“We went for a hike. The beach was a tumble of exposed bedrock, some formations looking like model pirate ships in silhouette, but soon the gravel narrowed and an outcrop of jagged rock faced us. The girls scrambled up a well-used trail, and then I saw Grace climbing, hand over hand, up the final short rock wall. I was about to yell my customary warning, but she had summited and Bailey was on her heels. They raised their arms, the Lake Superior wind whipping their hair, and I breathed two words: their Everest.”
– Chris Niskanen, Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota’s State Parks
Chris Niskanen spent 17 years as an outdoors writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, writing about fishing, hunting, camping and other outdoor pursuits popular in Minnesota. Then, in 2010, he left journalism to lead the communications efforts of the Department of Natural Resources.
During this career, he has written two books, one of which included photos from each of Minnesota’s 66 state parks and 16 essays by Niskasen.
The guy knows a thing or two about outdoors and nature writing. From the excerpt above, he also seems to know about raising adventure-loving daughters.
So I have two good reasons to attend a writing workshop being taught by Niskanen on Nov. 17 at Warner Nature Center in Marine on St. Croix. St. Croix River country being home to a lot of inspiring nature and inspired writers, this is an ideal location for the class.
The workshop is sponsored by ArtReach St. Croix (which I recently joined the board of) and will feature not only in-depth instruction about writing well, but a chance to get outside, too:
During this special writing workshop, author Chris Niskanen will talk about the importance of imagery, point of view, pace, dialogue and research in good nature writing. He’ll stress the importance of avoiding cliches and creating a strong voice and developing a sense of place. Chris believes good nature writing is rooted in keen observation and he will address the skills you should hone in your observation. Class participation is strongly encouraged and you will be challenged to take risks in your writing while enjoying a day of retreat at the Warner Nature Center. Meet other writers around the Nature Center’s 11′ diameter table made from a cross sectional “cookie” cut from the largest Douglas Fir that the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company ever cut down. Enjoy a guided mid-day hike on the Nature Center’s trails. Dress for the weather. Warner even has enough snow shoes for everyone if we need them! Bring a brown bag lunch. Hot and cold drinks provided.
The class costs $60 for ArtReach members and $65 for non-members. You can sign up here. I hope to see you there.