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Davis Journal

Writing program offers improvement of self and environment

Jan 25, 2024 09:07AM ● By Braden Nelsen
Nan Seymour and others, bedecked as Great Salt Lake brine shrimp, stand in vigil and raise awareness for Great Salt Lake conservation. Photo courtesy of Nan Seymour.

Nan Seymour and others, bedecked as Great Salt Lake brine shrimp, stand in vigil and raise awareness for Great Salt Lake conservation. Photo courtesy of Nan Seymour.

GREAT SALT LAKE—Beginning any new endeavor can be daunting. So many times, people will burn out quickly if they aren’t immediately proficient. Much of that comes from negative feedback from others with experience. River Writing, founded by Nan Seymour, offers a place where people can get started in a new endeavor, and get their feet wet without that risk.

Started by Seymour in 2015, River Writing offers a “community-based writing practice,”giving participants the opportunity to get started with or improve their writing in a non-judgmental zone. Seymour says that the practice helps participants, “find out what’s available to you…be creative.” Not only that, the practice is also designed to help participants of all ages and abilities “find and foster their authentic voice,” something that, without some guidance, can be extremely difficult to do in writing. 

As opposed to more traditional writing instruction, River Writing is designed to help those involved to, as Seymour put it, “break isolation, and overcome the tyranny of perfectionism.” Seymour and her facilitators have helped many people take those steps, and, as the name implies, doing so outside a classroom setting, “It’s really about getting people on the land,” said Seymour, citing how much of their work is done near bodies of water.

The important work of writing doesn’t end with just helping people find their own voice, though. Another large part of what River Writing does is provide a voice for those bodies of water next to which they write. The practice has been making excursions to Antelope Island for three years now, with experts leading not only discussions but walks around the island itself learning about, and writing about the importance of conservation, and preserving these biomes.

“We’ve got to make some dramatic changes,” said Seymour, citing how she herself has organized vigils at the capitol during the legislative sessions on behalf of the Great Salt Lake, and the many species that depend on the ecosystem that the lake provides. Said vigils have even included puppets representing the various species in need of preservation and protection. But, Seymour says, while there are prompts about the watershed and preservation, “there’s not a wrong way to do it.”

What makes River Writing different? It all comes down to the 7 agreements of River Writing, says Seymour, including non-judgement, shared responsibility, self-care, confidentiality and consent, honesty, listening with the heart, and of course, kindness. Utilizing each of these agreements, facilitators and participants are encouraged to “pick up a pen and write about your life,” and that each piece will be “held in respect and love.”

While many River Writing opportunities are online, there are still many in-person events, including those here in Davis on Antelope Island, giving people the opportunity to “Show up in a substantial way.” More information about these events, and about River Writing as a practice, can be found at