I like to help writers find the wild, in themselves, their words, and also in the Penzance Literary Festival. In 2014 I ran a workshop in the stunning Morrab Gardens about how to track down your ‘Wild Words’. In 2015 I re-entered that tropical paradise, and it was all about ‘How To Eat an Elephant’ (summary of workshop: in small pieces, so you don’t get overwhelmed.)
My work is about bringing our words alive, whatever the form we write or story-tell in. I often refer to the trailblazing genre of ‘New Nature Writing’.
What’s exciting is how broad, deep and wide the genre is. It takes in poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction. It fuses nature writing, travel writing, philosophy and psychology. An interesting strand is that of the memoir writers, such as Helen McDonald's H is for Hawk, and Amy Liptrot's The Outrun. These writers have turned to nature in times of difficulty and disillusionment, and have found it has everything to offer.
There can be a perception that nature writing is a little ‘tame’. The pastoral poetry tradition, that can be traced back to the Greeks, and extended into and through Renaissance England, idealised rural life and landscapes. It is partly, if not mostly, responsible for that view.
Central to what I communicate with Wild Words, is that writing inspired by contact with nature can be imbued with a force that goes way beyond that. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out the beauty and majesty of nature. Recognition of its power to soothe us, and restore us to health is sorely needed. However, the new nature writing is much more than that. Rightly so, given we human beings dig ourselves ever deeper into a hole, in relationship to That Which Sustains Life.
It’s groundbreaking, thought-provoking, politically challenging, society changing. It’s awe inspiring stuff. It connects people. It’s a route to re-find the animal in us. The wild.
Not everyone who comes to Wild Words is interested in the genre of ‘nature-writing’ and that’s fine. Every skill we hone here is applicable to all writing in all genres. But, maybe, with this new take on an ancient tradition in writing, those of us who are interested to try their hand at it, can come out the shadows.
We’re no longer regarded as something akin to train spotters, we’re cooler than Madonna.
A Writing Prompt
Those of us who choose to spend time in nature, consider it normal. It isn’t. Most people only read about it in books. There’s even a term for the wide range of problems that can result from the modern phenomenon of dislocation from our environment- Nature Deficit Disorder.
Have you had contact and experiences in nature that have formed or informed you, or which have echoed other themes in your life? If so, that gives you something unique to say. Write about it. For those who haven’t.
This article was first published on 24th February 2017 here