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Peter Heller    

Adventure Writer, Contributor Editor & Novelist

Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, and a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal and National Geographic Adventure. He is an award-winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction. He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru.At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received an MFA in fiction and poetry, he won a Michener fellowship for his epic poem “The Psalms of Malvine.” In the winter of 2002 he joined, on the ground team, the most ambitious whitewater expedition in history as it made its way through the treacherous Tsangpo Gorge in Eastern Tibet. He chronicled what has been called The Last Great Adventure Prize for Outside, and in his book "Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River."

In December, 2005, on assignment for National Geographic Adventure, he joined the crew of an eco-pirate ship belonging to the radical environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as it sailed to Antarctica to hunt down and disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet. In "The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals," Heller recounts fierce gales, forty foot seas, rammings, near-sinkings and a committed crew’s clear-eyed willingness to die to save a whale.

In the fall of 2007 Heller was invited by the team who made the acclaimed film "The Cove" to accompany them in a clandestine filming mission into the guarded dolphin-killing cove in Taiji, Japan. Heller paddled into the inlet with four other surfers while a pod of pilot whales was being slaughtered. He was outfitted with a helmet cam, and the terrible footage can be seen in the movie. "The Cove" went on to win an Academy Award. Heller wrote about the experience for Men’s Journal.

Heller’s most recent memoir, about surfing from California down the coast of Mexico, "Kook: What Surfing Taught Me about Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave," was published by The Free Press in 2010.

Heller’s debut novel, "The Dog Stars," was published by Knopf in August, 2012. It was the Apple iBooks Novel of the Year, Hudson Booksellers top fiction pick of the Year, and an Atlantic Monthly and San Francisco Examiner Best Book of the Year. It was critically celebrated and a breakout bestseller, and has been published in 18 languages.

His second novel, "The Painter," was released in May, 2014.


Speech Topics

A Life of Adventure

For Peter Heller, no story ever went as planned. On his first magazine assignment to the Tibetan Plateau, a fellow whitewater paddler died in his arms. He accompanied radical eco-pirates on a hair raising two month campaign to hunt down a whaling fleet in the icy waters off Antarctica. He learned to fly a plane in three weeks with bush pilots in Montana and broke into the BP command center while covering the Gulf oil spill. Heller lectures about his personal journey as an adventure journalist and what it means to do what you’ve always wanted to do. He's a born storyteller and he speaks with humor and compelling vividness.

Adventure Journalist to Novelist: The (Very) Rough Road Home

Before Peter Heller wrote his first novel, The Dog Stars, he had a wild career as an award-winning adventure journalist, who, according to Outside Magazine, has been “a participant in some of the most hair-raising expeditions this magazine has covered” over the last 25 years. How did Heller jump from one life to another? How do you write a novel using the material and disciplines you learned in the mountains of Tibet and on eco-pirate ships in Antarctica? Heller will talk about his writing process, about how life never ever goes as planned, and how those opportunities can inform great literature.

The Dog Stars

In this lecture Peter Heller will read from his best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The Dog Stars, talk about his writing process, and the disciplines he honed and brought to the writing of the book.

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