Featured Author: Mary Harwell Sayler

Our “author conversation” today is with Mary Harwell Sayler, author of Living in the Nature Poem

Writers-Editors Network:  What inspired you to write this book?

MaryHSaylerMary Harwell Sayler:  Since I’ve lived in rural areas most of my life, I had written and placed many poem over the years on various aspects of nature and a natural lifestyle. When the editor of Written River, a journal with an environmental emphasis, accepted a couple of my poems, I discovered he also co-edits and publishes environmentally-aware books. So I searched my files to see if I had at least 100 poems on natural topics, then asked if he might be interested in a book. He said yes, and Living in the Nature Poem came into being (Hiraeth Press).

Writers-Editors Network:  Do you plan on writing more books with a nature theme?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Yes. An amazing assortment of birds and variety of plant and animal life surround my home, often evoking poems.

Writers-Editors Network:  Where is your favorite place to write books?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Sometimes I wake up with the first line or two of a poem and go write down whatever came to me and see where it goes. Other times poems begin with a musical line or phrase that catches my attention while I’m sitting on our deck overlooking our small lake.

Writers-Editors Network:  Do you usually outline a book first? Or just start writing?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  I just write whatever poems come to me, but for full-length fiction and nonfiction, I think things through first. For a novel, I write a synopsis in two or three pages, present tense, as though the story were happening as I watch. For nonfiction, I investigate the need for a topic, gather resources for research, and write an outline.

Living in the Nature PoemThis collection connects us to ourselves, each other, and the earth. As an important part of our own environments, we’re also part of the complexities of nature, including human nature and those odd thoughts and moments that bring humor, wonder, perplexity, and prayer.

Writers-Editors Network:  What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Over the last 10 years, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to have a book of poetry published, but the options just didn’t feel right. Since poetry books are hard to place, and I did not want to self-publish, the challenge came in waiting for the right publisher and me to connect. Thankfully, that happened!

Writers-Editors Network:  Do you have any writing rituals?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Yes, I try to begin each day with some idea of the project I plan to work on, then immediately begin with my cup of coffee beside my desk. If I’m unsure, I might edit or revise a previous day’s work, usually reading each page aloud – for poetry, of course, but also fiction and nonfiction.

Writers-Editors Network:  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Shortly after I learned to read! Books were great friends in our house, and I grew up surrounded by them as naturally as I am now by wildlife.

Writers-Editors Network:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Read poetry; critique poems or short manuscripts by other poets and writers; take a walk in the woods or on the beach; dabble with something I want to concoct in the kitchen; or flop out in front of the TV with a good movie.

Writers-Editors Network:  Do you have any advice for other writers?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  Find topics that really interest you and list your life themes to tell in stories, poems, or nonfiction. Take nothing for granted though! Look up everything – even facts or data you’re sure you know.

Writers-Editors Network:  What’s next?

Mary Harwell Sayler:  I love reading the Bible in almost any English translation I can find, and often, poems and poetic devotionals come from those readings. Trying to find a publisher of Bible-based poetry, however, is almost impossible, so I’m giving my options some thought and, yeah, prayer.

Feel free to share your thoughts below. Have you read any of Mary Harwell Sayler’s books or poems? Do you have any questions for Mary?

About Dana K Cassell

Hi, and welcome to our Network. I'm Dana Cassell and am the one writing most of the posts on this blog. I've been in this writing/editing business for way longer than I care to admit. My goal here is to provide you with useful insights from our professional members and from my own experience - to help you achieve your own success, grow your editorial business, and publish successful and worthy books,


  1. Thanks for the interview, Dana. I’m happy to say that, after our e-chat, I placed my book of nature poems for children, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes, with Kelsay Books – a secular press, who also contracted to publish my Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, this year!

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