A rich, multidimensional journey across genres and species, and a dreamy midsummer exploration of the Salish Sea by kayak

hosted by Ana Maria Spagna


Writing the Nonhuman

This course is currently full - if you would like to be added to the waitlist, please reach out to us at [email protected]



Ana Maria Spagna writes at the confluence of human and nonhuman experience. Her books include three essay collections, a novel for young people, a poetry chapbook, and most recently the braided nonfiction narrative Pushed: Miners, a Merchant and (Maybe) a Massacre.  Her work has been recognized by the Society for Environmental Journalists, the River Teeth literary nonfiction prize, and as a four-time finalist for the Washington State Book Award and appears regularly in journals and magazines including OrionEcotone, Terrain.org, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction and High Country News. After working fifteen years on backcountry trail crews in the North Cascades, she turned to teaching creative writing at colleges and universities around the country including at Whitman, Antioch, Western Colorado, University of Montana, and most recently St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. This trip will celebrate, in part, her return to the Pacific Northwest.



In an age of shifting climate, shrinking biodiversity and critical loss of species, writers have an opportunity and, arguably, an obligation to incorporate nonhuman experience in our work. But how can we do so ethically? How do writers imagine animals in all their animal-ness (or plants in their plant-ness, the sea in its sea-ness, etc.) What about human-nonhuman relationships? How can we advocate creatively and effectively for our other-than-human kin?

In this workshop, immersed in the natural beauty and rich life forms of the Salish Sea, we will focus on writing the wondrous other-than-human world.  We will read promiscuously across genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children. We’ll practice building characters, indulging lyricism, integrating scientific research, and using speculation. We’ll open ourselves to risk and experimentation, joy and grief, science and poetry. We welcome and encourage people from all backgrounds and levels of experience to join us on the journey.  



Professionals, hobbyists, and curious people of all backgrounds will find this workshop compelling. Writers of all genres and skill levels are welcome. This field course is offered for undergrad or graduate credit through the University of Montana’s Department of Environmental Studies. It is open to non-students and students alike.


Writing the Nonhuman is eligible for scholarships through The Freeflow Foundation.

Your program cost includes:

  • daily discussions, workshops, and generative sessions with Ana Maria Spagna
  • pre-course logistical support + reading list
  • professional sea kayaking guides, paddling gear, waterproof bags, safety gear, and beautiful ocean-touring kayaks
  • delicious, healthful meals and snacks, plus wine and coffee, from dinner on July 13 through breakfast on July 19
  • all permitting, parking, and access fees

Participants must bring their own camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad). If you need access to these items, we will help you find them. Transportation to the San Juan Islands is not included, but once you’re on-island we’ve got you. You’ll just need to find your way to the Friday Harbor ferry terminal and then we’ll take care of the rest.

Space on this adventure is limited to 12 participants. We will close registration once the roster is full. Please apply early.

All deposits and payments are non-refundable. Payment plans are available. Payments can be made by mailing in an old-fashioned check, or by credit card or bank transfer via the link in your electronic invoice.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Ready to have an adventure? Apply using the button at the top of this page. 


Freeflow is proud to partner with Outdoor Odysseys for this course. Outdoor Odysseys was founded in 1987. Their guides have a passion for the unique ecosystem of the San Juan Islands and love sharing their naturalist knowledge and cooking with locally-sourced ingredients. Outdoor Odysseys donates a portion of all profits to organizations that they believe best protect and sustain the environment we paddle in.

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