Level 1: The Art of Narrative Nonfiction (starts April 7)

“Kathryn’s creative nonfiction writing courses 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

“Through Kathryn Aalto’s Narrative Nature Writing course, my whole experience of literature and writing is shifting. I initially studied literature for my childhood love of books and stories. However, I found my degree experience quite overwhelming years ago, especially the highly rigorous critical elements. I thought academia had successfully killed off my love of literature and writing to the point of a big freeze. Kathryn’s classes are teaching me to rediscover my love of literature and writing again and to gain confidence. I find this environment and way of learning more freeing and nurturing.  Thank you for providing us all with such an inspirational & nurturing environment.”
Rebecca, Orkney Islands, Scotland


  • A live online writing course
  • Limited space – 16 students only
  • A Level 1 course for beginners
  • Free access to monthly masterclasses


  • 7-9:30 PM GMT every other Sunday
  • April 7/21, May 5/19, June 2/16/30, July 14



Join New York Times best-selling author Kathryn Aalto’s award-winning community of writers in The Art of Narrative Nonfiction.

An entry-level course for those new to the art of narrative or creative nonfiction, The Art of Narrative Nonfiction provides an enjoyable introduction to the personal essay and narrative nonfiction. You will learn the eight essential foundational techniques to elevate your essays to read like an adventure novel, rich travelogue, engaging nature writing, or quiet meditation with a friend. These elements include narrative presence, narrative arc, setting, characterisation, dialogue/monologue, language, voice, and research. You will learn how to become a cinematic storyteller who immerses the reader into scenes that show, rather than tell.

At the same time, Kathryn will help you create an intentional writing practice that works best for you and your life. This includes an understanding of the different phases of writing, learning when you write best, becoming an active rather than passive reader, integrating personal journaling into your practice, and writing for well-being.

This course includes in-depth lectures, engaging discussions based on readings, supportive writing workshops, in-class writing exercises, and at-home essay writing.  We begin with a study of the personal essay and embark on a journey into memoir, travel writing, nature writing, and more.

If you have any questions about the syllabus, prior experience, or tuition payments, e-mail kathryn@kathrynaalto.com.

Listen to Kathryn in the following interviews:

  •  National Public Radio’s “The Write Question” from Montana Public Radio here.
  • “Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden” here.
  • “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio with Ari Shapiro here.
  • “A Savoured Life” podcast on nature writing with Sumayya Usmani here.



  • Learn the foundations of narrative nonfiction
  • Understand the difference between show vs. tell in writing
  • Craft vivid scenes that put readers into the action and storytelling moments
  • Give and receive constructive criticism in writing workshops
  • Begin to see how the Iceberg Principle fleshes out people as characters
  • Appreciate the importance of dialogue in transporting readers to scenes
  • Create a ritual of writing as a reflective habit of mind




  • “Death of a Pig” by E.B. White
  • “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf
  • “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” by David Sedaris
  • “The Longest Way Home” by Andrew McCarthy
  • “Omission: Choosing What to Leave Out” by John McPhee
  • “A Parable of Arable Land” by Nicola Pitchford in The Nature Chronicles with an introduction by Kathryn Aalto


Kathryn Aalto’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration in her creative nonfiction writing courses. 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.


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, guides students in a vibrant online writing school, and leads in-person retreats, courses, and workshops in the United States and United Kingdom.  She was also judge for The Nature Chronicles Prize, an international bi-annual award for nature writing in the English language. She is represented by Peter McGuigan at Ultra Literary in New York City. As a public speaker, she has given hundreds of talks at distinguished speakers’ series and is represented by Chartwell Speakers in New York City.  


No matter your subject or style, you will find a great writing community in this bi-weekly creative nonfiction writing course. All of Kathryn’s writing courses are uplifting gatherings imbued with a sense of positive accountability, which keeps writers feeling very supported and focused on becoming the writer they want to become.


Read more testimonials here about this creative nonfiction writing course.

“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

“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

“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