Classes start Monday and I am ready to go. Or, as ready as I am going to be. This fall, I am returning to the creative writing classroom. (I haven't taught creative writing in a few years) and of course, I will also be teaching some old favorites including Writing About Literature.
But I also have other plans for the fall. I have recently signed up for a nature writing class through the WOW (Women on Writing) organization. The class textbook is Writing About Nature by John A. Murray. Thumbing through the pages, I am reminded of all the great books about nature that I have read and loved, including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams; Dakota by Kathleen Norris; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard; and Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez.
Thinking about nature writing books reminds me of something I recently read in Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. In many ways, this book, of course, is as far away from nonfiction nature writing as one might get, but one bit of information in the book made me think about my own reading. Vandermeer includes several authors in his book, and one author noted that when teaching speculative writing one semester she handed out a list of must read science fiction and/or fantasy books. The majority of the students had read very few of them.
Who would be on a "50 Must Read List" of Nature Writers? I would like to think that the books I mentioned above would be included. I also believe that books like Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (which I'm guilty of not reading -- it is sitting on my bookshelf staring at me as I type this post) would be on the list.
Still, what about other less known authors? One of my favorite books I have read in the past few years has been Deranged: Finding a Sense of Place in the Landscape and in the Lifespan by Jill Sisson Quinn. And I would love to see anything by Barbara Hurd on the list.
It's something to think about. Perhaps I should make my own "50 Must Read List" of nature books.
For now, if you want to learn more about how to involve the act of nature writing in your own life, consider enrolling in The Art of Nature Writing taught by the wonderful Melanie Faith (I took her class on flash creative nonfiction at the start of the summer -- it was wonderful!) The direct link for the WOW organization is here.
As I am writing this, the Northeast is again bracing for another winter storm. Yes, it does look like March is going to roar in like a lion. We had a brief, hopeful thaw a few days ago with temperatures reaching 40 degrees. This morning, however, we woke up to below zero temperatures. I certainly do hope that all my friends at AWP are enjoying better weather than this!
I am not sorry to see the last February. This past month has been a month of sick fathers, lost jobs (not mine), and bad news from friends. Obviously, all this has been distracting me, and I have barely made a dent in my to do list. Still, the past weeks have brought some good news (that I can't share quite yet -- no it's not a book) and sightings of the Snowy Owl. Western PA/New York has been one of the hotspots for the Snowy Owl irruption, and when I drive to work everyday, I keep an eye out for one of our new found feathered friends who has been hanging out by the Jamestown Audubon Center (ironically!). I also just recently finished The Thing With Feathers by Noah Strycker, which is a wonderful collection of essays that explore the similarities we have with the birds around us. (See my brief review here)
Safe travels home from AWP, everyone! And may you recover with happy memories and stacks of great reading!
I am a poet and professor from rural Pennsylvania. This page is dedicated to my publishing news and events; for book reviews published online go to the Reviews tab above. For my own personal reviews, explore the Book Picks tab.