Last night’s Festival of Language was incredible. Seven hours of back-to-back readings at Brit’s Pub–I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Last night’s Festival of Language was incredible. Seven hours of back-to-back readings at Brit’s Pub–I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Though Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was written in and about Wisconsin, Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, and that’s where his love of nature first began to emerge. Last fall, the State of Iowa proclaimed the first full week of March as Aldo Leopold Week, a time to celebrate and pay tribute to Leopold’s legacy as a leader in conservation.
As a writer, I also see Aldo Leopold Week as a time to celebrate and reflect on nature writing, a genre that influences my own writing deeply. I don’t define myself primarily as a nature writer because the term is limited, and I don’t build fences between what I do and don’t do, but my experiences writing about nature were certainly what inspired me to pursue writing seriously and remains a passion of mine.
(Those interested in beginning nature writing should check out this excellent resource: “Henry Thoreau as a Model for Nature Writing” by Ron Harton.)
I wanted to take this opportunity to call out some amazing nature writing texts. There are hundreds of books shelved under the category of “Nature Writing” on Goodreads, and there are a lot that I haven’t read. I’m not including any books on this list that I haven’t read in their entirety, and while I’m ashamed to admit it, there are some really important books that I’ve only read in excerpts.
It’s worth acknowledging that this list is more than 75% white men. For a long time, the genre was largely dominated by white men, but there are now plenty of excellent nature writing texts by women and people of color. I just haven’t read them all yet, and a lot of the ones to which I’ve been exposed, I haven’t had the chance to enjoy in their entirety yet. Don’t worry. It is a priority of mine. Many are sitting on my bookshelf right now, just waiting for their turn.
Therefore, please don’t see this list as my nature writing canon–far from it. I can only recommend that which I know, and unfortunately, my formal literary education focused primarily on white men, and I’m still in the process of making up for lost time. Check out that Goodreads shelf I mentioned, and you’ll see a more diverse array of nature writing texts.
One more thing worth noting is that I don’t actually use the category of “nature writing” to organize my own books on Goodreads. It’s too hard for me to define. I use the much broader “environment.” I didn’t want to overthink what is or isn’t nature writing for this blog post, so the following list is based on the Goodreads hive mind. If people are shelving it under “nature writing,” then I counted it. If they aren’t, then I didn’t. I expect controversy.
Without further ado, here are just a few great nature writing books besides A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold. They appear in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference.
Lots of omissions here, I know, and probably plenty of books that would be better classified elsewhere. The point is not to for me to establish the nature writing canon but to spark discussion, so discuss!
What are your favorite nature writing books? What are the most offensive omissions (which may be either because I haven’t read a critical nature writing text yet or because the Goodreads community hasn’t yet shelved the work as “nature writing”)? What doesn’t belong on this list? Often we think of nature writing as nonfiction, yet a few fiction texts made the list–but no poetry. Does nature writing have to be nonfiction? Within nonfiction, do research (rather than observation) based texts count? Does any of this even matter?
Though this is the first annual Aldo Leopold Week, communities nationwide have been celebrating Aldo Leopold Weekend on the first weekend of March since 2004. And Saturday, March 7, will be the eighth annual Ames Reads Leopold event.
I had the pleasure of reading “Axe-in-Hand” at last year’s Ames Reads Leopold, and this year, I am thrilled to be reading “January Thaw.”
The event is free and open to the public. You can expect readings from Leopold’s work, a screening of the Emmy award winning documentary Green Fire, and an overall good time. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the newly renovated Ames Public Library if you haven’t had the chance to do that yet. Check out this news release for more information.
Thursday, January 29, 2015, at 7:00 pm
Hearst Center for the Arts, 304 W Seerley Boulevard
Fellow Prairie Gold editor Lance M. Sacknoff and I will be traveling up to Cedar Falls on Thursday to discuss writing and publishing with the Craft of Fiction students at University of Northern Iowa.
That evening, we will read as part of the Final Thursday Reading Series at the Hearst Center for the Arts, followed by a Q&A and book signing.
Friday, January 30, 2015, at 5:00 pm
Englert Theatre, 221 E Washington Street
Fellow Fracture editor Taylor Brorby and I will be joining other artists for Beyond the Anthropocene, an exhibit and opening reception exploring “the illusory boundary between what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘man-made.'” Showcasing the work of three photographers, one musician, and five writers, the exhibit is part of the University of Iowa’s Obermann Humanities Symposium, “Energy Cultures in the Age of the Anthropocene,” March 5-7, 2015.
More details on our January reading here.
Info about the March symposium here.
Inspired by the lovely blog Pints And Cupcakes, I wanted to look back at the books I read in 2014 and call out a few of my favorites. P&C‘s Chloe Clark listed her top 15, but I’m just going to pick five because I don’t think I read nearly as many books as she did in 2014.
To be clear, the idea is to list the top books that I read in 2014. Only a few of them were actually published in 2014.
Several wonderful books almost made the Top Five, but these were the ones that made me feel the most.
I’m looking forward to doing this again next year, maybe even with a longer list, though for the first time in several years I won’t be setting an annual goal.
I love Goodreads – absolutely adore it – and I’ve participated in their annual reading challenge since 2011. It’s a fun way to hold myself accountable for spending as much time reading as I both should and want to without making it feel like work. It’s always so much easier to find a new show to binge watch on Netflix, but you have to rein that in somehow.
Inevitably, at the end of the year, I was always scrambling to get my hands on shorter reads – novellas, poetry collections, graphic novels, chapbooks, you get the idea – or else finishing books I’ve partially read for some reason or another in order to meet my goal, which is fine because that stuff is good to read too, but this past year I really didn’t want to do that again. I just didn’t feel like it, and I’m a strong believer in doing what you feel like when it comes to reading.
I wonder if there isn’t another way to do a reading challenge that goes beyond books. I love books – I really can’t overstate that enough. But this year, I’ve been trying to read more literary journals, magazines, news, blogs, etc., and I’ve also been doing a lot of editing – reading other people’s work over and over again (and I guess reading my own work over and over again as well) – and this type of reading matters too, even though I can’t log it into my Goodreads.
My older sister, who is a middle school teacher and uses this strategy with her students, suggested (several years ago, in fact, when I first mentioned my impulse to read shorter novels rather than undertake weighty tomes because of the impending Goodreads deadline) that I go by a page count goal instead, which is a smart and perfectly reasonable suggestion, but I don’t want to have to add tally marks to a scrap of paper every time I read something. (Is there an app for this? Or can someone please develop one? Thanks!)
Maybe I’ll set a 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge in a few months, but for now my goal for 2015 is simply to read a lot and not just books.
Are you on Goodreads too? Do you want to connect on Goodreads? Add me as a friend or follow me as a fan here.
This volume was no doubt a massive undertaking, and the effort has paid off. It will interest anyone who sees who they are as a product of where they are, and will especially appeal to those who sometimes feel that, in the words of Bakopolous, it is “almost too beautiful to bear that rolling countryside without a notebook and pen in hand.”
Pick up a copy of the latest Wapsipinicon Almanac (No. 21) to read more of what Tad Boehmer had to say in his review of Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland.
Also in that issue, check out Robert Leonard’s essay, “Iowa: ‘Land of Enchantment’ – A Literary Manifesto,” in which he discusses Iowa’s cultural narratives and how Ice Cube Press “has done more than any in the past couple of decades in publishing books about Iowa, many of them by Iowans.”
Thursday, December 11, 2014, at 7:00 pm
Design on Main, 203 Main Street, Ames, Iowa
Bid a fond farewell to fall semester and celebrate our community of writers at Iowa State with the final Emerging Writers Series event of 2014, hosted by Adam Wright. I will be reading nonfiction about my experiences teaching before coming to ISU. Camille Luera-De-Meyers will read poetry, and Audrey McCombs with special guest Michelle Donahue will read fiction.
Bring a cup of something warm, check out the new artwork in the gallery and settle in for a cozy winter evening of storytelling. Free and open to the public.
It’s October now. Leaves are changing, the temperature is cooling, my wind chime is getting noisier. At the same time, there have been developments in my personal and professional life. Here are some updates from the latter:
I’m honored to have had not just one, not even two, but three pieces published in the October 2014 issue of Festival Writer. Check out the issue here and then click on my name to view all three of my contributions. These pieces tend to resist easy genre classification. This is how I would describe them:
“Baconer” is a prose poem (with formatting) about factory farming, from the perspective of a pig in a CAFO. Please note that this poem uses plenty of profanity and unpleasant imagery. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, but I think it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
“First Beard” is a nonfiction vignette about my dad, and “Performance Review” is micro fiction. They are so short, I better not say anything else about them (Spoilers!) except that I hope you enjoy reading them.
As mentioned in a previous post, our Midwestern book tour of Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland will include two October events: one at the Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, Illinois, (Quad Cites area) on October 9 and one at Prairie Lights in Iowa City on October 16. Details:
Our Quad Cities reading will feature fiction by T.C. Jones and Barbara Harroun as well as poetry by Esteban Colon, Salvatore Marici, and Ryan Collins. Part of the Midwest Writing Center’s SPECTRA Reading Series, the event will also include readings by featured poets Lauren Haldeman and Erin Keane. Check out the Facebook event page for more details.
Our Iowa City reading will feature nonfiction by Will Jennings and Meghan Brown, fiction by Barbara Harroun, and poetry by Salvatore Marici. Check out the event page for more details.
Since I switched from teaching English 150/250 at Iowa State University to my current position as a communications research assistant at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (also at ISU), I have been involved in a lot of cool multimedia projects. My job includes writing news releases and articles, updating the Center’s website, managing our social media, publication design, and video production. That last piece is such new and exciting territory for me, and I’m thrilled to share the final version of “STRIPS the Movie” (not the official title), a 13-minute video on the conservation practice of prairie strips that was four months in the making. It premiered at the 2014 Extension Energy and Environment conference in Ames and was followed by a Q & A with the researchers. Now that the feature documentary is done, we are in the process of using the extra interview footage to make a series of video shorts that will, among other things, help introduce a broader audience to the STRIPS project.
Our Goodreads Giveaway is still going on. Five free copies of Prairie Gold are up for grabs! The contest closes October 31. Details here.
If you already own the book and are on Goodreads, please take a moment to add it to your shelf, which you can do here. It helps us out when, after reading the book, our fans take the time to rate it, review it, and vote for it on relevant lists. (Contributors: Goodreads recommends that authors write a brief note on the inspiration for the piece in lieu of a review.)
Also, as part of having a book out, I’ve converted my personal Goodreads page into an author profile. It’s the same as before but with a few extra features, like the ability to have “fans” in addition to friends. I only have two fans so far! If you are on Goodreads and a fan of my work, please visit my author profile to make it official. (Lance needs more fans too. Here’s his author profile.)
I have lots of other exciting news I’d love to share, but I’m going to keep my beak buttoned for just a little while longer until details are finalized. So that’s all for now. Thanks for reading!
First of all, I want to say thank you to Monica Hadley and Caroline Kilbourn at 100.1 FM, KRUU-LP in Fairfield, Iowa, for having Lance and me on the show this past Friday. It was both of our first time on talk radio, and we had a lot of fun talking about Prairie Gold with the mother/daughter duo. Thanks also to Monica for mentioning us on her blog.
If you missed the live broadcast, which also included me reading an excerpt from my nonfiction essay “Letters After Achilles,” they’ll be re-airing it Monday (tomorrow) morning at 8:00 CST. You can listen live on their website.
If that’s just not going to work for you (because you’ll be at work, say, and you’re a responsible employee who stays on task), they’ll be archiving it on Writers’ Voices, so check back there at a later date.
I do want to take the opportunity to make a couple minor corrections to my bio, which has changed since the final draft of Prairie Gold was sent to the printers. While I very much enjoyed my two years as an undergraduate English instructor at ISU, as of May 2014 I’ve (temporarily) hung up my teaching hat and have been trying my hand in a new field: multimedia communications. As the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture‘s communications assistant, I write news releases and feature stories, manage their social media, post updates on their website, design publications like their quarterly newsletter, and other fun stuff like helping produce a video for STRIPS, a cutting edge sustainable agriculture practice.
Likewise, I am no longer the nonfiction or social media editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. In order to give all of ISU’s Creative Writing and Environment graduate students the opportunity to serve on the editorial staff, Flyway positions are one-year appointments. I want to make sure credit for all of the wonderful work Flyway is currently doing goes to the right people: Adam Wright is now the nonfiction editor, and Erin Schmiel has taken over social media.
Of course, you can always find the most up-to-date information about what I’m up to on my Bio/Home page.
I am pleased to announce three exciting pieces of Prairie Gold news: an upcoming radio interview, our Midwestern book tour, and a Goodreads Giveaway.
Today, editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will discuss Prairie Gold on KRUU 100.1 FM, the Voice of Fairfield. Stefanie will read an excerpt from her essay “Letters After Achilles.” Listen live from 1:00-2:00 pm to catch the Writers’ Voices talk radio show.
Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland is hitting the road! A 2014 Local Wonders Grant from AgArts (Iowa Chapter) is helping to support a book release party in Ames and several readings in cities throughout Iowa. See the list below for all of the event details we’ve nailed down so far. (Download a news release.)
We expect to add one more Iowa reading in Des Moines and a few more outside of Iowa, so follow Prairie Gold on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any additional developments.
Prairie Gold is on Goodreads, which means you can now add it to your shelf. Have you already read it? Please take a minute to rate and review the book. Don’t have a copy yet? Enter our Goodreads Giveaway contest by October 31, and you could win one of five copies!
I grew up in Western Michigan, the youngest of three daughters. We didn’t have a lot of money for extras, but my mom could never say no if my sisters or I asked her to buy a book. “Do you need it?” she would always ask, and when we said yes, she never tried to tell us otherwise.
In the past 25-ish years since I learned to read, a lot of things have changed, but the way I feel about books—the way I need books—hasn’t. I’m not just referring to stories and the pleasures of reading but the books themselves, the physical artifacts that contain the stories and endure long after you’ve forgotten what they were about.
And though I have always had a great appreciation for libraries and used bookstores, there is something extra special about a brand new book: the unscuffed cover, the cleanness of the pages, the spine that I will try to keep uncracked for as long as possible. Inevitably, there comes a time with every good book that I realize I need to mutilate it—by folding the corner of a page, writing a note to myself, or underlining a memorable passage—and though I recognize the value of such interactions with the text, especially as a writer, I do not take the decision to first desecrate a book lightly.
Read the rest of “To Make a Book” on the Ice Cube Press blog.