New Photography ~
~ Current Favorites ~
New Writing ~
Imagine a college hallway, early morning. Students on their way to an 8:00 a.m. class, backpacks already heavy, strained breathing on the third floor landing. This is not an elegant setting. The lights are fluorescent. Chairs, where three students wait to meet with professors about whatever project or paper is not going well, […]
Dear Friends, forgive me. This is cliché, I know. I am 55 years old. My children are grown and healthy, out of the house and happy on their own. I have been married for 29 years. My wife, as I type these words, is a short hallway and corner away, watching television in […]
Because this is Paris, imagine an early springtime evening at the moment the cafes which line the streets near Notre Dame have closed. The air is dark, fog-filled and cold. A mist hangs in the trees. The streetlamps glow. I linger in the square, the Place du Parvis, what people call the heart of Paris, […]
15 January 2014 It begins with a warning. A little after 5:00 a.m., my cell phone makes a noise. Not the noise of an incoming call. Not the noise of worry or love, no human at the other end with something to say. This is the message noise. The buzz of incoming information. […]
(note: the entire essay, with image gallery, can be found at Terrain.org. http://terrain.org/2014/nonfiction/chasing-clouds/) Imagine the size of the North American prairie. On an impossibly bright summer Thursday afternoon, I park on the shoulder of a small road near the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. I am on a mission. A hunt. A quest […]
Sometimes, just a glimpse will do. You see something, but you see it badly. Incompletely. A shadow gets in the way, or you aren’t really looking in the right direction to begin. Your eyes never have the time to focus, to learn which details matter. But damn, you think. That is—something. Something grabs […]
Sometimes you ask a question and the answer sticks. It sticks in the back of your head and somewhere in your gut. You find yourself thinking about it when your mind has the space, and sometimes when it doesn’t. Just a curiosity, really. You find yourself paying more attention. It becomes an interest. You do […]
A chapter from At Speed, published by the University of Nebraska Press, 2006 Your inquiry to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Science Information Center was referred to the Geographic Names Office for reply. No, the U.S. Geological Survey does not, nor does any Federal agency, have an official definition for mountain, hill, or any other […]
the Prologue from Prairie Sky, published by the University of Missouri Press, 2013 Walking Chaucer Here is a question— What must the angels think of the earth? Imagine, for just a moment, the leap of their arrival. In the moment before—they are ethereal, weightless, timeless and light, the moral sparks of eternity. […]
~ Reviews ~
In his very bones, Olsen is a bird. His writing soars, swoops, circles and dives just like his beloved little Cessna 172. I don’t care how many times you’ve been on a plane, you’ve not flown until you’ve read Scott Olsen.
–Mark Jenkins, Senior Global Correspondent, National Geographic-
In this soaring book, Scott Olsen offers up a twin paean to the beauty of flight and the gravitational pull of the upper Midwest. From the cockpit of a rented Cessna, Olsen flies us through history, epic weather, geology, human endeavor, and the pure, sometimes terrifying joy of being alive in a world of marvels. Prairie Sky is a lovingly chanted hymn to a place we thought we knew but in fact never probed from such height and with such depth.
–David Laskin, author of The Children’s Blizzard and The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century-
A profound and beautifully crafted work of discovery by a pilot who flies with open eyes.
–William Langewiesche, International Correspondent, Vanity Fair-
“It’s not where he goes, but what he sees and how he glowingly describes the scenes that make this book a pleasure to read.”—Booklist-
Rarely does a book about flying airplanes swoop gently into history, philosophy, geology, and science. This one does. And if you want to fly an airplane, Prairie Sky by W. Scott Olsen puts your hands, head, and heart at the controls. If you already fly and love it, and have never quite discovered the secrets of that love, then Olsen’s narrative uncovers those secrets. Become young again. Fly this book.
–Clyde Edgerton, author of Solo and The Floatplane Notebooks-
“Scott Olsen takes the travel essay into the air in the most spectacular way—this is a collection full of grace, style, lyricism, and sharp cloud-level insight. The beauty of Olsen’s work is that he gives us a new way of seeing— he allows us to be both ‘above’ and ‘inside’ at the exact same time.”
—Colum McCann, winner of the National Book Award and author of Transatlantic: A Novel-