Transport Your Reader: Writing Setting, Environment, and History *COURSE FULL*

Every story has a setting, but how best can we bring that setting to life? Moreover, how can we incorporate the rich histories of these settings into our writing? From nature writing to memoir to speculative fiction, whether your story takes place in the wilderness or in the middle of the city: your reader should feel transported. This course will generate tools for approaching setting, environment, and history across multiple genres.


Through a mixture of course readings, discussion, a nature walk, and guided writing, this one-day course will help writers connect with their senses and with complex histories of place. We’ll incorporate these experiences into our writing, whether we’re writing about the deep past or an imagined future. We’ll consider how we can weave complex settings into our narratives, how perspective shapes our depiction of setting, and whether we want these settings to exist in the foreground or background. Through a series of exercises, we’ll work together to craft texts with an immersive sense of place and history.


Together we’ll explore:

                      -How we can learn to write setting from many genres, whether non-fiction or fiction

                      -A range of techniques for weaving together complex human and natural histories

                      -Techniques for immersing your reader in the setting through the senses

                      -The ways perspective shapes our view of setting, environment, and history


This is an all-levels course especially suited for creative non-fiction writers (including journalists and academics looking to branch out) as well as fiction writers looking to hone their story’s setting. 

Location: Tempelhofer Feld (Meeting point TBD)

Note: The course will be held outdoors (rain or shine; if there’s rain we’ll find a dry spot in which to write) so come prepared with appropriate clothing for the weather, sunscreen, water, and a packed lunch. Students should be prepared for a walk of up to 2 km. If social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 mean we need to amend the format of this course, we’ll notify participants ASAP and will adapt the workshop to an online format. 


Jessica J. Lee is a Canadian-British-Taiwanese author, environmental historian, and winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. Her first book, Turning, was named among the best books of 2017 by both The National Post and German newspaper Die Zeit. Jessica has written for BBC Radio 4, The Guardian, and The TLS, and is the founding editor of The Willowherb Review, a nature writing journal platforming writers of colour. She was Writer-in-Residence at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology in Berlin from 2017–2018. Her second book, Two Trees Make a Forest: On memory, migration, and Taiwan was published in 2019 and named among the best books of the year by The Observer and New Statesman.


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