Hi there everyone.
Welcome to your regular dose of Monday fun. I’ve kept the seat warm just for you, glad you could come, have yourself a drink and we can let the good times commence!
Just a quick note before the fun and games start – I link to a lot of other articles in my posts, so WordPress users please check your Spam folders in your Setting Menus and approve any links/pingbacks that you find from me to improve the visibility of your own blog posts, as well as mine, it’s a win win for us both 😉
So, for the Author Interview to kick off all Author Interviews this week, may I introduce to you writer extraordinaire Virginia Arthur, as she chats about her experiences as an conservationist and novelist, along with sharing her own unique passions and writing tips.
Thanks for reading and have a great evening.
Hi there Virginia, a very warm welcome to you, thank you for stopping by to talk us about your wonderful forays into the world of novel writing.
Let’s start with your books themselves – “Birdbrain” and “Phat(‘s) Chance for Buddha in Houston: (Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)”. Both of these titles sound eclectic, engaging and a hell of a lot of fun! Please tell us more about their premises, their genres/themes and what ultimately inspired you to write them in the first place.
Thank you for this interview David. Just remember you asked for it. HA!
I agree with your description though Birdbrain is intense at times. My fiction takes on questions of existence, earth ecology, the state of human evolution, they both have political elements, especially Birdbrain, and yes, the thread that runs through all this intensity is my kind of wacky humor. The wackiness, well maybe this is actually the sane part of the plot…because at some point, you have to laugh.
One of my reviewers mentioned my fiction as an emotional roller coaster…I like this analogy for my fiction because a roller coaster is a ride. You get on it to have fun but also to be a little scared, a little worried, experience the unknown…hopefully when you get off, you’re laughing and not puking your guts out. (As far as I know, nobody has puked their guts out after a ride on my literary roller coasters. I hope not!). It isn’t that I want to traumatize my readers, of course not. If so, I would write horror (but who needs horror when you have the real world!). I want my writing to provide an antidote, if you will, to the horror of life because I do feel there is something brutal about being alive. Maybe it’s the scientist in me but I am one of those people that lies awake at night wondering where it all came from, this teeny planet, the universe. If love is the answer, what’s the problem then? What if love isn’t the answer? Confounding, all of it. Then I struggle with why do I lie awake at night and wonder about these things? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just let it be that humans are not omnipotent, we cannot and will never know– and go to sleep, damn it!
Just this week, I put another dog down, the second in four years. My fiancee dropped dead the day after we decided to get married. My house burned down that same year. A year after that, my mom died… they’re all side swipes, you see. Yes, I cause my own problems, we all do just by virtue of being human (like who put the damn fan in the middle of the hallway? Uhm…) but my entire life, I have been side-swiped, including literally! I was once side-swiped by a Columbus, Ohio city bus! I constantly struggle with what it means to mind your own business, try to be a good person, and shit still reigns down on your head (again, in my case, literally as in ash from my house and yes, I have even been caught in a volcano in Anchorage, so see how nutty it is? Who do you know that has to put “literally and figuratively” behind most of what they say?)
This morning I woke up to the incredible pain of missing my dog–the latest side-swipe. I took him in yesterday because he seemed fatigued. It was metastasizing cancer. He was put down–just like the dog he replaced that got cancer…Then there is the cat…I almost have to laugh because it’s kind of insane and/or is making me kind of insane–all the loss. (In Birdbrain, there is a part where Ellowyn asks Eldon to check if she has an “X” on her head…like I said, the novel is semi-autobiographical).
My life is like a bad country song that would go something like:-
“Baby, baby, been hit by a bus, house burned down in a fire, my mama and papa died, no, I ain’t no liar. My lover dropped dead, got ash in my eyes, volcano welled up, yeah, that’s what I said. I have to go ’cause I gotta’ walk. My car just died so I can’t talk. Gotta’ go to the vet to pick up my dog, cause he just died of cancer, will be quite a slog. You wake in the morning, with hope in your heart even though it’s damn hard to not fall apart.”
Something like that. People that have known me for years don’t ask me how I am anymore. Maybe the response from a guy I worked with in Alaska sums it all up – “You’re still alive?” On the upside, I have been blessed with good health…I’m just nuts with grief and loss and it’s not over yet.
As I said, Birdbrain is semi-autobiographical. It started out as journal entries of my sometimes crazy field experiences. Also, the pain of doing surveys in natural places I knew were going to be destroyed. It morphed into my accidental monster. Spalding Gray wrote about finishing his “monster” and I am so glad I finished mine FIRST. It includes so much for me, personally, emotionally, so talking about the “premise” of an accidental novel, do I get more than one? Ha.
The main premise of Birdbrain is the concept that there is the “environment” that some people care about. Society calls these people “environmentalists”. The ‘rest of us’ don’t have to know all that much about “the environment” or care. The best analogy of this I can offer is when I worked in a nature-themed gift shop, not to be confused with a nature-based gift shop meaning nearly everything in this nature-themed gift shop was from China–and a woman walked into the shop and told me her husband loves frogs and did we have any cards with frogs on them. We did. As I was showing them to her, I also asked her if she knew that frogs, amphibians in general were going extinct globally and one could conceive of a time when the entire taxa would no longer exist. She waved her hand at me and said, “I don’t really care about all that. I just want a card with frogs on it.” This blew my mind (and actually, the owner of this store asked me to tone down all the “environmental stuff”–I might be annoying the customers…in a “nature” store). I spend a lot of time thinking about this–you like frogs on cards and shirts but don’t care if they go extinct. What IS this? Truly, help me. I addressed this in a column published in the Sacramento News and Review–that there are those that like nature, the idea of nature, but don’t really care if it exists in any wild form. Perhaps the human primate has created an existence so far removed from “nature”, people actually have no idea the role that “nature” plays in their lives even as they turn their facets on every day, or eat the strawberries they bought at the store. Then again, does the extinction of the entire amphibian taxon affect people in any direct way? Does it matter they are all going extinct, because of us?
The over-riding factor I feel that influences the behavior of the human primate is our relatively short life spans. While one could argue a deer is certainly aware of its death in the moment it is running away from a mountain lion, only the human primate is aware of its death even second of its life. Our awareness of death frames every second of our existence, subconsciously, consciously–so why would a 40-something woman living a western existence care if frogs are going extinct globally? I mean, what has a frog done for you lately? This was her attitude. One thought experiment I played with my students when I was a struggling, starving “adjunct professor” of ecology is imagine if the average human primate lifespan was 200 years instead of 70. How would that change things on our planet?
My current fascination is the evolution of arrogance in the human primate that I feel is going to be our downfall. Of course, I am not the first one to purport this.
To get back to the main premise of Birdbrain–it is about this duality. As an ecologist and conservationist, I care deeply about frogs going extinct but the woman who wanted the card could care less. It is this duality I can’t wrap my head around: those that care about the so-called “environment” and those that don’t; the people that do are labeled, cleaved out of the mainstream, chastised or worshiped, the point being, they are DIFFERENT, you are DIFFERENT if you care about the planet, almost as if there is something wrong with you. As Ellie develops more awareness of nature, gets into her birding, follows her passion into college, she is alienated more and more from friends and family. They make fun of her, of course call her an “environmentalist”. I won’t spoil the ending only to say the remainder of her life is being shoved off to the edges of society because she cares about something beyond her own lifespan, beyond her own selfish interests. Other human primates just don’t get this. There is obviously “something wrong” with her. I did and still do experience this as do other “environmentalists” I know; and I really hate that term. What does it even mean? Anyone living on earth is an “environmentalist”. Every human being alive right now, even Donald Trump, knows on some level, we ALL need a habitable planet. We all need potable water. We all need fertile soil. We all need normal CO2 levels…the human race could stop driving tomorrow, just stop driving, and possibly save our planet from catastrophic climate change but we DON’T. Why not? Instead, we decide to look into inhabiting other planets, a stunning proposal that could cost trillions…This is idiotic in the face that we COULD be doing something about climate change, right now, today, on our own planet. It’s a lot more cost effective than building space elevators! How intelligent is the current version of the human primate? I’m sorry, not very. If we knew we would individually still be around to see the consequences of our arrogance, we would be taking action but even climate change scientists I know make the statement, “by the time it gets really bad, I’ll be dead anyway”, some with KIDS! (Do we care about future generations, really?). Dealing with climate change could be very inconvenient to the insatiable monster that needs to be fed all the time–capitalism. Naomi Klein covers this in her book This Changes Everything. Definitely worth the read.
Phat(‘s) Chance for Buddha in Houston (Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)–not really sure where it came from. It wrote me. I had no intention to write another novel so soon after Birdbrain and you’re not ‘supposed’ to anyway according to the “book people”. As many fiction authors have said about their characters, it’s as if Uncle Phat and Galen took over my life and forced me to write their story–I was their ghost writer! Ha. It started as a dream then when I woke up, I wrote it down and it just went from there. The story is men’s fiction–is that even a genre(?)–and juxtaposes Uncle Phat, who times his mid-life crisis with breaking away, to Galen, breaking-in to adulthood, entering puberty. They’re both going through intense changes but in opposite directions you might say. Both are considered “misfits”…they’re smart, sensitive, aware, wise–THEY’RE the misfits, you see, not the rest of the family, the cousins Who is really “normal” in this story? Of course, it gets wacky. This is where I have the most fun. I want to take the reader on a ride (in this case, it’s in a 1970 Electra 225 convertible) that in the end was more fun than it was scary…It’s a blast to write roller coaster fiction! (Was it Hunter S. Thompson who made the claim most fiction writers are nuts anyway?)
Interwoven throughout my stories, either as a theme, or subtext, is accurate earth ecology, be it a description of blooming chaparral scrub, or bougainvillea in the back yard. We are IN nature all the time and in keeping with the self-absorption of the human primate, most authors leave it out. You can read a great love story but where did it take place? What were the plants? Were there mountains? Was it near the ocean? Did they ever walk at dusk? What birds were calling? How did the (real, existing–not made up) geography, topography, ecology affect their interactions, because it does.
For example, in one scene, Uncle Phat and Galen are sitting on a dead log of course lost in more ways than one. Uncle Phat notices a beautiful orange-flowered milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa or orange butterfly milkweed that really grows in the region where the story is set). It is just a stunning native wildflower used by monarch butterflies, in addition to many other insects, birds. Uncle Phat shows it to Galen. They both look at it, admire it. When they get to Louisiana, there are bald cypress and Galen and Uncle Phat want to know what they are. These things happen every day in our lives–we notice that tree, that butterfly, that spider, that cloud–all human primates exist within an certain ecological context, a real one. What is it? Why is it being left out?
Both books are eco-fiction though Birdbrain is entirely within this genre. There is currently some debate going on regarding what eco-fiction is–some people include science fiction and science fiction dystopia in the category= made up stuff. I guess it’s easier to just make it up. You don’t have to do any research, learn anything; but it’s called ECO-fiction from the word ecology. As a genre, I feel eco-fiction should be based only on earth’s real ecology. After all, science fiction already has it’s own massive genre. What does fiction that integrates earth’s ecology have? I also want to acknowledge Mary Woodbury who maintains an eco-fiction site with wide sideboards on her definition; she calls what I advocate for, “Earth Fiction” UNDER Eco-fiction. I like it but still don’t think science fiction should be grouped into Eco-fiction. The debate continues.
You have been an ecologist and environmentalist for a number of years. What simple and effective tips can you recommend for us to apply to our own lives to make an impact in our own towns/cities/villages.
This gets to my first point that “the environmentalists” are “fighting” to keep our water clean, thank God so I, a “non-environmentalist” can go shopping–the duality. It is in fact this duality, in large part thanks to the mainstream media, that may lead to the human primate facing a catastrophic future on our planet. No, Yahoo reporter, you are also an “environmentalist” unless you don’t use water. You also have to participate and care for the health of YOUR planet even as you put a “story” about Kim Kardashian’s bathing suit next to one about planetary death. (To me this says it all).
“Simple and effective tips” makes me bristle.What does that even mean? Positive systemic change doesn’t come down to “simple and effective tips”. Look at our government right now.
I split activism into two kinds: recreational and courage or risk-based activism. Recreational doesn’t push the status quo, stays safe, often puts social interaction (pot-lucks, etc.) over change. It’s comfortable. Generally you don’t piss anybody off. Groups that only do recreational activism usually do education only. It definitely has its value but doesn’t push for change in the same way courage-based risk activism does.
Maybe we should call courage-based activism “gulp” activism because you take a big one when you undertake it–whether it’s confronting your boss about bullying, or standing on a street corner with a sign; you know you are going outside not only your comfort zone but society’s. You feel it in your gut: I may lose my job over this. Someone from work may see me on this street corner. I may end up on the Internet. Risk-based activism is extremely important and the people that engage in it are society’s heroes, as Noam Chomsky says. Most the time you don’t even know who they are because they don’t care if you know who they are–they’re pissed off by injustice and are compelled to act, hopefully peacefully. There are many examples of course, many made into movies, documentaries. The civil rights movement comes to my mind as one of the major courage-based activist movements in America, and it is still going on. It shouldn’t have to anymore but…democracy is never done. Also one element of courage-based or risk-based activism is lawsuits. Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits! Sorry but democracy is also moved forward through the courts.
I knew a woman I will call Marlene in one of the groups I was part of that was furious when the idea of a lawsuit came up, calling it “confrontational” and “ineffective”. She was new to activism insisting “positive thinking” would save a piece of land from getting destroyed. (A kind of grandiosity I see a lot. I know a woman who told me she changed the direction of Hurricane Katrina by meditating, thereby saving lives. When I asked her if she had gone down there to find out for sure…maybe to help clean up? She told me she didn’t have time).
Back to Marlene, she was in the wrong “category” of activism. Unfortunately, she left the group very angry not understanding that you can “visualize positive outcomes” as hard as you can but, sorry! That alone isn’t going to create a nature preserve. (Though it might help you cope with the challenge). I heard she is walking dogs now at the shelter which is wonderful and likely a great match for her.
Many people can’t handle risk-based activism, and I understand, believe me. I have suffered personally from engaging in risk-based activism. People from the recreational activism side sometimes criticize the courage-based activists…This is an element of my newest novel coming out (I hope in a couple months). It pits three, maybe four different generations against one another, Boomer on-down. They are initiating a public action, a campaign, there is a lot of tension. Of course, it gets wacky sooner or later!
Both types of action are needed and both are important but we need the courage-based activists because they are the ones that do the ‘ugly work’–go to the public hearings, write columns/letters to the editor, meet with their legislators, stand on street corners.
They put their name out there. They stand up, get counted. You could opt out to just stay comfortable…go shopping. Instead you put your neck out, for yourself, yes, but for others, future generations. They take on all the sacrifices required maybe with their job, their friends–it’s remarkable when you really think about it. I was greatly inspired by Tim DeChristoper’s action in 2008 to subvert the illegal sale of our public lands for which he went to prison, an extreme sacrifice, and, well, a ridiculous penalty. Risk activists form the bulwark of our democracy. They are important and should be supported.
But back to the “tips”…what was it? Democracy in 25 words or less?
First of all, do you even want to advocate for change? Why? Get in touch with this. If you have never done activism and are, quite frankly, a little intimidated by the idea of it, of course, start with recreational activism or volunteering with a community service group, say to put in a new dog park, or pick up litter. If this isn’t enough for you, you will figure it out. The next step up (?), unfortunately, is political action, definitely NOT fun all the time, not fun to watch…like what Otto Von Bismark said, politics and making sausage…Some cannot stomach it. Understood.
No matter what type of activism you choose, if you work within a group of humans, know there will be infighting, disagreements, all part of a healthy process. Unfortunately, as soon as this happens, and it will, groups may self-sabotage–cut the “difficult” people out (often deemed “radical” though in my experience, they rarely are) or the group will fall apart, little subsections will break off, form NEW groups…and it will start over again. The disagreements are a sign of growth, evolution, action. My experience is most groups do not see it like this. They have a completely unrealistic model of how everyone should work together, this model in fact leading to the disintegration of the group. Groups that integrate disagreement into their operation, learn from it, welcome it, well, they can truly change the world. They are rare.
There are different levels, Local, State, Federal–but they all interact. A local issue may need money from a federal agency. A city may be cited by a state resource agency for non-compliance, say of water quality standards. All the layers are like ecology–they all interact with one another.
As my readers know, one issue very dear to my (OUR) heart(s) is our American public lands. We MUST keep an eye on them, all the time. What are the public lands closest to you? How are they being managed? Are any being sold off? There is much to do around this issue.
Despite speaking in front of groups from time to time, helping them out when I can, I choose to work almost entirely on my own at this point, writing my letters, making phone calls, going to hearings, plodding on but also taking the time to go PLAY in the wild lands I love. I leave you with the wise words of Mr. Abbey:
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
(Just a small point, we’re not outliving the bastards).
If either of your novels were to be made into films (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
This assumes I have my finger on the pulse of contemporary society, know who all the current movie stars are. I don’t. I have my eye on the weather report most of the time so I can take off exploring. I’m open to suggestions. I would love to see either novel made into a movie, etc., if done well. I guess any author would.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
Being sedentary for hours at a time. My body doesn’t like this. My shoulders ache, my neck hurts. I feel like shit. The science bears out we are not supposed to sit for hours. This is a case of my body submitting wholly to my brain because once I start writing, it streams, sometimes gushes, and I have to collect those literary molecules while they’re flowing. After writing, I usually do something physical like walk the dogs, go for a run, bike ride, a swim in a nearby river or lake, stretch. Get OUT. You have to for your body AND your mind.
Who are some of the authors and historical figures that inspire you?
This would be a long list. Rachel Carson is number one. From there, if I think about my evolution as an activist, biologist, woman, human, James Watt, the first Secretary of the Department of the Interior to basically set out to gut our national lands. This got me going! It was the early ’80’s. I was in college then, entering graduate school to get my M.S. in botany/ecology. The things he was doing were appalling…ha, little did I know this was just the beginning…Of course Carlos Castenda. Here I am in my day-glo pink “girls” bedroom in a giant Ohio mega subdivision around which I have watched everything get bulldozed out of existence, reading about these incredible mysterious walks, rituals in the desert, psycho-actives…I remember setting out on my own shamanic walking journeys and running into fences, dogs, my neighbors sitting in their driveways drinking beer, “Ginny? What are you doing out at 3 a.m.?” Just didn’t have the same effect. His books did help me realize there was another world outside of this suburban box, a wild, mysterious world. I just needed to get away from the box, and I did, believe me. I headed west and had some wild times. (I have been in California now longer than anywhere else).
Ed Abbey, of course which created a problem for my parents who observed I seemed to lapse into extremely bad moods when reading him capped by my taking off “to walk the land” (no driver’s license yet), “the land” stuffed full of new houses and shopping malls which only made my mood worse. As the development closed in, I was getting more claustrophic. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my dad, who was always reading a book. We were both reading. I was maybe 12, 13, you know, just a lovely age for parents anyway. I was reading Desert Solitaire and started talking/ranting to the book. My dad looked up and basically asked me to hand it over. “Let me see it.” He rolled it to each side, flipped through it, then scowling, handed it back to me. From then on, I read Abbey in secret.
Pam Houston’s (Cowboy’s Are My Weakness), at the time, I was dating one in Wyoming. Since I also lived in Alaska for about five years, it seemed like we were living parallel lives. Kurt Vonnegut. Wallace Stegner. The poetry of Theodore Roethke (can you tell when I grew up?). The music of Carol King, James Taylor, John Denver (yes, John Denver), and Dan Fogelberg. Gosh, there are so many more. I can’t list them all. Would take too long. I could write A BOOK! Ha.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
Ecological, historical, meteorological, musical, geographic (road maps) among other types. Whatever I want to know to build the story, really.
What is the dominant natural vegetation where my story takes place? What are the rare plants? What’s the weather like? What are some unique habitat types in the region I might be able to weave into the story? I did a lot of research for Phat’s Chance including going back and reading newspapers from 1990 for the cities in my story (Cape Girardeau, MO, Shreveport, LA, Houston, TX). Fascinating and so much fodder for a writer! TONS of fodder, ideas, and it’s all based on what actually happened, what was going on at that time. (Who needs to make it all up? The Internet makes this so easy now too).
A tornado is a major element of Phat’s Chance, based on the real weather in Barton, Arkansas, where this part of the story is set. Birdbrain and Phat’s also include references to the music of the time. I was strongly influenced by the music of my youth–the best ever produced in the history of time until, according to Uncle Phat, 1990 that, in his opinion, marked the end of rock and roll (‘real music’) in America. Ellie’s Last Stand is set against the song The Big Country by The Talking Heads, popular at that time. This song provides the “musical framework” for this part of the story.
This is the world we live in–with plants and animals, skies and weather, music and history. This is the world I want my characters to live in, one as rich as the “real world”. Yes, it involves more work. It’s so much easier to just make it all up…but making it up isn’t as fun for me. I love building the world up around my characters, like working with clay and a palette that offers infinite shades of color.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
My house was one of thousands that burned down in the Cedar Fire in San Diego in 2003. I lost everything including a box of journals I started writing at age eight. There were at least ten full journals in that box.
I have just always written. I think I live in my head most of the time. Maybe most writers do. I am always thinking–of a short story, my next novel, a research project I want to do, why is there a dead scrub jay in my yard, did that spider go back down the drain so when I turn the water on, it will drown? I also think about comedy, humor, sometimes laughing out loud at my own ideas. Isn’t this pathetic. This all comes out as words. I guess it would have to or my head would explode. I don’t really like it but I am an intellectual as were my working class parents. I do wish I could turn my mind off sometimes. It’s incessant. This is why I take my road trips, get out, hike, backpack–it frees me up. Yes, and meditation. I know how valuable it is. I do this too but find it very hard. What works best for me is a vista of some kind that wrenches me right out of myself and fills me with awe and gratitude.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
I wish. At this point, I have not experienced any blocks. I’m burying myself in ideas. What I need to take more of are Writer’s Breaks!
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Incredible question. Painful.
OK, me to younger me:
You want to do it all (still do) but don’t understand there are costs, not just financial but social. Your insatiable curiosity, impatience will cost you jobs, friends. Yes, sitting in a box inside a box all day is in some ways a terrible way to make a living but you need to think about money, make money a priority. Cancel the backpacking trip in Washington and take the damn job. You need to be more understanding and patient with your friends. They don’t have to be exactly like you, agree with you. But they are spending time with you, interested in you, reaching out to you. Turn off the judge in your head, in your heart. Be grateful. Life is hard and one day, you’re going to need people. I know you don’t think you will. You are almost too independent, but you need love like everyone else and you need to give love. Think about kindness, every single day. Think about kindness in yourself that can only be manifested by performing acts of…from which you will derive gratitude. Kindness in all its forms is a manifestation of the Grace of God and believe me, you are going to need the Grace of God. Some shit’s going to go down that will make your life very hard. Prepare.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
Reading, moving, be it working in my house (that now needs a new roof-ugh), caring for my little one acre piece of land in the oak woodland, walking the dog (was plural as of a few days ago, sigh), running–road trips. I spend a lot of time looking at maps, planning trips, many of which I will likely never get to. I don’t take my own advice as you see from above.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
Yes. I am doing the final touches on my third novel due out in a month or so I hope. I have a lot of ideas as I mentioned above but plan on taking a few month break after Novel 3. Once I am refreshed, have the energy, will likely finish my book of short stories. I have a couple more fiction books in mind, a couple non-fiction, and am writing articles. I am feeling hyper-productive and I don’t think this is necessarily good. I am not sure why but I feel like after Novel 3, I can relax a bit more though how I stem the ideas streaming through my mind–not sure. I know they will keep coming. Guess this means another road trip! Darn it!
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
I started out going to writer’s groups, critique groups. I don’t go to these groups anymore. Not that I don’t want feedback on my writing but writing is such an intensely personal experience. I didn’t really like the emotional exposure–of reading something very dear to me then having someone say something, insensitive, mean. When a couple very religious people in the group made a derogatory statement about Ellowyn, my main character in Birdbrain, her moral character, I realized there was something else going on with them—it didn’t have much to do with my writing. I also found myself thinking, “It’s really none of your business, what I choose to write about. Why am I making something so personal everyone’s business?” I didn’t like how it felt and I didn’t feel supported.
The idea is these groups are supposed to support writers but in some cases, I watched them dump water on the spark of aspiring writers. I mean, if I am totally blunt here, Anthony Bourdain says all (professional) writers are assholes. Agreed. We are, at the root of it, competitive, so my advice is be mindful of what groups you join, if you do. Don’t let anyone belittle your creative spark. Yes, be open to changes, edits, that may improve your writing. Aside from this, protect your writing, your spark. Be careful who you expose it to. It’s precious and for many of us, all we have.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for spending time with us, it has been a pleasure to have you here to find out more about you, your books and everything in between, for many you are sure to be an inspiration, myself included 🙂
Thank you again David. I so appreciate it.
Virginia grew up in Ohio on the first street of a what would essentially become a brand new mini-city. Every piece of nature she became attached to was destroyed, her new home acting as a kind of ad-hoc wildlife rehab center. These experiences never left her, shaped her for better or worse. She went on to get two degrees in botany and field biology. She now writes and works as a conservationist.
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You can buy her books here:-
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.
Still want more? Well, Virginia’s books and activism relate to ecology and looking after the earth and if we don’t get involved then we are soiling it for future generations. For more articles on the subject of ‘Soil’ then check out the links below:-
1. Leaf and Two Buds – Uma’s life and thoughts
2. Invisible Illnesses – Daily Prompt – Fragrance plus 24 more words
3. Na’ama Yehuda – Soul of Soil
4. Oreo Frappuccino – How to Make Starbuck Style Oreo Frappuccino – Cooking with Sweta
5. SovietCola – Rich Foreign Soil
6. The Idol-maker- Part 2 – The Creative Soul
7. A love story – BONSALLES ART
8. Friday Festival: God Shows Up – RevGalBlogPals
9. From above and below – …Illusive…Road…
10. GATE-LESS – Life After Fifty
11. sonja benskin mesher – . purple, the daily post .
12. Grateful – Debbie Gravett
13. The Adventures of Indigo Manaslu (2) – The Vertepolitan
14. In Your Way – Converstions with Grandma
15. WIJ ORGANISEREN UW MEETUP !!! – Groeten uit #Tienen
16. logicaldreams – Short Story: Wriggly Soil
17. Dirt between her toes – Sarahs Crazy Mind
18. Blowjob Blues – The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo
19. The Longer Route – The other side of Snowdon: Rhyd Ddu Path
20. Nature Takes It’s Course – Wind Kisses
21. New Ideas And Inspirations – Disastrous(Soil & Edible)
22. Bloodline – Water….simply said
23. Food For Today! – This Gay Vegan
24. Dirt – Left-Overs
25. Race //3// – atrangizindagieksafar
26. My place in the Earth – Angelic Hands
27. To Savour Edibles: Stop Disastrous Soil Pollution. – Revolving Around Life
28. Unflowering future – The Chaos Within
29. Soil Haiku – TheMicroRead
30. a cooking pot and twisted tales – Trodden Soil…
31. Unleash Soil – Progressing into Solitude
32. tuckedintoacorner – wild + domesticated + soil
33. Giggles & Tales – The Daily Prompt – Soil
34. Rejoice-Rain Soil – Dance of the Soulful Words
35. The Idol-maker – The Creative Soul
36. Helzee – Growing Up
37. Walk with God – Where Have You Come From, My Son?
38. Issa Brain Monkey Brain – dark memories…..
39. Standing Room Only – Leigha Robbins
40. Soil – Sugunag’s Blog
41. Tiny Fawns – my last
42. Dead Tree – Karuchan
43. Dress the Earth – On a mission
44. Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored – All The Plans That Came Undone #amwriting
45. Under an Autumn Sky – Soil
46. The [Password] is “Password” – Rainy Night
47. The Dirt on Yemen – America For Yemen
48. IT MUST BE THE SOIL – LIGHT&SHADOWS
49. From poor soil, children in the education system. – EduMomma
50. Oil and Dirt – Bat Boy’s Revenge
51. Conversations Around the Tree – Memories of the Garden
52. Daily Post Soil – All About Writing and more
53. milan rajkumar – red hill
54. A Diary of A Single Man: This Bleeding Heart – Harlem Cafe
55. ~199 Of 365~ – ……….365 Days………..
56. a life-giving moment – Amending the Soil of My Soul
57. A trail of dirt and other messes we leave behind – s e n t i m e n t i a
58. Soil–Daily Prompt – Fearless
59. sarahscapes – soil
60. Sluit je aan met Theo Herbots bij Antwerp WordPress Meetup //Join Theo Herbots at Antwerp WordPress Meetup – Groeten uit #Tienen
61. From Earth to Paint to Self-Expression: Thoughts on the History of Color – Jacki Kellum
62. Rewild The Earth and Start Again – a nomad in cyberspace
63. Swell Time – Cybersoil and the Space Force
64. GOD’S CHAIR – Heart’s Soil
65. Exploring Borgund, Husum and Laerdal – The Hockey Mom Fit Life
66. What’s in a Name? – The golden years revisited
67. The Miracles of Bayeux – Journeys of Len
68. Watch That Thought! – Dream Desire Achieve
69. Afterwards – Soil – An Armitage Tangent – Daily Prompt
70. Universal Vegetation – The Abject Muse
71. See What I Mean? – TyroCharm
72. Comestibles – MAG Stories
73. Piper’s Adventures – Preservation of the Land
74. thejasminegate – Osiris rising
75. Healthy Home, Happy Soil – Way of the Wise
76. What is your answer? – The Moving Finger Writes
77. Verwelkoming Nieuwe Auteur Albert Gijsens // Welcome New Author Albert Gijsens – Groeten uit #Tienen
78. Keep on toiling :Soil – Tachispeaks
79. The Wanders of Travel’s Transport… – Nomadchasingwaterfalls
80. Jupiter Vibez – Soil & TLC
81. The Romantic Quill – #AuthorToolbox 04: the art of landscaping in fiction writing
82. Learning the difference between RACK and BORK the hard way – Minxin’ It Up
83. Feeling Drained? 21 Ways To Recharge… – Success Strategies
84. Little Hearts – Wings Of Poetry
85. Ad Punctum – SOIL: Of Poop and Poverty
86. Thoughts of Words – Good Day
87. Scott Andrew Bailey – Bluebell Path
88. Success Inspirers World – Never soil your hands
89. Bluebell Path – thehouseofbailey
90. The Consulting Writer – Halfwit Horticulturist: “Till” The Soil Improves
91. lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Dakota Dirt
92. slideaways – Terroir
93. Soil – Sharing God’s Story
94. Daily Consolation – Monkebus
95. Pretty For A Big Girl? #SoiledWords – LiteYourSoul
96. Azalea Frost – 19. Concern
97. Made of Clay.. – Life After Fifty
98. Tend to Creativity – thepathtocreativity
99. Exploring the World around us – Soil
100. Mainline_Matter – Frozen Soil
101. What’s up with soil – multiplemyelomaandme
102. Symbolic U & I – Ambitions as a Writer
103. Ending My Today – a moment teller’s
104. Saving The Earth…One Step At a Time. – kindergartenknowledge.com
105. Crazy Sunshine – Soil
106. Grasp It and Grow – Twenty Two Leaf Clover
107. Beyond the Surface: Looking Deeply into Myself – Adventures of a Busy Mom
108. Writing with Spirit – Sacred Soil
109. Die to Bloom (By: James Clark) – Adventures of a Busy Mom
110. My existential dilemma – The Mundane
111. Choked Words – Smell The Coffee
112. Muddy Paw Prints – Image & Word
113. For Much Deliberation – Soil…
114. Another Remarkable Day – Thin Layers of Life
115. Soil – Image & Word
116. Insach – Soiled Soil.
117. A Patriot’s Ode – epiphanyofsumi
118. Just Brittany Moments – What We Are Made Of
119. I Forgot Crimson Soil – E. Denise Billups, Writer
120. Musings of a Random Mind – The Wedding Night
121. Die to Bloom – James Clark — The Next Iteration
122. Smell of an old book – Writing the wrongs
123. Flowers and Breezes – Soil
124. Soil – Emovere
125. Soil – Quiver and Quill
126. The many layers of Jen – Aladdin the musical
127. Storms. – AHAmoments
128. Unfound In The Soil – LifeBlog
129. Making it write – Seed
130. I Have Pretty Strong Convictions, I Guess – Soil
131. mylocalweb – the mortal
132. Language Lesson – This, That, and The Other
133. What On Earth – A Unique Title For Me
134. Curious Hart – A Bit of Earth
135. Soil – The Inkwell
136. Soil – Project21Words
137. Vivid Tales – Journey of Mortals
138. I Stand Strong – Free Verse – Urban Poetry By Linda J. Wolff
139. Bury the Seeds of Life – travel387
140. Charmed Chaos – The Doll
141. The Wonder of Yarrow House – Grand
142. A Diary of A Single Man: A Father’s Day After Thought – Harlem Cafe
143. burying the dead – Matt’s thoughts on…
144. juantetcts – Daily Post
145. SPOILS OF TIME – IDLE BRAIN
146. A Diary of A Single Man: Heavens Peak – Harlem Cafe
147. Arise, O Daughter – Don’t Hold Back
148. Dishing the Dirt – Resting Bitch Personality
149. Earth first – Wells Baum
150. Caught Between Seasons, a poem – Sumyanna Writes
151. Life On The Skinny Branches – Glory Daze
152. Summer Snippets…Soil, Part 2 – hot plate kate
153. SERENDIPITY – THE SOIL, GROWTH OF AND OTHERWISE
154. Copy – Journey
155. Midnight Calico Farm – Using What You Have
156. Piper’s Adventures – Beautiful Soil Meditation
157. Martha L Shaw – DIRTY FEET-SMELLY FRIENDS-JESUS’ CHOICES?
158. Little White Sundress – stoneronarollercoaster
159. Success Inspirers World – To get a good harvest…
160. The Tomb of the First Emperor – Don’t hold your breath
161. The love of gardening persists – Bird Flight
162. Flip Flops Every day – Motel Hell
163. Notes to Women – The Good Soil
164. Delayed Gratification – hot plate kate
165. fromthedarkwood – Don’t Soil Your Frock, Doc!
166. Funereal vegetables…… ⋆ Obsolete Childhood
167. Brothers In Arms – Sketches By Nitesh
168. The Caretaker – caffeinetoyourdecaf
169. Soil – wordsareallihavesite
170. Native Soil – emotionsoflife2016
171. The time has come, she said… – missy miller
172. parallax – Soil
173. Telling the Truth – rising and falling
174. A Horizon Away – December Rose
175. Chicken Masala – Cooking with Sweta
176. Ashes to Ashes – CD-W, Author Flawed to Perfection
177. Charron’s Chatter – Garden Variety Haiku
178. This Janus faced soil – The Diary of a Weird Teen Boy
179. Fertile Soil – Around the World
180. Weeds in Munnar – Don’t hold your breath
181. The Cat Chronicles – Feline soil
182. Groundwork – Full-Time
183. This Is a Real Miracle – I’m a Writer, Yes, I Am!
184. The little boy in Usenge – Beka’s journal
185. Bath time? – Bad Dad Cartoons 101
186. Family is forever… – Mum’s the Word Blog
187. Covert Novelist – Soil
188. Sobriety – surrealspectre
189. Rebirth – Haiku – The Diary of a Weird Teen Boy
190. schreibreise – Premium auf Wanderwegen unterwegs
191. Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss – Soil becomes a building problem
192. MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO – Soil
193. Blissful Lesson: Stronger Than You Think – Blissfully Bianca
194. Hitting the Trifecta – This shiplap is killing me.
195. Wandering Worlds – A Spark Of Ember And Candlelight
196. Scrambled, Not Fried – Even So, Even Now
197. Xtinct Films – Journey to divorce
198. Soil/1 haiku – 25more
199. GUILTY – IDLE BRAIN
200. RoughHewnDiamond – Hiking barefoot. A moment in time.
201. Today’s world – The Diary of a Weird Teen Boy
202. Issa Brain Monkey Brain – Feeling blessed and …..
203. Brainless Barbarism! – stoneronarollercoaster
204. Tilling the Soil – aroused
205. Auburn circle – MY VALIANT SOUL
206. poor haiku – Soil to Dust
207. Clean Dirt – Just Writing!
208. A Love Story – Yuvi’s Buzz
209. Dronstad – The Konian march
210. Designer Sophisticate – Let it grow.
211. the15thday – song scoring system involving pegs…
212. I figured out where hid my true happiness.. Part 1. – Dramatisch Gemini
213. Stuck in between – The Diary of a Weird Teen Boy
214. Tanka: Heart Window – whippetwisdom.com
215. Relax – Halved Popsicle Days
216. This Moment – Breath Collaboration
217. ….on pets and prisoners….. – daily prompt: soil
218. Boringbug – Creating a smart logo
219. This Moment – Those Prickly Feathers
220. MARGINALIZED – IDLE BRAIN
221. Live life; make meaning. – Work Hard
222. Your Fight – Haiku Abound
223. Hot White Snow – Soil-ain’t Green
224. The First Big Thing (A very short play) – The Jittery Goat
225. Soil of the Soul – Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman!
226. A Garden of Oppurtunity, Despair and hope. – Individual expressions of a naive mind.
227. I wrote a book. Now what? – Whether or not it matters
228. Poems and Petals – Final Bow
229. Cimmerian Sentiment – #4 Truth By Fire – (Beth & Sean)
230. The Wandering Poet – In this world
231. Frank Prem – taking possession
232. Share Your World – July 17, 2017 – The Zombies Ate My Brains
233. Soil – All About Writing and more
234. Frank Prem – from the good earth
235. In Between – By Sarah
236. Frank Prem – the solo dancer attempts an explanation
237. Science Traveler – The Art and Science of Bonsai
238. Sands Of Night – Blog of Hammad Rais
239. Summer Solstice – By Sarah