Converge Lecture Series believes that some of the best, most therapeutic relief from a harsh world comes from a very simple place: literature. Coming at a less frenzied time in the pandemic era, this year’s Converge Conference invited three authors — Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Karen Russell and Robin Wall Kimmerer — to speak on the theme of “how to build wonder in your own life.” For Converge’s Executive Director Samuel Stephenson, building wonder seemed elusive before falling in love with books.

At a young age, Stephenson’s father died. Later, in college, his stepfather passed as well. “It wasn’t exactly clear for a lot of my life how terrible the world could be before loving books,” Stephenson says. At UCCS, he took a “Literature on Depression” class and immediately found refuge in books and poetry when answers were hard to find elsewhere, even from religion. Trying to find a path out of grief, Stephenson fell in love with Housekeeping, the 1980 novel by Marilynne Robinson about two sisters who are left with grandparents after their parents died. “It felt like literature understood that the world could be impossibly rough, [but] would still move forward,” Stephenson says. 

With an expanding appreciation for literature as therapy and a dream of an author lecture series where they could host and have conversations with nationally known authors here in Colorado Springs, the Converge Conference was born. “We, the city, deserves one. We deserve artistic experiences that open us up,” Stephenson says. Their first conference, held at The Pinery in 2017 and featuring poet Marie Howe, was the product of homey ambition. “We started as just me and my wife at a kitchen table sending out tickets to people with handwritten notes,“ he says. “We’re like, ‘We can’t wait for you to see this poet. Thank you for supporting a brand new thing!’”

In 2020, the pandemic steered Stephenson toward new ways to find solace, being homebound with an autoimmune disease that made him particularly vulnerable to COVID’s casual transmission. Taking from Theodore Roethke’s poem “What Can I Tell My Bones?” he was inspired by the line “I recover my tenderness by long looking,” in which one recovers peace, calm and compassion through studious mindfulness. It was then that he found Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, a book that inspired him to take an inventory of the flora in his own neighborhood.


The all-day conference, the flagship offering of Converge’s multiple educational and therapeutic programs, will feature panels and Q&As with the authors and opportunities to engage with nonprofits such as Food to Power, Youth Documentary Academy, High Trails and National Alliance on Mental Illness. Beyond Nezhukumatathil, Karen Russell is Stephenson’s favorite living author. “She’s a sci-fi author who I think really understands the connection between land and us,” he says. For those who won’t be able to make it during the day, author and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer will headline their evening lecture. “She wrote a beautiful book called Braiding Sweetgrass. There’s a kind of language she’s created about this reciprocity between us and the world that we live in and she’ll be casting a vision for what that means.”

Stephenson is looking forward to meeting with a community as optimistic and curious as they are at Converge. “I think this conference is for anybody who might be sensing ‘I really do want to recover tenderness, maybe my long looking can get me there,’” he says. “I hope that our community will give it a shot and will come and hear about the way wonder exists right here in our front yards.”

The Nutcracker

Colorado Springs Philharmonic is presenting Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday ballet, featuring the Oklahoma City Ballet and the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale. “The Nutcracker continues to awaken the holiday spirit in Colorado Springs audiences year after year. Let your wonder kindle and feel the glimmer once more as you kick off the holiday season over Thanksgiving weekend with Clara and friends.” Friday-Sunday, Nov. 25-27; Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.; tickets start at $28 at tinyurl.com/COSNutcracker.

Old Colorado City Christmas Stroll

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than with a stroll through Old Colorado City while Dickens carolers sing and perform skits? There will be cookies and treats along West Colorado Avenue and around Bancroft Park, and your kids can have photos taken with Santa (noon to 8 p.m.) and meet Prancer the reindeer (5-8 p.m.). And because this is Small Business Saturday, you can also expect to find specials, sales, giveaways and more at OCC shops. Saturday, Nov. 26, noon to 8 p.m.; West Colorado Avenue; tinyurl.com/OCCXmasStroll.