Nature and Place Writing

“Kathryn teaches with a deep care about the individual student and is very clever about bringing out their voices and passions. She also has an unparalleled knowledge of nature and landscape writing that gives a real gravitas and authority on the subject, a knowledge that she wears lightly without intimidating students, which is a huge strength.” — James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life and English Pastoral 

Questions? Drop Kathryn a line at kathryn@kathrynaalto.com.

ABOUT

  • A live online nature writing course
  • 7-9:30 PM GMT every other Monday
  • Feb 6/20, Mar 6/20, Apr 3/17, May 1/15
  • Detailed feedback on writing
  • Limited to 16 people
  • Tuition: £550
  • Tea break midway

From the poetic to the scientific, nature writing explores the perennial question, “How best to live in this world?”  Nature writing has expanded to confront the most important and existential issues of our time as sea levels rise, poles melt, biodiversity plummets, and temperatures increase. At the same time, people need solace, and meditations, on nature, which are vital for our spiritual restoration. Now more than ever, diverse voices are essential. This nature writing course includes a vibrant reading list and two guest writers — Bryce Andrews, a rancher and author of three books, as well as Nicola Pitchford, who won 2022 The Nature Chronicles Prize.

The emphasis is also on writing the personal essay. This is an accessible form for emerging writers to explore their own voices and learn narrative nonfiction techniques. This nature writing course provides lecture, which focus on particular topics of narrative nonfiction. Discussions are based on assigned readings. Workshops provide invaluable live feedback from peers. In-class exercises are interspersed throughout each session to help each writer think about particular techniques and approaches. You will have the opportunity to write seven 4-6 page nature essays.

Students will learn ways to become attentive observers of language and the natural world. We will concentrate on ‘sense of place’ — that invisible layer of memories, history and emotion that cover a physical landscape with an invisible stratum. We will also examine the ways poets, essayists, and authors capture this in their writing. We will consider the interplay between outer and inner landscapes, which is a hallmark of good nature writing, as well as dilating the personal to universal.  We will be attuned to the ways outer landscapes influence and alter our inner landscapes: what happens when outer landscapes intersect with our inner landscapes, how might other beings live in the world, and how to capture greater-than-human experiences in our writing.

Kathryn Aalto provides a vibrant and nourishing space to grow as a nature writer, providing feedback on all writing. 

LEARNING AIMS

  • Practice narrative nonfiction techniques
  • Craft compelling scenes
  • Write your own area of interest and in response to focused topics
  • Write in first-person with confidence
  • Practice dialogue and internal monologue
  • Develop your own writing voice

 

READING

Books

Trio of Poems

Essays

Booklet

  • Essentials of Narrative Nonfiction: Harnessing Fictional Techniques to Make Your Nonfiction Come Alive by Kathryn Aalto (available February 1)

GUEST SPEAKERS

 

Bryce Andrews is the author of Down from the Mountain, Badluck Way, and Holding Fire. His books have received honours including the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Authors Award and the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival’s Grand Prize. He lives on a ranch near Arlee, Montana. In addition to grazing cattle, growing berries, and writing, he works for a nonprofit conservation group to reduce conflicts between large carnivores and human beings in the rural valleys of the Northern Rockies. Bryce’s writing derives from his varied work. He is fascinated by wild creatures and their struggles to thrive in the changing landscapes of the American West. 

 

 

Nicola Pitchford is a British immigrant who lives in Marin County, California, on land from which the Coast Miwok people were uprooted. She has published poetry and literary criticism and studied at Pomona College, the University of Warwick, the University of Wisconsin, and the 2018 Rural Writing Institute. Her essay, “A Parable of Arable Land,” won the 2022 (inaugural) Nature Chronicles Prize. Her nonfiction work-in-progress explores the relationship of migrants and immigrants to land and nature. You can find Nicola on social media @NJPitchford. Students are invited to hear Nicola speak on Sunday, February 26 at 7:30 PM GMT in The Art of the Personal Essay course.

 

 

SENSE OF COMMUNITY

No matter your subject or style, you will find a great writing community in this creative nonfiction writing course. All of Kathryn’s writing courses are characterised by a warm fellowship and positive accountability, which provide valuable support and focus. Each session you gather with your classmates, you will learn from and teach each other while gaining a new set of friends who share your writing aspirations and growth mindset.

 

TEACHING EXPERIENCE & PHILOSOPHY

Kathryn Aalto is a passionate practitioner and teacher of narrative nonfiction.  For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University and has given guest lectures at Cambridge University, Vanderbilt University, Cornell University, and more. She has a global mentoring practice and thriving online writing courses, and leads in-person retreats, courses, and workshops in the United States and United Kingdom. She is a judge for The Nature Chronicles Prize, an international bi-annual award for nature writing in the English language. Kathryn’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. At its core, she believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are an emerging writer or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She cultivates a mindful and supportive learning environment that fosters personal expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth in the literary arts.

 

TESTIMONIALS

Read more testimonials here.

“Kathryn is an inspiring writer and gifted teacher of narrative non-fiction. She creates a warm and inviting atmosphere in the virtual classroom, even as she encourages writers to pursue their craft with rigour and tenacity. The classes pivot from instructor-led teaching to student-centred learning, with a dynamic range of activities, including lectures, discussions of craft/technique in assigned readings, writing prompts, workshops, Q&A sessions with published authors, industry insights and more. Aspiring writers receive detailed and actionable feedback, whether to build on existing skills or experiment with fresh approaches to craft. Beyond the classroom, Katy is happy to answer any questions, suggest further readings and encourage writers to publish.” 

Wendy, Maidenhead, England

“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

Veronica, Portland, Maine

“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

 

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