CW 58 — Observers of the Natural World: Writing the Personal Nature Essay
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 11—Mar 15
Time: 6:30—9:20 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Instructor(s): Peter Fish
Class Recording Available: Yes
In her recent book, Late Migrations, nature writer Margaret Renkl writes of the arrival of an exotic male scarlet tanager at her backyard bird feeder: “To me he looked like a blood-red, hollow-boned embodiment of grace.” The intersection of the natural world and our human world of loves and losses and hopes of grace can make for profoundly powerful writing. This course will guide you in writing about the natural world in your own sensitive, unique voice. We will work on conceiving, focusing, writing, and revising personal nature essays, with the goal of producing shorter and longer essays suitable for publication. Class discussions and weekly written assignments will hone essential skills: being observant in the natural world, determining your essay’s focus, and knowing when your own personal experiences can come to the foreground and when you should step aside for the scarlet tanager. Assigned readings will include selections from Renkl, along with other notable and accessible contemporary natural history writers, including Barry Lopez, Helen Macdonald, and Robert Macfarlane, and with a special emphasis on younger, diverse writers. This course is designed for those who have a passion for the natural world and the desire to write about it well.
Peter Fish, Sunset Magazine's longtime travel editor, received a Lowell Thomas Gold Medal for environmental journalism and Time Inc.’s Henry R. Luce Award. Writers he has edited include Susan Orlean and Tobias Wolff. He was the 2018–19 Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State. He writes regularly for the San Francisco Chronicle. Fish received an MA in creative writing from Stanford.
Writer; Editor; Former Travel Editor, Sunset
Textbooks for this course:
There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.