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

My new eco science fiction Knocking on Heaven's Door is just released. A number of early 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, 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?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Yes! Neo-utopic! I know it sounds like a medical problem...but you have to like a review that starts with, "You can’t shake an irradiated rat on a stick these days without hitting a stack of post-apocalyptic novels, but there aren’t a lot of them that live up to the meaning of the word apocalypse; to reveal." Link to the review
And ends with..."Knocking on Heaven's Door by Sharman Apt Russell is a welcomed entry in the canon of post-apocalyptic fiction, but maybe it’s something else: Maybe it’s neo-utopic. Whatever it is, it’s nice to see a new vision of a world made better by the hard lessons it has learned."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Before I went on the YouTube SciShow, I didn't know that my host was a famously successful vlogger. I hadn't, really, heard that term before...but Hank Green is the brother of well-known author John Green (The Fault is in Our Stars), with whom he partners for various media events. Hank is also an environmental entrepreneur who graduated from the Environmental Studies Program, where I was teaching in Missoula, Montana this winter. There in lovely Missoula, Hank oversees his vlog empire, which sounds evil but actually employs over 40 people doing good work telling people about science and the environment. In this episode, I talk about citizen science and then we are joined by a biologist with a tarantula named Fluffy. 

One more thing: last time I checked out the Youtube, the show had over 78,000 views, with some 1700 Likes and 39 Dislikes. I can't help myself: I have to wonder about the Dislikes. Was it me? Or Fluffy? I'm pretty sure it was me.

See show.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Recently I went to New York City to accept the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing for Diary of a Citizen Scientist. That involved a short speech and I began with the truth: the award had rendered me speechless. I am such a longtime writing teacher, and when my students say something like that—when they use words like “indescribable” or phrases like “words fail me”—I always say kindly, while secretly rolling my eyes, “Find the words. Try to describe it. That’s why you are a writer.” But the Burroughs Award has been given out since 1926 and its recipients include Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and many other legendary nature writers and to be part of that cultural conversation, that continuous line…well, words failed me. I felt my students’ pain! I felt speechless.

To be honest, speeches—even short ones—are always nerve wracking. As usual, I dreaded those ten minutes, felt just fine in the middle of them, and was relieved when they were over. Unlike a reading, good speeches involve some live theater, the potential for disaster and serendipity. At the end of my speech, I spontaneously spoke about an exchange I had had recently with a friend, Mike Fugagli, a good nature writer himself:

“Once,” my friend said, “I believed the Earth was my mother.”

Yes, I thought, I remember that. We are shaped in our mother’s womb. We drink from her. We eat from her. Every day she nurtures us with so many gifts. She loves us. She loves me.

Then, later in his life, my friend replaced the image of the mother with that of the lover—what he called “matedness.” Yes, I nodded. We have covered the Earth. It would be too easy now to joke about infidelity, estrangement, divorce. Instead I give the metaphor its due: we are the bride of the world, and we are the groom. Our human consciousness, interpenetrated, mated with the Earth.

Next my friend said, “And now I think of the future as our child.”

And this caught at my heart. This made me feel something new. The future is our child.