A naturalist is a student of the more-than-human world who is interested in closely observing and better-understanding the natural world around them. The capacity for accurate observation is built through the practice of particular ways of paying attention--a practice which also bears special relevance to the work of a writer. The skillset involved in the naturalist's practice of close observation can be useful for anyone who wants to practice writing more accurate and alive descriptions, particularly of the natural world.
In this workshop, which will be held mostly outdoors at Shelby Bottoms, we will practice sitting, looking, listening, and seeing the connections amongst our surroundings, using lenses drawn from the toolkits of naturalists and forest bathing practitioners. We will also do some creative writing exercises designed to help us translate these up-close ways of observing into fresh modes of written description.
Melissa Jean is an Assistant Professor in the Mindfulness Studies masters’ program at Lesley University. She teaches courses in academic writing, creative writing, research methods, and mindfulness and the environment. She received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Lesley, and a PhD in Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management from Utah State University. Her writing has appeared in The Colorado Review and a variety of online journals, including most recently Junoesq, The Hopper, Waxing and Waning, and Causeway Lit. Melissa is a Forest Therapy Guide, certified through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. She has also participated in the Tennessee Naturalist Program.
“Melissa is a wonderful teacher. She uses a variety of interesting materials to make connections, and I felt the class was structured in a thoughtful manner.”
"Melissa combined her experience and expertise as an educator, writer, and mindfulness guide to create a safe, comfortable, and grounded space for connecting with ourselves, our consciousness, and our written expression. Her work as a nature and forest therapist came through as she encouraged us to use our senses to experience the present moment with awareness and bring a more embodied and non-judgmental approach to our creative writing."
“I’ve loved all of the Porch classes I’ve taken so far. Y’all do an excellent job designing and delivering content. I’m always surprised by how much I grow as a writer, as a human, after taking a class. Melissa was a wonderful facilitator. Wise, grounded, compassionate. I felt very comfortable speaking my mind and my heart. Having taken this class, I’ve developed a more mindful approach to writing and observing Nature. And, to my surprise and delight, I’ve discovered a deep desire to learn more about fungus. Melissa’s instruction was a real gift. Thank you!”