News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Author has a passion for outdoor experiences

Ruby McConnell is a featured author at the Sisters Festival of Books, taking place October 18-20 at venues around town.

The festival proceeds benefit the Sisters Festival of Books scholarship fund.

McConnell is a writer, geologist, and adventuress whose work focuses on nature, the environment, and the relationship between landscape and the human experience. Her experiences as a researcher, activist, and explorer in the wildlands of the western United States led her to write “A Woman’s Guide to the Wild,” which is touted as the definitive outdoor guide for anyone who identifies as, or loves, women (or just wants to learn how to read a map).

McConnell believes that positive outdoor experiences are the key to healthy living and protecting the environment, and is committed to breaking down barriers that prevent all kinds of people from being outside. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Grain Literary Journal, Oregon Humanities Magazine, and Mother Earth News and was awarded an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship in 2016.

McConnell stumbled into writing by accident. By trade and study, she is an environmental geologist. During the recession, however, she wasn’t working much in that field. Also a dancer, she embraced her creative side while she had the time to do so. She entered her first piece of writing after seeing a competition for Tiny Stories. She sat down and wrote a tiny story and ended up winning the competition. Shortly after, she read about an essay contest and entered her personal essays. They ended up getting picked up as articles and she fell in love with writing and has been doing it ever since.

Her writing primarily focuses on environmentalism and the human connection to the natural world.

“It stems from working as a field geologist, and in that profession there is a lot that isn’t thought about ahead of time, about what to do out there,” she told The Nugget. “As a woman working out in the elements with gear that didn’t fit me, I felt as if there wasn’t enough out there about how to be prepared in the wilderness, especially focused specifically on women.”

That inspired the start of her own field guide: “A Woman’s Guide to the Wild.”

She had been taking notes and creating it since 2008 and released it in 2016.

“I realized that my skill-set had caught up to my desire for a women’s field guide during my own field work, and wrote my own,” she said.

She got funding for the book with a Kickstarter, and eventually publishers picked up her book because there wasn’t anything out there like it and there was a market for it.

“I wanted to write something that wasn’t just strictly about survival, but just how to be comfortable in the natural world and out in the field,” she said.

McConnell also has a “Girl’s Guide” series of field guides. She is in the process of releasing the third installment of her Kid’s Nature Books.

“A lot of that writing stems from my work as an outdoor school teacher and working at summer camps with kids,” she said.

She is also releasing her personal essays focused on environmentalism and the human connection to the movement, as well as the natural world itself. Recently, she received an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship to help with those essays and they are being published now.

“Most all of the writing I have is focused on environmentalism and the outdoors and how to be comfortable and understand your natural world,” she said.

She is also a contributor to GROW magazine featuring articles on CBD and hemp use in Oregon.

McConnell’s love for the outdoors stems in part from outdoor education programs in the 1990s as well as working for Greenpeace in her college years and doing other pieces of environmental advocacy work.

“Through my writing combined with my background in geology, I want to be able to bring hard science to the world and write about it in a way that people can be guided and enjoy their natural environment,” she said.

McConnell says she doesn’t have one singular formative place; she says she has a “formative landscape.”

“The PNW is a great place to see environmentalism play out because it is such a vast and diverse natural environment,” she said. “I hope that I can create a reading experience for my audience that helps them to understand and feel comfortable in their own natural world surrounding them.”

The Sisters Festival of Books takes place starting October 18 featuring over 40 authors. Tickets for the festival can be purchased at:


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