Writing Natural History

Writing Natural History: A Workshop with Gary Nabhan

Saturday, September 22nd 2018

(Limit: 16 students, registration will close when limit is met)

Register here: https://www.regonline.com/writingnaturalhistoryaworkshopwithgarynabhan

Goal: To practice the basic skill set of nature or science writing, with a focus on celebrating the diversity at our doorstep in the Sonoran Desert. The workshop exercises will teach you three skills: (1) thick description or “contour writing” with notebooks in the field; (2) interviewing another observer and helping tell their story; (3) shaping a cohesive story of a place, its plants, animals or microbes to celebrate lives other than our own.

Location: The library of the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill.


8:30am: Assemble in Tumamoc Hill library, parking on Anklam and walking or car pooling up

9:00-9:15: Welcome, introductions and brief overview of the workshop by Nabhan

9:15-10:00: Exercise 1: THICK DESCRIPTION. Using all your senses to observe/engage in a single patch of ground, a single plant or animal, as it interacts with other. This includes ½ hour of silently sitting at a place of your choice and using all your senses to describe what is before you.

10:00-10:30: Polishing the first piece of writing into a cohesive story in a first person voice.

15 Minute Break

10:45-11:45: Exercise 2: LEARNING TO ASK AND LISTEN: THE ART OF RECIPROCAL INTERVIEWS. Thirty minutes of interviewing another participant about what they observed in exercise #1, while you listen and write verbatim quotes from them, then another 30 minutes where you are interviewed by someone else. Interviewees cannot volunteer information not asked of them.

11:45-12:15: Exercise 3: WRITING UP YOUR INTERVIEW of the other participant’s observations into an essay or poem using third person voice.

12:15-1:45: Over lunch: Reading your two pieces, the first back-to-back with the person who interviewed you about your observations, the second after the other person reads what they wrote from their observations in the first person.

1:45-2:00: Parting shots by Gary