Kathryn Aalto is a teacher, speaker, historian, designer, and New York Times bestselling author.

Based in Exeter, England, for the past twenty-five years, her creative practice has fused nature and culture: being a master teacher of creative nonfiction both live and online; designing classic and contemporary gardens; writing books and essays about the natural world; speaking at hundreds of botanic gardens, museums, libraires, and universities; and leading writing retreats in the United States and Britain. 

“I am committed to teaching narrative nonfiction in ways that provide each student with a transformational learning experience,” she writes. “I am guided by a passion for lifelong learning and the ways writing helps reimagine the self, society, and other-than-human life.”

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). She reviews books and is was a literary judge for inaugural Nature Chronicles Prize. Her essays have appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Outside magazine, Sierra, Buzzfeed, Resurgence and the Ecologist, and more. Her books have been widely reviewed in print, radio, and digital platforms including National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, BBC Countryfile Magazine, and many more. She has appeared on TV and film.

An experienced arts administrator, she received the Community Revitalization Award as founder and president of the Monroe Arts Council in Washington.

Kathryn is represented by Ultra Literary in New York City and is currently working on her fourth book.

Kathryn Aalto is a master teacher and passionate practitioner of creative nonfiction. She has taught at universities, colleges, summer schools, writing retreats, and online. Whether students aspire to publication or seek fulfilling personal expression, her expert guidance provides a solid foundation in creative nonfiction.

Teaching Experience

She has taught at colleges and universities including the Huxley College of the Environment and the English Department at Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and the University of Plymouth. Kathryn teaches on-line writing courses throughout the year. These include The Art of the Personal Essay and Narrative Nonfiction, Memoir and Life Writing, Travel and Place Writing, and Advanced Projects.  She mentors emerging to published writers who are specialising in narrative nonfiction, specifically nature writing, travel writing, and memoir. 

Her award-winning students and mentees have been published around the world. These include Nicola Pitchford, winner of the £10,000 Nature Chronicles Prize; Emma Willsteed, winner of The Bradt Travel Guide’s “Best Travel Writer” Award; and Sarah Davies, shortlisted for The Fish Memoir Prize. Her students have become magazine columnists (Elizabeth Wainwright in Spelt) and published books (This Contested Land by Mackenzie Long).  

She founded Rural Writing Institute in the Lake District with internationally bestselling author James Rebanks, the Retreat into the English Countryside in Devon, and the Retreat into the Montana Rockies at Seeley Lake. She has been invited to create a world-class retreat at The Findhorn Foundation in Forres, Scotland in April 2024.

See COURSES for more information about the upcoming courses in 2023-24.


Teaching Philosophy

Kathryn’s teaching philosophy is focused on the creative growth of the individual student and encourages a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. She believes teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are an emerging writer or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She creates a supportive learning environment for creative expression, critical thinking, and artistic growth.

As an educator, Kathryn’s teaching is based on the Harkness Method, a collaborative approach established at the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire where her three children graduated. This philosophy brings no more than twelve students together with one teacher: each voice carries equal weight, active listening is essential, and empathy is developed to explore ideas and grow together as a learning community.


Kathryn is an ardent supporter of fellow writers and an experienced public speaker.

“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.”

To receive Kathryn’s press kit or to discuss a speaking engagement, please write to publicity@kathrynaalto.com.