And Now for Something Completely Different

I don’t very often blog about my personal writing project(s), but the terrific nature writer Katherine Hauswirth nominated me for a “blog hop” (writers sharing about their work). So, bear with me as I answer a few questions…

What is the working title of your book (or story)?
Thrivalists: Reimagining the World in an Age of Crisis is the working title of the nonfiction book I’m currently “shopping.” It’s in research/pitching phase, and in the meantime I’ve started work on another project, as yet untitled. Also, some of my articles and essays are linked here.

Where did the idea come from for these books?
Thrivalists came about when I realized how little media attention goes to the people who are pulling together to make a major shift on our planet. I’m so inspired by the community resilience movement and all its permutations. My goal with the book is to shine a light on folks working toward greater ecological/economic/social balance. (Secondary goal and total bonus: to get to rub elbows with fun people and learn all kinds of mad skillz.)

A sister volunteer/learner at an Olympia Mycelial Network project in Washington State

A sister volunteer/learner at an Olympia Mycelial Network project in Washington State

The second project is a work of creative nonfiction exploring my 15-year recovery from fibromyalgia, culminating in emergence of my own healing abilities. Part of my inspiration came from Seven Steeples Farm, where I’m helping to grow produce right where an 1880s-era women’s mental institution once stood.

What genre do your books fall under?
Creative nonfiction, tending toward memoir on the new project. Thrivalists is closer to immersion journalism, still with an element of memoir, and the book would be shelved under Green Living/Activism.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m thinking Julianne Moore could play this Mudgirl, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten on that question!

Rose (inside wall) facilitates a Mudgirls workshop.

Rose (inside wall) facilitates a Mudgirls workshop.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Oof. Can I buy a sentence?

During a season of tending crops at Seven Steeples Farm, where the tomatoes and peas grow from ground that once held a 19th century mental institution for women, Shawndra Miller explores the turn in her own life from a 15-year bout with a debilitating mind/body ailment. While working the land she reflects on a wider societal transformation embodied by Seven Steeples, where something new is growing on the shell of the old.

Will your book(s) be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m open at this point. My book proposal for Thrivalists has been making the rounds of agents and small presses. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the process of discovery on the new project, while continuing to explore and highlight the community resilience movement.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The original Thrivalists book proposal, with a couple sample chapters, took about six months, but I keep adding to it as I travel and research, so it’s a moving target. The new one is still very young.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Thrivalists is a bit like Omnivore’s Dilemma in the way that the author’s process of research and discovery pulls the reader along. In subject matter, it’s close to Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze.

It’s hard to say on the new project since it needs more time to bake, but it might be compared to When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m inspired by Charles Eisenstein’s work, in particular The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Without a massive consciousness shift, no amount of environmental activism or social change work will alter the bottom line of a culture built on dominance, control, and fear. That’s part of what I want to explore in the new project.

Thanks to Katherine Hauswirth for tagging me with this assignment! I nominate Julie Stewart, writer-and-farmer-in-residence at Urban Plot, to do the next blog hop.

Inhaling the Universe

Andromeda Galaxy, by Cestomano, via flickr Commons

Andromeda Galaxy, by Cestomano, via flickr Commons

“What thrilled me the most was the fact that millions of meteors burn up every day as they enter our atmosphere.

As a result, Earth receives 10 tons of dust from outer space.

Not only do we take in the world with each breath, we are inhaling the universe.”

—Terry Tempest Williams, in When Women Were Birds

Finding Refuge

Some days you wake up thinking, What is the point of any of this? Why do I self-inflict all this work, all these expectations? Your writing feels stale, your tasks stretch before you like so much drudgery, your paperwork piles to the ceiling.

And you think: I will never, ever catch up. I will never move through the world without this exhaustion. I will never be able to fully focus on my writing the way I need to.

Then a note appears in your inbox from a woman you contacted months ago. You mailed her your application in slim hope of gaining entry to a selective writers’ retreat miles away. The first words in this email are “I am delighted to inform you…” You read the note again. And again.

And the whole sky can’t contain your gratitude.

By Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons

Tomales Bay, which is overlooked by Mesa Refuge from its bluff. Photo by Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons.

For two weeks in October, I will reside with two other writers at Mesa Refuge, a retreat for people exploring the intersections of nature, economics, and social equity.

It’s a precious gift—a chance to dive deep.

“The landscape of sky, marsh, and bay flowing to the sea helped concentrate my mind. I loved the quiet. I loved the wild garden overlooking the wetlands below and the hundreds of birds circling above. It is rare and wonderful to feel so quietly cared for—so completely supported and encouraged.”

—former resident Chris Desser

Some of the authors I admire most have found the solitude and focus here to create their transformative books: Michael Pollan. Terry Tempest Williams. Frances Moore Lappé. Natalie Goldberg.

These are writers whose work has changed my life. There are no words adequate to express how honored I am to gain a place in this residency program.

And what a thrill to get this tweet from an alumna today:

Already I feel renewed by a beneficent universe.

On Earth Day and Every Day

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with clasped hands that we might act with restraint, leaving room for the life that is destined to come.

We have it within our power to create merciful acts.”

— naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams

Cheselden_t36_prayer(Thanks to Orion Kriegman of Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition for bringing this quote by one of my favorite authors to my attention.)