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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

By Jennifer McGahaPublisher: Trinity University PressISBN: 9781595349811Genre: NonfictionPrice: $18.95

Part writing memoir, part nature memoir, and part meditation on a life well lived, Bushwhacking draws on McGaha’s experiences running, hiking, biking, paddling, and getting lost across the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina to offer readers encouragement and practical suggestions to accompany them on their writing and life journeys.

Jennifer McGaha's memoir, Flat Broke with Two Goats, was chosen as a 2018 Big Library Read for OverDrive, an international digital library. Her work has also appeared in many magazines and literary journals including The Huffington Post, The New Pioneer, Lumina, PANK, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brevity, Bitter Southerner, Crab Creek Review, River Teeth, and others. An experienced teacher and workshop facilitator, Jennifer currently teaches at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She also coordinates UNC-A’s Great Smokies Writing Program and co-hosts Plays Well with Others, a monthly reading series celebrating the work of UNC-Asheville students, staff, and faculty as well as community members. A native of Appalachia, Jennifer lives in a wooded North Carolina hollow with her husband, two cats, three unruly dogs, ten relatively tame dairy goats, and an ever-changing number of chickens. You can find her on Instagram @liberalgoats, on Facebook, and on Twitter (Jennifer_McGaha). Her website is jennifermcgaha.com.


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.

Publishers Weekly