Good nature writing is not necessarily about “nature” or “environment.” Even at its most focused and scientific, this form of book or essay is about specific land, water, and species, and the ecological relationships that bind all of them in location. It is about “place” in its material sense. And of course, most nature writing is not simply material observation, but about our various relationships with the land—personal, historical, cultural—and the many ways we conceptualize place in our lives, whether that be one bit of coastline in Maine or the whole of New England. This kind of writing can range from the practical to the political to the spiritual.
Hans Carlson, from Blue Hill Heritage Trust, will moderate this panel of published authors—Susan Hand Shetterly, Rob McCall and Sheri Mitchell— who offer insights on the challenges and issues involved in writing about place, tips for making a place come alive for readers, and how to convey a message while maintaining authenticity.
HANS M. CARLSON is executive director of Blue Hill Heritage Trust, as well as author of Walking Toward Moosalamoo and Home is the Hunter: the James Bay Cree and Their Land. Raised in the upland forests of central New England, he has been engaged with issues of land use and stewardship – the long history of dialog between humans and the earth here – throughout his professional career. Before coming to Blue Hill, he was the director of Great Mountain Forest in Connecticut, where he worked with the Yale School of Forestry. He has taught in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Minnesota, as well as at the University of Maine where he received his PhD in 2005.
SUSAN HAND SHETTERLY has lived on the coast of Maine for most of her life. She writes about wildlife and wild lands, has worked as a wild bird rehabilitator, and spends time working with others to protect and restore valuable habitat. The author of nine books, Susan has written for several magazines, including Down East, Yankee, and Audubon Magazine. She was a contributing writer for Maine Times for many years, writing essays and articles on wild lands and wildlife, and the people who work with them. Susan's book Settled In The Wild won the The Maine Literary Award for Best Nonfiction from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance in 2011. Susan has also been awarded two Maine Arts Commission grants and a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. In 2017, she received an Alfred P. Sloan grant to complete her newest book, Seaweed Chronicles: A World At The Water's Edge. A member of Friends of Morgan Bay and the Surry Alewife Committee, she serves on Blue Hill Heritage Trust's Lands Committee.
ROB MCCALL is the voice behind Awanadjo Almanac, broadcast to Midcoast Maine since 1992 by WERU-FM and reproduced in print by a number of publications. His first book, Small Misty Mountain, was published in 2006 by Pushcart Press and is distributed by W.W. Norton. Publisher’s Weekly called it “by turns inspiring and infuriating.” His second book, Great Speckled Bird, followed in 2012. His writing has appeared in Yankee, Down East, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, Island Journal and elsewhere. McCall has worked as an elementary school teacher, tree and landscape contractor, church sexton, orchard manager, chimney sweep, ambulance driver, and musician. He began his career as a preacher at age 40 and served as minister of the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill from 1986 to 2014. His passions include wild plants and animals and traditional fiddle tunes. Married for 50 years to artist and singer Rebecca Haley, he is the father of two and grandfather of two.
Nature Writing Workshop with the Telling Room
Following the panel 3-4 pm in the Wilder Room at BHPL
Inspired by the panel of nature-writers earlier in the afternoon, this workshop guides participants in exercises to create a short piece of writing on a beloved place. Led by facilitators from The Telling Room, attendees will put in words their connection to their favorite locations on the Blue Hill peninsula. With permission, these pieces will be shared with Blue Hill Heritage Trust to encourage local conservation efforts. Free and open to all ages. Attendees are asked to bring a pen and notebook.