Book Bag: ‘Writing the Land: Windbown I,’ edited by Lis McLouglin; coming book launches at Odyssey Bookshop

  • New York Times reporter Kate Zernike comes to Mount Holyoke College on March 23 to talk about her new book, “The Exceptions.” Odyssey Bookshop website

Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2023 8:47:41 AM

Writing the Land: Windblown I

Edited by Lis McLoughlin; NatureCulture LLC


The beauty of nature has inspired countless writers and other artists for time immemorial. That beauty has also inspired any number of people to try to preserve the natural world around us, from forests and fields to mountains and seacoasts.

Those two strains come together in “Writing the Land: Windblown I,” a collection of poetry, other writing, photographs and prints that’s designed to recognize the work of selected land trusts across the country, including the Hilltown Land Trust in Ashfield.

The collection has been edited by Lis McLoughlin, a writer and publisher with a background in engineering and science who is based partly in Northfield. McLoughlin has edited and published a number of other books in the “Writing the Land” series, which she founded.

For each of the 11 trusts and other organizations that are part of “Writing the Land: Windbown I” — they range from Washington state to Kansas to the Northeast and New York City — poets have contributed work inspired by visits to these preserved lands.

JuPong Lin, an interdisciplinary artist from Amherst, writes about her explorations of a Hilltown Land Trust property, Conwell, in the woods in Worthington, a place where she considers the history of the land: “A stone wall calls us off trail—built / by Pocumtuc of Nipmuc? / or white settlers? We listen for the / stones’ story.”

Lin delights in nature’s tiny details as she walks along a small pond on the property: “In the shade of fungus festooned / hemlock and pine / foxfire blued twigs and tender / trickling of a stream / melting mysteriously into moist / leafy soil hushes / our happy chatter.”

In addition to Lin’s poems, “Writing the Land” includes information about the trails and habitat of Conwell that inspired her writing, original pen-and-ink illustrations, photographs, and a hand-drawn map.

Some of the book’s poems and photographs celebrate a very different kind of terrain: the sweeping prairies of Kansas. “Flint Hills,” by Denise Low, is an ode to the immense skies and vistas of a part of the state where tallgrass prairie has been preserved amid rolling hills.

“Some days thunderheads explode in the skies with lightning bolts/ so loud the ground shakes. Rainbows follow. // Millions of stars speckle the night. All people who once lived here / surround us. Red-tail hawks keep watch.”

In a statement, McLoughlin said “Writing the Land” is all about honoring nature and our relationship with it.

“As poets and advocates, we wanted to contribute to conservation and environmental awareness with our work — inspiring others to visit or donate toward the protection of these ecosystems, habitats, sanctuaries, farms, and wilderness preserves.”

More information about “Writing the Land: Windblown I” is available at The collection is also available at Amherst Books, Ashfield Hardware, Book Moon Books in Easthampton, Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, and the Chesterfield General Store.


In other book-related news: The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley has already hosted a number of author visits this month, and the schedule is getting even busier, with some acclaimed writers coming to discuss new work.

On March 23 at 7 p.m., Kate Zernike, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, will talk about “The Exceptions,” a story about female faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who confronted the school over entrenched discrimination, forcing MIT to admit to wrongdoing.

Zernike, who originally broke the story in 1999 when she was writing for the Boston Globe, centers her book on 16 accomplished female MIT scientists who fought back against “decades of underpayment and the denial of credit, advancement, and equal resources to do their work,” as publicity notes put it.

Zernike, the daughter and granddaughter of scientists, will speak at Hooker Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College in an event co-sponsored by the school.

On March 28 at 7 p.m., the Odyssey will welcome Catherine Lacey, named one of the country’s best young novelists by Granta, to discuss her new novel, “Biography of X.”

Named a Most Anticipated Book by numerous publications including The New York Times, Esquire and The Guardian, “Biography of X” is set partly in an alternative America divided into competing territories.

The story is narrated by CM, who is attempting to write a biography of her late wife, X, an “iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter,” but discovers in the process how little she actually knew about X.

Blending nonfiction and fiction, “Biography of X” is, as one critic puts it, a “triumphant high-wire act: all the breadth of a 19th-century classic with the propulsiveness of a psychological thriller.”

And on March 29 at 7 p.m., Oscar-nominated filmmaker and novelist John Sayles will discuss his newest book, “Jamie MacGillivray: The Renegade’s Journey,” a meaty historical novel set in the mid-18th century that ranges from Scotland to England to Colonial America.

The novel’s eponymous Scottish hero, Jamie MacGillivray, narrowly escapes execution for fighting British forces and instead is sentenced to indentured servitude in America, where he’ll cross paths with Jenny Ferguson, a poor English girl also sent in chains to the New World.

Making appearances in the story are real-life figures of that era including the author Henry Fielding, the artist William Hogarth, and a young, ambitious George Washington.

The New York Times calls Sayles’ new novel “remarkable in that it manages to be both sweeping and intimate, to deliver to the reader the tides of political history but also a moving and internalized portrait of two young people swept along on these tides.”

Sayles will be joined in conversation by Daniel Czitrom, a former professor of history at Mount Holyoke College and the author of a number of books about late 19th century New York City.

To register for any of these talks, visit and click on the link for “Events.”

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