This year, Orion will host several Online Environmental Writers’ Workshops in poetry and nonfiction. This unique opportunity lets you maintain social distance, while improving your writing skills from home. Connect with us for six to eight sessions with an experienced instructor and writer. Learn more about environmental writing, and renew, illuminate, and deepen your relationship with nature and place.
Conducted over Zoom (or similar platform) and limited to twelve participants, the workshops will feature a combination of generative exercises, craft talks, readings, special guest appearances, and workshopping of student manuscripts. Individual workshops vary, but students can likely expect to spend several hours a week reading, writing, and commenting on work outside of class.
Please check below for application dates and deadlines. Check back in periodically as new courses and application windows will be added.
With Belle Boggs
June 7- July 26. Eight consecutive Monday evenings from 6-8 pm EDT.
Many writing teachers counsel us to save experiences we’re too close to for later–why not wait until you can get some distance and perspective? (I have given this advice myself!) But my experience writing about urgent personal and political issues has also taught me that developing a writing practice around contemporaneous note-taking, research, journaling, and interviews can be a way of producing work that feels urgent and alive. This nonfiction workshop will focus on using observation, research, interviews, and experience to create immersive work that is relevant and necessary.
With Scott Russell Sanders
*Fiction and Nonfiction may apply.* We can think about Earth as a whole, this astounding oasis of life in the vastness of space, and we can care about global issues, such as climate disruption, species extinction, deforestation, and human displacement driven by environmental damage. But we do not live on Earth as a whole; we live in particular places, each with its own history, qualities, needs, and blessings. Our work of caring for Earth likewise begins in particular places—cities, towns, countrysides, watersheds, bioregions. In this workshop, you will be invited to generate new writing about places that matter to you, with the aim of lifting those places into the imagination, and into the care, of your reader. We will discuss your writing in our group sessions, and we will also discuss brief examples from published work, highlighting techniques that richly evoke a sense of place. Since those techniques can be used in fiction as well as essays, both genres are welcome in the workshop.
With Francisco Cantú
September 2021 time and dates TBA.
This craft-focused course aims to provide both a generative space for creating new work as well as a virtual forum for conversation, revision, and critique. At the center of our inquiry will be question of how to write about landscape while avoiding cliché and acknowledging the historical erasure that so often underlies our understanding of place. Together will look beyond traditional approaches to writing, exploring interdisciplinary and site-specific ways of being attentive to the outside world as we find new ways of responding to landscape, the histories it holds, and the narratives that flow from it.
With Jessica J. Lee
October 2021 time and dates TBA.
This non-fiction course will center on long-form nature writing, personal essays, and a wealth of contemporary work inspired by the more-than-human world. We’ll examine ways of portraying our changing planet on the page, considering not just place and nature in our writing, but also the commitments such writing can make. For example, we’ll ask how readers can be excluded from or invited into environmental conversations, how writing about land engages with issues of access and migration, and how writing about nature is necessarily tied to struggles for justice and a better world.
CURRENT & PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS
|With Janisse Ray
April 5 – May 31. Eight Monday evenings from 7-9pm EST. *NOTE: There will be no class on May 3.
This course will blend two essential parts of becoming a powerful writer—the practical and the mystical. Many writing classes focus on craft and ignore completely the magic (there is no other word for it) that writing requires. Bringing to bear twenty-five years of experience as a writer, I will lay out everything I have learned about writing well and writing to transform, including one crazily effective schema for the narrative essay. We’ll travel to the deeper sources of your power, and look at how to tap that power and transfer it to the page. In short, we will be looking at wilding your stories and wilding yourself.
|With Nadia Owusu
April 9 – May 14. Six consecutive Friday afternoons from 2-5pm EST. (THIS WORKSHOP IS FULL.)
This course will explore strategies for weaving vivid and embodied personal narratives with threads of political, social, cultural, and environmental histories and activism.
With Pam Houston
January 27 – March 3, 2021. Six consecutive Wednesdays from 12-3pm EST. (THIS WORKSHOP IS FULL.)
This will be a workshop in which we focus on all the ways the sensory details that surround us—the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures from the physical world, often the natural world—can give us access to that much more elusive interior landscape we are always trying to access when we write. We will focus on what I believe to be the real artistry of prose writing: the way we dip our ladles into the bottomless pot of metaphor soup of our lived and witnessed experience and pull out what we need; the way we pick up hunks of the physical world and bring them back to the page, translated into language. We will work toward demystifying some of the essential components of prose writing (image, metaphor, structure, dialogue, character, scene, among others) and turning them into comprehensible tools that are at our disposal.
|With Toni Jensen
February 2 – March 9, 2021. Six consecutive Tuesday afternoons from 2-5pm EST. (THIS WORKSHOP IS FULL.)
This class will explore strategies and forms of nonfiction relating to place and home. Most of us are writing from home these days, and the class will focus on writing through our ideas of place or home.
|With Keetje Kuipers
May 13- June 17. Six consecutive Thursdays from 11:30 am-2:30 pm EST.
This course will serve as a deep investigation of a single natural landscape of significance to you. This can be the woods near your home where you walk each day, a long-ago lake or coastal place where you haven’t dipped a toe in the water since you were a child, or somewhere you’ve never been but are fascinated by because of its profound or precarious ecological position. By the end of our six weeks together, you will have composed a suite of poems meditating on this place and digging into why its colors, textures, and scents deserve our close observation and consideration. This is your opportunity to peel back the layers—of personal observation, embodied memory, and the acquired knowledge of wildly varied (and sometimes imperiled) flora and fauna—that make our hearts wild for wild places.
With Joseph O. Legaspi
June 9 – July 14. Six consecutive Wednesdays, 5-8 pm EDT.
When the world stilled, we seemed to have lost our grounding. Sedentary, we drifted in uncertainties, reconfiguring our lives. We asked: What is home, a home? Are we the field or the absence of field? How to engage in the new “normal,” boxed in our separate rooms and on screens? In this course, we will explore our relationship with place and time; location and dislocation; the earthly and the sacred. Through discussion, writing prompts, guest poets, and workshopping, we will celebrate our making, poems sprung from stasis.
With Nickole Brown
October 20 – November 21. Six Sundays, 12-3 p.m. EST.
In a time of great anxiety both social and environmental, how can we foster a literacy of non-human beings? What might they have to teach, and provided animals do have something to say to us, how might we listen? How might we move beyond video clips and zoology texts to get a sense of a living beast, each entirely complex and individual, real and breathing now? What words might we find to accurately depict their struggles without anthropomorphizing them or using them as metaphors for our own emotions? What words might we find to help save what’s left of them, to have art serve in stewardship, bringing awareness to animals and protecting them at the same time? This course will seek answers to these questions and more. With a diligent mix of research, observation, and an exploration of your own memories, dreams, and real-life interactions, we’ll deepen our awareness of all things fauna. Together, we’ll discuss poems and essays by others but also find our own poems that might bridge the divide between our kingdom and theirs.
CURRENT & PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS
|With Elizabeth Bradfield
February 16 – March 23, 2021. Six consecutive Tuesday evenings from 5-8 pm EST. (THIS WORKSHOP IS FULL.)
In this workshop, we’ll read and write and workshop poems that defy boundaries and boxes. Identity poetry and nature poetry will intermingle. Docupoetics and confessional verse. We will work toward poems that hold the non-human world in their awareness and that are accurate, ethical, nuanced, ranging, and surprising. Each 3-hour session will be divided between discussion, writing, and workshopping.
With Geffrey Davis
February 6 – March 20, 2021. Six Saturday afternoons from 1-4 pm EST. (THIS WORKSHOP IS FULL.)
*NOTE: There will be no class on March 6th during AWP.
What’s your image for h/earth? Where else can we make contact with the self? Can an embodied mapping of the interior help balance all we’ve lost? Which distances do you believe? With these and other questions in mind, we will consider some of the convergences between poetry and place, in an effort to deepen our appreciation for the challenges and joys of reading and writing poems.
Each six-session Zoom workshop is available for $500. Payment within five days of acceptance will guarantee your spot. Cancelations up until a week before the start of the course will result in a full refund. After that, refunds will be conditional on our ability to fill your spot before the course begins.
HOW TO APPLY
These workshops tend to be quite competitive. Please send a cover letter and your best nonfiction writing sample of up to 1,500 words or up to five pages of poetry to the Submittable button below. (The button will become active only when the application window is open.) Sample writing can be published or unpublished, and might, but probably will not be used in class. Applicants will be notified whether they have been admitted within two weeks of the application deadline. Questions? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belle Boggs (nonfiction) is the author of The Gulf: A Novel; The Art of Waiting; and Mattaponi Queen: Stories. The Art of Waiting was a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and was named a best book of the year by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, the Globe and Mail, Buzzfeed, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Mattaponi Queen, a collection of linked stories set along Virginia’s Mattaponi River, won the Bakeless Prize and the Library of Virginia Literary Award and was a finalist for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Orion, the Paris Review, Harper’s, Ecotone, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is an associate professor of English at North Carolina State University, where she also directs the MFA program in creative writing. Photo by Barbara Tyroler.
Nickole Brown (poetry) received her MFA from the Vermont College, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. Her first collection, Sister, a novel-in-poems, was published in 2007 with a new edition reissued ten years later. Her second book, a biography-in-poems about her grandmother called Fanny Says won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry. Currently, she teaches periodically at a number of places, including the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, in Asheville, NC, where she volunteers at several different animal sanctuaries. Since 2016, she’s been writing about these animals, resisting the kind of pastorals that made her (and many of the working-class folks from the Kentucky that raised her) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. Her work speaks in a Southern-trash-talking way about nature beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving. To Those Who Were Our First Gods, a chapbook of these first nine poems, won the 2018 Rattle Prize, and her essay-in-poems, The Donkey Elegies, was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2020. Photo by Donald Schuster.
Francisco Cantú (nonfiction) is a writer, translator, and the author of The Line Becomes a River, winner of the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. His writing and translations have been featured in The New Yorker, Best American Essays, and VQR, as well as on This American Life. A lifelong resident of the Southwest, he now lives in Tucson, where he coordinates the Field Studies in Writing Program at the University of Arizona, a residency that fosters work at the intersection of border justice and environmental issues. In addition to working with MFA students, Cantú has facilitated and co-taught workshops for writers of all ages at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Under The Volcano, and the UA Poetry Center. He is currently at work on a collection of essays interrogating landscape, identity, and myth. Photo by David Taylor.
Keetje Kuipers (poetry) is the author of three books of poems, all from BOA Editions: Beautiful in the Mouth (2010), which was chosen by Thomas Lux as the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, The Keys to the Jail (2014), which was a book club selection for The Rumpus, and All Its Charms (2019), which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and includes poems honored by publication in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Keetje’s poetry and prose have appeared in Narrative, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, Orion, The Believer, and over a hundred other magazines. Her poems have also been featured as part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and read on NPR. Keetje has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, the Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellow in Poetry at Bread Loaf, the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, and the recipient of multiple residency fellowships including PEN Northwest’s Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency. Keetje is Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Montana and Editor of Poetry Northwest. Photo by Fiona Margo.
Jessica J. Lee (nonfiction) is a British-Canadian-Taiwanese author and environmental historian, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. She is the author of two books of nature writing: Turning and Two Trees Make a Forest, shortlisted for the 2020 Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. She has a PhD in Environmental History and Aesthetics and was Writer-in-Residence at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology in Berlin from 2017–2018. Jessica is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review and a researcher at the University of Cambridge. She lives in London.
Joseph O. Legaspi (poetry), a Fulbright scholar and two-time NYSCA/New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow, is the author of two poetry collections from CavanKerry Press, Threshold and Imago; and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghost Bird Press), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts), and Subways (Thrush Press). His poems have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, World Literature Today, Best of the Net, Orion, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. He co-founded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a national organization serving generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.
Nadia Owusu (nonfiction) is a Brooklyn-based writer and urban planner committed to doing her part to create a more just and sustainable world. Simon and Schuster will publish her first book, Aftershocks: A Memoir, in January 2021. Her lyric essay chapbook, So Devilish a Fire won the Atlas Review chapbook contest. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, the Washington Post’s The Lily, Orion, Quartz, The Paris Review Daily, Electric Literature, Catapult, Epiphany, Bon Appétit, and others. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.
Janisse Ray (nonfiction) is an American commentator and activist whose subject is often nature. She earned an MFA from the University of Montana and has published five books of nonfiction and a collection of eco-poetry. Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood — a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the diminished longleaf pine ecosystem — was named a New York Times Notable. It won an American Book Award and Book All Georgians Should Read. Ray’s most recent, The Seed Underground, garnered many awards and has been translated into Turkish and French. Ray has taught as writer-in-residence at many universities. She won the 2017 Southern Environmental Law Center Award in journalism for her essay on coal ash and a 2020 Pushcart Prize for an essay on rural life. She has received the Georgia Author of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Most recently Ray received the Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence. She lives on an organic farm in Georgia. Photo by Raven Waters.
Scott Russell Sanders (nonfiction and fiction) is the author of more than twenty books of fiction, essays, and personal narrative, including Hunting for Hope, A Conservationist Manifesto, A Private History of Awe, and Earth Works: Selected Essays. His most recent book is The Way of Imagination, a reflection on healing and renewal in a time of social and environmental upheaval. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, have reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of southern Indiana. Photo by Peter Forbes.
Recent Former Instructors Include:
Elizabeth Bradfield (poetry) is the author of the poetry collections Once Removed, Approaching Ice, Interpretive Work, and Toward Antarctica, which explores her work as a naturalist/guide in Antarctica and combines her photographs with brief, hybrid essays. Theorem, a collaboration with artist Antonia Contro, is forthcoming in November, 2020. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere. Winner of the Audre Lorde Prize from the Publishing Triangle, finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, her awards also include a Stegner Fellowship and a Bread Loaf Scholarship. Bradfield grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lives now on Cape Cod. Founder and editor-in-chief of Broadsided Press, she works as a naturalist/guide and teaches creative writing at Brandeis University.
Geffrey Davis (poetry) is the author of two poetry collections: Night Angler (BOA Editions, 2019), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, 2014), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. He also coauthored the chapbook Begotten (URB Books, 2016) with LA-based poet and friend F. Douglas Brown. His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, New England Review, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, PBS NewsHour, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Named a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Davis has received the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, and the Wabash Prize for Poetry, as well as fellowships from Bread Loaf, Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. He was also awarded a Public Engagement Fellowship from the Whiting Foundation for his work in Arkansas with The Prison Story Project. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Davis currently lives with his family in the Ozarks. He teaches with the Program in Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas and with The Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran’s low-residency MFA program. Davis also serves as poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Photo by Hamilton Matthew Masters.
Pam Houston (nonfiction) is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won the 2019 Colorado Book Award, the High Plains Book Award and the Reading the West Advocacy Award and even more recently, Air Mail: Letters of Politics Pandemics and Place coauthored with Amy Irvine. She is also the author of Cowboys Are My Weakness as well as five other books of fiction and nonfiction, all published by W.W. Norton. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and teaches at UC Davis and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is cofounder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing by Writers and the fiction editor at the Environmental Arts Journal Terrain.org. Photo by Mike Blakeman.
Toni Jensen (nonfiction) is the author of Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land, a memoir-in-essays about gun violence, land and Indigenous people’s lives (Ballantine 2020), and a short story collection, From the Hilltop. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellowship in nonfiction for 2020 and a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship in 2019. Her essays have been published in journals such as Orion, Catapult and Ecotone. She’s an Associate Professor in Creative Writing and Indigenous Studies at the University of Arkansas and also teaches in the low residency MFA Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She received her doctorate from Texas Tech University and is the recipient of fellowship support from the Lannan Foundation, the Sowell Family Foundation, the Norcroft Foundation, UCross, Hedgebrook, and the Virginia Faulkner Fund. She is Métis. Photo by Sophia Spirlock.
Previous Online Workshop Instructors:
J. Drew Lanham