Writers’ Stories in Motion

Healing, Joy, and Triumph

by Laura Gray-Rosendale (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection X, 148 Pages


In this book, various writers from different backgrounds share beautiful, creatively-written essays about how forms of physical activity (e.g., hiking, backpacking, road running, building a fire, practicing yoga, trail running, walking, boogie boarding, cycling, snowshoeing, swimming, mountain biking, and doing triathlons) as well as their interactions with the natural world have impacted their specific writing practices, teaching approaches, and who they are as people. In their lively pieces they explore the myriad ways in which physical activities in particular environmental contexts have directly and radically impacted their composing processes as well as their lives as writers. Drawing from techniques in creative nonfiction as well as rhetoric and writing studies, each author draws the reader into her/his adventures and experiences in illuminating ways, furthering the argument that physical activities are not disconnected from our writing. Rather, they are inextricably linked to our writing practices. And oftentimes we are in fact composing in the very act of engaging in such physical activities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction (Laura Gray-Rosendale)
  • 1. Hiking Hard (Annette McGivney)
  • 2. Teaming Up: Running and Writing in Collaboration (Eileen E. Schell)
  • 3. Building the Fire: How Routine and Practice Create a Spark (Karen Auvinen )
  • 4. The Bermuda Standard: Through the Practice of Both Yoga and Writing I Rise Up and Heal from Trauma (Jill Weiss Ippolito)
  • 5. Chasing Creativity: Trail Running to Write (Laura Gray-Rosendale)
  • 6. Uncharted: Walking and Writing Off the Map (Elizabeth Geoghegan)
  • 7. Catching the Next Wave: Writing and Boogie Boarding (Suzanne Roberts)
  • 8. Self-Propelled: How Biking Steered My Writing Life (Shawna Kenney)
  • 9. Snowshoeing on a Lake on a Quiet Evening (Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes)
  • 10. Swimming in the Existential Lane (Lynn Z. Bloom)
  • 11. Mountain Biking, Writing, and Reckoning (Kyle Boggs)
  • 12. Writing with Iron (Optimism One)
  • About the Contributors
  • Index

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Laura Gray-Rosendale

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road.

Healthy, free, the world before me.

The long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.

Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune.

Henceforth, I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.

~Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road” in Songs for the Open Road:
Poems of Travel and Adventure

We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return- sending back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.

~ Henry David Thoreau, “Walking” in Excursions (1863)

For a very long time writers, especially nonfiction writers, have made important connections between their creative craft and their movement through the world. In the case of Walt Whitman, it was the open road that called out to him, a rich life of travel and adventure. Travel offered him a freedom that encouraged more “pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating.” Though he famously urged his readers to leave the world that they knew behind, to “Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, the book on the shelf unopen’d!” Whitman’s writing was in fact enabled through his own physical activities and interactions with the natural world. In the case of Henry David Thoreau, it was walking or what he termed “sauntering” that sustained him as a writer and as a person. For Thoreau, “every walk is a sort of crusade,” a critical opportunity to both get physically lost in the natural wilderness and to better find one’s intellectual, ethical, and spiritual selves as well as one’s overriding purposes. Writing was not an act separate from physical exertion for Thoreau. Writing was an act always informed and improved by those efforts. Writers’ Stories in Motion: Healing, Joy, and Triumph is shaped by just this sort of thinking. As someone who has enjoyed trail running, yoga, hiking, backpacking, and ←1 | 2→mountain biking for many years and has found deep connections between these activities and my writing processes, it has always seemed to me that a book that traced connections between various forms of exercise or activity and writing should be available to other writers and students of writing, especially those who also enjoy similar pursuits.

Writers’ Stories in Motion: Healing, Joy, and Triumph is also informed by more recent publications that have permeated the book market. We have all read adventure memoirs—those amazing stories that stimulate all of our senses, take our breath away, and force us to keep turning the pages. Think of heart stopping books like Jon Krakauer’s 1999 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, Suzanne Roberts’ 2012 Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail, Cheryl Strayed’s 2013 Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, or James Campbell’s 2017 Braving It: A Father, A Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild. Consider, too, more recent titles like Liz Clark’s 2018 Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening, Jedidiah Jenkins’ 2018 To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret, Caroline Van Hemert’s 2019 The Sun Is a Compass, Jill Heinerth’s 2019 Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver, and Roman Dial’s 2020 The Adventurer’s Son: A Memoir.

And we have all read books detailing writers’ writing processes—terrific texts that explain how joy, inspiration, difficulty, and triumph operate within the crucial moments of invention and discovery, drafting, revision, and editorial work. Think of wonderful works such as Dani Shapiro’s 2013 Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2016 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Natalie Goldberg’s 2016 The Great Spring, Mary Karr’s 2016 The Art of Memoir, and Francesca Lia Block’s 2018 The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process.

Writers’ Stories in Motion: Healing, Joy, and Triumph fills a current gap in the memoir/nonfiction market by aiming to bring certain elements of these two sorts of texts together—the adventure memoir’s focus on physical activity alongside gorgeous physical environments and the creative nonfiction writer guide’s focus on effective composing and creative living. In this book, writers who work within the contemporary nonfiction and/or memoir genres share their stories of how various forms of physical activity (e.g., hiking, backpacking, road running, building a fire, practicing yoga, trail running, walking, boogie boarding, cycling, snowshoeing, swimming, mountain biking, and doing triathlons) as well as their interactions with the natural world have impacted their specific writing practices and who they are as people.

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The writers featured in Writers’ Stories in Motion carefully examine the sorts of writing in which they engage as well as how and why these specific writing practices have become important to them. They also explore the ways in which certain forms of physical activity in particular environmental contexts have directly and radically impacted their writing processes as well as their lives as writers.

In thoughtfully-written, creative, and self-reflective essays, these writers address a number of concerns and questions such as the following:


X, 148
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (September)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. X, 148 pp.

Biographical notes

Laura Gray-Rosendale (Volume editor)

Laura Gray-Rosendale, President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow and Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, is the author of numerous books that bring together creative nonfiction, writing studies, and rhetoric. Her books College Girl: A Memoir and Getting Personal: Teaching Personal Writing in the Digital Age have both received IPPY Awards.


Title: Writers’ Stories in Motion
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160 pages