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Call for Submissions: Utah Lake Chapbook

In the spring of 1849, thirty Mormon settler families entered Utah Valley with a train of wagons and cattle. They intended to establish a settlement near the shores of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River – a glittering gem of culture and life for Ute and Shoshone peoples. The lush valley had hosted well over a thousand years of perpetual human habitation.

A young Ute man named An-kar-tewets saw the wagons approaching and rode in their direction. He stopped his horse on the trail, directly in front of the intruders, and shouted at them to go back where they came from. The Salt Lake Valley, where thousands of Mormon families had already settled, was one thing. This valley of fresh water, ample fish and game, and lush riparian vegetation was another. This place was the very meaning of home. Dimick Huntington, leading the Mormon families, pleaded with An-kar-tewets and angry friends to let them in. The Saints would show them they could all live together in peace, that the valley was rich enough to sustain them all. The Ute party unhappily gave way but made Huntington “raise his right hand and swear by the sun” that the Mormons would “not drive the Indians from their lands, nor take away their rights.”

The history of Utah Lake and the valley since that day is both well-known and obscure. A unique ecosystem that sustained human, animal, and plant life for centuries has been so transformed by irrigation, sewage, non-native fauna, and industrialization that the lake – covering 150 square miles of the sprawling urban valley floor – has become a haunting emblem of destruction and loss.

A recent plan to “save” Utah Lake by dredging toxic sediments and constructing artificial islands for high-end development has reopened cultural wounds, exploiting human fatigue, apparent powerlessness, and apathy. Legitimate science makes it clear that the remarkable water features of Utah Valley can be restored in far more natural, sustainable, and inclusive ways. But restoration will require a long-deferred cultural reckoning – a reinvention of ideological, economic, and political language to complement real science. 

We are soliciting submissions of memory, hope, situated insight, and articulate emotion grounded in a place at once so beautiful and so ravaged that we have nearly lost our capacity for description. We believe that recovering language is crucial to recovering Utah Lake. We seek brief original essays, poetry, and nonfiction narratives about Utah Lake for a chapbook to be published by Torrey House Press in January 2023.

We will consider work by professional and nonprofessional writers with a commitment to the natural presence and vibrant future of Utah Lake. We hope to read firsthand narratives about the lake and its meanings; multicultural ancestral legacies; credible (and readable) scientific or anthropological insights; creative expressions that can fortify realistic hope for this priceless feature of Great Basin geography.

Co-editors Amelia England and Karin Anderson intend to produce an intergenerational, intercultural anthology that illuminates what we have collectively forgotten, misunderstood, or never seen. We hope to portray the lake in vital relationships to history, contemporary environmental issues, and cultural values. We are biased toward a favorable future for the lake and the region it defines. We are interested in the larger issues the lake represents. We appreciate attention to the beauty and impact of language.

This anthology will be made available through local bookselling venues. Torrey House will provide complimentary copies to the Utah legislature and other policymaking entities.

Please help us distribute this call to potential contributors. Feel free to ask the editors further questions via email. Visit the Torrey House website for information on the publisher’s mission and vision: https://www.torreyhouse.org/

Submission Length: up to 1000 words.

Submission Deadline: August 30, 2022

Project Editors: Amelia England amelia.england@gmail.com Karin Anderson karin_ae@icloud.com

Key source for the narrative above: John Alton Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1998.

Credible and powerful inspiration: https://pws.byu.edu/utah-lake/about-utah-lake? https://pws.byu.edu/utah-lake-recovery?

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.