cover image Bushwhacking: How to Get Lost in the Woods and Write Your Way Out

Bushwhacking: How to Get Lost in the Woods and Write Your Way Out

Jennifer McGaha. Trinity Univ, $17.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59534-981-1

These vibrant essays from McGaha (Flat Broke), a creative nonfiction teacher, mix adventure in the Appalachians with discoveries about the creative process. “Every time I went into the woods, I learned something new, something that captivated and inspired me and somehow translated to my writing life,” she relates, sharing how she discovered “magic” in the natural world while zip-lining, mountain biking, and hiking. In a gleefully freewheeling style, she riffs about underestimating the difficulty of mountain biking, complains about camping (“All night long, the wind blew. Coyotes howled and screech owls screeched eerie, haunting sounds”), and is elated while hiking through snow in the Great Smoky Mountains (“We clung to cables as we shimmied down steep, open rock faces in breathtaking wind”). McGaha excels at distilling writing lessons from her wilderness outings, as when she recounts how the words she repeated to herself while navigating a steep downhill course on a mountain bike—“Do not look down. Do not look back or too far ahead. Look three feet in front of you at all times”—became her mantra for approaching a blank page. Gutsy, entertaining, and heartening, McGaha’s dispatches guide and inspire. (Feb.)