Defender of Dirt

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Great News!!  I’ve been searching for an online purchasing option in keeping with the environmental and local values of Defender of Dirt, and I’ve found it! As of now, readers may purchase copies of the novel by going to www.jeansgreens.com.

Jean’s Greens is a fantastic local herbal shop with a long history of offering an amazing variety of teas, herbal products, soaps, candles, books, and artisan-crafted items. They are a great source for special, earth-friendly gifts. I’m thrilled that they can be your source for copies of Defender of Dirt.

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“This volume belongs in the library of anyone who will ever discuss local food, pollination, cooperative principles, or ANY of the mysteries of bees with anyone else, of any age.” Neelima Baird

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Defender of Dirt is a children’s eco-adventure novel for ages 8 and up.

Rachel and Sam Remington’s family has just moved to a new town, just started homeschooling, and just met some unusual neighbors.

The Remingtons soon find themselves in the middle of a neighborhood controversy. Their next door neighbors practice a form of gardening called “permaculture,” but a nosy family down the street wants to make them stop. The shy narrator, Rachel, struggles to find her voice, while her little brother Sam plunges into the fray. What happens next? Lots of laughter, spying, and surprising discoveries!

Check Back Soon–I’ll be reading a chapter from the novel, right here!

How it all began:

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 My kids and I loved reading books like Gaia Girls by Lee Welles, and Carl Hiaasen’s novels such as Hoot and Flush. We kept looking for more stories about kids taking action for the environment, but didn’t find many. I hoped to find more realistic novels about children involved with sustainable practices such as urban gardening.  I decided I would just have to write my own.

During the composition process, I began to hear disturbing news about the massive honeybee die-offs. I realized that, as difficult as that subject was, it needed to be part of the story. A major theme started to take shape: the importance of balance and of valuing all parts of nature.

This meant that the Remington kids would also learn about other pollinators, such as native solitary bees, as well as heirloom seeds and chicken breeds, worm composting, and more! Rachel and Sam would also find out about the power of community.

The Remingtons’ neighbor, Bill Weatherby, has brought back all kinds of interesting ideas from his visit to the Lithuanian Beekeepers Museum. Bill and his friends, the Maeda family, have joined yards to create an amazing garden, complete with a willow tunnel, a cob cottage, and a huge, mushroom shaped beehive. The story celebrates diversity, creative co-existence, and resilience.

Why I decided to self-publish Defender of Dirt:

It is more accurate to say we “group-published” the novel, because in the end, that’s what happened. A small, dedicated group of people joined me to help fund publication.

For my first book, Sheila Says We’re Weird, I had a great experience working with Tilbury House, a small, independent, regional press.  But Tilbury specializes in picture books. My favorite indie press stopped acquiring new children’s books right when I was ready to submit it. Big publishers were taking forever to get back to me.  And one that did, told me that my green topics were hot with adults, “but hadn’t trickled down to tweens and teens yet.”

Life imitates art.

Meanwhile, more bees were dying, more habitats–and the creatures in them–were being exposed to toxic spraying, and more people were getting interested in family and school gardens, backyard chickens, and other aspects of urban homesteading. I was seeing the issues I’d worked with in the novel showing up closer and closer to home.

 For example, after I’d written a scene where the nosy neighbor girl is trying to sneak photos of Bill Weatherby’s beehive, a beekeeper told me she’d had a hostile neighbor taking pictures of her hive with a cell phone. Then, in an echo of the controversy over the heirloom chickens in the story, my city got involved in a chicken ordinance debate.

I decided it was time to get this story out. It seemed like a perfect DIY project, given the content. I would illustrate it myself with ink drawings (a new venture for me), so that it could be locally printed (many color projects are routinely sent to Asia), and I would go the 100% recycled paper route, even though it would raise the costs.

Kickstarter: Crowd-sourced funding

Then, inspired by a local author and illustrator who had put up a very successful Kickstarter campaign, I began to think it would be better as a DIO: Do It Ourselves. I felt daunted. I’m neither tech savvy nor social media literate. But I wanted to be like the kids in my novel, who were willing to get out of their comfort zone because the earth was important to them.  I’m so glad I did that, too.