Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

My Knocking on Heaven's Door is the winner in the category of science fiction in the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards and in the category of fiction in the 2016 Arizona Authors Association Awards. A number of reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thoughts from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and from my essay in the collection Inspired Journeys (Wisconsin University Press, 2016) on traveling: "We were walking, after all, through yellow gorse and purple heather. We were following a scallop shell through eucalyptus, oak, fern, vineyards of delicate curling green. We stood in buildings nearly animate with age and use. The breath-taking beauty of the world. Beauty beating at us from all sides. Beauty and culture and history and privilege and conquest and suffering and loss. Beating at us. And the monkey mind running back and forth. The monkey mind jerking at its chain: the sacred music and the monkey-grinder music. Arguing with your husband, irritable with your friends, doubtful of your worth. Tired of yourself. And worried about those hips, too. The frailty of flesh, the loosening of fleshy parts.

Wasn’t this like every day of my life? “Isn’t every day a spiritual quest?” I asked the friend I was walking with. And every day open to transcendence? How that golden light illumines a field of grass? How the furred hills lie down gentle as sleeping animals, and the rain brushes your face in a moment of requited love? The ritual greeting: buen camino. Could these weeks of walking be anything less?"

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Very pleased that my Knocking on Heaven's Door is the winner in the science fiction category of the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards, as well as being the winner in the category of fiction in the Arizona Authors Association Book Awards. Knocking on Heaven's Door is a thought experiment about panpsychism--the idea that matter is permeated with consciousness (mind or, perhaps, spirit). It's an idea I keep thinking about.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The men and women from the village of Chisangano, Malawi come out to greet Peter and me and the staff from Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities. We also have a wonderful video of me dancing with them. Those of you who know me well know how much I love to dance! But the documentary guy I hired to accompany me everywhere (okay, Peter, my husband, to whom I gave my little Nikon camera) didn’t turn off the video (I don’t really know how to do that either) and so that video is twelve minutes long, with ten minutes in total darkness, filming the inside of his pocket. These small-holder farmers also showed us their fields and talked about how they were getting increased yields with new practices of intercropping and burying the remains of some crops like cow peas into the soil. They are withstanding the current food emergency because they have adopted new agricultural practices and are providing their children and themselves a more diverse diet. We stopped to sing many times this day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What We Talk About When We Talk About Weather

You say, “It’s hot!” and mean “Is it hotter than it was last year?” You say it’s hotter than it was last year and mean “I take too many plane trips. I let the water run when I brush my teeth.” You say there was hardly any snow pack this winter and mean “The children of my grandchildren will be refugees selling seed cakes from a stall by the road.”

You say “spring” and mean “I hope there are bees left in the world.” You say “summer” and mean a certain science fiction movie. You say “fall” and mean something is falling from your fingers and you are letting it slip to the floor and you don’t know how to stop that and you don’t even know what “it” is. There’s nothing you can feel in your hand.

You say “Beautiful day” and mean “This moment is all we have.” You say “wind” and mean the old god. You say “weather” and mean grace.

You remember when talking about the weather used to be code for nothing important to talk about.

But the person you are talking to is too young to remember that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We need good views. I suppose I mean this politically and socially—as well as just the usual drop-dead gorgeous landscape of the Southwest I love very much, those red rocks and blue skies and drifting white cumulus clouds. I suppose I mean interior views, too. We need to look inside and see the beauty and complexity that we also see outside in the world of mountains and plants and animals and microbes. Because we are that world, too. We are not separate. We need good views, and we have plenty of them, and we need, sometimes, to just stop and stare.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My friend JJ Amaworo Wilson, author of the wonderful speculative novel Damnificados, recently reminded me that customer reviews on amazon work some special magic for that book. Neither of us really know what that magic is…possibly, 25 reviews mean the book is more likely to be discounted and then promoted by amazon. Or maybe 200 reviews turn the book into a pair of ruby-red slippers that take the writer to a New York publisher’s office and five minutes of time to complain about the state of publishing today. Maybe we get turned into flying monkeys. JJ and I really don’t know. We only know that people tell us again and again that reviews on amazon and Goodreads and elsewhere are important. So this is a request. If you have read any of my recent three books, and if you liked the book, please post a quick review? It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be literary. Short and sweet and conversational is just fine! 9/10s of a review is about “showing up.”

And if you didn’t like the book, well…just send me an email. ;)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Once in a while I get in a strange conversation. I tell a friend that my next book is on childhood malnutrition and the paradigm shifts we have seen in this field in the last twenty years. New discoveries about micronutrients like iron and zinc, and new ways of empowering mothers, are behind the optimism of my working title Within Our Grasp: Feeding the World’s Children. My friend’s face is momentarily still. She is repressing her first thought, which eventually gets said, gently, as though she were explaining something a little difficult to someone a little simple: “Sharman, I feel badly for those children, too. But, really…” Another pause. “Isn’t overpopulation our real problem?

I have learned not to scream and jump on her head. I know this woman is compassionate and educated. I know my reply will surprise her. One in four of the world’s children under five—some 165 million children----is physically and mentally stunted due to a lack of food or nutrients. One-fourth of the world’s children. But “only” three million of these children die every year from hunger, with perhaps “only” seven million more from hunger-related disease. The rest are sentenced to a lifetime of diminished potential. They do less well in school. They do less well in work. Almost certainly, they will spend their lives in poverty. In fact, malnutrition is considered one of the greatest causes of poverty, as well as one of its most damaging results.
Population growth is part of that cycle. The very poorest countries have the highest birthrates. The wealthiest have the lowest. When parents know their children are going to survive and flourish, they tend to have smaller families. When women have access to education and employment, they tend to have smaller families. When an entire population feels healthy and well-nourished, they tend to have smaller families.
Here is the good news: much of the world has already reached this point. Globally, the fertility rate—the number of children a woman has in her lifetime— is 2.5, not yet replacement rate but getting close. The reasons for this have to do with greater economic prosperity, literacy, urbanization, and policies that reward small families. In Bangladesh, there is a new saying, “Two are good. One is better.” In Bangladesh, women on average have 2.2 children. In India, that number is 2.4. In Brazil, that number is 1.8. In China, that number is 1.6.
As the next generations have their children and as many of us live longer than ever before, the number of humans in the world will continue to swell before we stabilize. In addition, we will keep seeing an exponential climb in the two billion of us still malnourished. Most of our extreme poor are now in Africa, in countries like Niger where a woman on average has seven children, half of whom are stunted due to malnutrition, with one in five dying before reaching the age of five. In terms of population growth, feeding those children—bringing those families out of extreme poverty—is the real solution.
One of the things that excites me about this new writing project is how clearly the goals of the environmental community and humanitarian community are aligned. I feel like two great concerns in my life are coming together. I am also naturally worried about this proposed book. Who am I, a nature writer from rural New Mexico, to tackle this complex, global problem? How can I corral the politics and acronyms of food aid? What will happen when I go to Malawi this fall? Sometimes my doubts crescendo. This is such a bad idea, and I am going to fail so spectacularly. Of course, I have felt this way with almost every book I wrote. So, there’s that.
Ending the misery of worldwide childhood malnutrition would have enormous consequences. One quarter of the next generation could now learn better, work harder, and engage actively in solving social and environmental problems. Together, that generation could promote gender and racial equality. Together, they could face the challenges of climate change. Together, they would slow population growth. I know—this list sounds brazenly hopeful. Still…whenever we see a child, don’t we have these hopes?