Festival in Ireland, West Chester Conference on Form and Narrative and many other venues.

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