Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems


"Truth flows through these poems like a cold deep river, and human love for hard things settles on that river like late sun, casting a steely sheen over all of it. Read Swimming Grand Canyon to be there—on the restless river, and deep in the knowing heart." – Kim Stafford, author of Singer Come from Afar

"Rebecca Lawton’s poems jump off the page. She is achingly alive and heartbreakingly present in Swimming Grand Canyon, “living mortgage free” in her life as a river guide. We travel with her, meeting the characters with whom she shares the risks of that life. I love the immediacy of her narratives, her lively verbs, and her open heart." Elizabeth C. Herron, author of Insistent Grace 

"Rebecca Lawton’s Swimming Grand Canyon has the inviting rhythm of a river trip, quickly going from names on a map to the “first rapids” to “there is no turning back.” These poems have something of that cobble-essence, in spite of the losses she describes, finding “we are far richer than we thought we’d be.” What Lawton places in our hands is a rare gift, smoothed and polished." – Arthur Dawson, author of Where the World Begins: Sonoma Mountain Stories and Images


Listen to "Cinderella," from Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems, read by Rebecca Lawton

The Oasis This Time: Living and Dying with Water in the West

Book Cover: The Oasis This Time: Living and Dying with Water in the West

Winner, 2015 Waterston Desert Writing Prize
Winner, 2015 Waterston Desert Writing Prize
Winner, 2019 Nautilus Book Award
Finalist, 2020 Oregon Book Award
Finalist, 2019 Foreword INDIE


"Rebecca Lawton's expertise is apparent, as is her enthusiasm." — Wall Street Journal

"Lawton's writing flows through wars and watering places, her prose precise and at times mystic."
— Craig Childs, author of Atlas of a Lost World

"Lawton, a fluvial geologist and former Colorado River guide, shares her love and fears for the endangered Western resource—water . . . ” — Rob Spillman, judge for 2020 Oregon Book Award
"[Lawton's] musings on this beloved arid land and its water shimmer with wonder . . . " — Ana Maria Spagna, author of The Luckiest Scar on Earth

"Lawton brings a poet's eye to the landscapes she loves, but she is, at heart, a warrior."  — Andy Weinberger, author of the Amos Parisman series and owner and bookseller at Readers' Books

"Hers is a wake–up call, shaped by Lawton's deep knowledge and love of place, and mostly her commitment to waterways, streams and creeks and rivers and oceans." — Debra Gwartney, author of I'm A Stranger Here Myself

"Rebecca Lawton writes like a child of the wilderness as she brings together the rolling hay fields, a river that can't be tamed, and so many more human-and-nature scenarios . . . " — Julia Park Tracey, author of The Doris Diaries

"Through deft, spirited storytelling, Lawton faces with compassionate courage the painful truths of our defiled and dwindling waterways . . . " — Sarah Juniper Rabkin, author and illustrator of What I Learned at Bug Camp

Cool Writing Tips: A Month of What You’d Call Guidelines

Cool Writing Tips began as a month's worth of daily blog posts about writing.


Gradually the Tips grew into philosophical reads on writing + baseball, writing + rivers, writing + nature, and writing + life.


As one reader who read them in the original blog-alert emails wrote, "They're not just writing tips. They're also what you'd call guidelines for living."
Agreed—"guidelines" in the best, pirate sense of the word.


Use the Universal Ebook Link (at left) to buy now or DOWNLOAD FREE (in pdf, epub, or mobi) with a subscription to my news and blog alerts (usually monthly).


In summer and early fall 2016, I emailed readers, writers, and artists writing advice every day for a month. Cool Writing Tips, I called them, because the days were blowing our minds with heat. Something told me I wasn’t the only writer in the world melting and sweltering as I struggled to put words on the page.

Later I collected the month’s worth of tiny, digestible bits of advice into this little book.

The Tips are not in any particular order. They show up here as they occurred to me. Some I wrote on the overnight AMTRAK to Utah. Some I wrote on the porch of a Starbuck’s that wouldn’t open for another three hours because I’d disembarked the train before dawn in Salt Lake City. Some Tips I wrote at home in Sonoma just as the sun caught the tops of live oaks up our hill.


The Tips expanded into philosophical takes on baseball and writing, rivers and writing, train rides and writing, and many other things and writing. As one reader wrote, They’re not just writing tips. They’re also what you’d call guidelines for living.” I like to think they’re “guidelines” in the best, pirate sense of the word.


On Foot in Sonoma: Twelve Walks in the Valley of the Moon

Co-authored with poet-geographer Arthur Dawson, On Foot in Sonoma is a classic hiking book about Sonoma Valley trails. Available from fine booksellers who trade in used copies of outdoor books. A 2004 Sonoma County bestseller.


Junction, Utah

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

2014 WILLA Literary Award Winner for Original Softcover Fiction

“A fresh female voice and a bold take on environmental awareness—great read!” — WILLA judges, Women Writing the West, Golden, Colorado

2013 indieB.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree in Fiction

". . . an adventure saga, a meditation on earth and water, a novel of pain and injury and the search for healing . . ." — Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers

". . . deeply important story . . . gripping plot." — Jordan Rosenfeld, author of Make A Scene and How to Write a Page Turner

River guide Madeline Kruse wishes she could save the world—or at least her family. With her father MIA in southeast Asia and her ill mother growing weaker searching for him, Maddie escapes into her work. This time she runs to the deep canyons of Utah, where new dramas are unfolding: oil drilling encroaching on wild rivers and threatening water on ranches and farms—everyone’s lifeblood. From farmer Chris Sorensen in the town of Junction, Maddie learns how dangerous the growing risks are to the land and water. She differs in almost every way from Chris, though both their families are spinning apart. Can she find their common ground in time to save the endangered people and places she loves?

This debut novel about everything at stake in a forgotten corner of the West "keeps so many dazzling balls in the air: war, love, activism, wilderness—and always, always, the most dazzling ball of all—Lawton's dazzling descriptions of nature." — Jill Koenigsdorg, author of Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall


Reading Water: Lessons from the River

Book Cover: Reading Water: Lessons from the River

2002 Foreword INDIES Finalist, Nature Book of the Year.

Back in print: Reading Water: Lessons from the River (2021, second edition) by Rebecca Lawton.

Reading Water is " . . . a seasoned depiction of the nomadic culture, empty canyons, and wild western rivers that define and haunt her. Honest in her assessment of the psychological costs of a gypsy life, artful in her understanding of currents and seasons, Lawton depicts the rivers taking away as well as giving . . . " — David James Duncan, author, The River Why and My Story as Told by Water

"Reading Water is both mirror and map, a reminder that a life can take the shape of the river itself—fierce and tender, restless and serene, asking us only for our unwavering fidelity to living, moving water." — Ellen Meloy, author, Eating Stone and The Anthropology of Turquoise

Rebecca Lawton begins this literary float trip: "My first view of the river looked like this—a long, blue being at the bottom of a steep canyon." Jump in the raft and join this "whitewater gypsy" and naturalist as she rows you down some of the American West's greatest rivers. With her, you'll come to understand rivers and their impact on the human emotional landscape in a deeper sense. Reading Water offers seekers not only thrill rides on whitewater, but also sees rivers as rich ecosystems and emotional wellsprings. Lawton views water through various lenses: the hydrological, spiritual, and personal. Even armchair river runners will find much to love about this book—its affection, adventure, wisdom, and sense of place.

"Rebecca Lawton doesn't just read water, she understands it, speaks it, lives it, and loves it. The finely crafted chapters in Reading Water reflect the wisdom and sharply tuned senses that a life spent on the water can nurture. Lawton's book examines everything from the loss of her mother to marriage, friendship, and work through a shimmering, water lens that reveals remarkable depth." — Pamela Michael, cofounder of River of Words and The Gift of Rivers

You've read about famed explorers and early boatmen whose legendary strength fills book after book. Now dive into this classic about an early woman river guide whose love of reading water and quest for understanding the underlying science took her all over the West.

For those who have navigated America's great rivers by boat—and for those who wish they could—this book shares deep knowledge from a writer who not only guided on rivers in the 1970s and 80s but also trained and worked as a fluvial geologist.

As Lawton writes, "The river taught me instinctive responses in an unparalleled mentorship that led me throughout the American West every day for more than a decade. Being on the river taught me to read water—to psyche out where rocks hid in riffles, find safe passage in inscrutable rapids, and keep moving in flatwater sections."

Living in the river community, allying with water, Lawton became part of an enduring subculture of people changed forever by rivers. Twenty years after this book's first publication, the insights learned from dedicated river guides and from Lawton's own observations of flow and currents are more timely than ever.

Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life

Book Cover: Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life

The Law of Attraction for writers. This open-hearted guide by authors Jordan Rosenfeld and Rebecca Lawton is a must-read for writers or anyone who wants to live the creative life.

Equal parts writer's workshop and spiritual journey, this open-hearted guide will show you how to attain and sustain creativity as you work and play. Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life provides a wealth of inspiration and activities for writers, creative souls, and others who want to achieve the life of their dreams.


Discover Nature in the Rocks: Things to Know and Things to Do

Book Cover: Discover Nature in the Rocks: Things to Know and Things to Do

A friendly, knowledge-packed introduction to the hands-on study of rocks and the earth. Perfect for geology enthusiasts of all ages. Combines dozens of simple, safe activities with detailed illustrations and informative text.

From the back cover: "Geology explores why the earth looks and behaves the way it does, from the organized shapes of crystals to the ever-changing shapes of continents. Careful observation can reveal countless clues to a rock's history: How was the rock formed? What is its composition? Have wind, water, and gravity altered its appearance? Discover Nature in the Rocks introduces you to this fascinating world through directed observations and hands-on activities that lead you to your own exciting discoveries."

"According to education experts and other savants of sometimes doubtful motive, most Americans' grasp of basic science principles is abysmally shaky. But now, with this user-friendly introduction, help is available for understanding at least the science of geology. As the subtitle implies, the book is loaded with facts and projects. The writing is informative, tidy, engaging, and greatly augmented by the copious illustrations. The projects (the likes of "Measuring Longshore Currents" and "Understanding Isostasy") are simple, meaningful, and excellent for undertaking with children. Perfect for families, the book is also entertaining and useful for adults without children who are interested in painlessly learning some new or brushing up on their old geological knowledge" – Mike Tribby, Booklist reviewer for Discover Nature series


Sacrament: Homage to a River

The soul of California's largest river.

''Geoff Fricker shows us the Sacramento River in a way that nobody has ever done, and Rebecca Lawton eloquently urges us to take a view that is at once practical and reverent. The great river of California is honored by this fine book.''
– Tim Palmer, author of Rivers of California

In Sacrament: Homage to a River, danger and beauty stand opposite each other in stark relief. Geoff Fricker's atmospheric photographs reveal the geology, salmon runs, fluvial morphology, and human impact of the Sacramento River. In dreamlike black-and-white images, the river shows itself as both mythic and ruined, in its wild eco-systems as well as human-made influences. Rebecca Lawton's prose highlights both the transformative nature of the river and the issues that change it—and us—forever.

''The eloquence and beauty of Sacrament in describing civilization's gains, the Sac's losses, and the natural values of the remnant waterscape provide a welcome reflection upon, and counterweight to, the philosophy of 'more'.'' – Bob Center, former Executive Director, Friends of the River

Each page is an expression of the fascinating, beloved, and beleaguered ''Sac.'' Sacrament is both an emotive exhibition of the wonder of California's largest waterway and a cautionary tale of how to save the river, and us, from more degradation.


What I Never Told You: Stories

Book Cover: What I Never Told You: Stories


In these stories, writes award-winning author Andrew X. Pham, "Lawton's fluid prose flows like her beloved river . . . the surreal depth becomes within reach. Simply one of the best collections I’ve read in years." — ANDREW X. PHAM, author, Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars and Catfish and Mandala


Published in 2014 as Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water by Little Curlew Press (2014), What I Never Told You: Stories has been revised and updated collection by former Grand Canyon river guide Rebecca Lawton.


As Roger Real Drouin, publisher of Little Curlew Press and author of No Other Way wrote about this collection: "Rivers, oceans, and ephemeral washes are not just settings in Lawton's stories, they’re vessels for transformation . . . [This] is an unforgettable journey on our most beloved element in all its liquid beauty, strength, and potential for violence. Lawton knows water from the inside out, having guided on it, swum and sailed and rowed and paddled it, and written about it from her unique perspective for decades."


“Lawton’s beautifully rendered and accessible stories make you want to move quickly from beginning to end, but I urge you—savor the journey. Breathe in the spirit of each new place.” — PAGE LAMBERT, author, In Search of Kinship and Shifting Stars


"A powerful collection of stories about connections to the wild and necessary land, rivers, and creatures around us. But as part of the wondrous and fragile web made possible by water, it is also a beautiful meditation on the human heart and our essential connections to each other." — Julian Hoffman, author of The Small Heart of Things


"Lawton enchants the reader with emotional honesty and an intensity that infuses her stories with the beauty of the natural world." — B.C. Rimbeaux, best-selling author, adventurer, and whitewater guide