Writer Profile

Picture of Jan DeBlieu

Jan DeBlieu


Short Biography:
Jan DeBlieu is the author of four books and dozens of articles and essays about people and nature. Her first book, Hatteras Journal (Fulcrum 1987), is considered a regional classic on the Outer Banks. It has been reprinted in paper by John Blair Publisher. Meant to Be Wild (Fulcrum 1991) was chosen as one of the best science books of the year by Library Journal. Wind (Houghton Mifflin, 1998; Shoemaker & Hoard 2006) won the John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing, the highest national award given for a volume of nature writing. Year of the Comets: A Journey from Sadness to the Stars was published by Shoemaker & Hoard in Spring 2005. All Jan?s books remain in print. Year of the Comets was released in paper in December 2006.

Most of Jan?s work explores the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes where we live and work. She has contributed essays to many national publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Audubon, and Orion.

In the spring of 2003 Jan was named the Cape Hatteras Coastkeeper for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a grassroots environmental group that works to protect coastal waters from pollution. A longtime environmental activist, in the late 1980s she helped form a group that successfully kept oil companies from drilling off the Outer Banks. She lives on Roanoke Island with her husband and son.

For a selection of her favorite essays, see:
* What, Exactly, is the Red Wolf?--a look at the questionable lineage of the
Southern wolf--New York Times Magazine, June 14, 1992
* The Messy Science of Cetology--a profile of Smithsonian whale biologist
Jim Mead and his work on the Atlantic coast. New York Times Magazine,
February 21, 1993
* Mapping the Sacred Places--Orion, Spring 1994. Appeared later in Utne
Reader <1999?)
* Birds in the Hand--an essay on the disturbing science of bird banding.
Audubon Magazine, March-April 1996
* The Taking of the Hatteras Light--Southern Cultures, Fall 2001
* Keeping the Coast Clear (our fight to stop offshore oil) Mother Jones,
Sept.-Oct. 2001

Critical Description of Work:
When I was young, I set my sights on being a fiction writer. But that was before I realized how many wonderful and true stories take place in the world at any given moment. I don't think I could make up anything as
compelling as the continually running stories that loop through our lives.

In 1985 I got a chance to move to the Outer Banks to write a book. I figured I'd stay only a year or two. Once I settled in, though, I felt more alive and connected with the landscape than anywhere I'd ever been. It was as if the islands claimed me and refused to let me go. So I've stayed and been endlessly entertained by the stories of the people, shaped as they are by the maritime forces.