Minnesota may be facing a critical shortage of nature writers. Read the blog attached to the Writers Rising Up website, a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving wild places to see what I mean: Last week, there was a tribute to Bill Holm, who so powerfully chronicled the Midwestern prairie as well as the wilds of Iceland. Before that, a notice about an essay contest named for Paul Gruchow, whose writing continues to lure people to Minnesota’s quietest places five years after his death. And before that, a tribute to Carol Bly, who wrote such smart and funny pieces about this place. The old guard is falling.
But this little-known nonprofit — whose full name is Writers Rising Up to Defend Place, Natural Habitat, Wetlands — is cultivating the next wave of writers, who it sees as critical to the preservation of wild places. Nature writers worth their hiking boots get people who spend their days trapped in windowless offices to visit natural areas, understand their practical and spiritual value, and ultimately work (or at least vote) to save them.
The talent is there
“If you take a look at some of our past Gruchow [contest] winners—and many are already published [writers] — there’s some outstanding talent out there, for sure. One or two, or more, will rise to the occasion,” said director Virginia Pellar Price, who founded Writers Rising Up in 2001.
In addition to the contest, the Eden Prairie-based organization supports writing workshops, readings, educational talks and publications. It’s also the force behind a series of interpretive signs on the Elizabeth Fries Eller trail, a walkway along the Minnesota River named for a New York writer who visited the area in 1952 and named it Eden Prairie.
Writers Rising Up will honor Bill Holm next month during National Poetry Month. “What an amazing writer and generous guy,” said Price, who worked with Holm on various events and projects.
We need more like him, so step up, you fiery lovers of unspoiled places.
Minnesota mourns the loss of author Bill Holm, by Casey Selix and Amy Goetzman, Feb. 26, 2009
Carol Bly gets her Oprah moment, by Amy Goetzman, June 3, 2008
Prairie tribute: Paul Gruchow’s voice echoes in essays, by Amy Goetzman, Nov. 20, 2007