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“You don’t have to be perfect to serve the future”: Lisa Wells on ‘Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World’

This week on The Write Question, host Lauren Korn speaks with poet and essayist Lisa Wells, author of Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Like most of us, Lisa has spent years overwhelmed by increasingly urgent news of climate change on an apocalyptic scale. In Believers, Lisa has asked not for solutions to this every life-sized problem, but for alternative ways of living on our damaged planet. Believers tracks the lives of people who are dedicated to repairing the earth, people who are moving forward despite humanity’s wish, or want, or need, to back-track; it’s Lisa’s own reckoning with our dying planet, an intimate look into the many ways she understands, and comes to understand, her own relationships: to the Earth, to her body, to others. Believers, while a book of stylistic, in-depth journalism, is ultimately a book of environmental philosophy. What is our role—the human role, civilization’s role—in bringing our planet back from the brink?

This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience in Spokane, Washington, at the Spokane Public Library in partnership with the 2023 Get Lit! Literary Festival, where Lisa appeared as a participating author.

About Lisa:

Lisa Wells is the author, most recently, of Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World, a finalist for the 2022 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Her debut collection of poetry, The Fix, won the Iowa Poetry Prize. You can find her essays in Harper’s, Granta, The New York Times, The Best American Science & Nature Writing, and in Orion Magazine. She lives in Seattle.

Lisa Wells recommends:

California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline by Rosanna Xia (Heyday Books, forthcoming September 2023)

Sister Zero by Nance Van Winckel (Slant Books)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Holding Fire: A Reckoning with the American West by Bryce Andrews (Mariner Books)

The River You Touch: Making a Life on Moving Water (Milkweed Editions)

The Peregrine by J. A. Baker (New York Review of Books)

This conversation was recorded in Spokane, Washington, at the Spokane Public Library, in partnership with the 2023 Get Lit! Literary Festival. The Write Question team for this episode was Lauren Korn, host, co-producer, and editor; and Chris Moyles, co-producer and editor.

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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