Paper pub. date
April 2011
ISBN 9780870715914 (paperback)
5.5 x 8.5 inches, 176 pages.


Community on the Edge of Wilderness

Ana Maria Spagna

In Potluck, Ana Maria Spagna explores the enduring human connection to place, journeying from Tijuana to a California beach to Utah’s canyon country—and, always, back to the sparsely populated valley in the North Cascades that she calls home.

Potluck homes in on the everyday gatherings that, over time, define a community: a makeshift wedding, an art gallery opening, a farewell potluck, a work party, a work party, a campfire, a political caucus, a funeral. “What connects us?” Spagna asks, and she reveals, again and again, the gift of community—easy and uneasy, deep and enduring and essential.

About the author

Ana Maria Spagna lives in Stehekin, Washington, where she works on a National Park Service trail crew. Her essays have appeared in Orion, Utne Reader, Open Spaces, Backpacker, and Best Essays NW

Read more about this author

“Ana Maria Spagna brings something new and important to the American tradition of writing about life at the edge of wilderness. Her stories are shaped by chainsaws and courage, but also by potlucks, unexpected love, hand-held radio calls, and the crazy sustaining friendships that create a community from everybody who washes up at the place where the river meets the trail. John Muir (alone at the top of a mountain) might be puzzled by her book, but Henry David Thoreau (planting beans by the pond) would love it. It’s rueful, funny, suspenseful, insightful, and altogether true.” —Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Wild Comfort

“Spagna peels back the reality of living in a small, close community. It is not easy. It is full of tensions that never resolve. Full of differences, sacrifices, and rewards. In the end she wins through to unforgettable clarity about this oft-glamorized easily sentimental condition-clarity that feels like wisdom.” —David Oates, author of City Limits 

“So many writers romanticize rural life, and so few address its true difficulties and rewards. Ana Maria Spagna never flinches: In this wry, wise, and beautifully written collection of essays, she takes a deep, honest look at her life in a small community, and teaches all of us something about ourselves and our neighbors.” —Michelle Nijhuis, contributing editor, High Country News

“From one of the country’s most-remote hamlets comes one of the West’s most perceptive and lyrical literary voices. Ana Maria Spagna’s powerful prose seamlessly integrates the Big Three of quality writing: education, edification and entertainment. Few place-based writers can pull that off. Ana Maria pulls it off brilliantly. Her work belongs on the same shelf as Mary Sojourner and Ellen Meloy. It’s that good.”  —M. John Fayhee, Editor, the Mountain Gazette and author of Bottoms Up

Sign Up for Our Newsletter