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Beyond Helplessness: Writing and the Natural World

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As urgent things come up in our society writers have to find ways to engage with what’s happening—and I can’t think of anything more urgent than what’s happening with the natural world.

But how do we write from within the devastating environmental realities we’re confronting in a way that’s honest, but still has hope? That’s a question I delved deeply into after being invited to give a keynote address at a conference on Literature and the Environment at the University of Graz in Austria this summer. My answer came through mixed-genre, process-based work that allowed me to move out of helplessness and find a way forward. I’m interested in encouraging that shift for others because writing about the natural world is contributory—it has an impact.
— Marilyn Bowering


Saturday + Sunday, October 28 + 29, 2017
10:00am - 5pm
$350 + membership 
Includes: Coffee/tea, baked goods, and lunches

Beyond Helplessness: Writing and the Natural World with Marilyn Bowering (see bio at bottom of page) is a weekend intensive designed to help writers write honestly from within their awareness of environmental realities and still have hope. Participants will be asked to use different writing techniques as a means to explore their altering relationship to the natural world.

Rather than following a prescriptive methodology, participants will follow a process based on conceptual thinking—that is, trying to understand a situation by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues. In the spirit of experimentation, writers will be encouraged to work in more than one genre (in the same way someone who is right handed might experiment by drawing with their left hand). There’ll be readings and discussions, but no workshopping/feedback—rather the focus will be on generating new writing as part of a private communal process.

On the first day, participants will be asked to write responses to a series of questions. On day two, they’ll assemble their ‘answers’ into a shaped piece of writing in whatever genre they choose. The hope is that participants will find alternative means to write from within their relationship to the natural world to produce work that is meaningful, contributory, and beyond helplessness.

Is it for me?

This weekend intensive is for you if you:

  • Have some experience and facility in writing in any genre;
  • Want to incorporate your environmental concerns into your writing practice in a sharp and fresh manner;
  • Want to write meaningfully and with artistic integrity about what is going on in the world;
  • Appreciate associative, non-linear, conceptual thinking;
  • Welcome experimentation, taking risks, and trying new things—including writing outside of your primary genre.

How will I benefit?

You will:

  • Become more comfortable with risk-taking in your writing;
  • Learn a process that is transferable to other, broader concerns you may wish to explore with your writing;
  • Expand your writing repertoire through experimentation with different techniques and genres;
  • Deepen your thinking, not only on issues relating to the natural world, but also as it relates to your writing process;
  • Get to use your voice as a writer to address important issues that are relevant to our survival;
  • Make new connections with other writers.

What will I get?

  • New writing—both fragments (with narrative possibilities for further development) and a first draft in any genre;
  • Coffee/tea, delicious baked goods, and nourishing lunches.


Bring to the intensive:

  • As your touchstone, a brief written work or fragment in any genre—that’s your own or someone else’s writing—that expresses the dilemma of the environment for you;
  • One or more factual/scientific descriptions/accounts of an environmental incident or situation that is meaningful to you;
  • Whatever you’re most comfortable doing a lot of writing with—whether that’s a laptop or notebook and pen.

Expect to:

  • Do some overnight thinking/homework.


To register click the button below and you’ll be taken to a registration form hosted by Typeform that will take a few minutes to complete. Completing and submitting the registration form will hold your spot, but payment is required within 48 hours via email money transfer or PayPal to guarantee your spot.

Refund Policy: Students may receive a full refund up to five days in advance of the commencement of the offering. No refund will be provided after that date, unless the course is cancelled.

Cancellation Policy: If, three days in advance of the workshop, the number of registered participants is six or fewer the workshop may be cancelled, in which case participants would be notified and refunded immediately.   

Registration is open now and closes at midnight on Tuesday, October 24th.

About the Facilitator

MARILYN BOWERING is a poet and novelist who lives on Vancouver Island. Her most recent works are Soul Mouth (poetry), What It Takes To Be Human (novel), and the libretto for Marilyn Forever (Gavin Bryars, composer). She has been short-listed for the world-wide Orange Prize, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Prize, and received awards including the Dorothy Livesay, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Ethel Wilson and Pat Lowther Prizes, as well as several National Magazine awards. She has taught writing in formal and informal classes, and given workshops from Banff to Madrid.

Earlier Event: October 19
Prompts + Pints