A resident of Stanardsville for the past 16 years, Jamie K. Reaser has a professional career spanning international environmental policymaking, a private psychology practice and professional photography in addition to writing and creating artwork.
“The writing plays out both technically—in terms of writing science and policy professionally—but it also plays out in terms of literary writing, poetry and lyrical prose,” Reaser said. “The overarching factor in all of it is working at the interface of nature and human nature; that’s what links everything together.”
In May 2020, she was honored with both gold and silver awards for her writing in two different categories by Nautilus Book Awards.
With a doctorate in biology, Reaser spent many years traveling for her work in environmental policymaking before settling in Greene County. Her most recently published book, “Ridgelines” is a memoir about her life at Raven’s Ridge farm in Stanardsville.
“It’s a collection of essays, all of which are self-reflective on personal stories from life in the Blue Ridge Mountains as it relates to the broader human story, so everything goes from personal to what I would call transpersonal, or collective, experience,” she said.
“Ridgelines: A View of Nature and Human Nature” won gold in the lyrical prose category for 2019. Nautilus, which has been a platform for recognizing the work of talented authors since 1998, received more than 550 entries of new books during their 2019 season.
In the poetry category, Reaser won a silver award for “Conversations with Mary: Words of Attention and Devotion,” which is a collection of poems responding to the work of National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who passed away in 2019.
“Nature was very much (Oliver’s) muse, and her writing from a literary technical perspective is very simple and yet profound, because the deeper messages are very accessible,” Reaser said. “Quite a few people over the years who were Mary Oliver fans had communicated to me that they enjoyed my work because it reminded them of Mary Oliver’s work, so I started thinking, if she and I are unintentionally in conversation through our work and people are picking up on that echo, what would it be like to intentionally write a collection of poems that respond to a word, a phrase, an image, a thought in Mary Oliver’s poem?
“Each of the poems in ‘Conversations with Mary’ is a response to something that hooked me in one of her poems. The photo on the front is of me sitting on a bench, so it’s imagined as if our words were finding each other,” Reaser continued.
Reaser’s work, both in environmentalism and in her writing, has been impacted significantly by the current global pandemic as well as the social justice issues that have come to light in recent weeks. On May 25, she was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the American University in Paris’s conference on the psychology of global crisis.
“With two other award-winning professional writers, we did a panel discussion explicitly on the poetics of crisis: what role can poetry play in guiding us through crisis of various kinds,” she said.
In addition to canceling all in-person book talks and sales this season, Reaser is trying to make her award-winning works more readily accessible to homebound audiences.
“One of the things I’ve done given COVID’s presence in everybody’s life is convert three of my books into electronic format and make them available for only $2.99,” she said. “I chose to make my work more readily accessible to people at the time where people are housebound and where finances might be limited.”
With her three most recent books self-published due to her previous publisher going out of business, Reaser encourages folks to purchase from independent booksellers such as indiebound.org but has also set up an Amazon page for the sale of her Kindle e-reader editions.
For a recent essay by Reaser on the COVID-19 pandemic, check out “Bat Medicine: Dosage for a Modern Pandemic” at medium.com/@jamiekreaser/bat-medicine-dosage-for-a-modern-pandemic-496bf8ea2e3c.
The panel discussion on the Psychology of Global Crises is available at https://youtu.be/mq3vLzOm5Hc.