Nature Writing

Careers

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Faculty & Staff

Faculty

Amy Irvine, MFA headshot
Nature Writing Faculty
Phone:
Office Location: Remote
Molly Murfee, M.A. headshot
Nature Writing Faculty
Phone:
Office Location: Remote
Laura  Pritchett, Ph.D. headshot
Director, Nature Writing
Phone: 970.988.6528
Office Location:
Ana Maria Spagna, M.A. headshot
Nature Writing Faculty
Phone:
Office Location: Remote

Courses

For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

 CRWR 600 - SUMMER ORIENTATION (1 cred.)

Focus on learning mastery of online tools, attending faculty and student readings, and meeting with non-residency mentors during first summer; focus on attending presentations and participating in workshop sessions during second summer; and focus on presenting student thesis as well as attending and participating in other readings during third summer. Must be repeated three times for credit.

 CRWR 681 - INTRODUCTION TO NATURE WRITING (2 cred.)

This course surveys major works in nature writing and environmental literature and examines the history, culture, philosophies and policies shaping them, as well as their real-world impacts. Through intensive freewriting, creative storytelling, workshopping, editing and rewriting, students learn effective techniques in descriptive, narrative, analytical and persuasive writing. Strong emphasis is placed on establishing productive writing practices, engaging in publication and developing professional vision.

 CRWR 682 - NATURE WRITING NOW (2 cred.)

Where has nature writing been and where is it going? The course examines works which have changed public policy or opinion and encourages writers to enter that conversation by exploring place-based activities at the summer residency.

 CRWR 683 - THESIS SEMINAR (2 cred.)

Professor and advanced students work together on student-initiated thesis topics in a seminar setting.

 CRWR 685 - INTRO TO CREATIVE NONFICTION (6 cred.)

Intensive genre-based survey that builds on the first summer’s intensive. Focuses on the entire genre, but also outlines the emphasis on writing about the natural world, examining subgenres of memoir, social and political writing, writing about science, historical writing, appreciation, and, briefly, fiction, drama and poetry. Students read, analyze and imitate major works in each genre that they will later study in greater detail.

 CRWR 686 - HISTORY AND GENRES OF NATURE WRITING (6 cred.)

Historical survey that begins with Theocritus and Lucretius and takes up influential philosophical and nonfiction works about the natural world up to the present. Works include classical philosophy and natural history, medieval and renaissance notions of nature, and other major works, up to and including the 19th and 20th centuries, along with influential contemporary writing.

 CRWR 687 - WRITING ABOUT NATURE AND SCIENCE (6 cred.)

Bridges the gap between the reading public and the scientific community. Surveys the development of rhetorical approaches to the natural world in the light of scientific knowledge, beginning with Plato and Aristotle and considering other major works from the classical period, the Renaissance and the modern world, up to and including contemporary writers. Provides students with historical, rhetorical and technical understanding of the various ways that writers can bring science (and philosophical approaches to science) together with an imaginative response to the natural world in their own writing.

 CRWR 688 - WRITING ABOUT NATURE AND SOCIETY (6 cred.)

Surveys and connects creative nonfiction responding to the natural world with social phenomena, including politics, religion, education and social movements, where nature figures both as fact and as artifact. Explores the ambitions and contradictions inherent in environmental policy throughout history, combining historical survey with close examination of specific policy challenges.

 CRWR 689 - ADVANCED SEMINAR/SPECIAL TOPICS IN NATURE WRITING (6 cred.)

A course in advanced topics in nature writing as chosen by the professor. One unit devoted to learning the protocols of publishing in the field: magazines, journals, online platforms and books in all publishing formats.

 CRWR 694 - CAPSTONE PRJ I (3 cred.)

Culmination of the student's education at Western. In consultation with his or her adviser, the student completes a single work of genre fiction OR a collection of shorter genre fiction works (such as short stories or novellas) of publishable quality, suitable for public reading, and for thesis binding.

 CRWR 696 - INTRO TO CREATIVE NONFICTION (3 cred.)

An elective for non-GPCW students who want to develop writing skills. An intensive genre-based survey of major approaches to Creative Nonfiction. Considers the subgenres of memoir, lyric essay, meditative essay, literary and cultural criticism and journalism, social, historical and political writing, travel writing, writing about science and technology, and other forms. Students read, analyze and imitate major works in each genre.

 CRWR 699 - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NATURE WRITING (6 cred.)

This course helps students develop as writing professionals. It teaches students how to prepare their creative manuscripts for publication, write a cover or query letter, generate a professional CV or resume, become involved with a professional publication, and teach. Students identify short- and long-term professional and creative goals and explore job opportunities.

Western’s new low-residency MFA and M.A. in Nature Writing offers an ethically alert, cutting-edge program in an incomparable natural setting in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Our program is established on the core belief that art can be an agent of change, that writing can change the way we live, our policies, and our values. Our practical focus on publication, professional development and partnerships with relevant nonprofits, newspapers, and think tanks underscores our belief that writers can participate in this field immediately and with gusto. Through extensive reading, intellectual inquiry, and rigorous professional and creative writing, students will engage with diverse voices, challenging questions and critical issues facing our world today.

As a participant in this program, you’ll be . . .

  • encouraged to fully participate in the contemporary world of nature writing by understanding its history, critically thinking on how the field has and must evolve, and preparing your own works for submission.
  • asked to study, understand, and make use of a wide range of literary techniques and styles.
  • trained in all the major literary sub-genres relevant to the field, including memoir, science writing, political writing, history, poetry, fiction, and various forms of creative nonfiction.
  • encouraged to explore emerging issues in the field including the need for new forms of storytelling, for greater inclusion and diversity of voice, and for essential changes in the literary dialogue.

The Program

Western’s Creative Writing MFA and M.A. concentrations are low-residency programs. Faculty and students interact from a distance during the academic year and then gather for two weeks in July on the Gunnison campus for classes, lectures, readings, discussions, and of course, writing.

  • MFA students attend three summer residencies: one prior to the first semester, one between years one and two and one in the third summer.
  • During the academic year, full-time MFA students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of conference calls and web platforms for online work.
  • To complete the MFA, students work on a culminating portfolio throughout their final year.
  • M.A. students pursue an identical curriculum to MFA students, but only come for two summers and one academic year. M.A. students do not write a final portfolio.

Opportunities and Partnerships

  • Take courses or even add a concentration in Western’s other low-residency Creative Writing concentrations: Poetry, Screenwriting for Film and Television, Publishing or Genre Fiction.
  • Practicums with High Country News, located at Western, with features covering the American West, including Tribal Affairs, Immigration, Climate and more!
  • Collaborate with the Center for Humans and Nature, a creative think-tank that entertains multiple perspectives on resilient futures for all.
  • Collaborate with the Coldharbour Institute, located in the Gunnison Valley, which “facilitates education, incubation and demonstration of regenerative personal, community and land practices.”
  • Students can propose other collaborations within their own local communities and/or other justice and movement-building, activist, grassroots and/or policy-making groups.

Header image by Phyllis Fife (Creek), Mist in the Morning, 1965, Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM
Photo by Addison Doty; Design by John Schauer 

Learn More

Reach out for more information about the program.

Michelle Wilk
Program Support Coordinator
Phone: 
Office Location: 
Quigley Hall 117

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