WRITING FROM PLACE
This is a workshop in creative nonfiction with a special emphasis on writing about place. We will explore the role that writing about places—sometimes natural places, sometimes not—can play in writing personal essays and memoir. For nonfiction writers who are stuck for a subject, place often unlocks other topics and deeper concerns. For some writers turning their minds to a specific place they care for—a home, a patch of woods, a beach—can prove a reliable muse. At the same time, writing about deeply knowing a place can make us feel a little mystical, even silly. As the great Alaskan writer John Haines said: “To express a place in art we need to take certain risks . . . we need intimacy of a sort that demands a certain daring and risk: a surrender, an abandonment.” Or as Barry Lopez puts it, we need to “become vulnerable to a place.” We’ll attempt this in our work and our reading.
David Gessner is the author of nine books, including the forthcoming All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West, Return of the Osprey, Sick of Nature, My Green Manifesto, and The Tarball Chronicles, which won the 2012 Reed Award for Best Book on the Southern Environment and the Association for Study of Literature and the Environment’s award for best book of creative writing in 2011 and 2012. He has published essays in many magazines, including Outside magazine and the New York Times Magazine, and has won the John Burroughs Award for Best Nature Essay, a Pushcart Prize, and inclusion in Best American Nonrequired Reading. He recently appeared on MSNBC’s The Cycle to offer his take on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Gessner taught Environmental Writing as a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard, and is currently a Professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he founded the award-winning literary journal of place, Ecotone.
He also puts a lot of energy into blogging for Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, a website he created with the writer Bill Roorbach. He still dreams of winning the national championship in ultimate Frisbee, but knows it will never happen.