3 Week Course: Creative Writing – Immersive Word Forests

Wednesdays , 4, 11 and 18 March 2020
6.30 – 9.00pm


This three-week long creative writing course, led by Ellen Wiles, explores the sensory experience of forests and their imaginative resonance in the context of the climate crisis. Taking inspiration from the Vivian Suter exhibition, participants will explore the representation of forests in literature and art, and the role of artistic activism at a time of climate crisis and forest decimation.


Week 1 – Forests in myth, fairytale and the imagination
We will begin the course by delving into Suter’s rainforest works and ideas, and explore the representation of forests in myth, fairytale and storytelling. We will reflect on the double-edged potency of forests in the imagination as places of wandering, shelter and delight; and places of wildness, mystery and threat.


Week 2 – Forest intelligence and ‘understory’ telling
Week two will focus on exploring contemporary science on the intelligence, communicative and healing capacities of trees, and the idea of forests as communities. We will reflect on how the arts can help to reimagine humankind’s role on the planet and our relationship with forest life.


Week 3 – Forest destruction and literary activism
In this final week we will consider the destruction of forests and the dire impact on species extinction, climate heating and the future of humanity as we know it. We will explore literature and artworks that have an activist element in their engagement with forests and consider the impact of arts activism at a time of climate crisis.


Each class will involve active engagement with works in the exhibition, reading selected literary texts, listening to sounds or music, and creative writing sessions. A curated series of linked texts will provide further inspiration, including work by Robert MacFarlane, Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Angela Carter, Italo Calvino, Katherine Rundell and Toni Morrison.


Ellen Wiles will lead this course. Ellen is a writer, literary anthropologist, critic and curator. She is the author of the novel The Invisible Crowd (HarperCollins, 2017) and the book Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition (Columbia University Press, 2015), and is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement. She has published poetry, short fiction and journalism in various journals and magazines including Guernica, Versopolis and Elsewhere. She has an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in literary anthropology. She teaches creative writing at QMUL, CityLit and The British Library, and has taught creative writing workshops in places as diverse as the Estorick Gallery and an immigration detention centre. She is the founder of Ark, an experimental live literature project.



Additional information:

  • All materials are included.
  • Booking on a course at Camden Arts Centre signifies your agreement to our terms and conditions as stated in our Learning Agreement.
  • Bookings are non-refundable and non-transferable, unless the course is cancelled by the Centre.
  • Evidence of concessionary status must be shown on the first day of the course.
  • Adults’ courses are 18+ unless otherwise stated.
  • The building is fully wheelchair accessible. Please visit our access page on our website for more information on getting here, parking and facilities.Image: Copyright Vivian Suter. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels