John Hartig is Refuge Manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. John has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2015 Conservationist of the Year Award from the John Muir Association and the 2013 Conservation Advocate of the Year Award from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. He has authored and co-authored over 100 publications on the environment, including four books. He will offer a workshop on writing about the environment on Saturday, November 12, 9 am – noon. Maggie Peterman recently had the opportunity to talk with John about his work.
Maggie Peterman: Where is your home?
John Hartig: Trenton, Michigan.
MP: What author or book has most influenced your own writing?
JH: Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
MP: How would you describe your writing discipline?
JH: Creative nonfiction writing, focused on the environment and conservation.
MP: What writing project are you currently working on?
JH: A book titled Waterfront Porch: How Detroit is Transforming its Industrial Waterfront to a Gathering Place for People and Wildlife.
MP: How did you become acquainted with Door County?
JH: A colleague from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recommended it because of my interest in writing.
MP: What is your favorite activity unrelated to writing?
MP: How did you become involved with Write On?
JH: After my colleague recommended Write On to me I looked in up on the web and applied.
MP: What can people taking your upcoming workshop expect?
JH: The workshop will focus on translating science through creative nonfiction writing about the environment. For many, science can be intimidating and difficult to understand. The first hour of this environmental writing workshop will provide an example of how to make science unintimidating and fun through telling a true environmental story. A story will be told on how four rivers in the Great Lakes Basin caught on fire because of oil pollution and how today each is experiencing dramatic environmental revival as a result of public outcry and advocacy. The second hour will be a lecture of creative tools and techniques of telling environmental stories. The third hour will be a group exercise that explores how to tell a complex and multi-faceted environmental story in a fun, engaging, and creative way.
MP: What advice can you give to aspiring Write On writers?
JH: To me science writing is sharing knowledge in a compelling and interesting way. We need to become better storytellers. It is learned through practice. I also think it is a unique opportunity to invoke a “sense of wonder” in readers.