I’m a reader of all genres of books and post reviews at Goodreads.com, however, I wanted to try an author interview for a book I recently read. (Something new for the new year).
As a long time reader of the blog Eat Less Water and a believer in water scarcity and our impact on the environment, I asked Ms. Ramirez for an interview. She graciously accepted the request.
EAT LESS WATER: The solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
Before I began writing Eat Less Water, I had a small distribution business of water conservation products for the shower. As I got deeper into the world of water conservation, I sought more information and research on the topic of water scarcity. One of those books was When the Rivers Run Dry. The book introduced me the concept of water footprint and virtual water.
Once I learned food was the most significant user of freshwater in the world, I instantaneously knew if I was to impact greater change, I needed to change my focus from the bathroom to the kitchen.
The idea for the book came in the form of the title. I remember the moment distinctly. My husband was sitting next to me at the time. I said to him, “I am going to write a book about water and food, and it will be called Eat Less Water.” When I said the title out loud, I knew it was to be. Seven years later, I held the completed book in my hands.
2. What, if any, literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
One year into writing Eat Less Water, I came across, A Room of Her Own (AROHO), week-long writers retreat for women at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I immediately completed the application and sent it in before the idea was forgotten. A month later, I learned I was accepted to participate.
The retreat was a turning point. It was not until that literary pilgrimage in the shadow of the Pedernal mountain that I embodied my identity as a writer. During the retreat, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Marilynne Robinson spoke of the role of writers. She said,
writers must tell the truth as we see it.
She continued that it is the truth that pushes back against fascism. Her words bore deep. I responded with tears. I knew at that moment with absolute certainty that I am a writer. Writing for change is what I was designed to do. I returned on this pilgrimage two more times, to re-inspire and re-charge amongst other creative women.
3. What do your plans for future projects include?
My next book project is called, “In Search of Real Food in American Public Schools.” I found my first public school while on my book tour in NYC. This book, like Eat Less Water, will require, travel, interviews and lots of research.
My hope is to create a blueprint for parents, educators, and students to improve our current food programs within the current school funding and regulations.
And to reimagine a food system that supports small-scale farmers working to grow clean, nutritious food that’s good for our children and the planet. In many ways, it is a continuation of what I started in Eat Less Water.
I’m also working on a smaller project; an “Eating Less Water” coloring book for young children. Each chapter of the “Eat Less Water” book begins with beautiful drawings of the plants and animals featured in the book. The coloring book will contain these drawings accompanied by a short introduction to water footprints, water conservation of the connection between our food and water.
4. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
The process of writing a book is a private act. I form sentences and construct ideas in my mind. During the writing process, I was selective about who I invited in to critique and discuss my pages. The moment the book was published, the ideas no longer belonged to me alone, they now exist in the public realm, that is expanding on a daily basis. This expansion is both exhilarating and uncomfortable.
The book has stretched me to unknown territories, has put me in contact with new people, and tests my willingness to say “yes” to new opportunities. The experience can be uncomfortable at times because it is outside the safety of my solitary writing cocoon. And it requires me to surrender myself to the expansion of my world experience.
What has helped me to embrace this natural transition from writer to author, is the sage advice from a mentor.
“The work is not complete until it is received,”
she told me. I say this in my mind before I set out into a new situation to expand the reach of Eat Less Water.
5. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
I want readers to feel empowered, and to realize the solution to water shortages is in each of our kitchens. Our food pantries represent rivers, aquifers, lakes from every part of the planet. In my pantry, I have rice from Vietnam, chocolate from Ghana, coffee from Guatemala, flour from Kansas, eggs from Ojai, California and lettuce from Oxnard. Each country, state, region deals with water scarcity issues ranging from not having enough-supply, or not having enough “clean” water quality.
Food is the most significant user and polluter of water.
If we are to be part of the solution of global water solutions, we must begin with our food choices, supporting farming methods that save water. We are connected to the world’s water with each meal.
I hope Eat Less Water to be like a pebble tossed into the stillness of water that grows ever-widening circles. More specifically my vision for the book is the following:
to reveal the connection between what we eat and the impact on rivers and lakes,
to generate more business for farmers dedicated to growing food using farming methods that save our water resources,
to inspire policy change at the individual, farm, corporate, and government policy level.
“You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”-James Baldwin
“What do you want to change with your pen?” Florencia Ramirez asked when she opened her presentation, “Activism and Writing.” This thought provoking statement had many audience members perk up.
“How many of you have an issue you carry in your heart where you would like to see change?” Most of us could quickly mention several topics:
Violence against women and children
Race, gender, sexual equality
Florencia writes about water scarcity issues on her blog Eat Less Water. She uses this phrase to explain the concept of conserving the natural resource through farming practices and grocery-buying habits. Water experts predict that by 2025, two-thirds of the world will be experiencing water scarcity.
It’s not an easy task to rivet an audience with information on water scarcity especially since research statistics can be boring and dry. We don’t want to be reminded of school when we read about any of these topics.
We want others to care about the issue and we want to get them to act (change).
So how did Florencia manage to speak and write about this issue of water scarcity and get several people talking about taking shorter showers, using buckets to capture water, and committing to plant only low water plants? Florencia is doing this by translating her passion for the topic and through that passion she has the reader experience that enthusiasm so it becomes their very own.
Three Elements to Use:
Accessibility: Nest your information in story, use interesting language, poetic devices, give the issue a ‘face.’
Optimism: Focus on the positive when you write your story, make it a hopeful one.
Creative non-fiction: use narrative and storytelling to make your point. Your writing then becomes the change agent for something bigger.
An example of all three elements are found in these two short excerpts from the book that Florencia says changed her life:
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” The outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. The author nested the technical language of chemical fallout and science with eloquent storytelling and poetic language. She writes:
“These sprays, dusts and aerosols still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, coats the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on the soil-all this through the intended target of a few weeds or insects.”
“A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.”
An excerpt from Florencia’s manuscript in progress, Eat Less Water:
“In black stenciled letters on the sky blue wall I painted the words, “I love you to the moon and back” in my baby daughter’s room. It was a quote from my favorite children’s book. It never failed that when I read this line aloud to my daughter my voice cracked with emotion and tears pushed their way free. Many years later, I read in a very different book, that women and children of South Africa walk the distance of the moon and back seventeen times each day for water. I thought about the words that had been in my daughters first room. I contemplated the little girls carrying heavy pots of water on their heads to the moon and back. Again the tears pushed their way free…”
Start with a story, give the issue a ‘face,’ and write with optimism. We need to hear your activism.
“Optimism brings with it hope, a future with a purpose and therefore, a will to fight for a better world.” Saul Alinsky