September 22, 2010
Karen Chamberlain was born Dec. 1, 1942, in Hartford, Conn., to Frederick E. Recknagel and Dorothy Hannah Battersby of Avon, Conn. She died on Sept. 11, 2010, at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
She was a writer, editor and teacher of creative writing. She graduated from Hartford College for Women, and the University of New Mexico, where she received a bachelor of science degree in zoology and English, and later earned a master’s degree in literature and creative writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.
Chamberlain worked at several occupations, including medical research technician, advertising copywriter, tutor, ski instructor and horse trainer. For six years, she was senior writer and associate producer for the PBS Television nature series, “Wild America.” During that time, she also directed the Aspen Writers’ Conference and established the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, developing several supportive programs for writers of all ages.
In 1992, she co-founded “Nature Within,” a summer outdoor writers’ program based at a wildlife sanctuary in the Colorado Rockies, and for 10 years served as literary coordinator for the Canyonlands Field Institute’s Desert Writers Workshop, near Moab, Utah. In 1999, she co-founded the Glenwood Springs Writers’ Workshop, a bimonthly critiquing and support group. For five years Chamberlain was also the poetry editor for Mountain Gazette magazine.
Chamberlain made her debut on the Aspen scene in 1962, working as an apprentice in stained glass at Sandy Sanderson’s gallery and workshop on Hyman Avenue. She turned this experience into a career as a stained-glass artisan, accepting commissions worldwide, and becoming one of the two top-rated stained glass artisans in the country.
Chamberlain began writing at age 10. Her poems, essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Hudson Review, The Nation, Poetry, Orion, “The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature,” and “The Geography of Hope: Poets of Colorado’s Western Slope.” She was honored with a 1983 The Nation/Discovery Prize, a 1989 Fellowship in Poetry from the Colorado Council on the Arts, a 1993 Poetry Program Award from Poets and Writers Magazine and the Poetry Society of America, and a 2004 Contribution-to-Poetry Award from the Sparrows Poetry Festival in Salida.
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From 1989 to 1994, Chamberlain lived on a remote ranch in southeast Utah; a memoir of her desert experiences titled “Desert of the Heart: Sojourn in a Community of Solitudes” was published in January 2005 by Ghost Road Press. Works in progress included a collection of poetry, “Ephedra”; a collection of essays, “Swimming with a Candle”; a novel, “The Woman Who Said Welcome,” and a fictional tale for horse lovers of all ages, “Blackie The Mustang: An American Black Beauty Story.”
Chamberlain is survived by her husband, the photographer Robert Chamberlain, and two sisters, Holly Krause of Knoxville, Tenn., and Nance Crow Sullivan of Albuquerque, N.M.
Contributions should be made to the Wild Horse Rescue Fund.