“Nature will bear the closest inspection,” Henry David Thoreau once mused in a journal. “She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” As writers, it is our job to look closely at the world around us. Nature has long served as a starting point for authors, but what does “nature writing” entail in an urban setting like Houston? How is “nature” even relevant in an era of rapid technological change?
In this two-day class we will begin to answer those questions. By immersing ourselves in a spectrum of eco-literature—from the lush realism of Jamaica Kincaid to the sci-fi dreamscapes of Jeff VanderMeer—we will consider the many possibilities for nature writing. Through a series of generative writing exercises, we will explore different methods of engaging with the natural world in fiction and nonfiction. Nature, after all, can become a character, a mood, a means of addressing much more than leaves and insects. “The real topic of nature writing,” according to Barry Lopez, “is human community.” By the end of the weekend, you should leave with a fresh batch of prose and a sense of how to position nature as a sustaining force in your creative endeavors.