ENDORSEMENTS

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TEACHING ENDORSEMENTS

“After six months of working with Kathryn–which is a bit like entering the space of a handwritten letter, what with her sharp aesthetic sense, far-ranging intelligence, wit, and curiosity–I’ve made tangible progress on an unwieldy, long-form project I was struggling to articulate. I came to her Memoir and Life Writing class for accountability, and came away having experienced the kind of support, writing insight, and real feeling of friendship that can be difficult to find in a workshop environment. Kathryn fostered a warm, charming atmosphere in class (a real feat online), allowing for life-long connections to develop among our group of writers. She cares about the arc of her student’s writing lives–a form of attention that encourages artistic growth and positive risk-taking. She not only brought her years of writing and publishing experience to class and to our bi-monthly writing assignments (her personal feedback, often handwritten, is invaluable), she also brought her unique perspective. Writer-gardener-historians are, I think, particularly adept at imagining the possibilities for a piece, no matter your subject. Kathryn pushed me to dig deeper, moving my writing in new directions. No matter where one is in their writing life, working with Kathryn will be an experience of profound joy, insight, and artistic deepening.

Veronica, Portland, Oregon

“I have been making my living with journalistic texts for four years now. Tied to my desk due to the pandemic I decided it was time to take my writing to another level and enrolled in The Art of Narrative Nonfiction. Being skeptical of virtual courses at first, I was immediately drawn into the group by her professional and yet entertaining moderation of the weekly online gatherings. With an attractive mix of lecture, discussion, workshop and personal tutoring she enabled us to not only profit from her vast experience as a writer but also to open up our pieces to our peers from various cultural backgrounds. I’ll definitely be back for more.”

Johannes, Cologne, Germany

“I tend to underachieve in courses where I feel the instructor is simply reading what’s on a slide or handout, obviously not engaged with the material or the students. But you’re different. You challenge students to perform at their very best. You care. You want us to break free of our box, not adhere to some minimum standard, and I greatly appreciate that. You are a professor. It’s remarkable. I have told every student I know to enroll in any class you teach, and I stand behind those words. As long as there are teachers out there in the world such as yourself, the quality of education received is of great value, importance, and overall high quality and standards. You raise the bar, Professor Aalto.”

Craig, Seattle, Washington

“Kathryn’s workshops are absolute troves of clear, thoughtfully presented material. She seamlessly blends engaging and foundational readings, compelling lecture, and meaningful workshopping. What I was most blown away by, though, was her fierce dedication to each participant’s journey – meeting each one of us where we were and guiding us further along in our writing path. From handwritten feedback to answering questions after hours, Katy really went above and beyond to ensure our growth and success.”

Kimberly, Atlanta, Georgia

“I think it can be really hard for people with a neurodiversity to consider a class as a hobby or pleasure. There’s just SO much anxiety about once again being judged, by a teacher or peer group, and being found lacking or “other” rather than valuable and connected. It’s something most of us have experienced far too often in educational and social settings, so we avoid making ourselves vulnerable to those experiences in future. But this can cut us off from taking joy in our interests within a community, which is isolating and also stops our stories being heard. The foremost reason that I chose Kathryn’s class was trust. She will always find both the most relatable and the most admirably unique aspects of everyone’s writing, and help them to bring those aspects into communion. Her classes are consciously inclusive – more than inclusive; celebratory! – of every individual and their different talents and challenges. I’ve really appreciated all my classmates too. There’s been such an atmosphere of warmth and enjoyment along with all the learning and practicing and growing. Writing genuinely can be rewarding for everyone.”

Robin, San Francisco, California

“Kathryn Aalto is an exceptional teacher. As a best-selling author, she knows the publishing industry first-hand. And she is highly adept at refining one’s technical skills without stifling a writer’s voice. I love the combination of rigor and nurturing she provides. Without her mentoring, I would still be stumbling in the dark along my path to publication. Her guidance, support and knowledge are game changers. I cannot recommend her enough!”

Lise, Los Angeles, California

“Kathryn was a fabulous mentor at a time when I needed it the most. I was working on the manuscript of my first nonfiction book, and Kathryn had recently finished Writing Wild, which has a similar structure to mine. She provided wonderful advice about how to balance different chapters, how to better tell a story, and always reminded me to be specific rather than vague. Kathryn gave me courage to pursue interviews with higher profile people than I would have otherwise approached, and boosted my confidence as a writer. Our weekly call gave me goals, a schedule, and kept me accountable in my writing process. Because of Kathryn, I had a clearer sense of what makes a full-length nonfiction book work and how to get there. Working with her while I was in the final stages of my manuscript dramatically improved my final product and gave me skills that I will carry with me for my writing career.”

McKenzie, California

“The Art of Narrative Nonfiction is a wonderful class, and Katy is an amazing teacher. As an emerging writer, I was a bit nervous to take the course. Katy’s welcoming presence from the first minute put me at ease, and I have enjoyed and benefitted from all that she offers: interesting writing assignments, wonderful books and readings, workshopping opportunities with supportive classmates, an author visit, etc.  The effort that Katy spends in reading each of our drafts and providing valuable feedback has helped me immensely in the past several weeks. I am excited to take more classes with her in the future.”

Jeanine, Pennsylvania

“It has been an absolute pleasure spending the past year in the Memoir and Life Writing Class with Kathryn and a small group of aspiring writers. Kathryn encouraged us to go deep into our “writing well,” supporting us with a wide breadth of reading and discussion. The opportunity to talk with published authors was invaluable in the writing and planning process. Kathryn taught us to look at our writing with fresh eyes, opening the group to thoughtful conversation and supportive advice. Her teaching style is relaxed, measured, and thought-provoking. This class is a journey; it has vast implications in the life writing process. I grew as a writer, reader, and person. I am grateful for Kathryn’s guidance.”

Jeanne, Peterborough, New Hampshire

I was privileged to be part of 2018’s Rural Writing Institute cohort and to meet an amazing and diverse group of writers through that. However, taking a course with Katy has been the catalyst which has not only got me into the habit of writing, but has taken that writing to a whole new level. Katy helped me to see that I could do better, through a mixture of well-managed discussion and timely, constructive feedback. She has turned me from an aspiring writer into an emerging one. It sounds cheesy, but her course really has been life-changing.” 

Sarah, Yorkshire, England

“Kathryn possesses a rare talent to hold a learning space in such a way each participant is supported while doing the hard work of being vulnerable. She extends an invitation to share space together in a small circle across time and distance as writers gather from around the world in a digital classroom with warmth and grace.  As a new writer, I felt unsure and intimidated. Was I ready? Did I have anything interesting to say?  Kathryn dispelled my fears, welcomed me and never stopped encouraging me to stretch just a little further.

  
“She weaves and layers lectures, writing prompts with workshopping along with insightful feedback (often with sketches!) for every session. Kathryn is attentive to the temperament of each class, pausing a little longer here, waving a brief hello to something over there. I rave about these classes! Not only for how each has helped me to learn the craft of writing but for how she has helped me discover my voice. Quite honestly, growing as a writer has profoundly affected my relationships. Deepening my relationship to self, to loved ones and the world I habit. What a joy!” Beth Anne, New Jersey 

“Kathryn is an exceptional teacher. We’d start each class with a short lecture about the craft of writing, and then we’d apply what we learnt through work-shopping and readings. I think that’s the best thing about Kathryn’s classes: that we are taught the skills we need to continue learning for ourselves. At the end of the six weeks, I wasn’t left high and dry, scratching my head wondering what to do next. Through the online classes, I interacted with people from all over the world. And Kathryn has a gift for holding the space, so I felt safe sharing my work and opening myself up for critique. Learning from Kathryn is a fantastic experience, which is why I keep signing up for more!”

Marissa, Austria

“We were honored to welcome Kathryn Aalto to the Hudson Library & Historical Society for a truly memorable evening. Kathryn knows how to engage an audience with the right amount of warmth, insight and humor. Her well-researched multimedia presentation, full of beautiful photographs and even the sounds of nature, captured the delight of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and the beauty of Ashdown Forest. I know many of us left inspired to revisit the stories as well as embark on our own explorations of nature.”

Polly Reynolds, Hudson Library & Historical Society, Ohio

“The Writer-to-Writer Mentorship Program with Kathryn Aalto, sponsored by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, was a tremendous boost to my career as a creative writer. Judging the success of our relationship is easy: less than a year after we started, I have had five of the six essays she critiqued accepted for publication. Kathryn did more than just review and suggest, she recommended books and articles I should read, authors I should follow, conferences and short courses I should attend. She emphasized the importance of developing an online presence. She provided a detailed description of her career as a writer; the path she followed to becoming an internationally known, bestselling author. I still have much to learn, but Kathryn provided, encouragement, tools, and skills that will enable me to grow and chart my own course.”

Andrew, Maine

“The Art of the Personal Essay was a great class. Kathryn was encouraging, letting us know what we did well, but she also took time to give us suggestions for how we could improve our work. Her feedback made me more confident and enthusiastic about trying my hand at writing. The esprit de corps in our class was beyond what I would have thought possible in a Zoom class. The energy was lovely and it was a real pleasure to share work with writers from Australia to Europe to America.”

Kimberley, Michigan

“I’ve had the privilege of learning from Katy as part of the Rural Writing Institute, and in her Life Writing class. The class every fortnight gave me momentum and accountability, things which can be hard to muster on my own. As well as learning loads about theory, and reading some brilliantly insightful books together, I benefitted hugely from submitting writing each session and having others read it and feedback — this was something I was nervous of at the start, but it became one of the things I most valued. Katy’s experience and passion shine through, and each of us could feel that she cared about our words, and cared deeply about us becoming the best writers we can be. My writing and ideas felt safe here, which encouraged me to dig deeper. An unexpected gift of the course was the incredibly supportive community — something I hadn’t realised was so important in the writing life, but which now feels as vital as pen and paper. Thank you Katy for sharing your knowledge, experience, encouragement and passion with us, and for building such a great community.”

Elizabeth, Devon, England

“Margaret Atwood said “If you really want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something”. Kathryn fixes those nagging fears by showing writers what we have that is already good, and what we can do better tomorrow. It’s win-win, and she remakes a traditional “class” into such an enjoyable, productive journey. I’ve also been lucky enough to experience the awe-inspiring surroundings and warm community that form the bedrock of the Rural Writing Institute. It’s not often that you can genuinely say that one long weekend shifted the way you look at the world, but the effects are still with me in my reading and writing years later.”

Caroline, Aberdeen, Scotland

“Kathryn Aalto is a gift. Her mentoring is insightful, collaborative, and inspiring. Kathryn has helped shape my essay for submission and, most importantly, coached me to a deeper appreciation for my own intuition and skill as a writer.”Kris, Ithaca, New York

SPEAKING ENDORSEMENTS

“Not only was Ms. Aalto thoroughly prepared and professional in her presentation, she was completely charming and engaging to our audience. As a rule, we have a very smart crowd. Ms. Aalto left the crowd delighted and satisfied with their evening out, something that does not always happen with an author presentation! We would gladly have her back for future programs…in fact it cannot be soon enough!”

Jacques Lamarre, Director of Communications, The Mark Twain House and Museum, Connecticut

“Kathryn spoke to a large crowd, thoroughly engaging the audience in the details of Ashdown Forest, A.A. Milne’s life, and that of Christopher Robin. Kathryn’s presentation style was direct, warm, and intimate supported by a strong dose of nostalgia from the audience—a winning combination.”

Pam Thompson, Manager of Adult Education, Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University

“Kathryn is a lively, fluid and engaging speaker. She held our audience of 350 for over an  hour with a remarkable rendition of the Hundred Acre Woods and many questions  thereafter. I noted that a number of us felt as though we wanted to immediately get on a  plane and go there, because she made it so personal and real. Kathryn sold dozens of her  books, which is always a positive indication of people’s enthusiasm, and a number of people  came up just to thank her for taking them back in their mind to a place they very much  loved.

Charlotte Burgess Vice President and Dean of Student Life, University of Redlands

“I directed Kathryn for a short ‘taster’ film for a pitch of the documentary version of her book ‘The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh’ for BBC Four. I couldn’t have asked for more from a presenter – she was extremely well prepared with excellent, engaging delivery and the ability to take direction and think on her feet. I very much hope we get to work together in the future.”

Jake Hayes, BBC Producer

“Kathryn Aalto’s event at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina drew a packed house  and ranks as one of our Top 5 in 34 years. Her talk about The Natural World of Winnie the  Pooh was very informative and at times laugh out loud funny. Her slides kept the audience  interested. She discussed the real Hundred Acre Wood, A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin, and  E. H. Shepard’s illustrations. The audience had fun and lots of folks thanked us for having  her here. And we sold lots of books!

Helen Stewart, Floor Manager, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, North Carolina

“I’ve conducted many on-air interviews throughout the last 20 years. You don’t always know what you’re going to get until you’re actually into the interview. Within 10 seconds of my first question with Kathryn, I knew my audience was in for a real treat. Kathryn was engaging, informative, very much at ease, and immediately sucked me into Winnie-the-Pooh’s world. I now have this penchant to play Poohsticks, and I’ve updated my bucket list to include a visit to Ashdown Forest.”

Bryan Earl, Host of the Zesty Garden, Utah Public Radio

“Kathryn Aalto’s knowledge of her work and study is outstanding. She takes this information and shares this enjoyable journey to different types of audiences. I have witnessed her programs for people and children of all ages and have been very impressed on how she changes and makes the information appropriate for the audience she has before her. I highly recommend Kathryn.”

Benjamin Sapp, Director, The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books

“The Modesto Garden Club in California is the largest garden club in the United States. Kathryn was one of the best speakers we have ever had. We loved her. It will be difficult to top her.

Cindy Ott, Events Coordinator, Modesto Garden Club

“Kathryn Aalto’s knowledge of her work and study is outstanding. She takes this information and shares this enjoyable journey to different types of audiences. I have witnessed her programs for people and children of all ages and have been very impressed on how she changes and makes the information appropriate for the audience she has before her. I highly recommend Kathryn.”

Benjamin Sapp, Director, The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books

“We were honored to welcome Kathryn Aalto to the Hudson Library & Historical Society for a truly memorable evening. Kathryn knows how to engage an audience with the right amount of warmth, insight and humor. Her well-researched multimedia presentation, full of beautiful photographs and even the sounds of nature, captured the delight of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and the beauty of Ashdown Forest. I know many of us left inspired to revisit the stories as well as embark on our own explorations of nature.”

Polly Reynolds, Hudson Library & Historical Society, Ohio

COURSE ENDORSEMENTS

“Kathryn’s workshops are absolute troves of clear, thoughtfully presented material. She seamlessly blends engaging and foundational readings, compelling lecture, and meaningful workshopping. What I was most blown away by, though, was her fierce dedication to each participant’s journey – meeting each one of us where we were and guiding us further along in our writing path. From handwritten feedback to answering questions after hours, Kathryn really went above and beyond to ensure our growth and success.”

Kimberley, Atlanta, Georgia

“After six months of working with Kathryn–which is a bit like entering the space of a handwritten letter, what with her sharp aesthetic sense, far-ranging intelligence, wit, and curiosity–I’ve made tangible progress on an unwieldy, long-form project I was struggling to articulate. I came to her Memoir and Life Writing class for accountability, and came away having experienced the kind of support, writing insight, and real feeling of friendship that can be difficult to find in a workshop environment. Kathryn fostered a warm, charming atmosphere in class (a real feat online), allowing for life-long connections to develop among our group of writers. She cares about the arc of her student’s writing lives–a form of attention that encourages artistic growth and positive risk-taking. She not only brought her years of writing and publishing experience to class and to our bi-monthly writing assignments (her personal feedback, often handwritten, is invaluable), she also brought her unique perspective. Writer-gardener-historians are, I think, particularly adept at imagining the possibilities for a piece, no matter your subject. Kathryn pushed me to dig deeper, moving my writing in new directions. No matter where one is in their writing life, working with Kathryn will be an experience of profound joy, insight, and artistic deepening.”

Veronica, Portland, Oregon

“Kathryn Aalto is an exceptional teacher. As a best-selling author, she knows the publishing industry first-hand. And she is highly adept at refining one’s technical skills without stifling a writer’s voice. I love the combination of rigor and nurturing she provides. Without her mentoring, I would still be stumbling in the dark along my path to publication. Her guidance, support and knowledge are game changers. I cannot recommend her enough!”

Lise, Los Angeles, California

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“Leaving the Rural Writers Institute, I felt connected to a long history of authors inspired by their relationship with the land. James, Kathryn, and the assembled guest speakers, helped navigate us through this history and consider where the form might grow. We learned in the hay barn, by the beck, and even whilst mending a dry stone wall. I can’t think of a more perfect way to engage with literature and the land. RWI gave me confidence to explore new avenues of my craft and, best of all, brought together a diverse community of passionate writers.” 

Lauren, RWI 2018

“I have been making my living with journalistic texts for four years now. Tied to my desk due to the pandemic I decided it was time to take my writing to another level and enrolled in The Art of Narrative Nonfiction. Being skeptical of virtual courses at first, I was immediately drawn into the group by her professional and yet entertaining moderation of the weekly online gatherings. With an attractive mix of lecture, discussion, workshop and personal tutoring she enabled us to not only profit from her vast experience as a writer but also to open up our pieces to our peers from various cultural backgrounds. I’ll definitely be back for more.”

Johannes, Cologne, Germany

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“Kathryn has an uncanny ability to understand who you are and where you want to go as a writer and unlock your potential step-by-step with patience, respect, and eloquence. She is a creative, fun, and resourceful teacher and artist who won’t hold back from you her insights into the inner workings of the publishing world. She’s a gem of a mentor.”

Onur, Washington, D. C.

“For me, the Rural Writing Institute was a dream opportunity: a perfect location, and the chance to learn craft from fabulous writers rooted in the land, as well as other accomplished and prominent practitioners of poetry and creative nonfiction. What I had not expected, but has proved equally powerful, was the immediate creation of a writing community characterised by profound mutual trust and fellowship. In those few days, we began friendships — across nation, gender, age, levels of experience, and multiple other differences — that will clearly endure. That such a group of colleagues and comrades was forged during the Institute is a tribute to the transformative generosity shown by Katy, James, and the Rebanks family. Their trust, openness, respect, and genuine joy in the work they do spread outward to all of us. The seeds planted and nourished there have already born rich crops of creative work and professional advancement.” 

Nicola., RWI 2018

“Margaret Atwood said ‘If you really want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something.’ Kathryn fixes those nagging fears by showing writers what we have that is already good, and what we can do better tomorrow. It’s win-win, and she remakes a traditional “class” into such an enjoyable, productive journey. I’ve also been lucky enough to experience the awe-inspiring surroundings and warm community that form the bedrock of the Rural Writing Institute. It’s not often that you can genuinely say that one long weekend shifted the way you look at the world, but the effects are still with me in my reading and writing years later.”

Caroline, Aberdeen, Scotland

“Kathryn Aalto is a gift. Her mentoring is insightful, collaborative, and inspiring. Kathryn has helped shape my essay for submission and, most importantly, coached me to a deeper appreciation for my own intuition and skill as a writer.”

Kris, Ithaca, New York

“Kathryn was a fabulous mentor at a time when I needed it the most. I was working on the manuscript of my first nonfiction book, and Kathryn had recently finished Writing Wild, which has a similar structure to mine. She provided wonderful advice about how to balance different chapters, how to better tell a story, and always reminded me to be specific rather than vague. Kathryn gave me courage to pursue interviews with higher profile people than I would have otherwise approached, and boosted my confidence as a writer. Our weekly call gave me goals, a schedule, and kept me accountable in my writing process. Because of Kathryn, I had a clearer sense of what makes a full-length nonfiction book work and how to get there. Working with her while I was in the final stages of my manuscript dramatically improved my final product and gave me skills that I will carry with me for my writing career.”

McKenzie Long, author, This Contested Land

“I was a new writer when I was accepted to RWI 2018: what I needed from the retreat was an insight into whether I had what it takes to be a writer, and, if so, what it would take for me to become a good writer. After a short, but thrillingly intense, retreat, I had a) the confidence to think of myself as a writer, b) the elements of an action-plan for my future writing development, and c) a network of talented and supportive friends in the tutors, and participants who had shared the experience. The consistent emphasis on authenticity of voice, together with the eclectic range of visiting speakers, gave me perhaps my most profound learning from RWI i.e. an informed vocabulary appropriate for describing my own work, and for considering the work of writers across the wider genre of nature and rural writing. If any developmental experience is to be described as life-changing, for me this was it.”

Geoff, RWI 2018

“In spring 2018, a serendipitous click on a tweet led me to the RWI 2018 website and Wendell Berry’s words ‘Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.’ Berry’s words encapsulate perfectly my memories of that gloriously sunny weekend spent on the Rebanks’ lake district farm, with Katy and Polly, Ed and Rob, plus through the magical ether, David, Tara and Jane. Oh, and the cohort of intimate strangers who, after that intense weekend, a Slack app group, a 2019 reunion and book anthology, a forthcoming 2020 gathering, I feel I can now call friends.”

Liz, RWI 2018