Nature Writing

The course

Rewilding language

What is the role of the nature writer today? Drawing on non-fiction, fiction and poetry from the Granta archive and beyond, we’ll examine the roots and possibilities of nature writing in its broadest sense. We’ll ask how nature writing from the past can help us face an environment in crisis, and how we can approach the world with wonder even as we write with grief, anger and hope. 

Over eight weeks, you’ll develop a 3,000-word piece of nature writing. Through a combination of lectures, podcasts, short written assignments, guest talks and group Zooms, we’ll trace the evolution of the genre from pastoral traditions to poetic memoirs, and draw out tools for our own writing practices. You’ll be given a free one-year digital subscription to Granta magazine, as well as access to curated extracts from Granta books, and the magazine, podcast and video archive. Throughout the course there is insight from guest authors and Granta staff.

You’ll finish the course with a sense of where nature writing has been and where you – and your voice – might take it. 

Entry is by application to ensure you get the most out of the course.

Applications for this course are currently closed. If you’d like to be notified about new course dates as they are announced, please join the waitlist

Meet your course director

Jessica J.Lee

Jessica J. Lee is the founding editor of the Willowherb Review, author of Two Trees Make A Forest and tutor at the University of Cambridge. She is a contributor to Granta magazine.

In partnership with Granta

Professional Writing Academy works with Granta as education partner, to design and deliver world-class writing courses and nurture new voices and writing talent.

Things to know

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

You put what you learn into practise by completing writing assignments.

You share your work with the small group of fellow writers on your course, and the teaching team.

You tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback to others helps to build your skills as an editor – a critical part of the writing process.

You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

Things to know

This course is designed for people who are ready to dive into short-form nature writing, explore different forms and techniques, and write a complete 3,000-word piece of nature writing by the end of the course. This can be a piece of non-fiction, fiction, poetry or work at the boundaries of different forms.

Suitable for beginner to intermediate writers. 

It’s suitable if you: 

  • Are a writer or reader of nature writing and want to develop a short-form practice 
  • Would like to explore the many forms of nature writing, including fiction, poetry, visual essays as well as non-fiction prose
  • Want to develop a new piece of work, taking an idea from inspiration through observations, research, writing and the editing process
  • Are keen to expand your palette of craft techniques and to experiment with form and narrative 
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners.

This course allows you to: 

  • Gain a deep understanding of nature writing in its many different forms and approaches
  • Explore point of view in nature writing and the effect it can have on the landscape of a story
  • Understand the importance of research and observing nature, using field techniques to connect to your environment and deepen your writing practice
  • Delve deeper into why your writing matters and where it takes the reader, both physically and figuratively
  • Build confidence in editing and refining your story, and getting ready to submit
  • Explore ways to get your work noticed, and understand what Granta looks for in submissions
  • Practise giving feedback to other writers and receiving responses to your work
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and judgement as you work on a final assignment.

Each course is divided into sessions. These sessions are released one by one (weekly or fortnightly, depending on the course). 

There’s no need to log on at a set time. You can work through the learning materials whenever suits you, day or night, wherever you are in the world. Just complete the assignments and join forum discussions by the session deadline. 

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

Session 1: What and Where is Nature?

What do we mean when we talk about nature? And what do we mean by nature writing? In this session, we’ll explore the origins of the genre – from Pastoral and Romantic traditions to the resurgence of ‘new nature writing’ in the twenty-first century and beyond. We’ll examine why – and how – we hope to engage with nature in our own writing practice.  

There will be a group Zoom with your tutor.

Session 2: Voice, Place and Power

Who gets to write about nature? And why does this matter? In this session we’ll look at the range of perspectives nature writing may include, asking how broadening our understanding of the genre can help foster a richer and more just future for both humans and nature. How do we decide which things are worth recording and which things to leave out? We’ll experiment with points of view in our writing in order to notice things we may not have before. 

Session 3: Encountering the World

How can we become more observant of the natural world? In this session we’ll explore techniques for connecting not just with our senses but with the ways we are entwined with places. From writing out in the field to drawing on scientific and artistic modes of engaging with the world, we’ll develop skills for sensing the natural world in detail and determining how much of that detail makes its way to the page.

Session 4: Change and Narrative in Nature

What shape might a journey in nature take? How can we capture the vastness of deep time, the ongoing legacies of colonial conquest, and the present reality of the climate crisis? From the hero’s quest to more meditative contemporary forms, we’ll examine how decisions about narrative and scale can help us to reimagine what nature writing looks like.

Session 5: The Big Question

How do we see ourselves as nature writers? Is our primary job to bear witness to a world soon to be lost or to agitate for change? In this session, we’ll ask how emotions – from grief to rage to hope – might serve us in our writing, and how we can balance feelings with knowledge on the page.

Session 6: Drafting and Refining

In this session we’ll dive deep on structure, craft techniques, and editing practices. We’ll look to the natural world to inspire how we might shape our pieces of writing and ask how we encourage flexibility in our writing routines. 

There will be a group Zoom with your tutor.

Session 7: Two-week Quiet Writing Session

No formal exercises, extracts or videos. This session is dedicated to focusing on getting down to write and apply the lessons studied over the course. At the end of the session, you’re invited to submit a finished 3,000-word piece of nature writing, which the tutor will give feedback on. 

There will be a live Q&A with a Granta guest. 

Join our alumni community 

After finishing your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:

  • Revisit all your course materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
  • Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
  • Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
  • Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
  • Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work in progress
  • Join monthly live alumni events with expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers.

Commission a report on your work
A personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on next steps. To find out more, please get in touch.

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue to another course, please get in touch for advice and more information.

The team

Meet your course team

Jessica J.Lee

Course Director

Jessica J. Lee is the founding editor of the Willowherb Review, author of Two Trees Make A Forest and tutor at the University of Cambridge. She is a contributor to Granta magazine.

More about Jessica J.Lee