Writing the Natural World

Techniques for Writing About Place

With Ruby McConnell


In Handling the Truth, Beth Kephart writes:

All throughout our lives, we move through, we move against, we move toward landscape. We dress for landscape. We sweat the hills. We take our children to the ocean’s edge. We rise at three in the morning to see how a certain rock face will hold the moon. . . . We gather the wildflowers because we can’t take the rocky path home. . . . We are shaped by landscape….

Writing about place should come easy, then, for as deeply as we are immersed in our surroundings. But incorporating Place in vivid and meaningful ways isn’t effortless. At all.

*Photo of Highline (right) by Phil Aicken on Unsplash

Enter RUBY McCONNELL, a registered geologist and outdoor adventurer who writes about nature, art, and culture, emphasizing the intersection of the environment and human experience. Her workshop on Writing the Natural World relies on Thoreau’s notion of ‘Sauntering’ as it applies to writing about Place in fiction and nonfiction. Participants will learn to create a framework for their work that helps open pathways of memory, free association, and curiosity. Particular emphasis will be placed on fundamentals of deep, scientifically-driven observation and questioning, as well as accessing and mastering the language of the wild–urban or rural, with the goal of crafting immersive, vibrant settings and scenes that bring the natural world into sharp focus.

We will meet online; we will step outdoors to put techniques into practice; we will reconvene online and share our work.


Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 11:00am-4:00pm CENTRAL | $100

The day’s schedule is as follows:
11:00-12:00 Ruby McConnell leads instruction, providing prompts.
12:00-2:30 Participants find their nearest “wild” spot and write to the prompts.
2:30-4:00 Writers return online, discuss observations, and read excerpts from their prompt responses.


In her newest book Ground Truth: A Geological Survey of a Life (Overcup Press, April 2020), Ruby McConnell explores the connections between the landscapes we live in and the impact they have on our families, our communities, and in our hearts. A recipient of numerous honors, including the Literary Arts Oregon Literary Fellowship. She has written extensively about the Pacific Northwest and the environment in scientific and literary journals. McConnell is the author of two previous titles, A Girl’s Guide to the Wild and A Woman’s Guide to the Wild. She lives in Oregon with her husband Paul.

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