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
- A live online Level 1/Level 2
- For beginning and intermediate travel and nature writers
- 7-9:30 PM BST/GMT
- Every other Monday
- Sept 11/25, Oct 9/23, Nov 6/20, Dec 4/18
- Need to stagger tuition payments? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join an award-winning writing community while embarking on a transformative artistic journey with New York Times bestselling author and educator Kathryn Aalto. This immersive course invites students to delve into the captivating world of travel and place writing. Through a blend of insightful lectures, engaging discussions, and hands-on writing exercises, students develop the skills and insights to create evocative and compelling narratives nonfiction focused on journeys into nature and place.
“The greatest travel and nature writing explores the islands, capes, and coves of our inner landscapes,” Kathryn describes in her book Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World. “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.”
With this in “double-helix” in mind, Kathryn also puts an emphasis on the internal journey of each student. Cultivating the artist alongside the art, students keep reflective journals on their writing discipline and dreams, goals and growth, to help create a meaningful creative practice. This holistic approach includes goal setting, safe-guarding optimal creative times, identifying different writing mindsets, and understanding the different phases of writing (research, pre-writing, drafting, writing, revising, editing).
- Exploring the Essence of Place: Dive deep into the concept of place as a character in itself, learning how to observe and articulate the unique qualities, histories, and atmospheres that define a location.
- Cultural Sensitivity and Authenticity: Gain insights into the ethical considerations of writing about diverse cultures, understanding the importance of respectful representation and accurate portrayal.
- Narrative Structures: Master the art of structuring travel and place narratives, from vivid descriptions and sensory details to engaging story arcs that captivate readers from start to finish.
- Incorporating Personal Reflection: Learn how to interweave personal experiences and reflections with factual information, enhancing the emotional resonance of your writing.
- Writing Techniques: Acquire a toolkit of literary techniques, including metaphor, simile, imagery, and dialogue, to infuse your narratives with vividness and depth.
- Research and Authenticity: Develop effective research methods to ensure accuracy and authenticity in your writing, blending historical context, cultural nuances, and contemporary insights.
- Editing and Refining: Discover the art of self-editing and revision, honing your writing for clarity, coherence, and impact.
- Publishing and Sharing: Explore avenues for sharing your travel and place narratives, from submitting to literary magazines to self-publishing and utilizing digital platforms.
- Guest Authors and Industry Insights: Benefit from guest lectures by established travel and place writers, editors, and literary agents, gaining valuable insights into the industry and diverse perspectives.
Whether you aspire to become a professional travel writer, want to enhance your personal blog, or simply wish to better articulate your experiences, this course offers a dynamic platform for unleashing your creativity and refining your writing skills. Join Kathryn and a community of fellow writers to uncover the transformative power of words and embark on a literary exploration of the world around us. Together in this travel and nature writing course, we will explore landscapes through classic to contemporary travel poetry and prose — crossing Spain on foot, exploring abandoned sites reclaimed by nature, and wandering through France, Mongolia, and post-WW I London. By the end of this course, you’ll have a portfolio of richly crafted travel and place narratives ready to captivate readers and transport them to the heart of your chosen destinations.
We are fortunate to be joined by two acclaimed travel and nature writers who will share their knowledge and insights. Travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy joins Kathryn Aalto to discuss Walking with Sam: A Father, a Son, and 500 Miles Across Spain (2023). McCarthy is the author of four books including Brat: An ’80s Story, Just Fly Away, and The Longest Way Home — all New York Times best sellers. He is an award-winning travel writer and served for a dozen years as an editor-at-larger at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Best known as an actor for the past four decades, Andrew has appeared in such iconic films as Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Less Than Zero. He lives in New York.
In November, we are joined by Cal Flyn. She writes long form journalism and literary nonfiction. Her latest book, Islands of Abandonment, won the John Burroughs Award, was a Sunday Times bestseller, and was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction. It won her the title of Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2022, the UKL and Ireland’s most influence prize for young writers. Cal’s journalistic writing has been published in Granta, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times, The Economist, and others. She is the deputy editor of the literary recommendations site Five Books, and a regular contributor to The Guardian. Cal was previously writer-in-residence at Gladstone’s Library and at the Jan Michalski Foundation in Switzerland. She was made a MacDowell fellow in 2019.
This course provides the opportunity to transform your travel and nature experiences into artfully-written, publication-ready essays in an international setting with writers who have similar experiences. Discussions are based on assigned readings and workshops provide live feedback from peers. In-class exercises are interspersed throughout each session to help each writer think about intermediate techniques and approaches with a particular focus narrative structure, voice, and finely-embroidered scene creation. Revision and editing techniques will be taught and highly emphasized to create engaging essays. You will have the opportunity to write 4-6 page travel and place essays.
- Poems by Li Young-Li, Camille Dungy, Mary Oliver, G.E. Thomas, Edward Thomas, John Clare, and T. S. Eliot
- “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” by Ariel Levy
- “A Long Day’s Journey” by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn
- Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and 500 Miles Across Spain by Andrew McCarthy
- Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World by Kathryn Aalto
- The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto
Listen to Kathryn talk about nature and place writing:
- 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