facultydetails | Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University

Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing Faculty and Staff

Janisse Ray

Janisse Ray

Adjunct Faculty Member
Hometown : Baxley, Georgia
Joined Chatham : 2008

Academic Areas of Interest

Creative Writing, Literary Nonfiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, Southern Literature, Womens Literature, Sustainability, Environmental Studies, Environmental Ethics

Personal Areas of Interest

Organic Gardening, Heirloom Seeds, Farm Animals, Slow-food Cooking, Food Preservation, Flat-water Kayaking, Trapeze, Yoga, Hospice, Blues, Folk Music, Backpacking, Hiking, Running, Quilting, Knitting, Carving.

Personal Website : Visit Website


Writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray is author of three books of literary nonfiction. She is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast, was published by Milkweed Editions in 1999. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods of the South, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. Thinker Wendell Berry called the book “well done and deeply moving.” Anne Raver of The New York Times said of Janisse Ray, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.” Ray’s second book, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, about rural community, was published by Milkweed Editions in early 2003. The third, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, the story of a 750,000-acre wildland corridor between south Georgia and north Florida, was published by Chelsea Green in 2005. Janisse Ray has been visiting professor at Coastal Carolina University, scholar-in-residence at Florida Gulf Coast University, and writer-in-residence at Keene State College and Green Mountain College. She was the John and Renee Grisham writer-in-residence 2003-04 at the University of Mississippi. Ray’s essays appear in the anthologies American Crisis, Southern Solutions; A Road Runs Through It; Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent; Elemental South; The Roadless Yaak; Where the Mountain Stands Alone; and The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, among others. She has published in such periodicals as Audubon, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hope, Natural History, Oprah Magazine, Orion, Sierra and The Washington Post. She writes poetry and fiction as well as nonfiction, and has been a radio commentator for Vermont and Georgia public radio. Ray produced In One Place: The Natural History of a Georgia Farmer by Milton Hopkins, out in 2001. She co-edited, with Susan Cerulean and Laura Newton, Between Two Rivers: Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf (2004). An anthology of collected local stories about a Georgia preserve, Moody Forest, came out in 2008. Ray is a community organizer, environmentalist, and political activist. Janisse Ray attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a family farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters. She has a college-age son, Silas. The author lectures nationally on nature, community, agriculture, wildness, sustainability and the politics of wholeness.


  • North Georgia College (2 years)
  • B.A. in English, Florida State University (April 1984)
  • MFA, Creative Writing, University of Montana (May 1997)


  • New York Times Notable Book, 2000
  • Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment 2000
  • Bloomsbury Review Editors’ Favorite Books 2000 (selected by John Murray)
  • Before Columbus Society American Book Award 2000
  • Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction 2000
  • Southern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction 1999


  • Seed Savers Exchange & Southern Seed Legacy, member
  • Georgia Organic Growers Association, member
  • “Hawk and Handsaw Magazine,” Unity College, Advisory Board
  • Satilla Riverkeeper (advisory board)
  • Environmental Leadership Center (advisory board)
  • Altamaha Riverkeeper, founding board member


  • All Georgia Reading the Same Book, 2000
  • Honorary Doctorate, Unity College (2007)