"American Nature Writing 2003" is the 10th anniversary publication of a series compiled by Denver author John A. Murray, a former Fairbanks resident, fan of Denali National Park and anthologizer of "Out Among the Wolves" among other books. This is the first collection in the series devoted entirely to women writers.
Overall, the "American Nature Writing" series showcases the best creative nonfiction, fiction and lyric poetry, selected from works submitted by both new and seasoned writers. Murray has used his series to document powerful testimonials about the power of place-and its central hold on the lives of many Americans. The first volumes in the series were published by Sierra Club Books. The volumes for 1999 through 2001 were published by Oregon State University, with Fulcrum Publishing of Colorado taking over in 2002.
"I decided to feature women in the 10th anniversary edition as a way for a new decade to honor the spirit of mother earth," Murray said. "The emerging female writers reflect a stronger, more active presence in the fight for the earth and will be part of the 'green army' for decades to come."
All the essays in the volume were previously published. This volume is of particular interest to Juneau residents because Juneau writer Emma Brown was awarded Murray's William O. Douglas Nature Writing Award, which he instituted in the 2002 volume.
Murray writes in his introduction: "At twenty-three, Emma Brown is one of the most gifted young writers I have ever encountered, and that includes the over six hundred undergraduate and graduate students I taught during my years as a university writing professor. Emma Brown grew up in Arlington, Virginia. After completing her degree in history at Stanford University, she moved to Juneau, Alaska."
Murray sees her prose as evoking at points "the best of such diverse writers as Edward Abbey and Normal MacLean" - high praise indeed.
Subjects in the volume include the redwood tree, encounters with bats, nature found in an urban setting in Malibu, bears in British Columbia, friendship, the edges of things, the nearly 60,000-acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for buffalo, skinny dipping, maps, 9/11, ironing in a doorway and the homing instinct of certain species of birds. There are poems about hickory nuts and flies on corn.
The authors include anthropologists, writing teachers, a Balkan immigrant living in New York State, a backcountry ranger in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, students and biology professors. Many of the pieces are so well written that they are worth reading more than once. Many are sufficiently brief and condensed that they could be read aloud to students - or lovers. These qualities are rare in anthologies.
Murray invites readers to send him work at P.O. Box 102345, Denver, Colo., 80250. He seeks "writing that is original in voice and perspective and that evidences excellence in craft."