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.
This is the message my October writing life sent me. To that end, I went on a writing retreat with my group, WOmen Who Write (WoWW), attended SCWBI’s Writer’s Day, enrolled in an online University of Iowa workshop (free), and attended the Los Angeles Writer’s Digest Conference.
I’m a little tired from all this, but I have to tell you about our writing retreat in Carlsbad, California and share some writing tips.
We, eight women, arrived at Casa Villaseñor by way of Airbnb, never expecting to meet the esteemed writer Victor Villasenor, author, and owner of the home. After producing nine novels, 65 short stories and close to 300 rejections, he sold his first novel, Macho!, which the Los Angeles Times compared to the best of John Steinbeck.
Rain of Gold became a national best-seller and translated into seven languages. Another of his books was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I mention this about the author because his body of work evidences his persistence as a writer, the write or die philosophy.
We were surprised to find Mr. Villasenor on the grounds of the home. He was in another house (his casita) because he was finishing up a new novel. I can’t tell you what it’s about but I can say his joy of finishing the work was shared with all of us.
Through conversation, I picked up some valuable writing tips and I’m sharing these with you:
Every sentence needs to do one of the following:
Scare the brain
Touch the heart
Inspire the soul
“Writing is about the moment, you are nowhere else, you are totally there…cause the person to live the moment with you.”-Victor Villaseñor
A few of us made a mad dash for our writing projects and examined our first pages. Sure enough, there was plenty of revision to work on.
The local chapter of Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrator’s (SCWBI) put on a “Writer’s Day,” at the Cal Lutheran University campus.
I attended a panel composed of literary agents and editors which I enjoyed. This is what they look for when they decide to read the first page of a Middle Grade or Young Adult work:
Is the language child or teen-focused?
Are there too many characters?
Do I know whose story this is?
Is the writer guilty of violating R.U.E? ( Resist the Urge to Explain)
Where are we in the scene?
Can I get a sense of the protagonist?
Is the description embedded in action and dialogue?
Do the details further the story?
If your first 250 words make it pass those eight questions the agent may read on to the next page. I venture to guess these tips apply to most fiction.
The esteemed University of Iowa, Writing Workshops has a free online course titled “Storied Women.” You can get a lot of writing bang for no bucks if you take this course. Although the course started Oct. 21, 2016, it doesn’t close until next month. You can still view the video’s and notes on voice, identity, point of view, plot, and structure.
Closer to home was the Writer’s Digest 2016 Writers Conference in downtown Los Angeles. I chose to drive into LA rather than stay at the storied Westin Bonaventure.
Friday traffic was crazy with the rain and the morning commute. The skyscrapers blended into the bleak sky, dark jackets and umbrellas scurried on the sidewalks.
On Saturday morning, the downtown was eerily quiet. No rain, no rushing, no noise.
I have to say, Writer’s Digest gives good workshops at a reasonable price. Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, presented last night. Alas, no photo of Ms. Smiley, but you can see some interesting photos of the Halloween Party (which I didn’t attend) on Twitter. Look under #WDNWC16. I do love the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Writer’s Block” costumes.
My favorite workshop was “Openings That Sell,” presented by literary agent and editor, Paula Munier.
“This is why I keep reading,” she began. Your first pages must have:
2-The level of craft is high
3-The character makes me feel something: there is an emotional impact in the first scene
4-Something happens (aka you have an inciting incident, a call to adventure)
5-A unique story or a story with a unique twist.
6-There’s a market for this story.
7-The writer has gained my confidence and the page passes “the ahh test.” They provide a certain kind of experience.
8-It’s clear what kind of story is being told by the language.
9-The prose is clear, clean, and concise. Opt for clarity all the time.
10-Free of grammatical errors.
A great story is life, with the dull parts taken out-Alfred Hitchcock
Larry Brooks presented “The Most Important Moment in your Story.” There was a lot of material in this workshop about concept, premise, and the dramatic arc. He has a website, StoryFix.com, where you can visit and read all the good stuff he has for writers.
I hope you found some tips in this post to use or share.