One of Kathryn greatest joys is being a teacher. She has taught for more than thirty years — including Creative Nonfiction, Critical Thinking, Composition, Writing Research Papers Writing, Environmental Issues, and American Literature of Nature and Place — at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley, Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and the University of Plymouth. She has been a keynote speaker and guest author at Cambridge University, Vanderbilt University, Cornell University, the University of Florida, and many more. She co-founded the Rural Writing Institute with author James Rebanks, and has taught at many summer writing programs.

The Pig at Combe

Retreat into the Devon Countryside:  A three-day retreat in November at The Pig Hotel at Combe, an Elizabethan manor house nestled in the green hills of Devon. The focus of the retreat is on the craft of literary/narrative nonfiction, the art of the personal essay, and creating a professional writing practice. Evening speaker is Ed Caesar, staff writer for The New Yorker.  Guest lecture on “Life Writing” by Paul Dodgson, author of the memoir On the Road Not Taken (2019).

Our weekend focus is on the narrative nonfiction dance between conveying information and crafting scenes with focused lectures, discussions, and writing. The personal essay also gives emerging writers achievable goals leading to by-lines and a track record in print publication.  An elegant, immersive, and nurturing weekend with evening cocktails, walks in the surrounding countryside, meditative spa services to melt your writing mind, and warming fireside discussions. Rooms in thatched cottages and meals locally-sourced meals from the kitchen garden. New friendships with fellow narrative nonfiction writers to nurture your writing life. Additional one-to-one consultations on works-in-progress. Contact gardens@kathrynaalto.com for more information and to request the itinerary.

Limited to 10 people. Hotel and meals are separate. Tuition is £595.


The Georgian Kitchen at The Pig


Discussion in The Library

Mentoring: From Proposal to Publication.  Kathryn takes great pride in sharing her knowledge and expertise with emerging writers of creative nonfiction. A professional mentor with AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), she provides expert guidance in foundational and technical issues for six-week sessions to produce a crafted 1500-3500 word essay.  Guidance is provided in foundational and technical aspects through weekly in-depth Skype conversations and detailed responses to writing. Contact Kathryn for rates and to arrange a conversation.


  • Writing an author bio: where you want to be in 12 months and 5 years
  • Building your portfolio as your work toward your goals
  • Establishing a writing practice
  • Developing an author platform
  • Networking (on social media, in person, and in professional organisations)


  • Deepening your understanding of the craft of creative nonfiction
  • Carving out a subject niche and making a name for yourself
  • Crafting essays that can get you paid and published for a track record
  • Pitching pieces for publication
  • Finding your authentic personal voice
  • Working on specific scenes, essays, and manuscripts
  • Recommending books to read on craft and to broaden your knowledge of CNF

The Art of Narrative Nonfiction.  Narrative Nonfiction is the fastest-growing area in publishing. It joins solid research with fictional techniques to make nonfiction come alive. This workshop explains the range of techniques utilised to create compelling, fact-based story-telling — narrative presence, scene of place, enhanced dialogue, crafted language, creative structure, parallel narratives, and more.  Through writing exercises, learn how to apply key storytelling techniques that hook the reader’s imagination to make nonfiction come alive. Learn how to discover your unique voice and ways to revise your current writing projects. 2-hours or half-day sessions.

Research for Writers. Nothing beats writing that transports readers to another place and time. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, details shoot writing into the stratosphere with spot-on jargon and irreplaceable authenticity.  Research is the process of looking at documented content outside the self — articles, books, interviews, guided travel, archival footage, along with physical immersion — and is anything that introduces external accountability to writing.  Research does not need to take a backseat to imagination, but can be a writer’s engine and tool: the pursuit of detail and authenticity can drive and shape narratives and a writer’s outlook. Kathryn’s books and essays are steeped in research. Retracing the final footsteps of the plant hunter David Douglas in Hawaii. Climbing Scafell Pike to write about the life of Dorothy Wordsworth. Mudlarking on the River Thames. Playing in the World Poohsticks Championships in England. From handling 19th-century plant specimens to reading centuries-old, first-edition books, Kathryn seeks ways to intersect with history through primary source research — a fundamental part of sparking insights. Learn how research can provide you with boundaries, give your narrative form, and establish authority.

Nature Writing Workshop. One of the most distinctive genres in American literature, nature writing is also one of its oldest traditions. In this workshop, Kathryn provides an introduction to the beating heart of nature writing — the personal essay and the importance of the first-person narrative in nature writing — and introduces exercises to shape a nature essay.  An overview of subgenres — natural history, garden writing, personal meditations, country and farm life, biography, and environmental writing in the Anthropocene — helps to  harness your subject, your angle, and your voice. Lecture and writing workshops.