An Activist’s Perspective on Nature Writing

Nature writing is a unique American style of writing that allows us to immerse ourselves in the natural world and defend place at a time when it seems to be attacked everywhere we turn.

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, The Wilderness Society will host a workshop dedicated to this genre of writing with distinguished author Janisse Ray, of whom the New York Times said, “The forests of the South have found their Rachel Carson.” Ray will lead writing exercises and discussions at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center in Highlands, North Carolina. Participants will also have the opportunity to explore the forests around them and write in the outdoors.

Ray’s main appeal is her ability to write eloquently on our vanishing places. She has helped me to view nature writing as a valuable skill from both an advocate’s standpoint as well as that of an artist.

With Ray’s writing workshop this fall, we hope to bring together a group of diverse people to write about place and build a network of writers to communicate about issues we care about in the Southern Appalachians. We are striving for a marriage between nature writing in its purist sense and approaching it from an activist perspective.

To me, nature writing is an art form like any other and is equivalent to painting on a canvas. It’s no different than an artist or a painter who goes out into the woods and paints you a picture of what they observe. It tells you a story that you wouldn’t get from just walking outside and glancing at something.

Nature writing is a new avenue to wonder about the natural world and is used in various ways. In my opinion, nature writing can be a field guide to wild flowers. I can go out and see a particular flower in a way that I never would have without that guide.

You get transported into a different realm. Interpreting the natural world in writing gives you the opportunity to slow down from the chaos of day-to-day life and think about the creation around you.

As the Southern Appalachian director at The Wilderness Society, I also see the power in being able to communicate our connection with place as a way to inspire others to stand up for protection of that place. This intersection between art and activism is what we will explore with Janisse during this workshop.

Anyone interested in a hands-on, boots-on-the ground training in place writing should join expert Janisse Ray in the mountains for this invaluable opportunity. Don’t forget to bring your passion.

Interested in the workshop? Find out more information