April 20, 2009

Get outside and write something every day!

Posted by: David Williams

“I am grateful and happy. The workshop blew the top off of my head,” was one comment heard at the Burke seminar called Environmental Writer’s Workshop: Inspire, Observe, Inhabit. The April 11, all-day program brought together three local writers, Lyanda Haupt, Jourdan Keith, and Coll Thrush, to discuss writing and the relationship between people and place in the urban landscape. Joining them were 42 participants from around Puget Sound.

The day began at the Burke with a discussion where the instructors shared stories about their writing and inspiration. We learned that Coll has a goal to “disorient people;” that Lyanda “witnesses stories through animal tracks and song;” and that Jourdan has “landscape tattoed inside me.” A lively, thought-provoking conversation explored the difference between environmental writing and classic nature writing, along with history, race, and making connections. Following the talk, participants worked with one instructor both in and outside of the museum.

Keeping with the goal of getting everyone out into the environment, the workshop moved to the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) for the afternoon. Again, the participants worked with one instructor, each of whom took a different approach. Jourdan used haiku and haibun, a combination of haiku and prose that focuses on everyday experiences. A highlight of Lyanda’s class was considering one’s quirks as a way to inform one’s writing. Coll took a longer approach, asking participants to think about writings about the CUH property by surveyors from the 1860s and from Japanese truck farmers from the 1920s. The workshop ended with several participants sharing what they had written during the day.

The program was made possible through the Rebecca S. and Robert M. Benton Endowed Fund. Planning is already underway for next year’s workshop encouraged in part by one participant’s final thought, “Get outside and write something every day!”