The Rural Writing Institute shows AGEC student the opportunities of a writing career


Written by Kendell Combs, Junior, Agribusiness Management & Agricultural Communication

Morgan Winder (Junior; Applied Agricultural Economics; Goodland, IN) spent her spring 2018 semester studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. The term was to be complete by May, but Morgan loved her time abroad and was secretly looking for a way to extend her stay. She found out about the Rural Writing Institute through following James Rebanks, author of NYT Bestselling Book The Shepard’s Life, on Twitter. He shared this opportunity that he would be hosting alongside Katie Aalto, author of The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh, at his working sheep farm in Cumbia, England, which is in the Lake District. It was to take place in late June and she applied on a whim. A couple weeks later after she’d forgotten all about it, she received an email informing her that she had been formally offered a spot. Morgan said that this was the first time she had affirmation that maybe writing is something she should pursue in real life.  

The premise of the RWI was to host up-and-coming writers of nature and rural writing in order to network and hone writing skills, as well as connect with the landscape. This was a unique experience because while there are many writing conferences that focus specifically on the nature genre, this one incorporated the natural setting as an integral part of the experience. Sessions were hosted outside, amongst the fells, sheep and stone walls that are the quintessential parts of the Lake District. During the four days of the conference, Morgan connected with 17 other incredibly talented people from the US, England, Scotland, Canada, and Australia. Never in her life had she met a group of people she connected with as quickly and as strongly as these individuals. “My absolute favorite part of the experience was connecting with some incredible people who I hope will remain my friends far into the future. I can’t wait to read what they publish someday!” 

Morgan was star struck meeting people who had published books. These individuals hosted sessions where attendees learned about the history of the nature writing and creative nonfiction genres, shared with them how to find their own writing process and gave hints about how to get published someday. Morgan also had the chance to connect with other writers in the field like Rob Cowen, Tara Westover, Jane Clarke, Polly Atkins, and Ed Caesar. Attendees climbed fells, learned how to build stone walls and learned about sheep herding traditions in the Lake District. Morgan expressed that this conference was such a cool chance to represent Purdue and Midwest agriculture. Of all the people from around the world there, she was the only one who had any experience with row crop farming of corn and soybeans. “While other people marveled at the beauty of the Lake District landscape, I was reminded of the beauty of my own home which I had not seen for 6 months at this point.”
 
This experience gave Morgan a lot of perspective about her career and life aspirations. From the RWI, Morgan can apply the tactics she learned to a future career in writing. The confidence to purse this career was built during those short four days surrounded by great wisdom.

To learn more about RWI, you can visit: http://www.kathrynaalto.com/writing/rural-writing-institute/. Also, Morgan has been working on a few small writing projects on her personal blog: https://atlasaggie.wordpress.com/.

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