Mark Tredinnick is in the Wood with us at the moment, here to run a couple of nature writing workshops, sneak in some writing time, and to do an Avid Reader ‘Salon Event’ tomorrow night in Brisvegas.
You’ve probably all got Mark’s Little Red Writing Book, Little Green Book of Grammar and now, The Little Black Book of Business Writing good and handy on your desks. Mark is a man who knows one end of a sentence from another, and a damn fine writing teacher and mentor.
Mark’s true writing loves, however, are poetry and nature writing. He has a collection of poetry coming out next month, which is really exciting. It is the nature writing, however, that I want to talk about. That’s what this blog will be, really, notes about our life here at Olvar Wood, and our many and varied companions: trees, birds and all manner of creatures. Occasionally, other writers, too.
Mark is one of Australia’s foremost writers of and about the genre. His wonderful book, The Blue Plateau, about the Blue Mountains and Mark’s time living there, is a landmark in Australian nature writing. For all our love of the great outdoors, and the prominence of the landscape in our fiction, Australia’s nature writing tradition is pretty sparse in comparison to America’s, Canada’s and even Great Britain’s. I reckon we’re on the comeback trail, though, and The Blue Plateau is leading the way.
There are things I learned growing up in sandstone. I wasn’t born among these valleys; I grew up among sediments laid down further east in the same vast sag where plateaus grew. Gullies and railway cuttings, the massive incisions made in my lifetime to put in freeways out of the city, and promontories enclosing yellow beaches – these were the rocks of my childhood (162).
I have been asked more than once what nature writing is. By way of an answer, it is non-fiction writing focusing on the natural world (but with more art than science) or, as Mark would say, the ‘literature of landscape’. H.D. Thoreau’s Walden pretty much got the rock rolling, and some other classics include Eric Rolls’ One Million Wild Acres, Barry Lopez’ s Arctic Dreams, and Roger Deakin’s Waterlog. As you’ll gather from the lovely passage from Mark’s work, above, there is plenty of room for character, too. At its heart, nature writing is about our relationship to the landscape. Given current environmental concerns, and literary longing for all things wild, nature writing could be just what we need to turn things around.
I’ll be introducing Mark tomorrow night at Avid Reader. I hope to see some of you there. And please, could someone ask a question about nature writing; I guarantee he will open right up.
For more on nature writing, see Mark’s ‘A Taxonomy of Australian Nature Writing’: http://www.marktredinnick.com.au/index.php/writing/nature/