Discover nature writing with renowned author Janisse Ray

Jul 11, 2011

Bring your passion to the Blue Ridge Mountains


It’s no wonder that nature inspires some of the best writing. From a crisp mountain stream to a dazzling sunset, it evokes our keenest emotions. A tranquil escape from the chaos of civilization can be an essential source of mind renewal and the chance to be creative.

The Wilderness Society is extending an invitation for people to find such inspiration September 29-October 2 at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center in Highlands, North Carolina for a nature writing workshop led by Janisse Ray. She is the bestselling author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood as well as a gifted speaker and teacher of expression and sense of place.

“We are hoping to bring together a group of people to write about place and to build a network of writers to communicate about issues we care about in the Southern Appalachians,” says Brent Martin, director of The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Program. “We are striving for a marriage between nature writing in its purist sense and approaching it from an activist perspective.”

Writers of all abilities (or even lack-there-of) will have the chance to explore ecologically-rich areas, which The Wilderness Society has identified as "Mountain Treasures" worthy of permanent protection. This is the ideal opportunity for people to experience hands-on, boots-on-the ground training on the power of the written word as it relates to nature.

Beyond helping writers discover their inner Thoreau, Martin hopes that the workshop will stir the hearts of people with a desire to communicate the value of protecting our pristine landscapes, particularly those in North Carolina.

Martin insists that nature writing is an art form like any other and is equivalent to painting on a canvas. “It tells you a story that you wouldn’t get from just walking outside and glancing at something,” Martin says. “The writing is manifested when someone goes out into nature and spends time to reflect on his or her surroundings.”

Ray, who has received national recognition for her ability to write eloquently on America’s vanishing places, will lecture and lead participants through extensive exercises on writing techniques and advocacy in a setting overlooking the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. Even more noteworthy than Ray’s distinction as an author and conservation activist is her incredible capacity for wonder. She has a mojo about her that has attracted countless Americans and inspired them to help rebuild endangered ecosystems.

“We Southerners are a people fighting again for our country, defending the last remaining stands of real forest,” Ray says in the Afterword of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. “Although we love to frolic, the time has come to fight. We must fight.”

To complement Ray’s expertise, evenings will include visits from special guests such as regional authors Thomas Rain Crowe, John Lane and Barbara Duncan.

Anyone wanting to tap into their inner artist should join expert Janisse Ray in the mountains for this invaluable opportunity in a small group setting. And as Martin says, “Don’t forget to bring your passion.”

Workshop Details and Registration: The early registration fee for this workshop is $450 per person, and it includes three nights of double occupancy lodging as well as all meals and workshop materials. Find more information about the Center. For more information or to register for the event, please contact Jill Gottesman at 828-587-9453. Register by July 15 to receive an autographed copy of Ray’s new poetry collection, House of Branches.

Brent Martin