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.
We are thrilled to announce that the second annual Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature is now open for submissions!
Last year we had a great turnout, and we hope this year is even better. (To learn about last year’s winner and finalists, click here.) It’s wonderful to see so many fine writers tackling the issues of the environment and animal protection through great stories, novels, memoirs, and essays.
This year, we’re delighted to have Ann Pancake as our final judge. (If you haven’t read her amazing novel, Strange As This Weather Has Been, about mountaintop removal mining, get yourself a copy right now; this gorgeous, important novel is among the best of contemporary environmental literature.)
The 2015 prize winner will receive $1,000, a four-week residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication from Ashland Creek Press. Visit the Siskiyou Prize website for complete details and to submit.
Also, please note that we will be closing for regular submissions as of March 15 in order to focus on prize submissions — so if you’d like to submit a non-prize entry, feel free to do so before the Ides of March. (Regular submissions will open again after the prize closes.)
We look forward to reading your work!
We are delighted to announce that New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler has chosen Mary Heather Noble’s memoir PLUMES: ON CONTAMINATION OF HOME AND HABITAT as the winner of the 2014 Siskiyou Prize.
We are also delighted to announce the prize finalists: Amy Hassinger for her novel AFTER THE DAM and Julie Christine Johnson for her novel THE CROWS OF BEARA.
Of PLUMES, judge Karen Joy Fowler writes: “I was impressed from the first page with both the beautiful writing and careful intelligence of PLUMES. This book takes on one of our most troubling issues, the increasing toxicity of our polluted world, to create a narrative that is both personal and universal. PLUMES neither minimizes the complexities of these issues nor overstates its conclusions, but leaves the reader with much to think about. An exceptional book.”
About the winner: Mary Heather Noble is an environmental scientist and writer whose work is inspired by environmental health issues, the natural world, family, and place. Her essays have been honored with first prize in Creative Nonfiction’s The Human Face of Sustainability Contest, and second prize in the 2012 Literal Latté Essay Awards. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in About Place Journal, Fourth Genre, High Desert Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Minerva Rising, Pithead Chapel, and Utne Reader.
Noble is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program with the University of Southern Maine. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from The Ohio State University, and a master’s degree in environmental science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She spent six years working in the technical environmental sector before leaving the field to pursue creative writing. Noble currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.
We hope you join us in celebrating the environmentally themed work of these fine writers!
We’d also like to extend a very special thanks to all of the writers who entered the contest … your support makes this prize possible.
Please stay tuned for updates on next year’s Siskiyou Prize, which is open to unpublished, full-length prose manuscripts, including novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essay collections. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,000, a residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication by Ashland Creek Press. For more information, visit the Siskiyou Prize website.
For those readers not familiar (yet) with EcoLit Books, check it out here. It’s a great resource, thanks to our wonderful contributors, for both readers and writers: Subscribe to get book reviews, calls for submissions, and other news in the world of environmental literature.
And don’t miss this essay, The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing by John Yunker, which does a great job of summarizing what we’re all about here at Ashland Creek Press:
I believe that we—readers and writers alike—must redefine environmental writing to give it a wider scope in focus and in form, and a more pressing mandate. In other words, we need environmental writing that is less concerned with how one describes the landscape than with how one protects that landscape.
This essay takes a look at environmental writing past and present and how it needs to keep evolving…and we hope to be a part of this journey.
A Q&A with Lithia Trilogy author Blair Richmond
How does it feel to be done with the Lithia Trilogy?
Relieved and bittersweet. You spend three years plus living with these characters and one day you have to say goodbye to them. But I’m eager to begin new projects and make some new friends (or characters).
What was the most fun aspect of writing these novels? The most challenging?
I most enjoyed beginning a novel not entirely sure of where it was headed, yet also in having faith that it was headed somewhere important. I also really enjoyed writing about this magical region of the world. Most challenging was writing about environmental issues, in large part because these issues are all too real. But that’s one of my major reasons for writing these books — to pose solutions, and there are solutions for the problems at hand.
Do you think you’ll return to Kat and/or Lithia again as a writer?
I won’t say never again because I’ve been known to change my mind.
What do you hope that readers enjoyed most about these books?
I hope readers come away inspired by these stories and characters. I have long been dispirited by the current spate of dystopian/depressing novels. The Lithia Trilogy doesn’t shy away from dark themes but poses a more optimistic future — and one that will be possible if our younger generation embraces it.
Do you plan to reveal your identity now that the trilogy is complete?
Not yet. But I think there will come a time when I step out of this self-imposed darkness.