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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Nature Writing

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/).

Prepared by: Pam Hauck
Posted on: April 24, 2004
Reposted on: May 8, 2005

Don't fly Mister Bluebird,
I'm just walking down the road
Early morning sunshine tells me all I need to know

-Dickie Betts (The Allman Brothers Band)

Nature surrounds us whether we live in New York City, the suburbs of Chicago, or the Alaskan wilderness. It's everything alive in the natural world and can be found at parks, zoos, seashores, windowsills, and more.

Nature Writing- also known as environmental literature or the literature of place or landscape writing- includes essays, journals, field notes, novels, short stories, poetry, prose poetry, children's books, autobiographies, and other forms which consider the natural world in relation to the human experience. Nature writing begins with observation and is descriptive and introspective. It is often associated in American literature with the work of Henry David Thoreau.

Contemporary nature writer Annie Dillard chronicled her nature walks in in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek." Here's the opening paragraph:

"I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I'd half-awaken. He'd stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses."

More information about nature writing is available at the following websites:

Exercise: Observe nature in your everyday life. In 400 words or less create a scene and write about your observations. Use descriptive details and sensory imagery. Use color and texture. Tell us how nature affects you. Be honest and don't make things up.

Critiques: Can you "see" the writer's observations? Was the narrator's style distinct and personal? Would you have done anything differently?

Extracurricular activity: Keep nature journal and submit entries during Free-for-all week.

Have fun!

Pam Hauck's wrap-up
Posted on: May 3, 2004

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make this week's exercise a success.

We've seen a broad variety of approaches to nature writing. Some submissions were based on childhood memories while others were set later in life. We've read about ants, hummingbirds, Thank you birds, kangaroos, an old speckled hen, a brown recluse spider, worms, and more. Stories were set underwater, at creeks, in back yards, and in Brooklyn.

Hopefully, the submissions and critiques helped all of us learn more about writing from our observations and experiences with the natural world.

I appreciate everyone's response and wish you the best with your writing.

Pam Hauck

Pam Hauck's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 15 May 2005

Thank you for participating and making this week's exercise another success. Your submissions and critiques made for interesting reading.

Once again, we were presented with a variety of approaches to nature writing. Some submissions had the narrator inside looking out, others had the narrator in the middle of nature surrounded by vivid sensory imagery and descriptive details. We had stories with a swimming pool, marigolds and menstrual blood, and an urbanite in NYC finding nature as well as many others.

Observing nature and our experiences with the natural world gives us more information to create scenes with, even if we aren't specifically nature writing.

I wish you all the best with your submissions. I hope to hear some of them are published.

Pam Hauck

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.