You’ve got to hand it to Ashley Hall. My high school made very little effort to encourage fiction and non-fiction writing amongst its students, and it certainly never brought in accomplished authors to talk to my fellow students and me. Of course, they’ve probably got better local access to accomplished wordsmiths, like Bret Lott and Josephine Humphreys, than the rest of our alma maters. Lucky for us, Ashley Hall opens the free talks to the public, so you don’t have to be a 14-year-old private school student to benefit. This year’s series opens with Rick Bass, a Montana resident and environmental advocate. His book Why I Came West was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography in 2008.