Kathryn Aalto is an American teacher, designer, speaker, and New York Times best-selling writer of creative nonfiction.
For the past twenty-five years, her creative practice has fused nature and culture: teaching the literature of nature and place; designing beautiful and sustainable gardens; and writing about the natural world. Based in England, she teaches popular online and live writing courses, mentors emerging writers, and leads writing retreats in England and the United States.
“As both a writer and designer,” Kathryn says, “I create narratives out of words and out of plants. I am also deeply committed to teaching creative nonfiction with integrity helping each student experience transformative growth through the literary arts. I am guided by a passion to grow and reimagine — the self, art and society, and greater-than-human life — through inspirational teaching, critical thinking, and radical empathy.”
Kathryn is the author of three books including Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World (2020), The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood (2015), and Nature and Human Intervention (2011). A personal essayist and book reviewer, her work appears in Smithsonian Magazine, Outside, Sierra, Buzzfeed, Resurgence and the Ecologist, and more. Her work has been widely reviewed in print, radio, TV, and digital platforms including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, BBC Countryfile Magazine, and more.
She is currently working on her fourth book.
From universities classrooms to writing retreats in England to international online courses, Kathryn embraces diverse ways of teaching to help people around the world become the best versions of themselves on the page.
Kathryn is a passionate practitioner and educator of narrative nonfiction. For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities. These include The Huxley College of the Environment and the English Department at Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and the University of Plymouth. She oversees a professional mentoring practice for emerging to published writers. She teaches a limited number of bespoke courses throughout the year. These include The Art of the Personal Essay, The Art of Narrative Nonfiction, Memoir and Life Writing, and Nature Writing. She is particularly proud that 85% of the students have had writing accepted after taking her popular From Pitch to Publication course. Kathryn teaches at summer writing schools in England. She also co-founded two writing retreats: the Rural Writing Institute with author James Rebanks and the Retreat into the English Countryside. Please see course page for information.
Kathryn’s teaching philosophy is focused on individual growth and encourages a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. She believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She creates a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth. She is deeply influenced by the Harkness Method invented in the 1930s at the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire where her three children have been educated. In this teaching method, no more than twelve students sit together with one teacher. Each voice carries equal weight. It is about collaboration and active listening and “can spark a revolution.” As the school has noted, “It’s where you explore ideas as a group, develop the courage to speak, the compassion to listen, and the empathy to understand.”
Kathryn is an ardent supporter of fellow writers. “I was delighted when Kathryn helped me launch my Yale University Press book, The Doctor’s Garden, in February 2022 via a Zoom ‘In Conversation’ event,” said Dr. Clare Hickman, senior lecturer at Newcastle University.
“Kathryn had carefully read and considered the various angles I had taken to the material. She insightfully drew out the larger themes and scope and understood the originality of my work and how it sits within the wider context of landscape and botanic history. In particular, the discussion interweaving the academic research and my approach to writing was a joy and am sure helped me communicate verbally the processes as well as the outcomes of years of investigation. She was outstanding as an interviewer.”
Author Janisse Ray (Wild Spectacle, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and six other books) says: “Kathryn Aalto has proven herself to be a person of extreme integrity, of careful preparation, and of utmost professionalism. She graciously agreed to host an online book launch for me. I wanted her to do it because of her seminal and ground-breaking survey of women’s nature writing, Writing Wild. She proved to be beyond my wildest expectations. She was incredibly calm, obviously adept at managing the myriad threads involved in hosting an in-depth interview being broadcast live—the conversation itself, questions from the audience, the time, and much more. Not only calm, she was remarkably polite, kind, inclusive, and very knowledgeable about the subject at hand. Seemingly without effort she was able to drop into a deep, plundering, soul-stirring conversation, where the audience members felt as if they were eavesdropping, as if at any moment juicy information helpful to their lives might be revealed.”