Lisa Knopp

Bread: A Memoir of Hunger

“In this moving memoir, Lisa Knopp deftly weaves research and personal narrative to deepen our understanding of the complex causes and ramifications of disordered eating. At one point or another in our lives, each of us has been “famished for something hard to name.” Knopp gives voice to that yearning, at the same time she refuses to shy away from asking difficult questions. Bread is a gift that will help any reader embrace his or her own resistance story.”—Kate Hopper, author of Ready for Air and Use Your Words: A Write Guide for Mothers


What The River Carries

“Lisa Knopp has the eyes of an archeologist and the soul of a great blue heron as she renders this intimate portrayal of three national treasures—the Mississippi, Platte, and Missouri rivers. . . . Journeying through these pages, we also find tales of the shell button industry, Indian burial mounds, Mormon settlement, catastrophic flooding, barge commerce, and everyday lives of people who work and play along the shores. What this book carries? Majesty. Knowledge. Inspiration.”—Katherine Fischer, author of Dreaming the Mississippi


The Nature of Home: A Lexicon and Essays

"We must include Knopp among those whom Barry Lopez calls our 'local geniuses of the American landscape'. . . . Knopp understands that what is essential is always with us. Knopp understands the nature of home."—Fran Shaw, Parabola


For Lisa Knopp, homesickness is a literal sickness. During a lengthy sojourn away from the Nebraska prairie she fell ill, and only when she decided to return home did she recover. Homesickness is the triggering event for this collection of essays concerned with nothing less than what it means to feel at home. Knopp writes masterfully about ecology, place, and the values and beliefs that sustain the individual within an impersonal world. She is passionate about her subject whether it be an endangered beetle in the salt marshes near Lincoln, Nebraska, a forgotten Nebraska inventor, a museum muralist, a paleontologist, or the roots of Arbor Day as a misguided attempt to "correct" a perceived lack in the Great Plains landscape as seen from the sensibilities of Eastern settlers. Here is a writer who has read widely and judiciously and for whom everything resonates within the intricately structured definition of home. — from the jacket

An abiding devotion to a place and its inhabitants: sentimental in the right way, mnemonic, tempting. — Kirkus Reviews

A significant treatment of home, environment, and natural history. It succeeds on several levels: as an observant work of regional nature writing, as a thoughtful collection of interlinked essays, and as a moving book of personal reflections. ... It has the breadth and vision of Thoreau's Walden and the intimacy and integrity of Scott Russell Sanders' Hunting for Hope while still maintaining its own unique identity and its author's individual voice. — Robert Root, the author of EB White: The Emergence of an Essayist

Interior Places

Interior Places offers a curiously detailed group photograph of the Midwest’s interior landscape. Here is an essay about the origin, history, and influence of corn. Here we find an exploration of a childhood meeting with Frederick Leopold, youngest brother of the great naturalist Aldo. Here also are a chronicle of the 146-year alliance between Burlington, Iowa, and the Burlington Route (later the CB&O, the BN, and finally, the BNSF) and a pilgrimage to Amelia Earhart’s Kansas hometown. Whether writing about the lives of two of P. T. Barnum’s giants or the “secret” nuclear weapons plant in southeastern Iowa, about hunger in Lincoln, Nebraska, or bird banding on the Platte River, Knopp captures the inner character of the Midwest as Nature dictates it, people live it, and history reveals it.” –University of Nebraska Press catalogue.



[A] smart sequel to Knopp’s earlier study,The Nature of Home. . . . Rapt observer, botanist, birder and chronicler of the human condition, Knopp is also, in the best literary tradition, a wanderer of lingering curiosity. . . . Elegiac, soulful and discerning. — Kirkus Reviews

In these engagingly written pieces Knopp describes the people and places of Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, and, in one essay on the famous flyer Amelia Earhart, Atchison, Kansas. Her recounting of a visit to the aviatrix's birthplace, interspersed with town history and an account of Earhart's equal dedication to flying and serving the urban poor (the latter manifest in her work with the settlement house movement of the early twentieth century), demonstrates Knopp's method of looking closely at geographical spaces as windows upon more interior places. — Kansas History

Lisa Knopp explores the inner life — subjectivity — with grace, compassion, and a love for landscapes. This book brings together two of the major currents in creative nonfiction — memoir and nature writing — from the mature perspective of a writer dedicated to careful inhabitation. Like those geodes that open this fine collection, Interior Places sparkles all the way through. — Elizabeth Dodd, author of Prospect: Journeys and Landscapes

Lisa Knopp is one of the finest essayists in the Midwest and the nation. In this moving and informative book, she takes us on a journey into the heart of places emotional and geographical, personal and universal. From the graveside of a beloved grandmother to the resurrection of native prairie, Knopp’s transformative vision reminds us that the difference between soil and soul is only one letter. — John Price, author of Not Just Any Land and Man Killed by Pheasant

Knopp is one of our finest American natural history writers. There’s no writer I know who is better at capturing the beauty and detail of the tall grass prairie and plains states. Knopp writes lyrically yet scientifically with her facts grounded in both experience and solid sources. She now takes her place among such writers as her literary mentor Aldo Leopold. — Mary Swander, author of The Desert Pilgrim: En Route to Mysticism and Miracles

Field of Vision

“These are essays in the best and truest sense, assays, distillations, at once learned and personal. Lisa Knopp vividly demonstrates how encounters with the mundane details of nature—a mole's nose, the shell of a turtle, the tail of an opossum—can yield a richer and deeper life. She teaches us, by her own patient and inquiring example, how to see. This is the freshest and brightest collection of natural essays I have read in many years.”—Paul Gruchow, author of Grass Roots: The Universe of Home


In her first collection of nature essays, Knopp offers 16 pieces filled with the evidence not only of books but also of the eyes, ears, nose and taste buds to give a multidimensional view of nature. ... Knopp, like Eiseley, Burroughs, and Dillard, addresses the central question of American nature writing: how to "see herself in the natural world but also see the natural world of herself." — Publishers Weekly

A collection of essays on vision, not from the standpoint of the visual scientist but from the perspective of an observant writer. ... Some of the essays are clearly autobiographical. Others are less directly so, but all are the product of Knopp's personal observations. Her writing style is clear, engaging, and at times almost poetic. ... This work is reminiscent of The Object Stares Back, by James Elkins, except that the latter is from the viewpoint of the art historian. — Choice

Lisa Knopp wants "to see the mundane as profoundly new," to "see and record the wild places I know before they are gone. Each day, I am reminded that the natural world is vanishing." Knopp, who wrote [this] book while living in Nebraska, and now teaches at Southern Illinois University, presents a series of essays linked, she finds only after writing them, by their common exploration of "the act of seeing." ... Wearing her erudition lightly, Knopp leads readers through meditations that begin and end in close observation but fly in all directions in between. She is the kind of writer whom I would follow on any subject, confident that she could teach me new lays of a land I thought already familiar, as well as lead me into altogether new territory. — Women's Review of Books

Flight Dreams:
A Life in the Midwestern Landscape

Part Eastern meditation, part dream sequence, part historical reconstruction, Flight Dreams testifies to a deep understanding of how the natural world—its visible and invisible elements—guides our destinies. – University of Iowa Press catalogue.



Reminiscent of Thoreau's introspective nature writing and Dillard's taut, personal prose, each chapter in Flight Dreamsstands alone as a distinct narrative, yet each is linked by profoundly personal descriptions of dreams, the natural world, defining experiences, and chance encounters with people that later prove to be fateful. Part Eastern meditation, part dream sequence, part historical reconstruction, Flight Dreams testifies to a deep understanding of how the natural world — its visible and invisible elements — guides our destinies. — from the jacket

In Flight Dreams, Lisa Knopp captures the midwestern experience — what it means to grow up in a Mississippi River town and to wonder how it would feel to soar like one of the birds overhead. Like an eagle or hawk, she finds ways to "move beyond what seems oppressive and dull" and flies in the face of convention — working her way through a PhD program, becoming a single mother, entering into a multiracial marriage, and launching a writing career. Knopp lands on some of the key social and political issues for women in the latter half of the twentieth century. — Mary Swander





From Your Friend, Carey Dean: Letters from Nebraska’s Death Row. The first sentence of this memoir/biography: “It was one execution that began my twenty-three-year friendship with death row inmate Carey Dean Moore and another one that would end it.”

Like Salt or Love: Essays on Leaving Home is a memoir in essays. Parts of the manuscript have been published in or are forthcoming in Seneca Review; Crab Orchard Review; Gettysburg Review; Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction; Shadowbox: A Showcase of Contemporary Nonfiction; ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment); Still Point Arts Quartlery; Going Om: An Anthology of Literary Essays About Yoga. 

Essays in Literary Quarterlies and


“Lure.” Persimmon Tree. Forthcoming summer 2019.

“Leaving the Body.” Hospital Drive. University of Virginia School of Medicine. First Prize winner in the 2018 “Leaving” writing contest.

From our contest judge: I read “Leaving the Body” at least five times and wept each time. It’s about the narrator’s mother’s body being washed just after death. The daughter opts to stay in the room while the body is being cleaned, and during that brief episode comes to terms with what she has lost. The writing is unsentimental and haunting. It is, without doubt, a most deeply moving and memorable piece.

"Free Samples." The Boiler. February 2018.

         "A brief interview for a date is what this is. Within twenty minutes, we will determine if we merit a full weekend evening of each other’s time."

"Name-staker." Blood Orange Review. Winter 2017.

          "Now, when I encounter someone who is 'age passing,' 'afternooning,' 'cloaking,' being 'cloaked,' 'claiming,' or 'being disclaimed,' I slip the name for the phenomenon into my conversation with him/her."

"Mashed Avocado on a Rice Cake (Basic Recipe with a Variation)." Seneca Review. Forthcoming Fall 2017.

"This recipe requires but a trio of ingredients. But don’t be deceived by that! The dish offers an abundance of weighty matters to chew on...."

"Worse Than Abandonment." Crab Orchard Review. Forthcoming, Winter 2017.

"There are worse things than abandonment,' a friend once told you. The moment you heard this, you knew that she had succinctly articulated something essential. Soon, this phrase became your mantra...." 

"My Daily Bread." Rock & Sling: A Journal of Witness. 11 (Spring 2016): 36-49.

"I close the blinds, so I won’t be distracted by the sight of cardinals in the forsythia bushes. I light a candle on the dining-room table, place a slice of homemade bread on a china dessert plate, pour a glass of water, and sit down."

"The Story I Didn't Want to Write." Omaha Magazine. April 2017.

         "It was the story I didn’t want to write—that one about what I call “my malady,” my three episodes of severely restricted eating."

“Still Life with Peaches.” Georgia Review. 68 (Spring 2014).

"Objects of Desire: On the counter dividing my kitchen from my dining room is a wide straw basketbrimming with bills, receipts, greeting cards, and newspaper clippings. Hooked over the rim of the basket is a dry turkey wishbone...."  

“On Solstalgia.” ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment). 77 (August 2014). 

"Solstalgia is a type of homesickness that one gets while still at home...."

“Balancing Act.” Brevity: A Concise Journal of Literary Nonfiction. 44 (September 2013). 

"A man in my neighborhood stacks rocks in his front yard. From a distance, the cairns remind me of a small throng of people. Some wear long coats or dresses: clerics in cassocks. Some stand on two, wide and chunky legs. One stack sports a wide-brimmed, flat-topped rock, sat at a jaunty angle...."

“The Renoir.” Still Point Arts Quarterly. 9 (Spring 2013): 44-51.

“Mississippi Harvest.” Big Muddy: Journal of the Mississippi River Valley. 12:2 (2013): 7-    25.

“Out of Love.” Shadowbox: A Showcase of Contemporary Nonfiction (Summer 2012)

"Spring doesn’t count. Once the long, hard winter finally retreats, any place where green blades push through leaf litter, where mourning doves, summer’s drone, congregate on utility lines at dusk, and where thunderstorms bruise the sky is beautiful. Now, it’s the rest of the year that’s the problem...." 

“Catfish Bend.” Natural Bridge: A Journal of Contemporary Literature 26 (Fall 2011): 32-40.

“Painting the River: Henry Lewis’s Great National Work.” Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley 11.2 (fall 2011): 5-23.

“Restorations.” North Dakota Quarterly 76:4 (Winter 2010): 157-166.

“Missouri River Music.” South Dakota Review 48:4 (Winter 2010): 20-36.

“What the River Carries.” Prairie Schooner 84:4 (Winter 2010): 32-43.

“Nauvoo: The Beautiful Place.” Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley 9.2 (Summer 2010): 39-59.

 “No Other River.” Iowa Review. 39:2 (Fall 2009): 166-178. *** 

“Perhapsing: The Art of Speculation in Creative Nonfiction.” Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction 29 (January 2009).

"At some point, writers of creative nonfiction come to a road block or dead end in our writing, where we don’t have access to the facts we need to tell our story or to sustain our reflection with depth and fullness. If only it was ethical to just make something up...." 

“Fleet.” The Gettysburg Review 20:4 (Winter 2007-2008): 537-47. 

“Nine-mile Prairie.” Michigan Quarterly Review 46:3 (Summer 2007): 443-60. ***

“Visiting Frederic.” Ascent 30:2 (February 2007): 12-26.

“Tending.” Sling and Arrow 2:1 (Spring 2005): 64-76.

“In the Corn.” ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment) 12.1 (Winter 2005): 199-214.

“This Creek.” Cimarron Review 143 (Summer 2003): 26-37.

“Thirty Shades of White.” Flint Hills Review 7 (2002): 69-77.

“Mammoth Bones.” ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment) 9.1 (Winter 2002): 189-202.

“Household Words.” Michigan Quarterly Review 40.4 (Fall 2001): 713-25. ***

“A Salt Marsh Reclamation.” Southern Indiana Review 8.1 (2001): 55-67.

“My Place of Many Times.” Connecticut Review 22 (Fall 2000): 189-95. ***

“In the Air.” Shenandoah 49 (Fall 1999): 5-13.

“Flight Dreams.” Crazy Horse 55 (Winter 1998): 136-45.

“The Beat, 1979.” Dominion Review 14 (1996): 22-39

“Hard Remains.” The Journal 20 (Spring/Summer 1996): 22-36.

“Last Rites.” Lowell Review 2 (1996): 12-17.

“Sky Watch.” Farmer’s Market 13 (Fall/Winter 1995): 42-52.

“Excavations.” Creative Nonfiction 4 (Fall 1995): 51-61.

“Sheet Music.” Tamaqua 5 (Fall 1995): 152-76.

“Summer Reading.” Missouri Review 16 (Fall 1993): 130-46. ***

“Just Words.” Cream City Review 17 (Fall 1993): 286-301.

“Edges.” Farmer’s Market 10 (Fall/Winter 1993-1994): 99-111.

“Seeing ‘Possum.” Cimarron Review 100 (July 1992): 121-31.

“Field of Vision.” South Dakota Review 28 (Autumn 1990): 89-101.

“Pheasant Country.” Northwest Review 28 (Summer 1990): 41-49. ***

                       ***Notable Essay citation in Best American Essays series.

Anthologized Essays

"Catfish Bend." Tales of the River. Donna Mulvenna (ed.). Stormbird Press, Forthcoming.

"Matters of Fact." Voices on Unity: Coming Together, Falling Apart edited by Cat Pleska (ed.). Charleston, WV: Mountain State Press. October 2017..

“Far Brought.” The Tallgrass Prairie Reader. John T. Price (ed). Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014.

“The Ages of Yoga.” Going Om: An Anthology of Literary Essays About Yoga. Melissa Carroll (ed.). Berkeley: Viva Editions/Cleis Press. Forthcoming spring 2014.

“Excavations.” Creating Nonfiction: Lessons from the Voice of the Genre. Lee Gutkind and Robyn Jodlowski (ed.). Pittsburgh: In Fact Books, 2013.

“Perhapsing.” Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz (ed.). 2ndedition. Stamford, Conn.: Cengage Learning. Forthcoming 2014.

“Reflections: Midwesterners on their Region.” Excerpts from “Pilgrimage” (about Amelia  Earhart) originally published in Interior Places. Midwest Living. May/June 2011: 144.

“Perhapsing.” Writ Now! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today's Best Writers. Sherry Ellis (ed.). Tarcher/Penguin, May 2010.

“Far Brought.” The Big Empty: Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers. Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (ed.). University of Nebraska Press, 2007: 31-45.

“A Salt Marsh Reclamation” and “Writing ‘A Salt Marsh Reclamation’” in Landscape with

Figures: The Nonfiction of Place. Robert Root (ed.). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

“Houseguest,” in Sisters of the Earth: Women’s Prose and Poetry About Nature. Lorraine Anderson (ed.). New York: Vintage, 2003: 283-88.

“Creative,” from The Nature of Home in The Chronicle Review. September 27, 2002: B4.

“Excavations,” in The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers on Creative Nonfiction, ed. by Michael Steinberg and Robert Root (ed.). New York: Simon and Schuster/Allyn Bacon, 1999: 319-26.

“Excavations,” in The Essayist at Work, Lee Gutkind (ed.). Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann, 1998: 122-33.