“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
- Nature writing course — live online
- Prerequisite: none — for beginner
- Who should join?
- People new to narrative nature writing
- Nature enthusiasts seeking a creative outlet to deepen their connection with the environment
- Anyone passionate about advocating for the conservation of our natural world through the written word
- 7-9:30 PM GMT
- Every other Tuesday
- Jan 9/23, Feb 6/20, Mar 5*, Apr 9/23, May 7
- Have questions? Book a free 15-min 1:1 conversation
- Need to stagger tuition payments? Contact email@example.com
This Level 1 course provides a strong foundation in the art of narrative nonfiction. These skills — narrative arc, character development, dialogue/monologue, setting, language, voice, and research methods — will transform the way you reach audiences. This narrative approach to nature writing integrates Kathryn’s background in creative nonfiction/literary journalism and echoes Jonathan Franzen’s recent essay in The New Yorker entitled “The Problem of Nature Writing.” In that essay, Franzen argues that nature writing needs to be about more than nature. It first must be a good story.
Kathryn structures the course with lectures, discussions, small group workshops, in-class writing exercises, and nature writing assignments. Through readings and short writings, you will first learn to how to create scenes and then build up to essays, culminating in a portfolio of pieces that reflect your unique voice, thoughts, and feelings. You will also gain a strong support network of new friends who will help you elevate and empower your storytelling.
An ever-growing community, Kathryn’s students have won numerous awards (Bradt New Travel Writer of the Year and the £10,000 Nature Chronicles Prize), shortlisted for literary awards (Fish Memoir Prize), and published by universities, book trusts, magazines, journals, and more including the University of Minnesota Press, the Scottish Book Trust, Bitter Southerner, Spelt, and other publications.
“The greatest travel and nature writing explores the islands, capes, and coves of our inner landscapes. Whether nature writers sit on a streambank in Virginia or make a gruelling ascent of Mount Everest, the best are also travel writers whose words have the power to create seismic shifts and continental drifts within us. This is the double helix of travel and nature writing: the artful way movement and stillness are woven with the visible and invisible to create meditations on our place in the world.” As acclaimed travel writer Jan Morris puts, “In a profounder sense the best travel writers are not really writing about travel at all. They are recording the effects of places or movements upon their own particular temperaments–recording the experience rather than the event, as they might make literary use of a love affair, an enigma or a tragedy.” — Kathryn Aalto, Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World
With this in “double-helix” in mind, Kathryn also puts an emphasis on the internal journey of each student. Recognising that publication need not be the aim, Kathryn equally centers the act of writing as an expression of well-being: writing invites us to lead more reflective lives and be ‘in conversation’ with our minds, bodies, and spirits. Cultivating the artist alongside the art, Kathryn’s students keep reflective journals on their writing discipline and dreams, goals and growth, to help curate an intentional creative practice. Topics for discussion include goal setting, safe-guarding optimal creative times, cultivating optimal mindsets, and understanding the different phases of writing (research, pre-writing, drafting, writing, revising, editing).
Guided by Kathryn’s expertise and passion, in summary you be introduced to a broad spectrum of ideas:
- Narrative Nature Writing: Explore the rich tradition of nature writing and its evolution in contemporary literature.
- Observation and Sensory Perception: Hone your observational skills, connect with your surroundings on a profound level, and learn to use all five senses to create vivid and immersive descriptions.
- Character Development: Learn how plants, people, and places are all potential characters in nature writing.
- Personal Reflection and Discovery: Embrace nature writing as a process of self-discovery and personal growth, as you connect with nature on a profound level.
- Peer Review and Feedback: Engage in constructive peer feedback sessions to refine your writing and receive valuable insights from your fellow participants in a supportive and nurturing environment.
- Publishing and Sharing Your Work: Explore avenues for publishing your nature writing, from blogs and magazines to books, and gain insights into the publishing industry from Kathryn.
- The Outermost House by Henry Beston
- The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
- Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto
Trio of Poems
- “From Blossoms” a poem by Li-Young Lee from his collection Rose
- “December Morning in the Desert” a poem by Alberto Ríos
- “Trophic Cascade” a poem by Camille Dungy from her collection Trophic Cascade
- “A Parable of Arable Land,” an essay by Nicola Pitchford in The Nature Chronicles Prize Winning Entries with an Introduction by Kathryn Aalto
- “The Other Buzzard” in Bitter Southerner by Kimberly Coburn
- Professor emeritus and sound recordist Robert Berry on becoming a better listener outside
- Kimberly Coburn is an Atlanta-based writer and community organizer. In 2013, she founded The Homestead Atlanta: a collective dedicated to fostering regenerative communities through skills-based education. Metrics of success were preserved in Mason jars and carved from hardwood; they were measured in skills shared, ideas exchanged, goods bartered, and resources preserved. After the pandemic dictated an end to in-person programming, Kimberly shifted her exploration of the intersection between craft, the human spirit, and the natural world to the page. Her work has been featured in Salon, American Craft, The Bitter Southerner, Dark Mountain and more. https://bio.site/
kimberlycoburn | @ kimberlycoburn
Kathryn speaks about creativity, nature writing, and more 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.
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 provides valuable support and focus. Each session you gather with your classmates, you will learn from and teach each other while gaining a new writing community 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 New York Times best selling author and 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.
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