When you hear the phrase “nature writing,” what first comes to mind? Maybe Henry David Thoreau hoeing beans beside Walden Pond, or John Muir climbing a swaying pine tree during a windstorm in Yosemite, or Annie Dillard observing the life in and around Tinker Creek. Living in the increasingly bustling Bay Area, it can be hard to remember that we needn’t become hermits or mountaineers to write about nature.
In this class, we’ll explore the following questions: Where does the city end and the natural world begin? From what vantage point ought the writer stand in relation to the natural world? How best can we utilize language to speak for the speechless?
Instructor Austin Smith says, “Writing outdoors is a bit like painting outdoors—journaling about the bird one is hearing, or the tree one is sitting under, is to sharpen one’s observational and descriptive skills. It is both inspiring and humbling to push back from the desk and go out into the world. It’s a good thing to do anytime, anywhere, but especially in San Francisco in October.”
We will take advantage of The Writing Salon’s proximity to Golden Gate Park and spend much of the day outdoors. Prior to class, participants will be asked to read essays by Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard. Throughout the day we will hear a range of texts, including journal entries, poems, haiku, and passages of fiction, which will inspire us in our writing exercises.
Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. His poems and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry Magazine, Narrative Magazine, Threepenny Review, ZYZZYVA, Yale Review, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares and New England Review, amongst others. His first collection of poems, Almanac, was chosen for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and published in 2013. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction, Smith teaches poetry, fiction and nature writing classes at Stanford University.
- Saturday, October 28, 10:00am-4:00pm