JAN DeBLIEU is the author of five nonfiction books and is a national medalist in literature. She has led writing workshops and clinics for all ages, in addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing courses. She is also known for her work as a conservationist and activist. Since 2009 she has focused her efforts on learning to live in service to others.
WHILE GROWING UP in Wilmington, Delaware, Jan DeBlieu fell in love with books and stories. Although originally intending to write fiction, she found the most compelling tales in the world around her. She became a journalist and immersed herself in the complex art of telling true stories.
After writing for newspapers and magazines in Delaware, Oregon, and Atlanta, in 1985 Jan moved to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with her husband, Jeff. Her first book, Hatteras Journal (1987) is considered an Outer Banks classic. She followed with three other books that combine natural history and memoir. Meant to Be Wild (1991) was named by Library Journal as one of the best science books of the year. Wind (1998) was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing, the highest national honor in the genre. Other Burroughs medal winners include Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John McPhee, and Barry Lopez. DeBlieu’s fourth book, Year of the Comets (2005), is a combination of science writing and a clear-eyed look at living with a family member who suffers from depression. It was excerpted in the Washington Post.
DeBlieu’s work has been widely anthologized, and she has published dozens of articles and essays in literary journals and well-known national publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Audubon, and Orion.
In the late 1980s, DeBlieu’s love for the islands spurred her to become “a reluctant activist.” In response to a proposal by oil companies to drill off Cape Hatteras, she helped form a local opposition group. Building on the community’s love of the islands’ natural beauty, the group won the support of political liberals and conservatives alike. It was, DeBlieu later wrote, the best way to do conservation work. In 2000 the oil companies abandoned their leases off Cape Hatteras without sinking a single well.
From 2003 through 2011 DeBlieu served as a coastal advocate for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, working to protect coastal waters from pollution through the same philosophy of uniting people across the political spectrum based on their love for the landscape. This work, along with her writing, earned her the 2011 National Conservation Medal from the Daughters of the American Revolution. She has also received many other awards and honors.
In 2012 DeBlieu returned to full-time writing. Her monthly blog and her forthcoming book, both on the art of selfless service and its healing powers, explore how ordinary people can help change the lives of others in need. Reviews of her previous books have often commented on the spirituality of her worldview. Her work on selfless service brings that spirituality to the forefront.
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