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Karen Auvinen

Karen Auvinen

Nature Writing Faculty


PH.D., University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, English with concentration in Creative Writing (Fiction), 2003
M.A., University of Colorado – Boulder, English with concentration in Creative Writing (Poetry), 1995
B.A., University of Colorado – Boulder, English Literature and Environmental Biology, 1987


Karen Auvinen is a poet, writer, mountain woman, outlier and life-long westerner, and author of the memoir Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living (Scribner), finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the Willa Award.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, LitHub, Real Simple, Westword and The Rumpus, as well as High Desert Journal, Ascent Magazine, Cold Mountain Review and The Columbia Review, among others. Her fiction has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. A collection of stories about outliers in the West is forthcoming.

Past gigs include Writer-in-Residence for the State of Colorado, editor, book-buyer, rural postal route driver, caterer, clinic assistant, landscaper, summer camp director and guest chef. She lives at 8600 feet with her partner, artist Greg Marquez, River the dog and Dottie the cat, within the Roosevelt National Forest and the ancestral territories of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples.

How did you discover Western?

I’ve lived in Colorado most of my life so of course I know Western and Gunnison. When I heard the GPCW started a Nature Writing Program, I knew I wanted to be involved.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

I studied with both Lucia Berlin and Linda Hogan at CU – Boulder. My first book, Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living sold to Scribner on a preempt, was published to starred reviews, and was a finalist for both the Willa and Colorado Book Award. Most, recently, being asked to do the yearlong book workshop at Fishtrap and becoming a member of the Nature Writing Faculty at Western.

What most excites you about your field?

Telling stories. Listening to an ever-widening circle of voices.

Courses Taught

  • CRWR 688 Writing about Nature & Society



Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living. Scribner, 2018. Paperback Edition, 2019. Translated into Russian, 2019.

Recent Fiction

“Love, Hank.” High Desert Journal. Issue 32. Spring 2021. https://www.highdesertjournal.com/karen-auvinen-love-hank
“Winter.” Cold Mountain Review. Spring, 2014. Appalachian State University.
“The Karate Boys. Ascent Magazine. Spring 2014. Moorehead College, MN.

Recent Non-Fiction & Essay

“Building the Fire: How Routine and Practice Create a Spark.” Writers Stories in Motion: Healing Joy and Triumph. Laura
A. Gray-Rosendale, Ed. Peter Lang, October 2020.
“The Hard Choice: Coronavirus and Staying Put,” The Colorado Sun. “Write On.” March, 24, 2020.
“How Daily Walks Prepared Me for Tragedy.” Real Simple Magazine. July 27, 2018.
“Surviving Winter in the Rockies in the Name of Writing.” LitHub. June 8, 2018.
“Summer and Smoke: Forty Seasons of Rough Beauty. Westword. Denver, CO. June 5, 2018.
“The Fox Who Came to Dinner.” Menagerie. The New York Times. Web. May 4, 2015.

Recent Poetry

“husk gathering,” The Columbia Review, vol 96. no 2. Spring 2015. 16.

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