Sunday, April 21, 2013

Life on the back porch. Life in the street.

Regular life feels somehow frivolous, undeserved, when friends in Boston have been recently locked inside their homes, waiting for the next round of firing, when we have all witnessed via television, bombs, explosions, shootouts, lives thrown into grief and chaos.

A blog about writing for kids almost feels like playing on the back porch when there's a fire on the street. But our lives are webs, I think, and in that web--along with the fear and sadness and mystery of a desire to maim--are the uplifting qualities of courage, caring, in real life and the buoying, courageous characters found in good books.

So along the journey to good books, to community ...

 In January, Lauren Stringer-- very talented author-illustrator of a new book called When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky-- tagged me for the blog-around-the-world tour called "The Next Big Thing." I quickly said, "oh of course I can do that"--send you a photo of my new book, and brief description and then a short time later, tag others and answer some questions about the book.

Then life intervened with its own here-and-there demands.But today I am "doing that," doing what I said I would do, writing about my new book, coming out in September--Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (Readers to Eaters Books). It seems appropriate, even in this tumultuous time, to tell you about Will Allen, because he is a man committed to the goal of giving hungry people everywhere access to good food, to making our world community stronger, in the face of all who would tear it down.

Farmer Will Allen and The Growing Table-2 xs


1. What is the title of your new book? Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.

2. Where did the idea come from? I was interested in urban farming and when I read of Will Allen and his Milwaukee farm, I knew writing about an urban farmer was the best way to tell the story of an urban farm.

3. What genre does your book fall under? Picture book biography.

4. What actor would you choose to play the part of your character? Danny Glover would be perfect. Will Allen reminds me of Danny Glover.

5. What is a few-sentence synopsis?  When Will Allen was a boy he hated farm work and wanted a "white shirt" job. When he grew up he realized he loved growing things, built a city farm and taught neighbors to help grow good food. But that table wasn't big enough; he wanted to invite more to the table and has worked to build a world-sized table.
pots and buckets at Will Allen's Growing Power
growing on the ground at Growing Power

6. Who is publishing your book? The very committed Philip Lee of Readers to Eaters Books.

7. How long did it take to write the first draft? The first draft of this book took about five months, but there were several "pre-first" drafts in previous months while I homed in on my real subject.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?  Possibly The Boy Who Drew Birds: a biography of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies  (illustrated by the wonderful Melissa Sweet) because they are both biographies of people with one passion; in the gardening sense White House Kitchen Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gourley, another story of growing good food.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The actual life and deeds of Will Allen. Many people around the world go to bed each night with good food in their stomachs because of his work.

10. What else about the book might pique a reader's interest?  There's a lot of good stuff about red wiggler worms.

And now I am pleased to tag my friend and fellow-writer Jane Kurtz and her lively Anna, of Anna Was Here:

Anna knows she will be fine in her temporary move to Kansas.  After all, she gets
gold ribbons for always being prepared.  And it's her first chance to meet cousins
and aunts and great aunts where her grandma grew up.  The Great Plains has always
held huge challenges for people, though, and she finds herself in the middle of
disasters too big for any nine-year-old girl asking "Who's in charge here, anyway??"
 Anna discovers a lot about what we cling to when everything is out of control. 
More from Jane soon.
More here, soon, about writing, gardening, finding stories, telling stories. 


  1. My thoughts have mirrored your own this week, Jackie. I pondered celebrating one thing while others are so painfully facing loss. But I agree that books and stories can bring healing and hope. Thanks for sharing details about the Will Allen book!

  2. Good to hear from you! I wish we were meeting in St. Cloud again this June.
    Books and stories are both refuge and sustenance, aren't they?