Whether it’s an endless desert vista, a bird’s morning song, a whale emerging from the sea, the bark of a weathered tree, or anything in between, the natural world calls to many of us. For many, it completes us. It stirs the deepest part of us with wonder and awe. Now, perhaps, more than ever.
The goal of this online workshop is to guide and help you summon those intimate and powerful reactions and turn them into words that move others as well. Using sensory-based exercises, the aim is for you to depict the natural world with prose that evokes what you see and how you see it—to make your individual, your unique, reaction universal. “If the emotions are strong enough,” wrote the poet Marianne Moore, “the words are unambiguous.”
It’s all in the details, and so attention will be directed to word choice, metaphors, and creating lyrical sentences. This is a workshop about passion and precision. We write, and each individual voice will be nurtured. We won’t neglect story, as many of our reactions to nature are tied to stories in our lives.
We use great nature writers as our guides in this search—Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Gretel Ehrlich, Barry Lopez, as well as those from the past who led the way—John Muir, John James Audubon, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson. There is great nature writing in fiction as well, and we will draw from that. Since we are somewhat limited in our wanderings, we will draw from our own surroundings. Wherever we are, whether it be in a city, town or country, there is nature in some form.
This program is open to anyone who wants to engage in a creative writing workshop.
Richard Goodman is the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France, which the San Francisco Chronicle said is “one of the most charming, perceptive, and subtle books ever written about the French by an American.” He is also the author of The Soul of Creative Writing, A New York Memoir, and The Bicycle Diaries: One New Yorker’s Journey Through 9-11. He is co-editor of The Gulf South: An Anthology of Environmental Writing. He has published articles and essays in The New York Times, Harvard Review, Vanity Fair, Creative Nonfiction, Ascent, River Teeth, Hippocampus, Chautauqua, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Saveur. He has taught writing workshops in New York City, Louisville, New Orleans and Maine for the past thirty years.