Some bits and pieces about my book-in-progress

Cows and elm

I have a confession to make: I’m writing a book.

I have been reluctant to write about it here, due to equal parts shyness and a desire to commit myself to blogging rather than advertising. However, my friend Lisa Taylor, a poet and the mother of naturalist Kira Taylor, asked if I would participate in a Q & A for authors who have either just published a book or on the cusp of doing so. I don’t want to disappoint an old friend, and I would like to start sharing this project with those outside of my family and Facebook feed. So, here we go! Lisa, by the way, also wrote of her up-and-coming collection of poetry, Necessary Silence, as well as a novel that’s in the works. You can read her words here.

* * *

What is the working title of your book?
My current working title is “Streets of Wilderness: A Song of the Urban Wild in Twelve Parts.” A bit redundant; I’m working on it.

Where did the idea come from?
Before I started living in Boston full-time I spent a growing season in rural Maine. It was difficult to make the transition from a wooded homestead to a residential neighborhood wrought with houses, asphalt, and the incessant ebb and flow of traffic. I quickly began to feel suffocated, but found hope in the plants and animals that I saw thriving in the city, domesticated and wild alike. I began writing little things about them in this blog, mentioned to a friend that it would be interesting to turn my observations into a book, and things bloomed from there.

What genre does your book fall under?
Nature writing.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In my dream world Jacob Feiring directs the documentary and David Attenborough narrates it. I suppose that there would also be random glamor shots of, say, Scarlet Johansson walking seductively down a street while a raccoon scurries behind her, going after a bit of pizza crust.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A poetic exploration of a year in the urban wild.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About twelve months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
In writing of various wild species, landscapes, and situations one month at a time, I have adopted the format used by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. My book is also akin to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for its examinations of place, natural phenomenon, and the blissful, life-quenched realities of day-to-day life. (That’s what I’d like to think, anyway!)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Though I’ve spent significant time in rural areas, the majority of my life has been spent in the post-industrial landscapes of Milwaukee and the brick and glass neighborhoods of Boston. After years of uneasy ennui in these cities, I finally had the realization that, in order to thrive, I had to seek out the organic among the man-made, the places in the cracks where cells were photosynthesizing, dividing, and driving new life. I found, by mindfully observing these pieces of urban life, from trees breaking concrete to coyotes moving silently through cemeteries, I became more resilient, more fascinated, more able to accept what the city brings. This book is both an ode of thanks to the tenacious things that have helped me to survive, and is also a way to keep me awake and alive with curiosity.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?
People are drawn to the untamed, and because the majority of us live in cities, it is becoming increasingly common that we only experience the undomesticated through an urban lens. Humans are naturally intrigued by our surroundings and anxious to understand them. However, it can be challenging to see what is around us, either because we don’t know where to look or because what we seek is so ubiquitous that it slips by. Hopefully those interested in finding and appreciating the nature around them will enjoy this book.

When and how will it be published?

My book will be published as an e-book by an imprint of Village Earth Press, and should be out sometime this year. I will post updates as I complete it and continue to traverse the mysterious landscapes of the publishing world!

Please come again next Tuesday as Erin Therrien will be a guest blogger here, doing her own Q&A on the recently published Wild Dyes: Natural Dyeing in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. She writes of many dye plants that just so happen to be found in lots of North American cities.


The drawings in this post and at the site’s header are the work of Laura Grover, a prolific artist currently based just north of Portland, Maine. These illustrations are all works that Laura has done for my book. Laura is also currently working on a graphic novel about the history of her family.

29 responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this snippet about your upcoming book. If it is inspired by Annie Dillard, it certainly can’t be all bad.

    I’m nearing the final stages of a working draft on a novella myself and can appreciate your reluctance to reveal too much. Still, it’s good to get the word out.

    I hope your work spreads its wings and flies.

    • Hello! Thanks for the Dillard vote of confidence 😀

      Yeah, it certainly is tough to figure out how to talk about your unpublished work with the world. But I agree that it’s good to get the word out, and to enjoy the encouragement that comes in from folks such as yourself.

      I wish strong wings to your work, too! Thanks so much for visiting.

  2. I wish you luck on your publishing journey! There is so much interest in urban ecology in the research world, so it’s great to have a creative view on this that may be more akin to what most non-scientists will experience day-to-day as ‘urban ecology’.

  3. Jenny, what a fabulous and relevant theme. I love your writing – so honest and eloquent. I can hardly wait to read your book. Guess I have to get on board with a reading tablet. Any recommendations? The illustrations are also beautiful in their simplicity. You are AWESOME!!!!

    • Claudia! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you’re looking forward to the book! And yes, aren’t the illustrations lovely? I’m very pleased and blessed to have such a wonderful artist to work with.

      Luckily you shouldn’t have to buy a tablet as there is a Kindle App that will let you read books on your computer. I just used it and, while it was a bit odd to read a book on a pc, found it to work nicely.

      Thanks again for visiting! It’s lovely to have you here.

      • Thanks, Jenny! I will check out the Kindle App for our computer. Good to know. It is lovely to be following your posts and rejoicing in your blossoming writing career. I am so happy for you.

  4. I wast first drawn to this post by the beautiful drawings, just to discover what a great book-project you are working on! Very fascinating!
    Your answers made me think of Rebecca Solnit, do you know her writing?

    • Hello!

      I haven’t read her! What would you recommend of her work? I’m very grateful for any recommendations; I eat this stuff up like apple pie.

      Thank you so much for your lovely words!

  5. Pingback: An invitation; or, the surrendering to the sweetness of sounds « Spokes & Petals

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