A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele
Q: What is Earth Joy Writing?
A: It is a way of interacting with the natural world that brings about empowerment, healing, and personal change. Nature has always been a source of comfort, inspiration, and wisdom for me. I wanted to be able to share that—teach that—to others.
Q: How the book come into being?
A: I started writing Earth Joy Writing in 2008 while teaching classes in ecopoetry and ecofeminism at the University of South Carolina’s Green Quad for Sustainable Futures. I continued working on it over the next few years and presenting workshops with exercises from the book to various groups, including more than a year’s worth of monthly workshops at Saluda Shoals Park in South Carolina. The book is very much a balance of theory and practice, tested in university and community settings, and accessible to a wide audience.
One of the best experiences I had while writing the book was being in Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and a saleswoman asked me how I liked living in South Carolina. I responded, “I like it a lot. We have nature there.” She looked around, thinking, and then said, “Oh, yes, we used to have that store here, but it closed.”
I think we are feeling an increasing anxiety about the natural world, and we’re not sure what to do about it. We listen to news reports, and we can feel helpless. I wrote this book to help with our fears. I truly believe that when we begin to see nature not as a “thing” that can be bought and sold but as a living being in relationship with us, we begin to heal not only the Earth, but ourselves.
Q: How would you describe the book to readers and aspiring writers?
A: Earth Joy Writing is a new version of The Artist’s Way for the green generation. In the years since the hugely successful Artist’s Way hit the market, three important changes have occurred. First, our lives are much more interconnected on a daily basis through the Internet and social marketing networks. Second, we are highly aware of the grave dangers our environment faces. Third, we can sense a surge in a collective desire for community. This book addresses all these needs for readers—to live a harmonious and balanced life despite the vast changes happening around them, and to connect with others and the earth in meaningfully creative ways.
It is a hopeful book. It is practical. It has been tested. It leads to healing. It is not just for writers or naturalists. It is for the person who wants to live life more meaningfully.
If you’re a vegan (like us) you might find yourself frustrated at times with the current crop of “must read” novels.
Most contemporary novels make certain assumptions about contemporary life, such as what a “normal” family meal looks like, or how a “typical” vegan character should act.
For example, vegan characters are more often than not portrayed as combative, defensive, preachy or downright dangerous.
And I get it.
I’m well aware of this period of time I live in. If you want to write for the masses you’re correct in thinking that the masses are not vegetarians, let along vegans. And that normal for the masses is not normal for me.
I do get it.
But what books are vegans supposed to curl up with at night?
That’s where Ashland Creek Press fits in.
To be honest, we want books that appeal not just to vegans but to everyone. Books that are compelling, complex, and, at times, challenging.
Here’s what we offer so far, with more to come…
Among Animals: Among Animals is a collection of short stories by 15 different authors, each of which explores the human/animal relationship. This is an amazing and challenging collection.
The Green and the Red: This is quite simply a great romantic comedy. It’s a quick read that covers an expansive terrain of issues. And because it’s set in France, it’s a fascinating view of a culture that I know very little of.
The Dragon Keeper: This novel concerns a vegetarian zookeeper and the Komodo dragon in her charge. It’s both a romance and an insightful analysis of zoos and their roles as both exploiters and protectors of endangered species.
Out of Breath, The Ghost Runner, The Last Mile: Books 1, 2, and 3 of The Lithia Trilogy, this young adult series features a vegan protagonist who in search of a place to call home. And it features no other than “vegan” vampires. Yes, even vampires have the power to evolve.
Falling into Green: An eco-thriller featuring a vegan protagonist who just happens to have a crush on a carnivore TV news reporter.
The Tourist Trail: I’m plugging my own novel here, which features vegan characters who are both mainstream and heroic (and inspired by real-world animal rights activists).
I now know many people and families who live perfectly normal — and vegan — lives. What we need now are more writers to help redefine normal, or at the very least portray contemporary life as it really is.
Portland is one of our very favorite places to eat…you’ve got The Sweet Hereafter, a fantastic bar with a delicious, all-vegan pub menu and incredible custom cocktails (also check out the Bye and Bye). Blossoming Lotus is another favorite, with its amazing menu and happy hour.
Recently, we visited Portobello Vegan Trattoria, which we’ve wanted to try for ages.
This all-vegan, Italian-inspired restaurant is so popular that when it opened at 5:30, there was already a line of diners hoping to get in without reservations (reservations are highly recommended!).
We began with the the special recommended by our server: fried asparagus (it sounded weird to us, too, at first). Yet the asparagus was fresh, fried to perfection, and came with a lovely tarter sauce.
We also sampled one of the pizzas, the Arugula Walnut Pesto Pie, which had a light, crisp crust and a savory sauce.
And we had the ravioli, made with cashew cheese and smothered in a spicy tomato sauce — this one was our favorite.
Portobello has a nice wine list and a full bar, including specialty cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails (one of which supports the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society).
This gem is a must for vegans in Portland! Portobello’s dinner menu has so many more options; we look forward to returning. And since we didn’t save room for dessert, we’ll have to start there next time.
I found this usability study very interesting and very relevant to writers.
According to the study:
The flipside of this is important to be mindful of: users won’t necessarily consider the product with the highest rating average the best-rated one. Indeed, during our 1:1 usability tests, the subjects often show greater disposition towards some products with 4.5-star averages than some with perfect 5-star ratings due to the number of votes these averages are based on.
For instance, most subjects would pick a sleeping bag with a 4.5-star rating average based on 50 reviews over other sleeping bags with perfect 5-star ratings that were only based on a few reviews – they simply didn’t find the latter to be trustworthy.
So, authors — don’t worry so much if you don’t receive all 5-start ratings. Focus your energy instead of getting as many reviews as you can, because the number of reviews matters as much as the aggregate rating itself, if not more so.
How to get reviews? Simply ask anyone who tells you they loved your book to “go public” with their admiration, whether on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc. Most non-writers don’t realize how helpful it is to have good reviews on online retail sites, and most are happy to help!