July 11 - August 14, 2022
Essayists are well-versed in adventures into the depths of the mind and heart, or excavations of the past. But environmental writing asks us to look outward, beyond the self, to consider the mysteries of the universe or the dirt beneath our feet. This course will show you how to balance the internal and the external, how to look around without losing your sense of self, and how to write an essay about your environment, whatever it looks like.
Environmental writing does not only mean writing about nature. Whether natural or manmade, wild or settled, beautiful, ugly, or sterile, any and all environments are worthy of deeper exploration. Together, we’ll train ourselves to see any place as full of stories waiting to be told, and to write about both the darkness and the light of any landscape. Through a series of generative writing prompts, you’ll begin several essays, and will submit one longer work for detailed feedback.
In this course, you will:
Environmental writing first asks us to look up and around, to locate our bodies in a geographic landscape. This week, using contemporary environmental essays and several explorative prompts, you will develop an awareness of yourself in relationship to your environment, whether it’s natural or manmade, wild or settled. Our focus will be on cultivating a narrative voice and a sense of interiority we can bring into dialogue with our world.
Cultivating a sense of wonder and mystery deepens the environmental writer’s connection to possible subject matter. If even the objects in your own backyard astonish you, you’ll always have a ready source of detail, image, and metaphor. We’ll read several examples of writers versed in fascination and use writing prompts to practice fostering our own curiosity and sharing our discoveries with lush, descriptive language.
Our focus this week will be on expanding the scope of our environmental writing by incorporating several forms of research. We’ll look at examples of essays making use of source material ranging from science to history to philosophy. You’ll get a primer on how to interview environmental experts, explore the possibilities of field research, and study how to weave together internal and external threads in your narrative.
Environmental writing isn’t all flowers and flitting birds. Nature can be cruel and brutal in the best of times, and as we face a global pandemic and changing climate, increasing natural disasters and mass extinction—we are not in the best of times. This week, we’ll ask what it means to write an environmental essay in our times. How can our writing confront the racist and colonialist history of our landscape? How can we acknowledge destruction, advocate for environmental protection, and still celebrate the beauty of the natural world? What are the ethical, social, and political responsibilities of the environmental essay? This week, you will submit your environmental essay for peer and instructor feedback.
We will spend the week engaged in workshop conversations about each other’s work. In addition, we will consider revision as an act of cultivation, discuss strategies for expanding and deepening our essays, and explore several possible venues for publication.
Out of stock
It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].
Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.
I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.Catherine O’Neill
I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.
Replays include ongoing access to the recording and downloadable supplemental materials.
Every true story contains gaps. By imagining our way into these gaps, we can transform our material and our writing experience.
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