Tag: writing

As that Season Comes Upon Us

I recently rejoined the workforce after our big move to Halifax, Covid-19, and a receding job market made job-hunting tough. I am now being paid to write, imagine that, and the job is great so far. It’s a contract job that goes until July, after 

Finn Wilder

Here it is, my favorite season, though I am not ready to let summer go–and my one and only grandchild has come into the world, brightening the first of autumn with more brilliancy! I never imagined myself a grandmother. It feels like something reserved for 

On the Writing Front

I’ve shelved Up the River for now because I feel that the 2nd part of my Wild Mountain series should come first. The 1st part, Back to the Garden, got some good reviews and is still being mentioned in academic studies and books that talk about fiction that addresses climate change. I think that a lot of fiction these days that addresses either local or planetary environments is becoming more popular overall, though I’ve read some novels that really blow me away while others just aren’t my style. It’s okay. We all have our reading appetites. My tastes are all over the board, from the weird to heartfelt family type novels. Anyway, I’ve gotten over 15,000 words on the 2nd part of Wild Mountain, The Stolen Child, and the biggest issue for me was to make some organizational changes, which I’ve now done. I’ve got the three main parts of the book started and have outlined them enough to keep  me going.

It really helps to have the support of our Rewilding Our Stories Discord, which began late last year with Lovis Geier and me, and has grown to over 70 members. We talk about everything there: the various genres and categories useful for talking about climate and ecological literature, books we read and love, characters in fiction we are inspired by or take issue with, news articles, and so on. We also run Sunday word sprints, and it is very helpful to me for those times I need to just tack down and write. The people in the Discord are very supportive. Anyone’s invited to join.

So sometimes I take on a lot of writing projects, and as I build my resume, I am volunteering quite a bit here and there. I have a piece coming out in the winter/spring magazine at Ecology Action Centre (which I’m also a copy editor of), wrote a book recommendation article at Chicago Review of Books right before Christmas, am volunteering to be social media outreach for the Climate Fiction Writers League, am running the Discord I mentioned above, and am taking part in an exciting panel this summer, which I’ll talk about soon after it’s announced. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a panel as an author (more so than as a subject matter guest). Meanwhile, I’m keeping up Dragonfly.eco and also trying to get my novel completed. I feel like this work (some of it paid, some volunteer) puts me in the position that I’ve always dreamed about, to be a voice in fiction that relates to our natural world. It’s an area I feel I want to grow old doing as a profession and a hobby.

Other writing I’m dabbling with is some nonfiction. I’ve been writing a memoir about my mother. Some of it stems from her family history as well as where she’s at now, at age 80. I have some other book ideas, too, but they would involve bigger time investments and probably working with others. One would be a nonfiction about the history and evolution of ecofiction.  Another might be an anthology of ecological weird stories. So many ideas. And now it’s getting closer to spring where I will be much busier outdoors.

Anyway, I figured I’d write a brief blog post since I haven’t written in over a month! But now, you know the drill, it’s back to working on my novel.

Two Lies, One Truth

Life sure is moseying along, folks. By the way, if you are curious about the work we’re doing in our yard, please see my ongoing series Nova Scotia Wildlife. I should probably change that to Backyard Wildlife, but it’s my intention to eventually be able 

Bird Song: A Novella

Due to our move to Halifax, which will push me offline and off the computer here and there in the next 2-3 months, and currently spending 10 hours a weekday outside of home for my “day job,” I am pushing my two novels: The Stolen 

Labels

I remember when I began high school and felt the enormous weight upon my shoulders to be an individual, a person of free reign. I wanted to belong but not belong. As most people of that age feel, I wanted to do something great with my life. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid stereotypes and labels, preferring a wide perspective of who I was. I didn’t want to be wrangled into a label, a categorization. In high school I did not use jargon, dress fashionably, style my hair to the generation, or anything. I always liked simplicity. As much as we all strive to do something wonderful in our lives, my thing has never been “look at me” and therefore I didn’t identify with clothing styles, haircuts, tattoos, or too much makeup or jewelry. By the way, I really want a tattoo now, but that’s a different story. I didn’t feel, I guess, that appearances should define or label me. But I was also young and not sure where I’d end up.

I haven’t really changed throughout the years. While classification has its place as far as defining and explaining what makes things different, I have been far more the type to try to understand also what makes things similar. I want to look beneath the skin and see what’s there. That’s why with literary genres, for instance, I tend to blur them and find subject matter that can cross genres. I look beneath labels and find words that move me. I guess for marketing reasons, it can be important to classify things, but I’m not a marketer and I’m not a librarian (well I kind of am, but while I like to organize things to make sense, I live to free my mind when it comes to actual stories). I think of writing more as a thing of art than a commodity. It is both, and I cannot deny that. But the first thought that crosses my mind when I read something terribly moving is not “Oh, this is <insert marketing genre> here.” It’s more like, “Holy fuck, that was awesome!”

I’m finding labels in this modern era often suffocating. Take “OK Boomer” as one such label or meme. Yes, as a liberal voter in North America, I get it that many folks from the baby boomer generation, those of them still alive anyway, statistically haven’t really adapted to social change very progressively. But, also, many have. I find it a demeaning stereotype to be ageist in an age that calls for not stereotyping people based upon their skin color, faith, gender, and, yes, age. Can we just break through all the jargon? Yes, I really loathe the politics of older white conservative Christians who think Trump is the second coming. I vote, speak, and fight against this. But also I believe that many older white people in our world hate Trump and are social progressives. I know too many who are. What is the purpose of lumping them with others in a derogatory manner?

With all this said, though, there are still some strong progressive language and liberties that we cannot ignore–people who’ve been oppressed who have had to come out to actively define themselves and be proud of it. I was absolutely stunned today, for instance, that Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist, was actually cropped out of a photo of otherwise white climate young people. I was seriously like WTF. I said that out loud. At work. How in the world does the Associate Press do that? What I see in today’s world is a preconceived notion (still!) that white people are like saviors. It is just so obvious it hurts.

I think I’ve simply grown weary of icons. I absolutely adore Great Thunberg, don’t get me wrong. I saw her speak in Vancouver and marched with her and thousands of others that day in the cold and wind. She’s a factual and powerful speaker, and what she is doing has made a huge difference in our world. But I can admire her while also being equally (if not more) wowed over by people like Vanessa. They are all doing great things, and some are born into more dangerous situations that makes them more courageous for speaking out. Other youth from other countries are not the Gretas of their countries. They are their own selves in their own countries. It behooves us to get to know such positive forces from everywhere in the world. Young and old!

When I first began a site that explores eco-fiction, I naively featured mostly North American and Europeans. Part of it was because of the media I could find. I was new to exploring novels on this subject, and read articles I could find online to find what was happening. It wasn’t really until a couple years into the site that I realized if I looked harder and quit reading what was beginning to feel like regurgitated articles about authors writing about climate change (for years, even now, the same mostly white authors–the same novels), for instance, I could find people all over the world raising their voices, as writers, when imagining climate change and other ecological events through fiction. I needed to break out of what media was trying to sell me and make my own literary path and statements. From the beginning, the site included authors from all over the world, but eventually I was like…”Why are the majority of these authors in media reports white? Why are so many of the stories set in locales that are highly privileged?” It was really just the media I was basing my findings on. And media in North America, as we can see by what happened with Vanessa Nakate, still tells stories of white people saving the planet. And if there are people of color featured, a lot of times it is from white perspective (i.e. American Dirt rings a bell). And those are the feeds I was getting at home. You search for “nature writing” and most of it comes from the UK or North America. You search for “climate change novel” and there’s a listing of white folks writing stories about it. I couldn’t help but believe that due to ignorance somewhere, the Vanessas have been cropped out of the literary picture too. It became a strong necessity of mine to change that. There’s literary language like Afrofuturism that people have outright ignored, even people I’ve spoken with about trying to advance ecologically based novels and ideas into a more worldly vernacular. It’s like it doesn’t stick. Why is that?

I do see the perspective in some media widening, particularly in the last couple years, but it’s not changing enough or fast enough.

I recently read an article from UC Berkely’s alumni association about author Aya de León, who said: “I think for many people of color it feels like the environmental movement is white people worrying about animals and bodies of water.” I’m thrilled I can spotlight her in a future column here, and she’s absolutely right. It makes me look closely at narratives I grew up with, and while my own family was always inclusive, the communities and world around me have not been. While I know it takes people of all colors to care about Mother Earth and become active in speaking up for our planet, it’s ridiculous to cut out people who are part of this movement based upon their skin color…or anything else. We need to give voice to all. To recognize all. To quit iconing only certain white people. To quit with the white superhero wearing a suit or a cape. On many levels, this is why Black Panther just worked so well as a movie. It opened a closed-minded perspective that’s been entrenched into the white world history. I’m a white person, but I am sick of it.

And guess who gave me these perspectives? I guess you’d call them baby boomers–my parents–who taught me things beyond the scope of the societal labels and memes I was born into. I have found beauty in difference and in similarities.

The featured image is by Andreaambia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0. The Maasai people of Kenya (top) inspired about 80% of the design of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces in Black Panther.

Author Interviews

I often interview authors about ecologically oriented novels they’ve written. I’ve also been interviewed about my own writing. When I got into doing author interviews, I really did not look around to find what types of questions to ask, as I thought the best questions 

The Deep Autumn

So many things have been happening lately that it is hard to stop and get my bearings. Our move to Halifax has been approved and will happen in the spring in late April or May. The sheer amount of things to do before then is 

Surveying

We used to do this all the time. I’m doing it now on a slow afternoon while I try to stay awake and get through a bad cold.

Who is your hero? Probably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and I hope she becomes president someday.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? West coast of Ireland. I had so many good memories there, and it feels like home.
What is your biggest fear? Death of a loved one.
What is your favorite family vacation? Definitely around Doolin, Ireland–running on trails, hitting the pubs, finding old books, hiking the Burren, etc.
What would you change about yourself if you could? I wish I could run again, but my foot has injury related issues and it’s taking forever to heal.
What really makes you angry? I find the older I get, the things I used to get angry about are just amusing now and non-issues.
What motivates you to work hard? Mostly I just like to keep busy and get things done. I find challenge in working hard and accomplishing things.
What is your favorite thing about your career? Definitely the people. I work with a great bunch of folks who are super cool.
What is your biggest complaint about your job? I can’t think of any complaints really other than I don’t like the rat race commute.
What is your proudest accomplishment? That I have never been afraid to travel to new places and try new things.
What is your child’s proudest accomplishment? One is a very talented musician, and the other is an avid outdoors person.
What is your favorite book to read? Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude
What makes you laugh the most? Usually just really goofy things.
What was the last movie you went to? What did you think? I went to see The Lighthouse. I’m a huge fan of Robert Eggers, and this movie did not disappoint. In fact, I loved it and might see it again.
What did you want to be when you were small? A forester. I really did want to work at a National Park or Forest and save trees.
What does your child want to be when he/she grows up? One wanted to be a vet, and the other wanted to be in a band.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Run the trail above the Cliffs of Moher again.
What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play? I used to ice-skate a lot, but the last time we went the rink on Grouse Mountain was melty and overcrowded.
Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car? Definitely ride a horse.
What would you sing at Karaoke night? Joni Mitchell’s Free Man in Paris.
What two radio stations do you listen to in the car the most? Mostly just CBC Radio.
Which would you rather do: wash dishes, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house? Mow the lawn.
If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work? Cleaning.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? This is a lame question. Soup I guess. Or hummus.
Who is your favorite author? I love so many authors, but my most recent favorites are Jeff VanderMeer and Evie Gaughan. Both are miles apart, which goes to show my reading is all over the place.
Have you ever had a nickname? What is it? I’ve had several, including Marzidotes and Mare.
Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not? I like good ones!
In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read? All of the above, as I’m often in the mood for different things.
Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why? Either. I’d love to visit Alaska and see a glacier before they’re gone. I have been to Hawaii a few times and spent so many hours in the ocean I might as well live in it.
Would you rather win the lottery or work at the perfect job? And why? Win the lottery; then I could invest in my own business and work the perfect job that way.
Who would you want to be stranded with on a deserted island? My husband of course.
If money was no object, what would you do all day? I’d read, write, hike, swim, be with my family more.
If you could go back in time for a day, what year would you travel to? I’d travel to 1992 when the whole family all lived in the same town and before my dad got sick.
How would your friends describe you? Silly and kind.
What are your hobbies? I like trying new things (such as surfing, running, hiking new places, rafting, etc.). I also like photography, writing, and talking with writers.
What is the best gift you have been given? My husband gave me a nice wool quilt a couple years ago and had it embroidered with a loving saying.
What is the worst gift you have received? Off hand I cannot think of any.
Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without? Some sort of caffeine.
List two pet peeves. Really I just loathe people who think they are better than others or who think they can direct others’ lives. I have bad news for them: your actions speak for themselves.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Our move to Halifax was just approved and we’re moving by May 2020, so in five years I see myself kayaking in the Halifax Harbor, having a bigger garden in our new house, and living a simpler life. I also hope my next two novels are published by then.
How many pairs of shoes do you own? I don’t know, not many. They are all old, mostly some trailrunning/hiking shoes along with my nicer shoes to wear to work or more formally.
If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have? I’d be like Groot or an ent and be able to have tree powers.
What would you do if you won the lottery? Semi-answered above, but I’d use it to start my own business. I mean, I have a business (a small press), but it’s tiny and is actually closing in 3 years. I’d like to open a used bookstore and have community events.
What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.) Well, we have an electric car, and I prefer it over the overly crowded public transportation here. Outside of that, I do like boats.
What’s your favorite zoo animal? That’s a strange question. What about a non-zoo animal? I really like dragonflies. Also wolves.
If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be? Answered this before, but I’d save my old writings. I have so many that I’d love to read again or finish. One story got lost on an antique computer when it crashed. It was very similar to Children of Men, written in the last 1990s.
If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be? My dad, my pappaw, my mammaw, and my dad’s mom (all dead now).
How many pillows do you sleep with? Just one.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep (and why)? When my dad died, I didn’t sleep for about two days. I had an overnight, very long flight from Vancouver to San Francisco to Washington DC, then to Indiana–after having been up all day. Got there in the morning and helped Mom with stuff and welcomed all the family flying in. Stayed up until really late that night.
What’s the tallest building you’ve been to the top in? The John Hancock building in Chicago.
Would you rather trade intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence? Intelligence is far more important than looks.
How often do you buy clothes? Maybe once a year. I usually just buy used clothes.
Have you ever had a secret admirer? Yes, but he was a weirdo.
What’s your favorite holiday? I really like this time of year; it’s almost Thanksgiving and then will be Christmas. I prefer warmer months, but these are times I get to celebrate most with family and friends.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? I tried surfing in big waves without ever having surfed before. When a teenager I repelled down a large cliff. I also did a rafting trip watching for grizzly bears coming upstream for salmon. I am not really a daredevil, but enjoyed these things.
What was the last thing you recorded on TV? I don’t record TV shows often. The last was probably “Lost” years ago.
What was the last book you read? Mountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene, an anthology edited by Jessica Cory. It’s a wonderful book.
What’s your favorite type of foreign food? There is no such thing as foreign food anymore. I guess of food that originated in another country, probably paella.
Are you a clean or messy person? Clean. I cannot stand dirt or clutter. On the other hand, I’m not OCD.
Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life? I love Anna Hathaway, so probably her. I think her expressions can be both tough and vulnerable, which is me to a tee.
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? Like 15 minutes. I shower, get ready, and go!
What kitchen appliance do you use every day? The fridge is always on, so I guess that.
What’s your favorite fast food chain? I don’t eat fast food.
What’s your favorite family recipe? My mammaw’s shucky beans from Appalachia. Basically, you dry out half-runner green beans in the sun until they are brown and crinkly and devoid of moisture. Rinse completely, cleaning the beans, and soak overnight in a pot full of water. In the morning, rinse beans again and pour into a big pot. Fill water to cover beans. Add a little fat or some sort (I use olive oil), salt, and some sort of pork (bacon is good). Simmer for a few hours until beans are cooked and soft. Add water if needed as it’s cooking.
Do you love or hate rollercoasters? I used to love them, but haven’t been on one for a few years.
What’s your favorite family tradition? Getting together in the South and having big meals, long walks, and nights of wine and beer and talking forever.
What is your favorite childhood memory? I guess going down South with my family and getting to see all my cousins, aunts, uncles, mammaw, and pappaw. We’d get to eat great food and climb mountains all day.
What’s your favorite movie? Fried Green Tomatoes
How old were you when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you find out? I don’t remember believing in Santa Claus. I do remember believing in the tooth fairy and was disappointed when I found out she wasn’t real.
Is your glass half full or half empty? Half full!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love? On one of my first dates with my husband I rode a camel. That’s probably not too crazy.
What three items would you take with you on a deserted island? If not people just things, then: a knife, matches, and books.
What was your favorite subject in school? Biology.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Chocolate-covered ants.
Do you collect anything? I collected rocks. My uncle is a geologist and used to give me interesting rocks, which I kept in a collection on top my dresser.
Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion? I don’t care about fashion at all. I just like simple looks.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Mostly an introvert, but I can be extroverted at times.
Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest? Hearing. I really love music and listen to it as much as possible.
Have you ever had a surprise party? (that was an actual surprise). When I moved to California as a younger adult, my coworkers gave me a big surprise party at work. It was a surprise because they had already taken me to lunch, and one of my coworkers had thrown a big party at his house. Then they had like a cake and present party for me too.
Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous? I’m distantly related to NBC News anchor John Chancellor, the writer Harold King (whose book was made into the Red Alert movie), Western writer and Pulitzer nominee Ralph W. Cotton, and the actor Ned Beatty. My dad’s cousin and her husband were both actors; he stage-managed the first Broadway musical of Hair; she was a Ziegfield girl in the movie Funny Girl and also was good friends with/played along side actor John Spencer in a movie set in Ireland, which I can’t remember the name of, but it was a long time ago.
What do you do to keep fit? Hike, walk, yoga, small weights, not eating much.
Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken? “May contain nuts”.
If you were ruler of your own country what would be the first law you would introduce? Take climate change seriously. Now.
Who was your favorite teacher in school and why? Mr. Watson, who taught Anthropology 101 at Purdue University. He was so engaging and interesting. His enthusiasm encouraged me to double-major as an undergrad. He has since died, sadly.
What three things do you think of the most each day? Being out in the woods, moving to Halifax, where my story is going.
If you had a warning label, what would yours say? “May contain nuts”
What song would you say best sums you up? Helplessly Hoping, by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee? I am not a big celebrity person at all, but I wish I could meet William B. Yeats at a pub.
Who was your first crush? The first real crush was named Mark, and we had lockers near each other, but I was so shy I never talked with him.
What’s the most interesting thing you can see out of your office or kitchen window? I can see the mountains out my kitchen window.
On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are? I don’t think I can rate how funny I am. If I do get a laugh it’s from being unintentionally funny rather than trying to be.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I put my five year plan above, which is pretty much the same.
What was your first job? Other than babysitting, I worked as a seamstress’s assistant.
If you could join any past or current music group which would you want to join? Maybe the Barenaked Ladies. They are excellent in concert and a lot of fun to watch. Their music was also inspirational on a lot of my runs in Ireland.
How many languages do you speak? I speak English and (some) Spanish.
What is your favorite family holiday tradition? My holiday decorating is light and natural. No plastics. I put out dried orange slices, a real pine in a planter, pine cones, and candles. I cut some fresh cedar boughs from the overgrown tree next to our house and put those out with candles. Once the BIG turkey dinner is done, the dishes are done, and we’ve had a bit of wine, I love going on a walk in the forest. When it gets dark, it’s time to turn on the balcony Christmas LEDs.
Who is the most intelligent person you know? My husband. He reads all the time and has almost a photographic memory. He can figure out how to make or fix almost anything.
If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be? An albatross.
What is one thing you will never do again? Probably never move back to the states. In fact, this year am working on my Canadian citizenship.
Who knows you the best? My husband.

I found these questions on singupgenious.com.

Ecocity 2019

It was with pleasure that I participated in the Ecocity Summit in Vancouver yesterday. From the site: The Ecocity World Summit is the longest-standing international Summit that addresses building cities in balance with nature. It is a biennial event involving over 1,000 delegates from around