Earlier this month I had the good fortune to study again with my friend and mentor, Ana Maria Spagna. You can too, by reading her craft essay, “How to Untangle Environmental Stories: Five Contradictory Lessons” in the current issue of Brevity Magazine. Here’s how Ana Maria’s essay begins:
“When we talk about environmental writing, one irony has always fascinated and sometimes frustrated me. Alongside chronicling the wonders of the non-human world, we’re writing about people trying to fulfill very basic needs—food, air, water, clothing, shelter—in sustainable ways, but doing so leads us into a dense tangle of politics, race, gender, and class. Too often, because the stories are so complicated, creative writers cede this territory to journalists and academics, as if to say: Let them wade into the weeds!
Of course that’s wildly wrong-headed. We need to write about the world around us and our place in it in creative and compelling ways. As stories. But how?”
Ana Maria’s “five contradictory lessons” couldn’t come at a better time as I continue to write about the Salish Sea and climate crisis. And I’d venture to say that her contradictory lessons apply to tangled stories with many other themes as well. If you’re writing any of them, I bet you’ll find Ana Maria’s lessons helpful.
Oh, and once you finish her essay, check out all the other fine writing at Brevity.